Harry Dalton

Harry Dalton was a cobbler who had a single storey work shop along side Bishop’s sweet shop at the Fish. As a child, Harry was disabled in only having one leg, and was taken under the ‘wing’ of Pastor Ernest Hexall of the Providence Mission Churchbridge, Oldbury. Pastor Hexall founded the Midland Counties Crippled Children’s Guild, which leased Hyde House in Kinver in 1906 and renamed it Bethany. Any crippled boy or girl from the Midlands would be taken in without charge for their maintenance, and would be taught to achieve a level of independence. Boot and shoe repair would be a useful trade for someone with lower limb disabilities. Here is a photograph showing three men at Bethany – all cobblers by the look of it – and seated is Arthur ‘Mac’ ???, standing on the left is Colin ???, and on the right is Harry Dalton. Harry lived in King Street, Wollaston, and Arthur ??? was a lodger there. I went into the shop as a child and remember the lovely smell of leather. Pastor Hexall died in 1915 when he fell off the home’s bus, his coffin was transported from Kinver to Oldbury by tram, passing through Amblecote. Bethany was taken over by Richard Davis, an associate of Hexall, but he was found guilty of neglect in 1919, and the home closed shortly after.

"Enjoyed the article on Harry Dalton. He kept our soles in order for many a year. I used to love going into his shop—he always greeted me with 'Good Morning, young David', even when I was twenty. As a young boy I was fascinated by him: he had a habit of 'filling' his mouth with nails and spitting them into his hand at breakneck speed when he was fixing a shoe. The whirr of the belts on the wheels, and, as you say, that smell of leather. I always assumed his disability was the result of the war, but the information about Betheny put it all into context. Self-sufficiency was never in question in those days; people just got on with it."     Dave Cartwright

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