Secret Sister Dora Letter Reveals Romantic Partnership

In the pages of the December 2023 edition of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine, a treasure from the annals of history has emerged. This publication, closely tied to the BBC television series exploring celebrities’ family histories, features a recurring segment known as ‘Gem from the Archive.’ In this section, archivists are given the spotlight to share a remarkable find from their collections, shedding light on its historical significance and the rationale behind its selection.

The spotlight for this edition falls on Ian Gray, the Archivist at Walsall Council, who has chosen to bring to the fore a poignant letter composed by Sister Dora on October 30, 1878. Dorothy Pattison, affectionately known as Sister Dora, was a dedicated nun whose selfless service touched the lives of Walsall’s residents. Her legacy endures, symbolised by a statue erected in her honour in Walsall Town Centre since 1886.

What makes this discovery truly captivating is the revelation of secret letters, hidden until after her passing, which unveil a clandestine romance between Sister Dora and a local businessman, Kenyon Jones.

“Sister Dora is synonymous with Walsall and to this day is held in the highest esteem by the people of the borough,” shares Ian Gray. “The collection of letters that we hold here at Walsall Archives offers a view of her as a human being like you or I, outside of the formal, reverential image with which she is associated.

The final letter in the collection is incredibly poignant and is also the final time she made contact with Kenyon Jones and the first he would have known of the seriousness of her illness as she had kept her situation secret from everyone but those who had to know.

This Christmas Eve marks the 145th anniversary of her passing, so the publication of this article in ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ magazines Christmas edition is particularly apt.”

Among the correspondence lies a letter of exceptional poignancy, serving as the final communication between Sister Dora and Kenyon Jones. It also marks the first instance where he learned of the gravity of her illness, a secret she had guarded closely, revealing it only to those who needed to know.

As we approach the 145th anniversary of her passing on Christmas Eve, the publication of this article in ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine’s Christmas edition carries profound significance.

The letter, addressed to Mr. Jones, bears witness to the emotional turmoil within Sister Dora’s heart: “My darling, I dare not see you; it agitates me so much. I feel almost it might kill me. I am sure it only distresses you to see me in such a state, and I cannot prevent it.”

“Ah Kenyon, you must not fret for me or grieve – I think I shall soon lay down the cross and must exchange it for a crown.”

Councillor Garry Perry, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Resilient Communities at Walsall Council, acknowledges the exceptional contributions of Sister Dora: “Sister Dora was an exceptional woman whose inspirational work during the 1860s and 1870s set the standard for healthcare locally. These letters truly showcase the fascinating history encapsulated within our archives, shedding light on the life of a Walsall hero. It is indeed a privilege to gain such insights, and we are thrilled to see part of her story featured in a well-known and respected publication.”

The Walsall Archives, a repository of over 1,700 collections spanning from c.1200 to the present day, including institutional materials from Walsall Council and its predecessors, continue to preserve and share the rich tapestry of history that makes Walsall a town of enduring significance.


Walsall Borough Council Calls for Site Proposals to Shape Local Plan

In a bid to chart the future of Walsall Borough, the council’s cabinet is set to consider an important proposal. The proposal entails inviting residents to participate in a “call for sites,” encouraging them to submit suggestions for potential development locations.

Continuing the Vision: Walsall Borough Local Plan

This initiative arises in the wake of the cessation of the Black Country Plan’s production in October 2022. Instead, Walsall Borough will forge ahead with the creation of the Walsall Borough Local Plan. This comprehensive plan will play a pivotal role in identifying sites to fulfill the borough’s burgeoning requirements for employment opportunities, housing, and green spaces. It will also emphasize the preservation of land for ecological purposes and the safeguarding of the historic environment.

Inclusivity in Planning

Under the proposed plan, the council is extending an open invitation to residents, businesses, and landowners to contribute their insights. They are encouraged to propose potential development sites and recommend areas, including open spaces, that should remain protected. Notably, the council is keen to hear about underutilised land, especially brownfield sites.

