A short history of Heath Hayes:
Today Heath Hayes is a bustling community, situated approximately two miles east of Cannock town centre. It is made up of numerous different businesses; a mixture of older properties and newer housing developments, yet 150 years ago Heath Hayes barely existed.
The village developed quickly in the latter half of the nineteenth century, as people moved to the Cannock area looking for work in the expanding coal mining industry. Travelling to find work was very common in the past and often essential. ‘No job meant no money’ – a family’s survival often depended on finding work and earning a living, even if it meant moving to another part of the country.
There were numerous coal mines in the Cannock area which could have offered work to the expanding population including: Cannock Chase No. 6 (off Wimblebury Road) which opened in 1866 and the Coppice Colliery (near Five Ways road junction) which started production in 1893. The Coppice Colliery became known locally as the ‘Fair Lady’ after the owners wife Lady Hanbury, who took particular interest in the welfare of local miners and their families.
Five Ways to Heath Hayes – why the village name changed:
In its relatively short history the village has been known as both ‘Five Ways’ (after the main road junction in the area) and ‘Heath Hayes’ (after a local farm.
In 1959 Pauline Freeman, the daughter of Aaron and Lizzie Jones (who ran Heath Hayes Post Office for over forty years) wrote to a local newspaper and explained what she knew about the village name being changed:
‘The original name of Heath Hayes was Five Ways but owing to much confusion through letters being wrongly delivered and so many other places called Five Ways, the Post Office officials asked my mother for another name. She suggested Heath Hayes because that was the name of the oldest farm in the neighbourhood. That would be about 1903’.
The date certainly coincides with a signpost on Five Ways corner being changed from ‘Five Ways’ to ‘Heath Hayes’ in 1902. The change of name may also have been prompted by the village becoming an official ward of the Cannock parish in 1900 – it had previously been split between Cannock and Hednesford.
Paul Freeman the grandson of Aaron and Lizzie Jones has recalled some memories of his grandparents:
‘My grandmother set my grandfather up with a cycle shop, further down Hednesford Road from the Post Office. I remember going down there as a boy to watch him repairing bicycles – always with a pipe gripped firmly in his teeth! My grandmother was a lovely lady in every sense of the word and I very much adored her’.
The story about Lizzie Jones being asked to name the village is well known locally and generally considered to be true. However history is not always an open and shut case and conflicting stories often make interpretation difficult. For example on the 1871 census, local properties appear to have been recorded under the heading of: the village of ‘Heath Hay[e]s - not Five Ways?! This suggests the village may have been referred to as ‘Heath Hayes’ much earlier than first thought? One explanation for this is that the part of the village by Heathy Hayes Farm (Hednesford side of the village) was known as Heath Hayes – and the part by Five Ways Inn was known as Five Ways – this theory is currently being looked into. Perhaps you have your own theory, can make you own mind up from the evidence available so far or maybe you have some further information to add?
Heath Hayes War Memorial:
Shortly after Armistice discussions were held to build a war memorial in Heath Hayes, dedicated to the local men who died in the conflict, however nothing appears to have been finalised for several years.
In the meantime a row of trees were planted next to the allotment on Wimblebury Road, in memory of those who had died in the war. For many years local people went there to place flowers and quietly remember their friends and loved ones who never returned.
Then in 1926 Cannock Urban District Council granted permission for the roads around Five Ways road junction to be widened and shortly after large iron gates were erected, supported by four red brick pillars and completed with brass plaques bearing the names of the fallen.
In the summer of 1927 a formal opening ceremony took place in the village, when the war memorial was officially unveiled by Mrs Harrison (wife of Colonel W.E Harrison, Chairman of Cannock Chase Coal Owners Association).
The proceedings started with a procession from Heathy Hayes Farm on Hednesford Road, to the site of the new war memorial. Then Reverend R Spedding read an opening prayer, which was followed by everyone singing the popular hymn ‘Onward Christian soldiers’.
The Cannock Advertiser reported that several thousand people attended the opening ceremony and went on to say: ‘The village was amply decorated for the occasion, bunting and flags being displayed at almost every window and street corner. Buses and cars brought ‘sightseers’ from all parts of the Chase’.
During the ceremony a casket was placed into the left-hand brick pillar, which contained a document giving a brief history of the village, written by Mr M Wright, Chairman of Cannock Urban District Council.
Towards the end of the ceremony Charles Hand (aged 7 years) presented a golden key to Mrs Harrison and Lillian Clayton (aged 9 years) presented her with a bouquet of flowers. Florence Rowley (aged 11 years) also presented Mrs Pickerill (of Heathy Hayes Farm) with a bouquet of flowers. All three local children had lost their fathers in the conflict.
As the ceremony came to a close, the community stood silently at the memorial gates, as Reverend’s Lamplugh and Naylor read out the names of each of the 42 Heath Hayes men who had died in World War One.
Each year a memorial service is held in the village on the nearest Sunday to the anniversary of Armistice. A procession leads up Hednesford Road to the memorial gates at Five Ways road junction, when wreaths and poppies are laid the gates to remember the local men who died for their country.