Oh Rose (Lane)- Thou Art Sick#1

William Blake

In the case of the now little known Rose Lane of Oldbury, “invisible worms” came by lorry under the guise of some “transport” haulage company or “waste disposal” operation and left the land saturated with chemical sickness.

Rose Lane ran in an elbowed parallel with John’s Lane, starting in Dudley Road East and terminating underneath the tunnel of the Birmingham Canal and railway line. This in fact today is all that remains of it.

A stub of Rose lane off Dudley Road East now amounts to a narrow passageway.

It crossed an area belonging to the former Rattlechain brickworks, and the parcels of land adjoining it became increasingly sold off by the conman Sydney Sheldon for housing concerns. At the same time, Sheldon appeared to entertain very dubious characters whom it appeared tipped waste in this general area. What type of “arrangement” went on here is left to history, but even Albright and Wilson lamented the fact that they had observed a lorry tipping liquid waste which had run into rattlechain from this area!

One aspect of this site is that it formed part of one of the first successful prosecutions under The Deposit of Poisonous Wastes Act 1972. This Act came into force after numerous public stories of hazardous waste tipping, especially barrels of cyanide that were being found lying around in public areas. Even Rattlechain and The Gower tip had dumped cyanide turn up. The West Midlands was the central focus of this aggressive criminal fly tipping , not only as a result of the dirty industries in the area that produced the waste and wanted to get rid of it cheaply, but also from industry outside the area, who did not want it in tips in their “posh” areas. It was both a failure of legislature as well as the companies who wanted to offload their dangerous crap with few questions asked.

In a report in the August 6th 1976 edition of The Birmingham Evening Mail, it is revealed by whistle blower Keith Boyd as to how “deadly bribes” could be offered by waste companies of dubious character to get rid of waste at tips who were not meant to receive such wastes under after the DPWA, and by now, The Control of Pollution Act. 

One can only take his claims at face value, and the firm that he worked for is not named. I have little doubt however in believing everything that he said to be true.

The article mentions that four men from firms from the Bilston area were to be charged the following month in connection with 38 charges of illegal dumping and forging documents. This incident refers directly to matters relating to Rose Lane and chemical dumping which took place there, as we shall see later on in this post.

Boyd describes how easy it was for a rogue company to give a bribe to tip the waste, in this case more alleged cyanide. It is also alleged that harmful wastes were disposed of, into a nearby stream. Though the company remains unnamed in this article, and “the former managing director” of the company named by the ex employee denied the allegations, the subsequent prosecutions of those responsible for the Rose Lane issues, and the circumstances, lead me to believe that they were one and the same , or else a very similar rogue trader operation.

The article then appeared under a new headline the following evening.


Details of the charges were given in The Birmingham Daily Post of 29th October 1976.

On Halloween,  the Evening mail  revealed the details of the outcome of the successful prosecution at Wolverhampton Crown Court of the four men and two of the companies involved in the dumping of toxic waste at both Moxley- (Moxley Tip), and at Tividale- Rose Lane.

The two named Bilston companies were Aqua Descaling Company Limited, and Metro Waste Disposal Limited. At Moxley 65 drums of cyanide were attempted to be dumped with a cash bribe to the tip operators.

The four men on trial were HORACE MILBURN, RONALD McCRUM, PETER LOTE AND GERALD PEAKE. Peake it is revealed, had died in a road accident before the case had come to court. McCrum, “former director” of Metro, and Milburn, both pleaded guilty to two charges of depositing poisonous waste. Lote had his charges lay on file. McCrum had a 12 month prison sentence suspended for two years and was fined £400 and Milburn 6 months suspended for 2 years and a £200 pound fine.

Another piece from the Daily Post of the following day stated that a lorry had been left full of toxic waste from these shysters in a Wolverhampton Street for two years, putting the public at serious risk.

Note the address of Burbage of McCrum, as will be revealed further on in this post….

More detail ,particularly about the acidic wastes dumped and their location, is revealed in the subsequent minutes of the West Midlands County Council Waste Disposal and Pollution Control subcommittee dated 22nd December 1977 by county waste disposal officer Ken Harvey. A third company “Commercial and Domestic Services Limited” is also named and it is also revealed that earlier successful prosecutions had already taken place after 1974 when irregularities were first being investigated.

It is stated that “some 250,000 gallons of toxic waste had been illegally deposited on land at Tividale scheduled for redevelopment as housing.”

The housing development referred to was known as “The Spiral housing development” and located off Rose Lane on what is now The Temple Way estate. The principle liquid involved was reported to be sulphuric acid. 



Absolutely pathetic fine!

But further charges were to be revealed against McCrum, with another of his fraudulent waste disposal operations in BRASWAY DISPOSAL LIMITED. 

The charges of tipping cyanide and dumping waste at sea were outlined in the 22nd February Birmingham Daily Post.

“Honour” – MY ARSE!