Consultation and Future Steps

All submissions will be taken into account during the formulation of the plan, with a formal consultation to be conducted at a later date. Councillor Adrian Andrew, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Regeneration at Walsall Council, expressed enthusiasm for the initiative, stating, “A call for sites will give us an opportunity to hear the proposals of local people when writing the plan. We want people to put forward ideas, not just for land for houses or employment uses. We also want ideas for land for open space and other uses too. This is an opportunity to identify small pieces of vacant land. We welcome all ideas big or small. This might include potential land for green spaces, nature conservation enhancement, and other uses. I’d also urge anyone that submitted a proposal under the previous Black Country Plan to please re-submit it for this new plan.”

Mark Your Calendar

The call for sites is set to commence in January 2024. As part of this process, outreach efforts will target previous participants in the former Black Country Plan and extend to other landowners interested in offering their land for development.


Bloxwich Post Office Reopens On The High Street

The new post office in Bloxwich has now opened following its relocation to 137 High Street, which also serves as the home to Trade World (Home Bargains Ltd).

Previously located at Market Place, which is now being turned into a digital support centre, the post office has two screened positions and a retail counter.

Opening hours are Monday to Friday: 9am – 6pm; Saturday: 9am – 4pm with roadside parking available on the opposite side of the road for a limited amount of time. Dedicated disabled parking is available in Market Place.

Kulwant Dosanjh, Post Office Network Provision Lead, said: “We are delighted to have restored Post Office service to Bloxwich as we know how important a Post Office is to a community.”

Local Nature Reserve Boosted With £75,000 Grant

Walsall Council has been granted a substantial sum of £75,000 by the Veolia Foundation. This significant financial support will play a pivotal role in the revitalisation of the Fibbersley Local Nature Reserve in Willenhall, ensuring its continued prosperity as a thriving ecosystem for both the local flora and fauna.

The funding will be used to make an array of improvements, including the clearance of overgrown vegetation, the upgrading of pathways, and the enhancement of ponds. The reserve’s entrance will receive a rejuvenating facelift, featuring a new notice board, ladder board sign, and an artistic sculpture. Furthermore, the introduction of two new disability-friendly entrance gates will ensure that the reserve is accessible to all.

In addition to the Veolia grant, Walsall Council has also secured a smaller but equally significant grant of £2,059 from the Tree Council’s Branching Out Fund. This additional funding will be allocated to the planting of trees and hedgerows around the site.


Walsall Businesses Can Apply For Net Zero Funding Grants

In a bid to promote sustainability and support local businesses, Walsall Council has introduced a groundbreaking scheme offering up to 50% matched grant funding for enhancing business premises. This initiative is aimed at empowering SMEs to make significant carbon savings by improving their energy and resource efficiency.

The capital grants provided under this scheme encompass a wide range of improvements, including ventilation, heating, adoption of renewable technologies, and advanced lighting solutions, among others. Eligibility for these grants is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, ensuring tailored support for each applicant.

Councillor Adrian Andrew, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Regeneration at Walsall Council, expressed their commitment to bolstering local businesses. He stated, “We aspire to assist local businesses in overcoming financial obstacles that hinder their growth. This latest wave of funding presents a remarkable opportunity for businesses to make long-term improvements, leading to cost savings and enhanced operational efficiency. Moreover, our focus on reducing businesses’ carbon footprint aligns with our ambitious goal of achieving Walsall’s Net Zero status by 2050.”

The available funding varies depending on the nature and size of the business. Start-ups can access grants ranging from £2,500 to £7,500, while established SMEs can benefit from grants ranging between £5,000 and £20,000.

The capital grants are intended to support energy and resource efficiency enhancements for business premises. These improvements encompass various aspects, including:

  • Ventilation systems (fans, distribution, destratification fans)
  • Heating solutions (replacement boilers, burners, heat pumps)
  • Adoption of renewable technologies
  • Modernized lighting systems (LED, controls, sensors)
  • Upgrades in refrigeration
  • Efficient compressors
  • Enhanced insulation
  • Improved recycling and waste management (compactors, balers, crushers)
  • Effective water management solutions

Notably, this initiative has received substantial funding from the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, totaling £264,357.

