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Isaac Meachem

The following information is extracted from "Victorian Hamstead" by Roger Clive Meacham

On the 1st March 1880 a seam of coal had been struck at a depth of 573 yards and 2 feet at Hamstead. : At last the colliery company could start to make some money from their huge investment.

The newly appointed colliery manager, Isaac Meachem, and his large family had been given accommodation at Hamstead House then a majestic building standing well back from Tan House Lane, but virtually opposite the colliery.

Isaac Meachem was born on 4th December 1831 at Bilston, son of John, a stone miner, and Eamy.

As his parents had been unable to read or write, Isaac taught himself the rudiments and spent hours reading through books until his education was of a sufficiently high standard to enable him to become a mine agent. It was this dedication to the arts that helped him to obtain the managership of Hamstead Colliery.

He had firstly married in 1852, and his wife Louisa had died giving birth to the second of their children. Two years later he married Louisa 's sister Eliza, and although then considered a little risque, the marriage was happy and blessed with a further twelve children, most of the males eventually working under Isaac's direction at the colliery.

As mine manager, Isaac had a certain amount of responsibility in the formative years of Hamstead as a community, and indeed was looked up to as head of the village. It was not just his position that earned him the title. During the first colliery fire of 1898 he went down the pit with two of his sons in order to supervise the rescue party. On getting everyone clear he found himself and his sons trapped themselves at the bottom of the main shaft. Whilst frantic efforts were made to cool the cage enough to get it moving, Isaac led his sons in singing his favourite hymn, "Lead Kindly Light", until they were finally pulled up to the surface and chaired shoulder-high back to the offices. For his efforts in the rescue, Isaac received an illuminated address from Queen Victoria's mining engineer.

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'. He had a row of eight houses built, and Isaac and his family, now reduced by marriage to a total of 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.

In the summer of 1905 Isaac passed peacefully away in his beloved Hamstead. His funeral was held at St. John's Church, Perry Barr, and was fittingly attended by the whole village. There was scarce a dry eye to be seen as his favourite hymn, "Lead Kindly Light" was sung. There is probably no greater obituary to Isaac than that recorded by the Reverend William Podmore some years later, in the March 1926 edition of Saint Paul's Parish Magazine. He wrote: "Hamstead was spoken of in Mr. Meachem's days as Happy Hamstead. He was very proud of, and particular about, the village he had seen built. Each weekend the whole place was tidied up and he was very down on people who did not keep themselves, their homes and their children clean, and he would visit a certain number of houses to ensure that they were indeed up to scratch. Deeply religious, he was very particular about Sunday observance, and took a great interest in the services which were held at the Institute. For many years he was Superintendent of the Institute Sunday School, and he had more to do with the changes in Hamstead from purely rural to industrial than any other man."



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