A maker of roads

This was the heading in the Cannock Advertiser on the passing of a notable resident of Great Wyrley, who died on the 19th September 1931. His grandson Austin Reaney gave us a cutting from the paper; it contained six long paragraphs on the history of this man, and made fascinating reading.
His name was John Thomas Rowley. Born in 1861 in Great Wyrley, he lived at
Wharwell Farm; his father was a road surveyor to the parish of Great Wyrley. As a lad young John Rowley worked as a farm hand and later on was to succeed his father as road surveyor for Great Wyrley for about seven years before the changing of the Local Government Act of 1894. Up and until the outbreak of the First World War he was in the employ of Cannock and Rural District Council, during the war he was requisitioned by the military and transferred to Brocton Camp where he assisted in supervising in the making of roads.
Afterwards he was to hold an official position with the firm of Tarmac Ltd. from
Ettingshall. At this time engaged under a Colonel H. M. Whitehead (engineer and at that time surveyor to the rural council). John Rowley supervised the making and maintenance of hundreds of miles of roads. On leaving the service he was highly commended for his work by the military and continued working for Tarmac Ltd.

He then supervised the reconstruction of the main Walsall Road from Newtown to Hednesford. He retired from Cannock Urban Distinct Council in the March of 1928 with the position of road foreman, an appointment he had held for11 years. He was notable in the area as a councillor to the Parish of Landywood and for a number of years he served as an overseer for the parish, sadly though he died at the age of 70. He was still working on a rick ten days before he died when he was taken seriously ill, he was taken home but to no avail. His funeral was held at Great Wyrley Wesleyan Chapel on the main road and was attended by his family and a number of notables from the village and representatives from his previous employers, six men (three from Cannock Urban and three from Cannock Rural District Council) were to carry his coffin, and was buried at Great Wyrley Cemetery. So every time we drive down the main road we should remember the likes of John Rowley who put the roads down for us all that many years ago.

By Gary Smith
Taken from September 2009 newsletter. If you would like a copy of the Newsletter for £1.30 please email: winsongary@aol.com

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