Businesses keen on exploring this opportunity further are encouraged to get in touch with the dedicated team at

Walsall Guildhall To Be Transformed Into A Creative Hub

A transformative initiative to establish a vibrant Creative Industries Centre within the historic Guildhall building in Walsall has been given approval by Walsall Council.

In collaboration with the non-profit organization Urban Hax, the Grade II listed building, the adjacent former police station and related properties will be transformed into a multifaceted centre.

The space will include a café, gallery areas, conference facilities, and dedicated zones equipped with machinery for local makers and creative industries to utilise. Preliminary work has already been completed, involving the interior removal of structures in preparation for finalising the centre’s layout. The ambitious project aims to attract approximately 50 companies spanning five floors.

The transformation will encompass the installation of new windows, refurbishments, and the addition of lifts to establish the Creative Industries Enterprise Centre. While concerns about flooding and drainage have been raised, officials assert that these issues can be effectively addressed through appropriate planning conditions.

During the consultation phase, the proposal encountered no objections from key agencies, residents, or business owners in the vicinity. Securing funding of approximately £5.5 million from the Arts Council and the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport, the initiative is actively seeking additional grants to support its implementation.

The sensitive restoration and conversion is expected not only to preserve the historical significance of the area but also to contribute to the broader regeneration of the town centre and the Church Hill Conservation Area, presently listed on the Heritage at Risk Register.


Birmingham Airport Progress Taking Shape

Progress to transform Birmingham Airport with a £300m capital investment program is set to continue throughout 2023.

With Birmingham allocated £50m of the funds, a new security hall is almost halfway complete, and will include new scanning equipment to process customers more efficiently.

A new solar-panel roof will also provide green electricity throughout part of the terminal, while four 50-person lifts will replace the current escalators.

Stephen Barker, development director for the airport, said: “We have made great progress in the last six months. We are aiming for a more efficient pre-flight screening process capable of serving greater volumes of people more effectively.”

The idea is to improve the customer experience as well as increase the number of passengers from 10m to 18m by 2033.

New Canal Footbridge To Link Waterside Residents To Town

Walsall Council, in collaboration with the Canal & River Trust, is currently undertaking an initiative to improve the canal and basin vicinity adjacent to the New Art Gallery.

In addition to the proposed footbridge designed to connect the retail section with residents residing on the opposite side of the water, there are blueprints for the installation of bollards that will supply power and water to boaters. Furthermore, a ‘sea bin’ is set to be introduced for the purpose of collecting litter from the canal.

These developments are part of the comprehensive £6.5 million Active Public Spaces Scheme, which includes other enhancements in Park Street, Gallery Square, and the canal basin.

James Dennison, Enterprise Manager for Canal and River Trust, explained, “The footbridge aims to establish a direct link between the retail and leisure area and the residential space, eliminating the need for people to take a circuitous route. This collaborative project, spearheaded by Walsall Council, is dedicated to benefiting the local community.”

He added, “Walsall Council is the primary owner of this project, emphasizing its value to the residents. Accessibility, particularly for individuals with disabilities, is a key consideration, with plans for a substantial landing area, and careful attention is being paid to ensure navigability for boats.”

Thought-Provoking ‘Knife Angel’ Makes Powerful Statement

Throughout December a powerful message will reverberate around the town as the “Knife Angel” stands 27 feet tall in Gallery Square.

Knife Angel towers over Gallery Square

The imposing structure comprises of 100,000 blunted knives that were gathered from 43 police forces across the UK.

The Knife Angel, which took two years to create and has been touring UK towns and cities, was designed to raise awareness of knife crime and the dangerous consequences of carrying knives.

Originally crafted by sculptor Alfie Bradley it originated from the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry and has become nationally recognised as a National Monument Against Violence and Aggression.

Its appearance in Walsall is part of the West Midlands Police ‘Life or Knife’ campaign, which is actively supported by The James Brindley Foundation, following the tragic murder of James Brindley in Aldridge in 2017.

For more information about the Life or Knife campaign, visit: