Thunderstorm / Nail making

In the last edition Edward Nayler, his parents and his family were introduced to you, and the fact that Edward wrote an almost forgotten History of Sedgley: "Sedgley Sundries" probably just around the entry into the 20th Century. Towards the end of the book he refers to a collection of newspaper cuttings that had been kept for their local interest, the first from 1786.

As the Eighteenth Century draws to its close we find an incident perhaps even more dramatic than our recent local earth tremor. (N.B. the prose, grammar and punctuation of the pieces are those of Edward Nayler, or the news paper reporter).

"On Monday April 23rd 1797, in the afternoon during a violent thunderstorm, which seems to have been general throughout Staffordshire and Worcestershire, a ball of fire came down the chimney of Stephen Cox, a nailor of Sedgley, at the time he and his wife were sitting, and their child was sleeping on a chair, by the fireside. On hearing an uncommonly loud clap of thunder and an extraordinary noise in the chimney, the mother providentially and in an instant snatched up the child, whereby its life was saved, as the pillow upon which it was lain was much scorched and many of the bricks from the top of the chimney had fallen upon and about it. The electric fluid, in different directions, passed through two houses adjoining, in one of which, attracted by a nail, it penetrated the door of a back kitchen and forced out a piece of the door (which now appears as if it had been cut out with a knife) and partially melted, in its passage, the wards of the lock and the key which was in it. Part of the lead of the windows of all the three houses, both at the back and in front, was likewise melted, and a piece of the window frame of one of them split off."

The name of Stephen Cox ran through many generations. In later years it is associated with Safe Making, but it would be hardly surprising if he had an ancestor who was a nailer when the staple industry of so many local families, adults and children, be they from Gornal, Sedgley or Coseley, was in the nail making trade, pursued at their own hearth and anvil situated at the rear of the house, in a tiny building referred to as "the shop" (or shap!). Before his marriage to Elizabeth Hinton, a grocer's daughter from Hall Lane, Stephen Cox's family home was in Clarence Street, Upper Gornal. The safe works is remembered by many in Dudley Road.* The safes are still in use today and I have seen many in local church vestries!

*See Sedgley & District - A Third Selection - page 96

In our next edition we shall have entered the 19th Century and be reporting upon important days for Sedgley Parish.

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