Walsall in old picture postcards

Walsall in old picture postcards

:   Marilyn Lewis
:   West Midlands
:   United Kingdom
:   978-90-288-2042-5
:   144
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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Fragmenten uit het boek 'Walsall in old picture postcards'

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In recent years several books of old photographs of Walsall have been produced. This is, however, the first publication to include illustrations covering the whole Metropolitan Borough.

The medieval Borough of Walsall comprised a very small geographical area centred on the Church Hill. Associated with it was the 'Foreign', by comparison a vast region, encompassing such far flung regions as Bloxwich, Walsall Wood, Rushall and Pleck. In 1832 the old administrative boundaries were swept away and a new Borough was formed, including most of the old area, except Walsall Wood and Rushall. Local government boundaries have changed many times sin ce 1832, most notably in 1966 when Willenhall and Darlaston joined the Borough and in 1974, when Aldridge and Brownhills were added, giving Walsall Metropolitan Borough its present dimensions.

Walsall lies on the South Staffordshire Plateau on fairly level land, punctuated by three hills. At the centre is Church Hill, rising to 511 feet above sea level, the focal point of the town. To the north, at Bloxwich, the land reaches 539 feet and to the south stands Barr Beacon, 744 feet above sea level. The Borough stands upon the rich coal and limestone measures, which have played such a major part in the town's development.

Most of the little towns and villages which comprise the modern Borough are medieval in origin. Aldridge,

Bloxwich, Great Barr, Pelsall and Rushall are all mentioned in Domesday Book, 1086 - Walsall itself seems to have been omitted from the survey in error. The area had a primarily agricultural economy for many centuries, although there has been a tradition of light metalwork in Bloxwich, Walsall and Willenhall since at least the 16th century. Walsall was an important market town in the area. Birmingham was of minor importance until the 18th century - the Cathedral City of Lichfield was the most important town in the district until the Industrial Revolution. Walsall is famous internationally as a centre for the manufacture of leather goods and saddlery in particular. Even the local soccer team are nicknamed 'The Saddlers'. However, the leather industry actually started as an off-shoot of the traditional manufacture of horse harness, spur making, etc. with which Walsall has been associated since the Middle Ages. The production of locks and keys has been the main industry of nearby Willenhall since Elizabethan times and Darlaston men were making gun locks in the 18th century, long before the town's famous bolt and nut industry was developed.

The Industrial Revolution encouraged the development of these industries on a massive scale. Nationwide demand for coal and iron also led to the opening of innumerable mines, ironworks and foundries in the area, particularly after the development of canal and

railway systems, which enabled heavy goods to be transported easily. Industry created whole new towns, such as Brownhills and totally transformed peaceful little villages, such as Pelsall and Rushall. Throughout the district agricultural and waste land was eaten up for industrial development or for rows of terraeed housing to accommodate the growing workforce. Attracted by the plentiful employment, people were pouring in to Walsall from all over Britain. During the 19th century the population was doubled, then again trebled by immigrants from the surrounding countryside. Much of the housing erected for these people was primitive and unsightly, being thrown up in haste with little consideration for sanitation or the environment.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries successive development and redevelopment schemes have led to the destruction or demolition of most features of architectural and historica1 interest in Walsall. Hardly any of the buildings illustrated in this book are standing today. It is, perhaps, because so much of their heritage has been destroyed that the people of Walsall are so enthusiastically interested in local history .

This collection of postcards and photographs illustrates the history of the whole Borough, circa 1880-1930. Views re lating to the centre of Walsall are reproduced first, followed by those of the town's

'suburbs'. Photographs of the once independent towns and villages now absorbed into the Borough complete the picture. The 140 views combine to present a glimpse of most aspects of life and work in Wa1sall at the turn of the century.


All the photographs reproduced here are in the collection of the Walsall Metropolitan Borough Archives, Walsall Library & Museum Services, Central Library, Lichfield Street, Walsall, West Midlands, WS1 ITR.

We are most grateful to the following individuals who donated some of the photographs used in this publication:

Mr. P. Allen of Telford, Mr. C. Alltoft of Pelsall, Mr. C. Bennett of Short Heath, Councillor J.H.W. Clayton of Pelsall, Green Rock Primary School, Mr. J.F. Haddoek of Walsall, Mrs. Hughes of Pels all, The late Mr. D. Lycett of Wals all and family, Mr. S. Moseley of Bentley, Mrs. D. Parr of Aldridge, Mr. A. Price of Walsall Wood, Mr. S. Pritchard of Brownhills, Mr. C. Robertson of Streetly , Mrs. Taylor of Darlaston, Mr. N.W. Tildesley of Willenhall and Mr. N.B. Townsend of Walsall.


1. This map of Staffordshire was executed in 1682 by Robert Plot. It shows most of the towns and villages which now comprise the Borough of WalsalI.

2. The medieval town of Walsall was basically cruciform. At the head, on its limestone hill, stood the parish church of All Saints; at the base was Town End; the arms of the cross were formed by Rushall Street and Peal Street. High Street was the main thoroughfare of Wals all until the 19th century when the focal point of the town shifted down the hill, to the Bridge. Even in the early 20th century High Street was a busy street, lined with shops, as our photograph shows.

3. There has been a church on the limestone hill above Walsall since at least 1200. In the Middle Ages it was the church of All Saints and it was probably not re-dedicated to Saint Matthew until the 18th century. Part of the crypt dates from the late 13th century, but the church was largely rebuilt in the 15th century and again in the early 19th century.

4. St. Matthew's was reconstructed in 1819-1821, when the old churchhad becomevery dilapidated. At this time the eIerestory was reconstructed in Bath Stone and the roof of the nave was rebuilt.

5. The ehoir stalls in Saint Matthew's Church are fine examples of 15th century woodearving. It has been said that they were taken from Ha1esowen Abbey, up on the Dissolution of the Monasteries, but there is no doeumentary evidence to substantiate this. The bear on the bench end illustrated here was the emblem of the Earls of Warwiek, onee Lords of the Manor of Walsall.

6. Markets have been held in Walsall since at least 1220, although the first documentary evidence concerning a proper market place does not occur until 1309. The original market seems to have centred upon the top of High Street, although it soon began to spread into Digbeth.

7. Walsall Market used to be particularly famous for its pigs, and in the mid 19th century it was said to be one of the biggest inland pig markets in England. Special horse fairs were also held, here in Digbeth, by the 18th century. Grain, dairy pro duce and other foodstuffs have always been sold at the market.

8. By the late Midd1e Ages a Market Cross stood here, at the top of High Street. The Corporation re built or renovated the property severa1 times before its final demolition in 1800. The famous house at the foot of the Church Steps belonged to a pawnbroker circa 1900, when this photograph was taken, but it is best remembered as Roger's Tea Shop.

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