Incredibly, the director of the parent company, a Mr Reg Swaby, claimed that the company were “blameless”.  😆

Minutes of the 19th April 1979 West Midlands County Council waste disposal and Pollution Control Committee reveal McCrum’s name appearing again along with Ronald Low, Daniel Hobbs, and  Alfred Paddock!

It is clear that this “disposal” operation was a criminal enterprise, not only dumping chemical waste in the region, but nationally and defrauding other companies of money in the process.

Minutes of the 20th March 1980 West Midlands County Council Waste Disposal and pollution Control Committee reveal the following about the resulting trial.

“Brasway waste disposal Ltd, Leabrook , Wednesbury , a subsidiary of Brasway Ltd was formed in February 1973. The company moved large quantities of toxic waste, using their yard at Wednesbury for bulk storage and/or treatment before disposal at various locations throughout the country.

In the summer of 1974, a comparison of quantities of wastes taken into Brasway’s yard against quantities subsequently removed revealed major discrepancies. Discussion with the company failed to resolve these discrepancies.

More than 300 tonnes of Waste Cyanide Hardening salts were known to be stored at Wednesbury pending ‘treatment’. Officers had expressed doubt over the mechanics of this treatment operation. The company repeatedly ignored comments and advice given by the monitoring authorities as to the suitability of disposal routes.

A change of management in early 1975 failed to bring about any real improvement in the situation so the Pollution Control Division initiated an investigation. Disturbing facts quickly became apparent and the matter was referred to West Midlands Police.

The subsequent joint investigations resulted in allegations that  approximately half of all liquid toxic wastes handled by Brasway ended up in the adjacent Leabrook (between April 1974 and June 1975 a surplus of over 3 million gallons of toxic liquid waste and 1000 tonnes of solid waste- mostly cyanide had gone into Brasway yard and not emerged. This was far in excess of the storage capacity. Pollution Control officers initiated a surveillance programme.

On 7th June 1976 , Brasway Waste Disposal Ltd, pleaded guilty at West Bromwich magistrates court to nine charges under The Deposit of Poisonous wastes Act.”


Obviously not “blameless” when they pleaded GUILTY!

The reaction from the waste disposal officer, in an article reported in The Ends Report,  Thelma Hillman, is to be expected, when such characters could just operate a scam company in this way.

“The charges related to the illegal dumping of cyanide wastes at sites in Derbyshire, Shropshire and the West Midlands, and at sea off Birkenhead. However, because of the offences took place before Section 16 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974 was implemented, the local authorities in whose jurisdiction the dumping occurred are unable to recover the costs of removing and disposing of the dumped wastes.

Mrs T Hillman, Divisional Engineer in West Midland County Council’s Waste Disposal Department, indicated that she was “very disappointed” with the sentences. Although she believes that “illegal tipping is not as rife as it was before waste disposal site licensing was introduced under the Control of Pollution Act”, Mrs Hillman also highlighted a problem increasingly shared by many local authorities – that the combined effects of local government manpower cutbacks and the diversion of resources to waste disposal surveys and site licensing required under the Control of Pollution Act are having a detrimental effect on the surveillance and prosecution of illegal waste disposal. Under the circumstances, she believes, “the general level of fines is not as severe as it should be”.

It is interesting to note, that this is not the end of the sulphuric acid tipping tosspot McCrum’s story, as it appears he had regular form , and had been at this dodgy business for years. A piece from The Coventry Evening Telegraph of 11th January 1972, at the height of the cyanide dumping scare which initiated the Deposit of Poisonous Waste Act, reveals a whistle blower driver, at a “Death tip” in Wolston. It reveals that waste was being poured into an open pit with no questions being asked. One of the companies named who dumped at the pit were PURLE WASTE DISPOSAL LIMITED. But just look who was the ex manager of this company’s Shilton, Leicester depot for two years, why none other than the Briar Close , Burbage barrel dumper Ron McCrum! The comment attached by him in this story is quite extraordinary.

“small engineering firms might be tempted to dispose of cyanide by disguising it as non-toxic chemicals for the sake of cheapness he said”

Obviously his next move was in the rogue Bilston companies, doing just this!

…and just as a footnote, I wonder if this was the same Ron Fred McCrum who had had his collar felt a few years earlier in 1958 as a 23 year old in Rugby?

There is no doubt that the scumbag McCrum and his colleagues in crime as crooked rogue trader enterprises should have served time behind bars for fly tipping dangerous chemicals and putting peoples’ lives and that of the wildlife in the environment at severe risk. This is just what they were caught out doing, by a law which did not go far enough, and I have no doubt their entirely dubious operations had extended beyond what the authorities were aware of and could prove when considering the quantities that went into the Wednesbury den of vice. 

But their “industry” was the tip of the iceberg, where any old Steptoe tatter with a tipper could set themselves up in “reclamation” or “waste disposal” with very few questions asked. And some of them got away with it, unlike him. The toxic legacy left behind at Rose lane however would continue to cause the authorities some headaches, and I will look at this in the second part of this story…….

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