Family history



As society is transformed by our wire-less technological advancements it is important to not forget the foundations forged by our ancestors.

The Pub's still standing
The Bournheath pub – ancient refreshment tavern for Nailers.


Hannah Southall/Higgins/Prime – the’Black Country’ folks:

Southall, English (chiefly West Midlands): habitational name, from Old English suð ‘south’ + halh ‘nook’, ‘recess’.

Louise Rayner visiting Dudley
Artist Louise Rayner visiting Dudley 1870



Reports of the housing and living conditions of the mass of poor folk were abysmal, with little running, clean water and sewerage facilities. The Southall and Martin families seemed to have built up a resistance to killer bacteria over generations.

Compared to the official mortality rates for infants and adults the Census picture I have is survival against the odds.

 MY 4TH GREAT GRANDPARENTS; in the 1851 Census RICHARD SOUTHALL was a retired Iron Master on King Street, Dudley, with his wife ELIZABETH (born WHITEHOUSE ). 

Richard died age 75years and Elizabeth age 81years.

Mystery burial ground with Southall grave stone in it. further info at
Mystery burial ground with Southall grave stone in it. further info at

THE TERM IRON MASTER SUGGESTS HE WAS A ‘MIDDLE MAN’ TRADING BETWEEN NAILERS AND IRON SUPPLIERS. I’m guessing he was a fair business man and not unjustly exploitative as the reputations of many were. Why?

They were Quakers, members at the Dudley Meeting of Religious Society of Friends. Were they buried at the mysterious burial ground, now overgrown?

I have Quaker kin on my Londoners branch, they too being ‘the Middling sort’ or what we today call the ‘aspirational’ classes.George Fox, the founder appealed to their independent Spirit. 

5th Great Grandparents RICHARD SOUTHALL & MARY GRANGER of Netherton, Dudley were Nail Ironmongers.

Iron Monger of Netherton
Iron Monger of Netherton
Horse Nail makers SOUTHALLS OF DUDLEY 1600-1900
Horse Nail makers

Home of the Southalls
JWTurner painted watercolours on his visit to Dudley (Castle ruins on hill.

IN THE THE EARLDOM OF DUDLEY My Grt Great Joseph William Southall and Agnes Martin lived and worked: ‘Josh’ was 5years old in

1861 Salop Street, Eve Hill, Dudley.

St. James Terrace, Dudley Nailmakers
St. James Terrace, Dudley
Nailmakers – 3rd Grt Grandparents Richard and Elizabeth Southall(neeChambers) 2nd GF Joseph age 5yrs

“Nailmaking was described as the most God forsaken trade in the country and nailmakers lived in abject poverty. Throughout the 19th century there were strikes as the nailmakers tried to obtain a living wage whilst the employers constantly looked to reduce wages.

How successful the employers were can be demonstrated by the fact that by 1887 weekly wages had fallen from a peak of around 30s (£1.50) to between 9s (45p) and 13s (65p). It was reported that hobnail makers could not earn more than 6s (30p)per week.

One of the later most damaging strikes was in 1893. Dudley nailmakers went on strike around May 1893 when some masters again tried to reduce wages. By December the nailmakers were still on strike. The strikers had been supported by the Midland Counties Trades Federation but by December the Federation had come to the conclusion that the strikers were not going to be able to achieve their aims and that the only way they were going to achieve a living wage was through legislation. The strike payments were having an adverse impact on other parts of the Federation and they believed that the strike money would be better spent on trying to influence legislation. They therefore voted to discontinue strike payments. Therefore after seven months on strike the nailmakers had achieved nothing. By this time many nailmakers had either left the area or taken up other employment (many nailmakers became chainmakers). “(Thanks Paul, WDYTYAforum)

Baptisms, Marriages and Burials here.
Baptisms, Marriages and Burials here at ST JAMES CHURCH, EVE HILL, DUDLEY NR HOME ON SALOP ST.

 Down the direct line 8th Great Grandfather Thomas Southall a “NAYLOR”, was born during the English Republic, baptised on July 28th 1655, married Anne Hancox Sept.1685 and buried on 4th January 1708 at ST.THOMAS,’TOP’ CHURCH, DUDLEY. 

1841 census for Josh’s parents and my 3rd Great Grandparents at Shavers End.

