BILLINGHAMS OF CRADLEY HEATH
Updated February 2006
Chainsmith and President of the Chainmakers Association for 24 years.
Frederick Allen was born on the 21st February 1891. His father and entire family were associated with the chain trade.
He attended the Wollescote board school (Crabbe St.) and successfully passed the labour Examination in April 1903 leaving school at the age of 12 years.
On leaving school he immediately joined his father to learn the family trade. He, like most boys at that time "Apprenticed" to their fathers, learned the crafts and tricks of the trade by making himself useful around the workshop, Blowing the bellows, performing the many ancillary jobs of keeping the boshes full of water, the hearth supplied with fuel, seeing that the tools were in their place, the iron available, and when so instructed , fetching the beer and running necessary errands.
At the age of 15 he commenced making chain himself, but in 1910 a big slump occured in the chainmaking industry. At that time, there was no unemployment pay and no social security benefits. It was every man for himself, to make do as best he could.
Frederick Allen worked as a fusers assistant for two years at Evesons Brothers. He then worked as a striker at Baylies of Stourbridge, on anchor chains. But eventually he became inderpendent again, and worked his own block for 27 years. For 24 years in succession he was elected President of the Chainmakers Association.
A tenor singer of more than average ability, he joined the choir of the congregational church, being a chorister for 14 years between 1903 and 1917, worked in the mission church at Stambermill, and took over as secretary on the sudden death of the superintendent in charge, William Green.
Mr Allen also sang in the Lye and Wollescote choral society, The Stourbridge choral society and after the first world war he joined the choir of the parish church where he continued for many years.
As a sideline he took lessons in shorthand obtaining a first class R.S.A. certificate and attained a speed of 140 words per minute. With a tutors certificate he taught shorthand privately for 55 years during which time he taught over 400 pupils.
During world war one whilst his brother was serving with the HM forces Mr Allen cultivated his allotment and later dug his own half acre plot at Oldnall in 1937-1967.
He was a member of a tutorial class of the W.E.A. at Cradley Heath.
A keen sportsman Frederick Allen acted as secretary for the Lye and District Sunday school football league and was qualified football referee. He organised the Corbet Hostpital football and cricket competions between 1921 and 1931.
Asked how he crowded so much into his life he smiled and said that "he was a non smoker and a teetotaller.
Editors Note "A giant of a man with proper Black Country Views"