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As the year of 1902 dawned, Isaac Meachem, now aged 70 years, decided to call it a day and retire from his demanding job of colliery manager.

In the previous year and in anticipation of his retirement, he had bought some land further along Hamstead Road from the colliery and this was named 'The Newlands' after the large meadow situated directly behind Hamstead House.

He had a row of eight houses built, and Isaac and his family, now reduced by marriage to a total off five children, moved into the end one, next to a wood and field which also belonged to the estate. In three of the other houses, Isaac's wife's sister, Ellen, and two other of his sons were installed. Even though the size of the house had been drastically reduced compared to Hamstead House, there were still two live-in maids and a gardener to look after the large grounds which included a big drive, a coach house, stables, and two horses called Kitty and Daisy.

Entering the back door, one would encounter a long verandah, which was often used for lantern lectures. From here we entered the kitchen, on the wall of which was a fascinating row of bells which operated by the pulling of levers in the different rooms. In this room, the young grandchilden of Isaac would practice their recitations for Christmas parties, under the guidance of an uncle. The breakfast room was next, and here Isaac presided still, over morning prayers, to which the whole family came with the two servants also in attendance. There was a large bookcase of "good books" here in this room, and woe betide anyone who touched them without prior authority. The 'largest room in the house was next on the agenda, the dining room. The slightly austere appearance of the preceding rooms contrasted starkly here, the walls being covered with pictures of all shapes and sizes, and numerous book cases positively bulging with large volumes of "good-reading" books. It was in this room that Isaac, now in his twilight years, would sit and read to his grandchildren from a bound volume of "Good Words", a scholarly periodical of the day. Finally, the Drawing-Room. This again was a very grand room with a splendid piano being the focal point. The family would often gather around here in the evenings, and sing the favourite tunes of the day.

[From Victorian Hamstead by Meacham]


Copyright 2020 Great Barr Past and Present, Anthony Lewis