Our Century

Black Country mourns Queen

A special edition of the Express & Star in January reports 'Death of the Queen' as Queen Victoria 63-year reign ends as she dies at the age of 81 following a few days illness. She was hailed as the greatest queen in English history and the mourning of the nation and "deep gloom" in Wolverhampton was reported.

Queen VictoriaThe queen had visited the town in April of the previous year when the royal train stopped at the Low Level railway station. Her previous visit to the borough was in 1866.

Flags were flown at half mast throughout the West Midlands with men wearing black ties and women dark clothes.

The new king, Edward VII, was proclaimed in Wolverhampton, Dudley and West Bromwich on January 26 and special services were held throughout the region on February 2 to mark Queen Victoria's funeral.

Midlands gripped by heatwave: The year's record temperature of 86.4 degree fahrenheit in the shade was recorded in Wolverhampton on July 18 as the West Midlands was gripped by a heatwave.

Record crowds of up to 30,00 a day flocked to Wolverhampton's Floral Fete in West Park, but the event was hit by tragedy when Scottish-born 79-year-old retired GWR locomotive superintendent George Armstrong, who once drove the Royal Train, died from sunstroke.

On July 26 a massive thunderstorm hit the Midlands. Two men died and six were injured when a thunderbolt destroyed a shed in which they were sheltering at Cakemore, Blackheath.

Sir Alfred hickmanDeath toll reaches five in steelworks catastrophe: Three people were killed and six seriously injured when a massive explosion rocked Alfred Hickman Ltd's Staffordshire Steel and Ingot Ironworks at Springvale at 1am on July 5.

Workmen in a casing pit in the bessemer department were showered in molten metal. One died at the scene and others were taken to Wolverhampton General Hospital where two more died the same day.

Managing director William Hutchinson described it as the worst accident in the 17-year history of the firm and claimed equipment had been in perfect order.

The dead were John Hyde and James Bough, of Hurst Hill, and Edward Bennett, of Ladymoor.

Two of the injured workers - William Cook, of Parkfield, and Daniel Berry, of Bilston - died later.

A verdict of death by misadventure was recorded at the inquest.

Scrap dealer's gun suicide: Scrap dealer George Plant, of Brereton, commited suicide in January after shooting a police inspector in Brook Street, Rugeley. He fled to Brereton pursued by police after he shot Inspector Whitehurst in the left shoulder. He threatened officers before putting the muzzle of his gun in his mouth and pulling the trigger. Twenty cartridges were found on his body.

Festival site work begins: The Earl of Dartmouth cut the first sod as work started in October on the buildings at Whitmore Reans for Wolverhampton's first art and industrial exhibition to be staged in May 1902.

Huge crowds assembled each day to watch the towers of up to 120ft for the industrial hall and marketing hall being erected.

The cost of the massive new buildings was 40,000.

Coseley mother murders children: A mother ran in to Coseley police station in June to say she had thrown her children into the canal.

The bodies of Hannah Cox's young daughters Flora and Mary were found tied together with an apron.

At her trial at Stafford crown court on July 24 she pleaded not guilty, but is convicted and ordered by a judge to be detained at the King's pleasure in an asylum.

Spiralling wages threat to Wolves: The Express & Star's leader column of August 28 addressed the issue of escalating wages in football after Wolves shareholders heard the club faced the start of the new season with debts of 800. The only solution was to cut wages

The paper said: "The huge wages which first class association football players have been in receipt of have impoverished many of our leading clubs and had not the subject been dealt with in a bold manner by the fixing of a wage limit the continued drain would have brought about the collapse of many of our best organisations.

"As it was this bogey was threatening the very existence of the first division of the league and the subject was tackled just in time.

"Today we find many old established clubs in anything but a sound financial position and the directors of these combinations are now taking advantage of the new rule relating to the payment of players in the hope of being able to steer their barques away from the sands of financial disaster."

Sisters drowned: Sisters Winifred, aged 18, and 22-year-old Elizabeth Frost died when they fell into the canal at Tipton in thick fog on November 16.

The daughters of the Tipton Green lock keeper had been out collecting for the Women's Unionist Association.

The body of Elizabeth was found by her father.

Malcolm Graham
I don't remember envying anybody. We were quite happy to go by tram or bicycle.

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