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                             Eminent People of The Black Country

This page is dedicated to the Black Country folk who were not necessarily born in the Black Country, but who made an immense and valuable contribution to society and the lives of so many, past and present. 

Please note that legal action may be taken if these true stories or part thereof are used for publication in written or/and electronic format. They are for personal use only.


James Whale was born on 22 July 1889 in Dudley and died 29 May 1957 in California, aged 67. 

James became a famous Hollywood film director after he left the United Kingdom on 13 March 1929 and sailed on the Aquitania from Southampton to New York. The Passenger List gives his age as 36 but this would have put his year of birth as 1893 - it would seem he wanted to appear younger than he was and this discrepancy continued throughout his life. James directed some of the most stylish films of the 1930's, the most famous being Frankenstein whereby he created a new genre of horror film.

James was the sixth child of William Whale and Sarah Peters who married on August 20th 1877, in the Parish Church of St Thomas, Dudley. Three years after James' birth, another son was born to William and Sarah. The family lived in a tiny house of only four rooms in Brewery Street, Kates Hill, Dudley. The 1891 census gives the address as 40, Brewery Street, the place of James' birth, but by 1901, the family had moved to 13, Brewery Street - perhaps this house was a little larger.

The area was quite rough and many people drank in excess, largely due to the nature of their work near to the roaring furnaces. Beer was cheap so there were often fights amongst the neighbours. However, the Whales were a well respected family despite their poverty.

The schools which James attended were Kates Hill Board School, the Bayliss Charity School and the Dudley Blue Coat School which was near to the Methodist Church in Dixon's Green where his parents were very active. James wanted to continue his education but his father forced him into work and this is something for which James appears to have despised him. James did not have the physical strength to work in the mines or mills and initially worked in a cobblers shop. However, this did not pay well and he tried to save whatever he could after handing over most of his wages to his parents who still had a family to support. He desperately wanted to undertake tuition at the Dudley School of Arts and Crafts. This he did in 1910, when he enrolled as a night student. Despite James' dislike for hard labour, he began work at a sheet metal factory because it paid more than the cobblers. By this time he had decided that he wanted a career in teaching which entailed a four year period of study. His studies continued until August 1914 when he enlisted in the British Army after conscription became inevitable.

There is too much to write about James' life - the information above covers his time in the Black Country.

N.B. James died after he committed suicide due to the mental torture he endured after having a stroke. His mind repeatedly suffered from flashbacks to the time he spent in a German prison camp and the dreadful scenes he witnessed during the First World War. James was cremated, as he had wished but his ashes were not scattered which had also been his wish. Instead they were placed in a niche in the Columbarium of Memory, Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale, Los Angeles County. Because James had provided an incorrect birth date for so many years, the tablet read:



                                              1893 - 1957

Research copyright of Black Country Genealogy & Family History. Documentation obtained by us from original sources. Census Information is Crown Copyright.

© Black Country Genealogy & Family History 2009


Marion Elaine Richardson was born on 9 October 1892, in Ashford Kent and died 12 November 1946 at 27 Highfield Road, Dudley, aged 54.

Marion was a spinster and her profession was Art Mistress. She was also a pioneer in the introduction of arts and crafts education in penal reform.

Marion appears on the 1901 census with her father Walter M Richardson, her mother Ellen, brothers Leslie, Donald and Brian and sisters Winifred and Kathleen. There were four servants in the household. Marion's father was a Brewer and Maltser (Employer) and the family were living in Ashford, Kent. It would appear that the family were wealthy because Marion was referred to as 'Daughter of Walter Richardson Gentleman (Deceased)' on her Death Certificate.                                                       

Marion attended Birmingham College of Art and Design where she trained for four years before obtaining her qualifications to teach art - the Art Class Teachers Certificate. Her first position was at Dudley Girls High School (full time until 1923 and part time until 1930). She then began working as a teacher trainer at the London Day Training College and as an Art Inspector for London City Council. She continued to teach at several public schools and gave tuition to private pupils. Marion developed a system for teaching handwriting based on patterns and natural movements and exhibited her pupils work as art around the UK and internationally. The Senrab Street School in Stepney, London was renamed Marion Richardson Primary School in the 1950's and her sister, Kathleen made a visit on the 22 October 1957. 

Marion wrote her biography during the illness which eventually took her life. The book 'Art and the Child' was published posthumously in 1948. However, there appear to have been factual errors and primary source material in the Archives at UCE Birmingham Institute of Art and Design has been used to correct these. She has been added to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford DNB) and this illustrates the importance of her achievements. (The Richardson family donated their collection to the Archives at UCE Birmingham Institute of Art and Design in 1973).

