Jim Froggatt, possibly the oldest former Eastham resident, invited us back to have a chat about his memories recently.
Jim was born in 1924 and lived in Eastham Court. His Dad was a farmer and bought Hill Wood in 1916, and later bought other land where they did mixed farming of livestock and fruit.
Jim has many memories of using Eastham Bridge, crossing most days for several years aged 11 to 17 when he went to Kidderminster Grammar School. Along with several other Eastham children he would make his way each morning over the bridge to catch the bus on the main Tenbury Road at 7:10am. The bus, run by Owens & Co, went to Newnham Bridge before heading to Kidderminster via Mamble, Bayton, Abberley and Stourport, depositing the boys at 8:40 and the girls shortly after at their school. Jim arrived home at 6pm each evening, making for some long days.
The Froggatts farmed land both sides of the river, and needed to send livestock and good via rail, so Eastham Bridge was vital.
“As a young boy, 10, we picked mushrooms early and took them with horse and dray to Newnham Bridge so they could go to dealers Brooks brothers at Dudley, on sale the same day as they were picked. Then I had to dash back driving horse and dray to get back to primary school for 9:30am. I drove horses from 8, started on a side rake, but needed a board so could reach the floor. I was very good with horses.”
His Dad had a contract with Morrison Baxter of Brierley Hill, sending them 30 pigs a month. Jim had to drive them from Hill Wood to Eastham and onto Newnham Railway station. They also had to take over sheep after buying 150 sheep at Milson. With just a sheep dog Jim had to bring them to Eastham, although he admits he had a very good sheep dog.
The Teme Valley is a very fertile area and ideal for fruit growing. Like many others in Hanley, Eastham and Alton, Jim’s family had a mixed farm which included blackcurrants, raspberries, apples, pears and cherries. These would go to market by rail, and Jim recalls a train of 50 trucks to Birmingham, containing fruit just from Newnham! Goods were also sent to other town and cities, and carriages would be marked up for Southampton, Manchester, Glasgow, London and other major destinations. Small quantities would be sent to each place, so lots of trucks were needed and farmers would deposit in each one. To avoid flooding the market five-hundred weight (40 stone) was sent to each place each time. Porters would count up and mark up how much each farm had contributed.
The first salmon Jim saw was by Eastham Bridge, when he saw one leap when he was a young boy. What is that big fish, he wondered, as he knew it wasn’t a trout? When they dipped sheep in arsenic it used to run into a ditch and then into the river and became a stimulant, so strange as it may seem salmon did well due to arsenic. The squire used to fish out of a boat, with a ghillie who rowed under the trees. By casting the fly into shadows (of which there were many as the trees weren’t cut back then) he used to be able to catch lots of fish. The squire allowed Jim’s mother and family to catch eels as long as they put trout back, although they sometimes hid them if no one saw them! Over the years Jim got to know a chap who knew a lot about salmon and where to go, and let Jim know the best spots. One year Jim caught 14 on the Teme.
We’re grateful to Jim for agreeing to talk to us and share his memories.