KNOWLE LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY
A wealth of information is contained in the Knowle oral history records, which have been recorded by Knowle residents since 1979 for the benefit of the village and the wider public. Some are on tape, with the added attraction of being able to hear the person themselves speaking; others are written up from interviews. Many of those who kindly allowed us to interview them are no longer alive, and without these records invaluable information would have been lost forever.
Inevitably there is considerable overlap in material: everyone talks about High Street; but in every account there is something that appears nowhere else. Some are more specialised than others.
Knowle Local History Society continues to interview older Knowle residents; but with most of those who would now be in their 80s and 90s no longer here, we have come to the next generation and are talking to those in their 70s. Note that the copyright of these documents usually belongs to the originators.
For those who have lived in Knowle for a long time and are willing to write down their memories, a questionnaire is available to make a Write It Yourself memoir easy to compile, based on questions suggested by the University of Birmingham Extra Mural Department.
Although to mention some and not others is somewhat ignominious, the following are of particular interest:
The British Legion Tapes
Made by several members of the Knowle British Legion - all ‘Old Knowle’ - in 1978 under the chairmanship of Dr. Ronald Bower. Punctuated by the convivial clinking of glasses at the British Legion Club House, where the tapes were recorded. Tape and transcript.
Mr. Taylor, who ran a local dairy farm, wrote his memoirs in 1978 at the age of eighty nine for Mrs. Valerie Morton. He recalls stories told to him in the 1890s by those who were old men then: thus this document contains personal memories dating back to the mid 19th century. Imperfect grammar and spelling does not detract from the entertaining stories. Moreover, although repetitive, it is very legible and a remarkable document notable for its accuracy: despite his age and the passage of time, Mr. Taylor’s memory is virtually a hundred per cent accurate. Hand-written account. No tape or transcript.
Another early tape, made in 1978, with memories of the Court family and their family grocery business, Knowle School and horse-drawn barges on the canal. Tape and transcript.
Anne Mawditt (née Allen)
A delightful account of the life of one of the not-so-rich families in the early 1900s. Typed version by the Allen family now transferred to the computer. No tape.
Born in 1906 in one of the lock cottages on the canal, Mrs. Norman recalled her schooldays and later life in the early 20th century. Tape and summary.
Ernie, son of Mrs. Grace Norman and born at Bottom Lock Cottage, is a walking encycylopeodia on all relating to Knowle, especially the canal and the railway, where he worked for a time. A wonderful tape made by one of Knowle's best known and best loved characters. Tape and summary.
The fourth generation of the Curtis family to live in Knowle. Part of the family dynasty which ran the local bakery for just over 100 years. Includes details of Knowle British Legion, of which Mr. Curtis was President.
And many more …
The following few excerpts give a taste of some of the fascinating stories to be found in the oral history records.
Members of the British Legion on Pig Killing
From pork pies the conversation turned to Dickie White a celebrated local character and the village's official pig killer. He lived in Wilson's Road and was a familiar sight in the village with his apron on and his 'steel' and knives hanging from his waist. In those days every row of cottages kept a pig or two and the slaughter was quite an event. After the killing (by cutting the throat) the pig was burned on a bed of straw to get rid of the bristles. It was a tradition then that everyone in the row received something from the animal. When Dickie White came down to Grimshaw Villas it was considered a really big 'do'. To perform his task Mr. White needed two gallons of red wine as a stimulant.
... and on Schoolboy Pranks
At one time the boys would picnic down by the ford in Hampton Road. When the water was too deep to allow safe crossing the children would wave approaching cars through, wait for them to get stuck halfway, then charge drivers a penny each to push their cars out. One Sunday morning 'young Harding' was drowned in floods at this spot. Young village men swam out to his rescue and finally reached him (too late) at Castle Deep further down river. At the bottom of the hill in Hampton Road one field was a mass of yellow every year at cowslip time. Families would make cowslip wine with flowers gathered by the boys. When sheep were put in the field the cowslips were never seen again.
Ron Court on the Knowle Pike
The story is you know, that there was a pike at Knowle Hall around that place there you know ... and ... it must have been a huge thing because they said when the Everitt children were small they had a Shetland pony. And this Shetland pony got through the wire to the edge of the lake and they say all they found were just the four hooves there ... this pike had had this pony, so they say. And they say it was a tremendous size ... as far as from here to that wall. People who said they saw it ... you know it was like the Loch Ness monster I suppose. But nevertheless that's the story of the Knowle pike, and it was supposed to be in some of the papers at one stage.
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