Albert and Percy

Ron Myatt of the Great Wyrley Local History Society has been back in touch with the names of the other two members of the Staffordshire Yeomanry pictured here with a young Frank Halfpenny at some time during the First World War.

Frank Halfpenny, later Sheriff and Mayor of Lichfield (left), Albert Handley (centre) and Percy Johnson (right)

In the centre of the photograph is Albert Handley, and Ron has very kindly passed on to me the following information given to him by Albert’s son.

Albert Handley was born in Bridgtown in 1893. He was the second son of Jairus and Elizabeth Handley (formerly from Willenhall) and brother of Charles, Ellen, Ethel and Maud.  The family moved to moved to Landywood (part of Great Wyrley) and Jairus Handley worked in several pits. Albert was educated at Great Wyrley Council School and left aged 14. Afterwards he went to the Evening Institute where he learnt mathematical skills and secretarial techniques. Albert worked in brickyard in Bridgtown before taking a clerical post with Siemens Electrical, Stafford. Although Albert was employed in a ‘reserved occupation’, in 1915 he managed to enlist in the Staffordshire Yeomanry, where he served until 1919.

After mustering at Burton on Trent, the 3rd / 1st Staffs Yeomanry were affiliated to the 12th Reserve Cavalry Regiment at Aldershot where Albert learned to ride horses and was promoted to NCO rank. In 1916, they served in Egypt, Palestine and Syria. During his service, Albert contracted a near-fatal dose of malaria.

Back home, Albert met Winifred Sambrook ,an infant school teacher, and they were married in 1924. Between 1919 and 1949, he was employed as a clerk at a large mine but also took on additional roles including church officer, society steward and Trustee of Wyrley Wesley Methodist Church. Albert also helped to set-up the fund for first Doctor’s Practice, was the founding Treasurer of the Wyrley Branch of the Nursing Association, and set-up a branch of the Ideal Benefit Society collecting subs and making pay-outs.

In 1937, Albert was appointed clerk of the Parish Council which brought with it a large range of duties including opening libraries, supervising burials, responsibility for recreation grounds and tennis courts as well as administrative tasks. In 1949, he became a Magistrate for Cannock and Penkridge Bench in 1939, eventually being elected chair.

During the Second World War, Albert was a founding member of Civil Defence Corps in 1939, who were responsible for recruiting wardens, issuing gas masks, organising training and dealing with the arrival and billeting of evacuees from Margate. In 1949, Albert became a local Government Officer in the Rating Department of Cannock RDC. Albert died in 1975.

The third man in the photo is Percy Johnson, who Ron believes was Lichfield farmer. However, we know nothing more about Percy, and would be grateful to hear from anyone who is able to help.  I’d also be interested to know the story behind this photograph. Why were Frank, Albert and Percy photographed together, and when was the photograph taken?

If you do have any further information on any of the above, please send me an email or leave a comment below, or alternatively you can leave a message for Ron on the Great Wyrley Local History Society guestbook here.

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Halfpenny For Your Thoughts

There’s a saying ‘It’s what is on the inside that counts…’, and it’s rather appropriate for describing Frank Halfpenny Hall, a plain and unassuming building half way up George Lane. The hall is home to the wonderful Abacus Pre-School, and inside is a place full of colour and music, imagination and laughter.

Frank Halfpenny Hall, George Lane, Lichfield

People have many fond memories of the hall. Responses to requests for information on  the Lichfield Facebook group show that this is a building that’s been an important part of the community over the years. People talked about attending Sunday school there, still having the ‘Peter and Jane Go to School’ book from their last day at playgroup, eating school dinners there when at St Chad’s school and regular jumble sales being hosted. It was even the venue for one woman’s wedding reception!

The hall is named after Frank Halfpenny, a Labour councillor, who I believe went on to become Lichfield’s first Labour mayor in 1965. He was the Sheriff of Lichfield, when war broke out in 1939 and the photograph below shows him maintaining the tradition of the Sheriff’s ride that September, accompanied by just one other rider.

Frank Halfpenny ensuring the tradition of the Sheriff’s Ride is maintained. Photograph used with thanks to Annette Rubery http://www.annetterubery.co.uk/

Cllr Halfpenny bought the hall and in 1958, donated it to the Lichfield and Tamworth Constituency Labour Party. I’ve been told that the hall was used as the Labour Party HQ during the two general elections of 1974 (in May the Conservative Party held the Lichfield and Tamworth seat but lost it to Labour in the October election later that year). It had originally been built as a Primitive Methodist Chapel in 1848 and a map from 1884 shows it had 130 seats for the congregation. It the 1930s, it was used by the Salvation Army.

Sources:

Lichfield: Town government’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield(1990), pp. 73-87

Lichfield: Roman Catholicism and Protestant nonconformity’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990), pp. 155-159

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lichfield_and_Tamworth_(UK_Parliament_constituency)