Dudley Nailers
Dudley Nailers

Brave Dudley Boys

In the days of good queen Bess
Yah boys, ho
In the days of good queen Bess
Yah boys, ho
In the days of good queen Bess
Coventry out done their best
Yah boys, ho boys, oh the brave Dudley boys

But in the times a be,
We’ve outdone Coventry

Tipp’n lads, they did us join
And we fought the strong combine

We marched into town
Resolved to burn the ‘ousen down

Times, they was mighty queer
Vittles, they was powerful dear

So we fought to make corn cheap
We burned them all, of a heap

But the work was scarce begun
When the soldiers came and spoilt the fun

We all run down our pits
Scared almost out of our wits

God bless Lord Dudley Ward
He knowed the times been hard

He called back the sodgermen,
Ya, boys, O!
He called back the sodgermen,
Ya, boys, O!
He called back the sodgermen,
And we’ll never riot again.

Na boys, no boys, no the brave Dudley boys!

This song is said to have come from William Ryland of West Bromwich in the 1840’s. It originated in the Corn Laws and the Reform Bill of the early 18th century, though other researchers believe it is later.
Good Queen Bess: Elizabeth I of England (1533 – 1603).
Dudley is a town between Birmingham and Wolverhampton, part of the Black Country. Its boundaries are now indistinguishable from the other parts of the West Midlands conurbation.
sodgers = soldiers
Lord Dudley Ward: Ward is the family name of Lord Dudley. The then Lord Dudley was able to calm the rioters and prevent the soldiers from firing on them.
Roy Palmer, Songs of the Midlands (1972)

(Part One: The ‘Bread And Butter Riots’ of 1766)
by David Cox…
Pre-industrialised England is often represented as a golden age of prosperity and plenty, with well-fed peasants happy with their lot in life, knowing their place in a benevolent and paternalistic society. Reality, as is so often the case, was somewhat different from the myth. This is the first of two articles looking at civil unrest in the Black Country during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

With half of a man’s wage and no vote, women laboured long and hard at the hearth and having babies, grieving regularly.

Among the nailers and their children – The Guardian archive 4 Jan 1865

Hales Owen, says J. E. White, reporting to the Royal Commission on the Employment of Children and Young Persons the evidence collected by him, as assistant commissioner, on the metal manufactures of the Birmingham district – “Hales Owen is the only town on the direct road from Birmingham to Stourbridge.
“The principal employment of the place is the wrought-nail manufacture, carried on in small forges adjoining the homes of the greater part of the cottagers, and to a great extent by women and children.

“While I was in a cottage where I found a boy with a bare foot bandaged up, lamed by a burn, a sound of many voices singing swelled gradually near.

“The boy, limping on his stick to the door, cried, ‘Oh, mother! there’s the nailers coming.’ And there passed by a crowd of several hundred men, women, and children.

“They were coming from the villages near Dudley to hold a meeting in Hales Owen, to see if they could get out the nailers who were working against them there, their strike having already lasted eleven weeks.

” ‘It’s heartbreaking work,’ said the woman. Among the many children in the crowd were two little boys, apparently six years old or not much more, dragged along by the hand by a woman, probably their mother, footsore and lame from their march.

“A nailer at Hales Owen said to me, ‘The parents carry them on into the night as long as their strength lasts when the work is wanted quick; it’s no use beyond, but, as far as they can, they are partly obligated to work.

” ‘I should not like my little boy there, now five, to begin before nine, and he shan’t if I can help it, but if I am any ways obligated he must. He is but a little mossel [sic], and if I were to get that little creature to work I should have to get a scaffold for him to stand on to reach, and with that it would be like murder-work, as you may say.

” ‘It don’t agree with children at first, the work being always hot. In summer the little ones, being afore the fire all the time, sweat so till it runs down their faces like anything. Then the young ones often burn themselves. My boy got two wounds big as a crown piece.

” ‘My son, now 14, has to work hard from six am to eight pm to make 8½ to 9d. It’s many hours to be stiving up [stewing] in a hot shop’.

“The son can read. His sister, aged 17, who works as a nailer, can read but little.

This picture could be Great Great Gran Agnes at the “Oliver” so called because it was tough and hard like Cromwell! It was an ideal mate who could be useful in the nailing business and delivering babies and keep them alive in perilous, starving times.

Named after Oliver Cromwell for being tough and hard.
Named after Oliver Cromwell for being tough and hard.


Bristol Rd 1910
High St. Selly Oak – Grandad Higgins born at 104 then brother Harold. Their father died of TB age 27. Always say, we were going down the village.
Exeter Rd 2010
On the street where we lived. Exeter Rd.1900-1978

The new century arrived. It must have seemed like luxury in their new terrace house in Exeter Road. It only took 9 miles migrating south to Selly Oak to have their lives transformed! Did they keep in touch with the Cradley chain makers industrial campaign in 1910? Send money to support the women ‘sweat’ workers in solidarity?

