‘In the Field’ by Kathryn Walker


burntwood map1

During the three day collection for the Time-Capsule project in Burntwood I listened to 71 interviewees telling me all about their lives growing up, working and living in the area. Out of which some of the most fascinating memories I can share have been from a wide variety of backgrounds. In one interview I heard about the time inwhich the area was divided into separate villages made up of Chase terrace, Boney Hay, Hammerwich, Chasetown and Burntwood and all were separated by fields and farms. During the 1930’s when growing up here this particular interviewee recalled sitting in a horse and cart and travelling back and forth up Rugeley road to and from school. Others reminisced about the way in which everyone had pigs in their back yard if they were lucky to self -provide and how one local butcher would come round and prepare their pig for eating their ration of bacon.

Then I listened to memories of residents whose families were living in Burntwood for the sole reason that it used to be the heart of a Mining town and which through this industrial age their families were provided for by fathers, uncles and brothers working down in the coal mines which stretched for miles beneath the town. I listened to peoples stories of the miners they remembered whose faces would be so blackened by coal dust only their sparkly white eyes would be seen. Even the site in which I was interviewing people at Sankey’s Corner used to be the N0.5 pit, and now in its place there stands a fine statue of a miner and his pit pony as a reminder of how the town came to exist as it does today.

Then I listened to a generation of interviewees who didn’t know this time of life and were not born until the 1980’s onwards, their perspectives were very different. These interviews contained an impression of Burntwood that only saw the town as a whole, now built up with many housing estates and the small shops that once existed had now been replaced by new modern supermarkets and busy main roads that allowed easy access to amenities that now were around for people to use such as the Burntwood Leisure Centre, the Rugby club, and the Library. Listening to such changes that have emerged in just a couple of generations showed the speed to which urbanisation and industrialisation rapidly took off as the infiltration of overspill inhabitants from Birmingham city were attracted to the area in the 1970’s to buy affordable housing nearer the countryside.

Schooling was a major feature of the memories recalled, the schooling of the past that was described as ‘strict’ and perhaps separated boys from girls, was now being described by a younger generation attending school today as ‘fun ‘ and ‘enjoyable’. I interviewed primary school children alongside their parents and together we discovered the differences of a by-gone era and the extent to which children now seem to have more ‘fun at school’, wish for ‘cake and sweet and games shops’ to be built and yet are ‘never let out to play’, they didn’t even know what a youth centre was.

I spoke with local councillors and found positive encouragement at the thoughts of a bright future for the town and its area, such as how Chasewater was being developed more and how they were trying to encourage people to see the great benefits of commuting to work via the accessible infrastructure being so near.

Overall, It appeared to me that in just three days of listening and recording many wonderful experiences and memories of the town, I had travelled on my own journey through time and I know that all that has been captured digitally can now be kept to ensure that the memories and experiences of generations that make up this area shall go forward to be remembered and considered as Burntwood continues to evolve. One day future Burntwood people shall excavate, as they did when they found the Staffordshire Hoard, and when they ask who lived here? And what is this town called Burntwood? They can listen and be taken back as I did to recall a most fascinating development of a marvellous town and its people.

K. Walker 14.11.14

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