Researcher and author Paul Robinson has just added another book about Dudley to his string of local history titles. ‘Tales of Old Dudley’ follows in the same vein as his other recent books about Brewood and Penkridge. These recount dozens of fascinating stories from the Victorian era, including accidents on the roads, railways and canals, and shocking stories of violence and murder. Other chapters deal with living conditions and petty crime as well as notable and more light-hearted events.
These short passages from ‘It Happened in Brewood’ feature a little from the section about horse-racing and a typical assault case:
The race organisers no doubt tried to pitch the event as a cut above other race meetings, where crime in the form of pick-pocketing, illegal gambling and drunkenness were often encountered. In the early years, the event was said by the Wolverhampton Chronicle to be “attended by a large and
respectable company, desirous of enjoying the pleasures of the turf free from the inconveniences which too frequently intermingle with them when their locality is nearer to populous neighbourhoods”!
In 1836 the races were said to be rapidly gaining celebrity, but the advent of railways, the invention of the electric telegraph and the publication of newspapers such as the Sporting Life put paid to any further expansion; people soon had easy access to all the major racecourses, rather than having to struggle to out-of-the-way venues such as Brewood, and results were conveyed to punters across the nation as they happened. Nevertheless, Brewood Races continued to attract fairly large crowds as well as being patronised by well-known members of the local community in their capacity as owners, riders, sponsors and spectators.
In 1864, William Hickin was fined 5 shillings for violently assaulting his wife, although it could easily have been Mrs Hickin who was in the dock. Mrs Hickin was correcting one of her children when her husband interjected and, after some words passed between them, he grabbed her by the hair and dragged her about the house. Mrs Hicken managed to grab the kitchen poker to beat him off but he wrested it from her and hit her three times across the back, before running off and
locking himself in his workshop. The enraged woman proceeded to throw house-bricks at him through the workshop window, but getting too close on one occasion, he struck her across the temple with the poker and she fell to the ground stunned. With typical tongue-in-cheek style, the
Staffordshire Advertiser headlined their short report of the trial ‘A Loving Couple’.
In addition to these collections of newsworthy stories, Mr Robinson has also written a history book about the village of Coven and solved a century old mystery in another of his books about a Dundee merchant. All are available online at www.lulu.com or on Amazon.