The cause of the Cradley Heath chain makers was championed by the influential George Cadbury(who also owned a newspaper), and prominent feminist women like Mary MacArthur, a Union activist who worked to attract funds so the women chain-makers could keep up the strike for a living wage. 

Mary Macarthur
13 August 1880 – 1 January 1921

British trade unionist and feminist.

Women are badly paid and badly treated because they are not organised and they are not organised because they are badly paid and badly treated.



A different and more learned Higgins had become a hero in the new Federation of former colony: Melbourne, Australia, 1907 High Court. Judge Higgins made a famous judgement. The case involved one of Australia’s largest employers, Hugh McKay, a manufacturer of agricultural machinery.

Higgins ruled that McKay was obliged to pay his employees a wage that guaranteed them a standard of living that was reasonable for “a human being in a civilised community,” regardless of his capacity to pay. This gave rise to the legal requirement for a basic wage, which dominated Australian economic life for the next 80 years.

DAWLISH RD SELLY OAK 1910 Part of the Developer/Builder, Dibble’s Estate.

Grandad Albert Higgins and Nan Elsie moved around the corner to Dawlish Rd in 1965, from Exeter Rd. when they sold it to my parents.

 NO MORE NAIL MAKING! The turn of the  20th century. I wonder if when they settled into their new terraced houses in Selly Oak, they wished they had left sooner?

Links to further Nailing information:

The Industrial suburb was a model of progress.

Exeter Rd - Beautiful Bricks, Co-operative
Exeter Rd – Beautiful Bricks, Co-operative

Dirty, heavy labour was what they had been born and bred for…but at least families could now make themselves clean at the Tiverton Public Baths!

Ariel Cycle Co Dale Rd Selly Oak c 1899
Ariel Cycle Co
Dale Rd Selly Oak c 1899

Fortune and Municipal responsibility smiled on Selly Oak labourers and their children. The Southall’s would have witnessed the opening of many a community investment, like  learn to swim, learn to read and write, and of course go to Church on Sundays(expected but not compulsory anymore).

George Cadbury provided free passes to the Tiverton pool to local children – so they could work off the chocolate!

“These baths were erected by the Kings Norton and Northfield District Council and opened on the 29th September 1906. It contained two swimming baths, one with a gallery for spectators and one designed for the use of children.
Taken over by the Baths Committee on 3rd June 1911 following Royal Assent when Handsworth, Aston Manor, Erdington, Yardley, Moseley, Kings Heath and Selly Oak became part of Greater Birmingham.”

opened 1906
opened 1906

There were jobs for all the family and regular wages at the Ariel Cycles factory a walk away from home in Exeter Rd. Then there was a wider pool of eligible spinsters and bachelors! This is how I imagine the Southall-Higgins alliance came about:

Dale Rd Selly Oak

In the 1901 Census Joseph and Agnes rented 76 Exeter Rd. and were employed at the Ariel Cycles Works as labourers and saddle spring makers. It didn’t take long for daughter Hannah to meet Albert Edward Higgins who lived around the corner in Hubert Road with his brother Ernest’s family.

I suggest they made eye contact at the corner shop on the way to work…

1901 Census
1901 Census – 76 Exeter Rd Southall family from Dudley, now University student housing.

ON HIS DEATH CERTIFICATE Great Grandfather Albert Edward Higgins worked as a bicycle sand blaster.

ALBERT & HANNAH married at the Church of England, St.Mary’s Church in 1901 (St.Wulstan’s on Exeter Rd wasn’t quite finished).

In common with his wife Hannah was the fact both of their parents had been Nailers from Worcestershire and had to migrate due to the death of the ancient industry to machinery and loss of overseas markets.

Cnr Hubert Rd-Exeter Rd
Corner shop – for all your home needs, cnr Hubert and Exeter Rd Selly Oak. Grt x 2 Grand folks live 33 Exeter Rd in 1901. Most likely Hannah and Albert made eyes at each other on the morning walk to Ariel….

Albert’s family had migrated from Belbroughton in the district of Bromsgrove, first stopping at Harborne where the death of his mother Fanny, from childbirth gave impetus to travel further down the Bristol Rd to Selly Oak thriving with manufacturing and bricky’s labouring. 

Visiting Holy Trinity ancient grounds where generations of Davenport and Waldron et al were baptised, wed and buried.
Visiting Holy Trinity ancient grounds where generations of Davenport and Waldron et al were baptised, wed and buried.
Home of the nailmaking Davenports/Waldrons. Belbroughton, Chaddesley Corbett, Bell Heath on Farley Lane, Bourneheath, Catshill.
Home of the nailmaking
Belbroughton, Chaddesley Corbett, Bell Heath on Farley Lane, Bourneheath, Catshill.

