References to a landholder called William atte Sponne have resulted in suggestions that there has been an area known as ‘Spon’ in West Bromwich since at least 1344. More recently, Spon Lane became known for the number of pubs along its length and it is commonly acknowledged that in the second half of the 19th century, 27 of them were in operation at the same time. Hitchmough’s Black Country Pubs lists 33 of the Lane’s former watering holes.
The word ‘spon’ first appeared in the seventh series of the Goon Show in an episode entitled, ‘The Nasty Affair at the Burami Oasis’. Wallace ‘Bill’ Greenslade announced that to fill “an unexpected time lapse”, Ray Ellington would spon. (What actually happened was that the Ray Ellington Quartet performed a number called ‘Stranded in the Jungle’!)
From that point on there was a veritable explosion of spons in the Goon Show. It was a multi-purpose word assigned to characters (Major Spon, Captain Spon, Lord Spon); places (Fort Spon); diseases (Spon Plague); episode titles (‘Spon’ – series 8, episode 1); and curses (Great Spon of Nukes!)
The highest point in West Bromwich can be found at the junction of Beeches Road and Thynne Street which is 568 feet above sea level.
Hercules Grytpype-Thynne was a Goon Show character with a lofty opinion of himself. A bounder and a cad, he was always looking for get-rich-quick schemes together with his sidekick, Moriarty.
Thynne (played by Peter Sellers) would introduce Moriarty (played by Spike Milligan) with a variety of nicknames and skills, such as:
“This bucket of pig swill contains the head of none other than Count Jim ‘Steam’ Moriarty – inventor of the brown boot and first man to go three weeks without stopping.”
(The Thing on the Mountain)
“The wig resting on this ebony wig-stand belongs to none other than Count Jim ‘Shag’ Moriarty – strolling knee-clapper and inventor of the round hole.”
(The White Neddie Trade)
“The teeth resting in this glass of stale beer belong to none other than Jim ‘Ping’ Moriarty – ace knee-slapper and king of pong.”
(The Stolen Postman)
Beaconsfield Street is located on the Tantany Estate, the first council house development in West Bromwich. One of the small houses in this street was the birthplace of Goon Show founding member and scriptwriter, Larry Stephens.
“The murderer was a thule man with a lyng hat and farglow boots.”
(The Moriarty Murder Mystery)