Marion was buried with her friend Mary Dorothy Plant and the Monumental Inscription on the grave which is in the churchyard of St John's Church, Kate's Hill, Dudley is as follows: In loving memory of MARY DOROTHY PLANT. In loving memory of MARION RICHARDSON. Rest In Peace. Not Here But Risen.

The Monumental Inscription gives no dates of birth or death for either Marion or Mary and no family members are mentioned ie loving daughter of etc. It seems odd that the grave does not bear any other information - perhaps this was Marion's wish?

Research copyright of Black Country Genealogy & Family History. Documentation obtained by us from original sources. Census Information is Crown Copyright.

© Black Country Genealogy & Family History 2009


"Whilst the Inscription says little, the Monument speaks a thousand words."

Sergeant-Major Thomas Harrison was born in 1860, in the parish of Inkberrow, near Alcester, Warwickshire. He appears on the 1861 census with his parents, two sisters and a brother. A lodger was also living separately within the household at Cookhill, in the parish of Inkberrow. Thomas’ father was an agricultural labourer. In 1871, Thomas appears aged ten, with his parents, two sisters and a younger brother.

When Thomas was 21, he enlisted in the 2nd Essex Regiment, ‘Pompadours’, and after being at Aldershot for six months, his regiment was ordered to go to Gibraltar. He received his first promotion on arrival and after a short stay, the regiment travelled to Malta, en route for Egypt in 1884/85. This campaign proved to be an extremely difficult time for the soldiers. They had to deal with the cataracts (shallow stretches of the River Nile between Aswan and Khartoum where rocks and stones protrude above the bed of the river, in addition to small rocky islets and rapids) in their endeavours to relieve General Charles George Gordon at Khartoum. It is documented that on one occasion, the boat capsized and Thomas narrowly escaped drowning. He received the Egyptian Medal and Clasp for the Nile expedition of 1884-85 and the Khedive Bronze Star, 1884-86. He was invalided back to the United Kingdom because he was struck down with fever.

In the latter part of 1886, Thomas married Lizzie Maria Corbett at Alcester. (Lizzie Maria was born in 1858 at Tipton, in the parish of Staffordshire).

At some time around 1886/1888, Thomas joined the 1st Essex Regiment and it was when the regiment was based at Whittington, Lichfield, that the daughter of Thomas and Lizzie died aged fifteen months on 14th December 1888. Her name was Florence Louise and she was interred at Whittington Church. 

Thomas also obtained a certificate of qualification in the drill and mechanism of the Nordenfelt and Gardner Rifle Calibre Machine Guns on 9th May 1889 – he had attended the School of Musketry at Hythe. A son, Bertram Albert, was born circa 1890 in Devon.

The knowledge Thomas had acquired was without doubt, the reason why he was selected for the position of Sergeant Major in the 2nd West India Regiment which was stationed at Sierra Leone when a vacancy occurred. He served with this regiment in various expeditions against the native chiefs. Sergeant Major Harrison returned to England as a result of ill health in 1894. He received a medal for the Ashanti expedition and retired from the army with grand testimonials and a substantial pension, having served over 14 years.

He took up a position as custodian of the offices of the Dudley Poor Law Union and appears on the 1901 census with his wife and son at 13, King Street, Dudley. 

On 16th January 1902, Thomas died at home in the presence of his wife. The Death Certificate gives the cause of death as Neuritis and Syncope. His age was given as thirty nine but he was forty one.

One would have expected a man of such exemplary character and who had served his country well, to have been buried with military honours. However, because of new regulations, the deceased could not have a military funeral unless he was in receipt of full army pay at the time of his death (it had nothing to do with a technical issue regarding his pension as has been reported).

The family appealed to the Secretary of State for War, asking for special permission, but a telegram was received the next day which stated that the Commander-in-Chief “much regretted that the regulations did not admit of the late Sergeant Major Harrison being accorded a military funeral.” His family and many friends, desperate to pay their last respects resolved that the funeral should be semi-military. An account of the funeral is given below:      

The Monument in the Churchyard of St John, Kate's Hill, Dudley is embellished with detail and has the following inscriptions inscribed upon it..............

In loving memory of/THOMAS HARRISON/Late Sergt - Major 2nd West India Regiment/The beloved husband of/Lizzie Maria Harrison/Who died January 18th 1902/Aged 41 years/Thy to God will be done/

Also/Florence Louise/Their beloved daughter/Who died December 14th 1888/Aged 15 months/Interred at Whittington Church/

N.B. The date of death on the monument should be the 16th January but was incorrectly shown as the 18th.

