Horace Charles Batkin (1920 – 1969)

Following his demob from the R.A.F, my father Horace Batkin, took up one of the family’s stock-in trades as a hairdresser.  By the 20th century, the Batkin family had moved away from farming in north Staffordshire and moved into what today would be thought of as “service industries” carrying out such work as Inn keeping and hairdressing.  The family were involved with several public houses in the town including the Viaduct and Red lion in Horseley fields, the Fieldhouse and Little swan in Tettenhall and the Royal oak in Tettenhall wood.  The move to Penn was a natural choice, as my father knew the area well, having attended St Bartholomew’s School during his formative years.  His grandfather was publican at the “Royal Oak” in Tettenhall Wood and that was where my father was born.  He started to attend Tettenhall Wood school but contracted tuberculosis and the family were told by the family doctor that he needed “fresh country air” to assist his recuperation.  This was achieved by moving to Penn, which was then still remote and rural.  I have a theory that the family may have been associated with a pub in the Penn area, possibly near the common, although so far, searches through records have drawn a blank.

Horace's hairdressing business on Penn Road.
His hairdressing business was located at the far end of our block on the Penn road away from Manor road.  The flat and shop were ours for only a limited time, as the block and the forge at the rear were due to be pulled down to make room for the impending road widening scheme.  On top of this I was growing by the day and it was obvious that the family would need more room.  Fortunately for us the council offered us a new house in the new estate in Castlecroft and we were on our way.  Dad was offered a job working for someone else which meant more money with less of the hassle of running a business so he sold the business although he had to sign an agreement that he would not open another shop within a 3 to 5 mile radius so as not to poach his existing customers from the new owner.  He continued to “barber” around the Black Country and as far away as Cannock for many years and his last shop was located in Vane Street, a shop that once again was to be blighted by the penchant for road schemes as the area declined very quickly following the building of the ring road which effectively severed that part of town from the centre.

An advert from 1950.

As an afterthought the longer hair styles of the 1960’s nearly killed off the one man barbers shop although I remember weeks when profits for the “London rubber company” also meant increased profits for father too.  Dad suffered with stomach ulcers and finally gave up hairdressing in the 60’s.   He tried other work including TV rental collector, working at the “Weldless” tube in Wednesfield and janitoring.  He died shortly before Christmas in 1969 following a short bout of bronchial pneumonia.  It is interesting to think that his lifetime spanned everything from the early powered flight to Concorde and the moon landing of Apollo 11. 

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