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March 12, 2014 / Apley Estate - Hamiltons

Farewell to an Apley Estate plumber, Roy Higgins

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was very sorry to hear that Roy Higgins has recently died after a long battle with a brain tumour. Roy was born in Bridgnorth on 27 July 1933 & worked on the Apley Estate as a plumber for about 40 yrs.  In 1948, he earned £10 pw for plumbing, working a 50+ hour week, 8h-17h30 & 8h-13h Sat. At the same time, he earned £20pw for playing professional football on a Saturday afternoon ! (Not much has changed there !).

Being a very humorous man, when I interviewed him, he made me laugh outloud with his stories, including one about a stark naked Brigadier Cuthbert Goulburn (brother to General Eddie Goulburn who inherited the Estate in 1960), whilst living at Ewdness (not far from Apley Farm Shop), needed help with his bathing aid.

School & working life

Roy’s father Kenneth Higgins had been a Sergeant in the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI), based at Sherbourne Abbey in Dorset. He was schooled in the army barracks in 1939 until his family returned to Bridgnorth in 1945. Straight after leaving school aged 15, Roy worked for Wisemans, a firm of 120 plumbers, in Wolverhampton, from aged 15. Mr Wiseman was MD of Birmingham City Football Club. After Wisemans, he was self employed, from aged 22 years contracted to the Apley Estate.

Working life at Apley

When he first began work as a contractor for Apley, Mr William Williams was Clerk of Works in the Bridgnorth Apley Estate Yard (the second yard was & still is in Norton). He met Harry Tonks (another Estate plumber) at Harrington Hall in 1966, who suggested Roy worked for the Apley Estate directly, which he did from the age of 33. Mr Roney-Dougal asked Roy to work at Norton with other plumbers, bricklayers & carpenters.

During his early years working at Apley, Roy & other Estate plumbers built indoor loos on the back of each house, as extensions, with a bath, basin, loo & hotwater too ! In addition, they installed Super Belplex Combi grates & Triplex Grates which were all-in-ones (boiler, oven & fire). Clerk of Works, Mr Nock instigated this work, which was done by bricklayers & Roy plumbed in the boilers. The black lead grates were sourced from Mill Street, Tan Yard, Bridgnorth.

Other Apley employees he worked with included George Rutter (carpenter); Sid Padgett (gardener to Mrs Roney-Dougal who he fell off his ladder, having an epileptic fit); Harry Tonks (plumber); Hughie Preece (carpenter), Bert Mitchell (Harrington Farm manager). There were 14 woodmen in 2 gangs – Ted Smout’s & Charlie Wilding’s. They included (in approx 1971) Bill Embrey & his sons Geoff & Fred.

In terms of modernisation, Bridgnorth’s Low Town area only got electricity in 1949. In 1966, Long Row on the Bridgnorth Road in Norton, still had only 1 outside tap to share.

Football

Aged 15-21, Roy played football for Wellington Town Football Club, which is now Telford United Football Club. Then he played for the Kidderminster Harriers Football Club. But on 30 Mar 1954, Roy broke his leg & was given £2, 2s, 6d per week sick pay.

Family life

Roy & Margaret met aged 14 at St Mary’s School in Hospital Street, Low Town, Bridgnorth – now closed.  They married aged 20 in 1953 in St Mary’s Church in East Castle Street, Bridgnorth. Their son Kim was born 17 April 1954. He married Jane & had 3 children – Edward, Alice & Thomas. At first, Roy &  Margaret lived with Mrs Bristow, Margaret’s mother, in Hospital Street, Bridgnorth. Then they moved to Bernard’s Hill, Bridgnorth for 15 years whilst Roy worked in Wolverhampton. In December 1968, when they moved to an Apley house, Danescroft (so called because of the great danes they kept), there was an adjacent pigsty (as many houses had) & only an elsan loo.

Roy’s paternal grandparents were Fred, the moustached Colonel & Sarah Higgins (née Leith). Sarah was born in 1871 & died aged 72 in 1943. Her family were builders in Bridgnorth. At 68 St Mary’s Street, Bridgnorth, they had a bakery & confectionery shop. His maternal grandparents, Mr & Mrs Cordwell (née Susan Upton), originated in Ireland & Yorkshire. They came to Cannock where his grandfather worked as a coalminer, working at Chase Down. Mr Cordwell died in 1931 aged 56 at the colliery.

Roy’s mother in law, Mrs Bristow, came from Nordley Common, Willey & Margaret’s maternal grandfather was a forester on the Willey Estate, the next door Estate to Apley.

One Comment

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  1. Andy Nicholls / Mar 17 2014 9:14 pm

    I remember Roy well, having moved to Rindleford in 1968 as an 11 year old when my parents moved to the Mill House. Before the Great Danes, he and Margaret had two beautiful Dalmations, and an aviary in which, much to my delight he had a Golden and Silver Pheasants. Roy would potter amongst his Dahlias with his much loved pipe clenched between his teeth and his impressive facial whiskers were a source of absolute fascination to me. Roy knew things about the countryside that were essential to a Birmingham lad like myself. He showed me how to bait a fishing hook, how to whittle sticks and how to make a catapault. He was a kind man, with a terrific sense of humour and Margaret’s loud laugh would make the valley echo at regular intervals throughout the day. RIP.
    Andy Nicholls

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