Lizzie Harrison remarried in 1909 and appears on the 1911 census with her second husband and son living at the address she had shared with Thomas - 13, King Street, Dudley.       

Quote and Research copyright of Black Country Genealogy & Family History. Documentation obtained by us from original sources. Census Information is Crown Copyright.

© Black Country Genealogy & Family History 2009


Horace Henry Dudley was born 1877 in Dudley.

Horace was the son of Samuel Dudley and Hannah Grigg who married in 1865 at the Parish Church of St Andrew, Netherton. Horace was one of six sons as follows; Samuel J born 1866, George James born 1867, Albert Charles born 1871, Alfred Joseph C born 1875 and Septimus Grigg born 1881. (Re Septimus, he appears as Septimus Greek on the 1891 census. It is most likely that the Enumerator misheard the name Grigg, hence the error). All births were registered in the district of Dudley.

Horace appears on the 1901 census aged 24, living in the household of his parents. He had his own account as a Photographer. In 1907, he married Elizabeth F Sample at the Parish Church of Holy Trinity in West Bromwich. On the 1911 census, Horace appears with his wife, Elizabeth Fanny and a daughter, Edna Mary aged two. He is living at 26, Birmingham Road, West Bromwich. The house had six rooms which indicates that his business was doing well. His occupation was Photographic Artist, Employer.

Horace's business went from strenth to strength and he acquired studios in the years that followed in Burton, Dudley, Gloucester, Lincoln, Nuneaton, Stoke, Walsall, West Bromwich, Wolverhampton and Worcester.

Horace Dudley appears in Kelly's Directories for 1912 with studios at 113a Station Street, Burton, 46 Liverpool Road, Stoke, 165 High Street, West Bromwich and 49 Snow Hill, Wolverhampton. In 1928 he had a studio at 61 Bradford Street, Walsall and 14 Beeches Road, West Bromwich in addition to those already mentioned.

Horace H Dudley is one of the highly respected photographers of the early 20th century who has left us with a permanent memory of our ancestors; his photographs are invaluable to everyone researching their family history. For this we must be eternally grateful. 

Research copyright of Black Country Genealogy & Family History. Documentation obtained by us from original sources. Census Information is Crown Copyright. 

 © Black Country Genealogy & Family History 2010 

Dorothy Wyndlow Pattison was born on 16 January 1832 at Hauxwell, Wensleydale and died 24 December 1878, aged 46.

In 1897 the Daily Telegraph wrote 'What Florence Nightingale did for military hospitals, Dorothy Pattison accomplished in civilian duty.' Dorothy was the eleventh child of her parents, Reverend Mark James Pattison and his wife Jane (formerly Winn). Mark, her eldest brother, had left for Oxford University shortly after her birth and a younger brother followed after Dorothy who also had nine sisters. The children had a very hard life due to their father's depressive illness which developed after a complete mental breakdown in 1834. He would become violent and their mother was too timid to stand up to him despite her love for her children. The girls also had no way of escape because their father refused to allow them to get married hence nine of the sisters appearing at home with their parents on the 1851 census; their ages range from 19 to 34. One of the sisters, Grace, had died of consumption in 1844. Dorothy had a natural instinct for nursing and helped when her sister Rachel became ill in the winter of 1837-38 and again when Grace fell ill in 1844. That same year, Anna developed a depressive illness and Dorothy nursed her too. Mark, the elder brother of Dorothy with whom she had always been close, never accepted that she should be a nurse and 'bore a grudge that she had concealed her most private feelings from him'. His feelings were so strong that he did not attend her funeral. In November 1862, Dorothy became seriously ill and took a holiday in Coatham, near Middlesbrough where she became familiar with the work of the Christ Church Sisterhood. Her sister Frances joined in 1863 and a year later in September 1864, Dorothy entered too and this is how the name 'Sister Dora' originated. Prior to entering the Sisterhood, Dorothy had been working as a school mistress in Buckinghamshire, having left Hauxwell a year after her mother's death.

Sister Dora was sent to Walsall Cottage Hospital for two months in 1865 but returned to Walsall permanently a few months later. Her father died in December 1865. The Hospital moved to new premises at The Mount in 1868 and Sister Dora appears on the 1871 census as a 'Referred Sister of the Homes of the Good Samaritans'.

