Our Century

Big trouble in year of the Mini

Stourbridge high St 1959
Stourbridge High Street in 1959, demonstrating the kind of traffic problems complained of by American visitors.

It was the year the Midlands-built mini first hit the roads but the traffic problems in one of our towns led to early calls from two transatlantic visitors for pedestrianisation schemes.

Congestion in Stourbridge High Street so angered the couple from New York that they wrote to the Express & Star suggesting a number of solutions on American lines.

Mr and Mrs Paul Emerson spoke of their "futile efforts" to park the car and shop in comfort during a recent visit to the area.

Not only should the High Street be closed to traffic but seats should also be provided at convenient intervals for weary shoppers, they suggested.

"Several cities and towns in the States, alert to the better administration of their communities, are experimenting by barring vehicles from entering selected sections of their main shoppping streets," they wrote.

"By doing this it is hoped that shopping can be done with a minimum of effort by the maximum number of people.

"Some of the roadways are converted into gardens and pleasant walks and where the street is narrow each end is closed with trees in tubs."

Despite their frustrations Mr and Mrs Emerson were more than willing to give Stourbridge another chance.

They looked forward to their next visit, they said.

But on that occasion they hoped to "enjoy the charm and intimacy of your delightful main street minus its monstrous array of props, poles and parked autos."

View of the former Stewart and
Lloyds Steelworks in Bilston, 1959

Boiler blast rocks market hall - but misses baby: An explosion likened to a wartime V2 bomb rocked Wolverhampton's recently re-roofed market hall. The explosion was heard all over town, broken glass was strewn across the pavements in Peel Street and the red-hot end of an exploding gas cylinder landed just feet away from a nine-month-old baby girl Julie Berry in her playpen. The cause was a bitumen boiler overflowing and coming into contact with a gas cylinder.

Commuters forsake trains: Commuters in Cannock started to signal the death knell for their local rail service to Walsall by forsaking the new-fangled diesels which had recently replaced steam trains on the line.

A significant switch to bus travel was reported although it had nothing to do with a preference for steam trains.

Quite simply the new "diesel cars" as they were called frequently ran late or not at all although in those days they worked out cheaper than the buses.

One man said he was frequently 40 minutes late getting into Walsall while a woman said she had been moved to write to British Railways about the poor timekeeping.

Bad weather was blamed although the phrase "leaves on the line" had not yet entered the public consciousness.

The service between Cannock and Walsall was axed just a few years later and did not make a return journey until 1989.

Golden boys: A golden era for the men in old gold continued as Wolves won the league title for the second year running to equal the previous post-war feat of Portsmouth and Manchester United.

The championship seemed a long way off earlier on in the season when they slipped down the ninth in the table, lost four of the their first six games and were given a 6-2 drubbing at the hands of Chelsea. Sluggish in the run-up to Christmas they went up several gears after the festive season and lost only two of their last 21 matches.

Magic moments of the second half of the campaign included a 7-0 victory over Portsmouth, 5-0 over Blackburn and 6-2 over Leeds United.

Fair play to you! Sir, May I, through your columns, thank one or other of my countrymen who re-shaped the front of my car outside the Longmynd Hotel, Church Stretton, on New Year's Eve then modestly departed.

I particularly appreciated the removal of all fragments of the lamp glass in case I or anyone else was accidentally cut or injured in effecting repairs. The removal of the bulb in case it was stolen by a common thief was also a masterpiece of foresight.

Having spent the last eight years among hostile minded Egyptians, Cypriots and Arabs, it is very refreshing to welcome in the new year with the thought that at last one is back among his people where British standards of courtesy, decency and fair play are observed.

I hope that the publication of my name and address will make it possible for the modest artist to come and be personally thanked in more detail.

Charles Leech,

Weston Lodge, Belle Vue,


Today the thick pollution-laden fogs of my early years seem to have disappeared