Hobbies, Entertainment, Sports, and Pastimes
Entertainment in the long evenings
was very basic. The lady of the house would often spend
her time sitting in front of the fire, sewing or
kitting. Her husband might read the local newspaper, but
this could be very tiring because the rooms were dimly
lit by gas or oil lamps. Children often amused
themselves with simple home-made toys. They played
marbles, or jacks; a game where 5 small stones were
placed on the back of the hand and thrown into the air.
The hand would quickly be turned over to see how many
could be caught. Outside games included skipping,
football, and rolling a wooden hoop.
Sometimes the family played cards
or draughts, and if they were very lucky they might even
possess a piano so that tunes could be played and sung.
Wind-up gramophones were becoming common place. A good
stock of gramophone needles and a few records enabled
many families to enjoy even the longest winter evening.
Reading was another form of relaxation, mainly for the
lighter evenings. Books could be borrowed from the
library, in the Town Hall in Victoria Road.
Radio, or wireless as it was
called, didn’t become a practicality in the Black
Country until the BBC started broadcasting in Birmingham
in November 1922.
A crystal set from the 1920s that
sold for 7 shillings and 6 pence.
|At the time there were several regional radio
stations that could be received locally with varying
degrees of success.
In 1925 things improved when the BBC opened a high
power transmitter at Daventry that reached 55% of the
population. Radios, particularly those with loudspeakers
were too expensive for most ordinary people. Valves had
a short life and each one cost around an ordinary
working man’s weekly wage. The batteries were expensive
and accumulators had to be charged.
As a result most people were introduced to radio by
the crystal set, which could be purchased for as little
A long length of wire would be hung
outside as an aerial, and the family would huddle around
the receiver, listening to the faint sounds on
headphones, or even use a circular dish to reflect the
sound from a single pair of headphones, so that several
people could listen at once. The difficulty of adjusting
the crystal each time it was used, made it feel like a
great achievement to get anything worthwhile, and so
listeners were delighted with whatever programme they
Within a few years it all changed
as receivers improved and costs fell, so that even the
poorer families could afford a decent radio with a
Occasionally the family might visit
the music hall, or the local cinema and watch the silent
films, or be amazed at “the talkies” which appeared in
the late 1920s. Men folk would sometimes visit the local
pub, which in those days tended to be men only. Women
might get involved with activities at the local church
hall. Another popular form of entertainment was Pat
Collins’ fair, which came several times a year. Older
children would get extra pocket money by helping to
set-up the stalls etc. when the fair arrived. There were
all kinds attractions; rides, sideshows, fortune
tellers, fairground organs, candy floss, sweets and ice
cream. Something for everyone in the family.
|Bonfire night was also a big occasion when families
got together and enjoyed themselves.
There would be a fire, around which potatoes, grey
peas, and chestnuts were cooked, and the inevitable “Guy
Fawkes” was burned.
The children played conkers and everyone looked
forward to the fireworks.
Christmas was also an important time and everyone
joined in the festivities.
A fair on the Wake Field in the
|Christmas trees were hard to come by in Darlaston
and the families had what they called a “bush”
consisting of two concentric wooden hoops, at right
angles. They were hung from the ceiling and decorated
with coloured tissue paper and tinsel. Sweets and
presents were then attached.
A second prize certificate for a
|A favourite activity for men was pigeon racing. They
would join one of the many homing pigeon clubs, each
based at one of the local pubs. They had a pigeon loft
(often home made) in the back garden and acquired a
number of suitable birds. There were locally and
nationally organised competitions in which the birds
would be transported by lorry or train to a distant
location in a pigeon basket.
The birds were then released and their eager owners
would await their return. Before the race, each bird was
fitted with a rubber ring around one of its legs. On its
return to the loft the ring would be removed, and
inserted into a special pigeon clock that recorded the
time on a paper disk.
Another male activity was gardening
in the allotment. This not only provided the family with
a plentiful supply of fruit and vegetables, but also
allowed the grower to compete in local gardening
competitions, which were taken very seriously.
In the early 1920s there were a
number of local sports clubs. Darlaston Football Club
competed in the Birmingham and District League and
matches were well attended.
There was also the Darlaston
Thursday Football Club who were affiliated to the
Birmingham County F.A. and held matches on a Thursday
Many of the local factories had
their own sports teams which also competed in local
competitions, against works teams throughout the Black
Country. Rubery Owen & Company ran the Victoria Sports
Club and had extensive facilities at Darlaston Green.
There were tennis courts, three bowling greens and a
football ground. The activities were very popular and
many spectators came along.
The company also helped local
musicians. They founded the Victoria Orchestra, a full
orchestra with 25 players, the Victoria Male Voice Choir
with up to 40 members, and the Victoria Brass Band with
24 performers. Concerts were occasionally given which
benefited the whole community. Young girls could join
the 1st or 2nd Darlaston Girl Guides, and
boys joined the Junior Scouts, or Cubs as it was known.
There were also the local church scouts consisting of
the 1st Darlaston Wesleyan Boy Scouts, the 2nd
Darlaston Independent Boy Scouts, the 3rd
Darlaston St. George’s Boy Scouts, and the 4th
Darlaston Wesleyan Boy Scouts. Men with an interest in
the army could join the Darlaston Territorial Force,
based at the Drill Hall in Church Street.
Local clubs included the
Conservative and Unionist Club which at the time had 250
members. They had card tables, billiards tables, a
bowling green, and ran whist drives. There were also
branches of the Independent Order of Oddfellows, the
International Order of Good Templars, the National Order
of Free Gardeners, and the Sheffield Equalised
Independent Order of Druids. So there was much to see
Every Day Living