In the Pelsall Hall Colliery Disaster of 1872, Sister Dora comforted the bereaved and worked tirelessly to save the injured. She resigned from Christ Church Sisterhood in 1875. A major smallpox epidemic had broken out at the beginning of the year and she nursed the sick alone in the Epidemic Hospital until August 1875. Only a few months later, a blast furnace explosion at an ironworks caused major casualties. Due to the infection with which the burns became consumed, the hospital became infected and had to close. A temporary hospital was set up in a house in Bridgeman Place whilst the new hospital was built on the site of the old. However, this temporary hospital was totally unsuitable and the pressure of work was immense, both physically and mentally. It was during this period of time that Sister Dora must have suspected that she was not well because she sought the opinions of two doctors who were not resident in Walsall and it was confirmed by both that she had breast cancer. She kept her illness a secret and carried on despite her fatigue.

In June 1878, the Bridgeman Place Hospital was closed as a result of typhoid so Sister Dora visited Paris and London. Having attended operations by Joseph Lister during her stay in London, she learnt about antiseptic surgery and ensured that the new hospital would be provided with the relevant equipment.

In September 1878, Sister Dora's health fell into decline so she returned to Walsall on the 29th to inspect the building work on the new hospital. She was too tired to find lodgings and collapsed in a hotel in Birmingham. She never divulged the nature of her illness to anyone, not even her sisters and demanded that she was returned to Walsall because she wanted to die among her own people. On 8 October she was taken to a small house in Wednesbury Road which had been rented by the hospital committee.

Sadly, Sister Dora was unable to be present when the new hospital was opened by the Mayor. She died on 24 December 1878. Her funeral was on the 28th December but neither her brother nor her sisters attended. Some of her sisters had tried to visit her during a previous illness but had been sent away because 'there was nothing they could do'. Her wish was to die alone and just before her death she sent a letter to a 'Mr Slater' stating that she wished to have on her coffin the following:

"Sister Dora

Entered into rest"

Her grave in Queen Street Cemetery can be seen at:


There is a statue of Sister Dora at The Bridge in Walsall; the original marble statue was unveiled on 11 October 1886 but was replaced, due to erosion, on 16 January 1957 with the bronze cast seen today. (This was the first statue in Britain to a woman not of Royal birth). None of her sisters were present at the unveiling, partly due to the hurt they felt because Sister Dora refused to tell them the nature of her illness. However, her youngest sibling, Frank, travelled from London to represent them.

A stained glass memorial window had also been dedicated to her memory at St Matthew's Church in 1882 and the new Cottage Hospital which was opened shortly before her death (and for which she had campaigned tirelessly) became known as the Walsall General (Sister Dora) Hospital. It was also announced in 1895 that a successful locomotive designer and the LNWR's Chief mechanical engineer, Mr Francis William Webb planned to name a locomotive after Sister Dora in recognition for the care she had provided to the railway workers.

Additionally, the Mayor's Civic Awards are known as the 'Doras's'.

© Black Country Genealogy & Family History 2009


Jerome Klapka Jerome was born on 2 May 1859 and died 14 June 1927, aged 68. 

Jerome K Jerome was born at Belsize House, Bradford Street, Walsall. This year marks the 150th anniversary of his birth and the 120th anniversary of the first publication of Three Men in a Boat. In 1927, one year after writing his autobiography 'My life and Times' he was made a Freeman of the Borough of Walsall. He died on 14 June in the same year and is buried at St Mary's Church, Ewelme in Oxfordshire.


Henry Boys was born 1832 and died 16 March 1894 aged 62.

There is a twelve foot high monument dedicated to his memory in Queen Street Cemetery and Sister Dora Gardens, Walsall. Henry Boys was a Walsall brick manufacturer, but despite his wealth, he never forgot the poor or the suffering and provided for their comfort and benefit.


Please note that these stories have been condensed - as an example, full census information has not been added. Research is from original sources of which we hold copies, including the certificates obtained over the past eighteen months.

Many more true stories to follow..................

I have received several requests for information about E. Beech, E Beech (jnr) and Horace Dudley - photographers who played such an important part in the preservation of our history in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I will be providing details of each individual family history, plus information from Trade Directories etc in the near future.

Other people I will be writing about are Percy Shakespeare, Mary MacArthur and Sir Cedric Hardwicke to name a few.

We are also conducting a research project in respect of William Perry, The Tipton Slasher. Over the years, many articles have been written but no one has been able to unravel the complexities of this family. We have been researching the family history for nearly 18 months and have some very interesting information. However, this is a momentous task and we do not expect to complete it for some considerable time as we are leaving no stone unturned. Additionally, we are working on other projects so our allocation of time is limited. We will publish the results of our research (if we are able to complete it in this lifetime!!). 





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