Our Century

Discovering the Black Country

Winifred Stevens, Coven, Born 1917

Winifred Stevens

"I was born in Richmond, Surrey, in a house backing on to a shoe repairer's shop. There was no bathroom, and an outside lavatory that we shared with the cobbler who lived upstairs in the attic. Most places near London were multi-tenanted in those days. I never knew anyone with their own house when I was a girl.

"Vic and I were married in 1937 and after our son was born we managed to rent a house for 17 shillings (85p) a week. When the landlord offered to sell to us, Vic wouldn't risk a millstone around his neck, so we stayed as tenants for the next 40 years.

We were upset when our son, Richard, left his wife and came up to the Midlands to live with a Black Country woman. In our day you made your bed and then you had to lie on it.

"Ten years later, when Vic was 80, he has a pacemaker fitted and we agreed, reluctantly, to join Richard and Dianne in Coven. 'All those factories,' we thought. We'd always been led to believe that the Midlands was just smoke and soot, with no trees or grass, especially where Richard worked - a place called Tipton that we'd never heard of. We were surprised how friendly everyone is up here. The shop assistants find time to talk, even in the supermarket, you wouldn't get that down South.

"Our granny flat is centrally heated and doubled glazed, so we're warm and comfortable and we have no stairs to climb. And of course we needn't have worried about the trees and grass because we're surrounded with countryside.

"The Midlands has given us both a new lease of life and we're glad we came."