Monday, 19 April 2010

More recollections of Ledsam Street from Trevor Mabbett

Click on the image to see a detailed close-up of this view along Ledsam Street

This is the second of the photos given to me by Uncle Harry - although this scan is from a print not the original so there may be slight loss of quality, though it's still a good image. Note the horse and cart on the opposite side of the street to the Vesper Bell and Friston Street is further back. The photo was taken by a photographer from the Birmingham Post and Mail probably just before or after Winston Churchill drove by. 

Dear Peter,

Many thanks for your letter and for the much better quality copies of the photographs which you sent. I recognise at least four people who were neighbours when we lived in Ledsam Street. I have a magnifying glass but intend to get a more powerful one and then perhaps more folk will become recognisable.

I can't believe that your parents still have the clock and the dartboard from the pub, what a lovely piece of history that is. I certainly would have looked at that clock many years ago and although I'm not a player, some members of my family will have certainly thrown a few arrows at the dartboard.

Now then, I can shed some light on the reasons for Winston Churchill's drive down Ledsam Street on that day. To do so I must go back in time for a little while. In the years between the wars, Ladywood was a Conservative stronghold and Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) was the MP there from 1918 until 1929 when he transferred to the Edgbaston ward. You probably already know that he became Prime Minister in 1937 and that it was actually he who announced the declaration of war on Germany on 3 September 1939. He later handed the reins of power to Churchill, who saw us through almost all of the rest of the war years.

When Chamberlain moved from the Ladywood constituency, his place was taken by Geoffrey Lloyd, who was then elected MP for Ladywood. He became a Minister in Churchill's wartime Government and a very high profile one he was. If my memory serves me correctly, he was Minister for Fuel and Power. (I also believe he had responsibility for two of this country's secret weapons - called P.L.U.T.O. and F.I.D.O. - but that's another story).

At the General Election of 1945, just before the war ended, the Conservatives lost and Geoffrey Lloyd also lost his seat to the Labour candidate (Victor Yates, who was the cousin of my wife's maternal uncle by the way!)

After his defeat, Geoffrey Lloyd took the seat at Edgbaston vacated by Chamberlain. Because of the high profile MPs that Ladywood had elected, there was a very successful and thriving Ladywood Constituency Conservative Party. Their headquarters were situated at premises in the centre of Friston Street, which was the next street along Ledsam Street from Blythe Street. On your picture of the Vesper Bell, Friston Street can be clearly seen with the dog food advert over the corner shop (almost opposite the horse and cart).

Well, after all that, I can tell you that on his visit that day, Winston Churchill was paying a call to the Ladywood Conservative HQ in Friston Street. I can state all of this as fact because the aforementioned HQ had a thriving and active branch of the Young Conservatives, of which my elder brother was a member. One had to be 15 years of age to join, but at only 13 I was allowed to go there because of my brother. I joined them when I became 15 and worked for them for many years, covering many local and general elections. Canvassing, speaking on the loud speaker cars, delivering the leaflets and polling cards.

However, despite all of our best efforts, Ladywood became and still remains a Labour stronghold. I would imagine it's because of the many businesses in the area which were demolished.

This is how Churchill came to drive down Ledsam Street.

All the best and thanks for the pictures.

Trevor Mabbett

Uncle Harry's grandfather Albert Lee (landlord of the Vesper Bell) with Harry's mother Emily Robinson (nee. Lee)

Thanks to my dad Geoff Millington for these comments about the most recent posts on the site:

Hi Pete,

I was fascinated to read the latest information on the Finn's history blog, as you say, all you need now is feedback from our cousins in Cleveland Ohio, to complete the picture.

Equally interesting was the information provided by Trevor Mabbett on Ledsam Street and the Vesper Bell; his family appear to have been a regular customers at the pub. Trevor recalls Harry's adopted sister Gertrude and her husband Norman Dodd. I believe you met the couple on the occasion of Kath and Hals 50th wedding anniversary celebration, held at St Mary's clubroom. He was a tall stocky chap and wore glasses. In fact I remember him getting up on the stage and giving us a rousing number; he had a very good tenor voice.

I wonder if Trevor Mabbett was ever a fisherman? I remember going on a few fishing trips with Kath and Hal, organised from the Vesper Bell. Those were grand days out, mostly to the river Severn, at Worcester. I do remember a larger-than-life character, with a red waxed mustache, who was always present on the coach. His name was Billy Cole.

When Churchill visited Birmingham in 1945, I stood in King Edwards Road, with the assembled crowd, waiting to see the national hero who had guided us through the war. As his car passed, he stood erect in the back of the vehicle giving the customary V sign. He had a faraway look in his eye, and his face was very flushed. I believe Winnie was very fond of a lunchtime tipple, and why not?

Strange that Trevor should mention the Conservative MP Geoffrey Lloyd. During the 1930s he came around the houses in Ladywood, canvassing, chatting with the housewives and kissing the babies. My dear mom Florence was so impressed with his civility that guess what?

I was christened Geoffrey. Not a lot of people know that story.

Keep the blogs coming you're doing a grand job, all my love to the family.


  1. I'm Trevor's son, Andy. He was very surprised to see his letter reproduced here, but very interested in this and your previous article and thanks you for posting it.

    He points out that he wasn't a 'regular' at the VB, being only a schoolboy at the time. Nor was he a fisherman.

  2. Thanks Andy, I hope Trevor didn't mind me publishing his recollections online. I will make the changes you highlight.