ALBERT HIGGINS would have a shortened life too, dying of TB (tuberculosis), aged 28yrs. Hannah was  widowed with 2 sons under 5years so moved back home to her parents now at 33 Exeter Rd…

33 Exeter Rd - the home of Joseph and Agnes Southall from 1910.
33 Exeter Rd – the home of Joseph and Agnes Southall from 1910.

The Edwardian generation was my Grandad’s, who received a decent secular primary education for the first time. Nobody seemed concerned to educate the plebeians before then, but when the factory owners realised they would need a more literate workforce their lobbying made the dictum ‘knowledge is power’ bear fruit and became Tiverton Rd Primary school’s motto – tres revolutionary!

Being a man in a man’s world of boxing, snooker, horse racing  and beeret suited Grandad’s style and skill. He worked a tram ride away for the visionary Herbert Austin at Longbridge factory.

Somehow this distilled itself  into him becoming a paid up, active member of the Conservative Party in the Selly Oak electoral ward.

Winning a scholarship to King Edward Grammar may have distorted his political sense! Either way brothers Albert and Harold Southall/Higgins were the first to sign birth, marriage, and death certificates with their name and not an X

Equality of the sexes was part of the creed of the Quakers from the 1600’s… but British women had to really push the limits before they would be given an equal vote to men. Thanks to the Suffragette’s, inch by inch and a few smashed windows and imprisonment later Hannah age 43yr could vote next to her sons.

The first begrudging concession was to allow women the vote if they were over 30, and owners of property! Thus Hannah and her mother Agnes age 70, were the first women to vote.

All women over 21yrs could vote in 1927. As the Tories feared, the electorate trebled, bringing in the first government under the Labour party to represent the views of the working class.

1920 Electoral register – Hannah & Agnes

1920 Kings Norton division in Selly Oak ward Exeter Rd.
1920 Kings Norton division in Selly Oak ward
Exeter Rd.

Consistent philanthropy of the Quaker Cadbury’s with their principles of  social justice, supported progressive early childhood learning in Selly Oak.

Tiverton Rd. the first kindergarten in Birmingham thanks to the efforts of the Cadbury family.
Tiverton Rd. the first kindergarten in Birmingham thanks to the efforts of the Cadbury family.
On the road to social mobility: Knowledge is Power
On the road to social mobility:
Knowledge is Power – the motto for our public school on Tiverton Rd.

 Hannah remarried Thomas Prime a metal worker at Brass Casting. The newly built Church of St. Wulstan was on the street corner. Albert and Harold Higgins would gain two half-sisters.

As first home owners in the family, Hannah and Thomas Prime of no.26 must have felt satisfied with their lot and labours in life and leaving an Inheritance – unheard of!                                 

Great Nan Hannah was a widow for the second time in 1928.  Oldest son Albert married Elsie Brothwood in 1935. It seems there was an agreement for Hannah and her daughters to buy a house somewhere else and Harold moved to 18 Exeter Rd – giving room for the newly weds to start a new family of Higgins. CALL THE MIDWIFE!

My return trip to childhood home 2010 - the front room bedroom where Higgins babies came into the world.
My return trip to childhood home 2010 – the front room bedroom where Higgins babies came into the world, with or without the local Midwife on her bike!


    1. Dear Cousin, thank you for dropping by – I’ve been distracted with the English Civil War which did affect our Landlord’s Dudley Castle. So your Richard was married to E. Chambers? Did your migratory route go a longer distance? Cheers to kith and kin! May your forge be fuelled for 2017!


      1. Hello

        Yes indeed .. I think where we split is that Richard and Elizabeth Chambers had a son Levi and I descend from him. I was shocked to hear that they were Quakers .. my levi descendants ended up living very near the village where Quakerism was founded . i went back a few more years ..I think life for nail makers was very very hard



        Robert m Ann Dudley staffs 1762

        Henry m elizabeth lamb henry born 1763 St Mary Brewood staffs catholic church

        richard m elizabeth born 1787

        richard m elizabeth chambers born 1809 married in 1831

        levi m emma Dalley (nailer ) was working age 12

        Benjamin m Elisabeth ( Benjamin nailer moved to Barrow ) Ben born 1860 died 1911

        Richard Southall SPOUSE: Elizabeth Chambers MARRIAGE: 1 Aug 1831 – Kingswinford,Stafford,England

        Richard’s dad also Richard Richard Southall GENDER: Male BAPTISM DATE: 03 Aug 1787 BAPTISM PLACE: Stafford, England FATHER: Henry Southall MOTHER: Elizabeth Southall FHL FILM NUMBER: 325649 HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS NAME Richard Southall Henry Southall Elizabeth Southall



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