West Bromwich in old picture postcards

West Bromwich in old picture postcards

Auteur
:   Robin Pearson
Gemeente
:  
Provincie
:   West Midlands
Land
:   United Kingdom
ISBN13
:   978-90-288-4723-1
Pagina's
:   144
Prijs
:   EUR 16.95 Incl BTW *

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INTRODUCTION

In some ways the heyday of the British postcard mirrored the civic pride and satisfaction that West Bromwich feit as a community. From the 1870s onwards the District Hospital was completed, Dartmouth Park laid out, the Oak House was restored and presented by Alderman Reuben Farley whose energy for municipal activity was typical of those who had previously ensured the town achieved borough status and separate parliamentary representation. The Corporation Baths, Law Courts, the West Bromwich Institute, the School of Art and Technical School, the Town Hall, and a newer Public Library were all erected by 1907. A hundred years earlier the population was barely a tenth of that recorded in the 1901 census. It is also perhaps hard to imagine that the town's main street was once a track in the middle of a windswept heath that few people would venture across after dark. Bromwich Heath was carpeted in a kind of heather which is now remembered in the name for part of that area - The Lyng. Bromwich in its earliest uses probably meant the village where the broom grew - the further appellation, West, was added to avoid confusion with two other settlements in Warwickshire, Castie Bromwich and Little Bromwich.

Development after the enelosure of the heath was steady but slow. The novelist David Christie Murray, bom in a house on the High Street in 1847, described West Bromwich then as 'a rather doleful hybrid of a place - neither town nor country'. By the time of the publication of his autobiography in 1908 it had become 'a compact businesslike town now, and its spreading industries have defaced

the lovely fringe of country which used to be around it'. Although many industries have now died away some manufacturing activities have survived and developed. The spring trade still flourishes in the town. Today we all use without a second thought bathroom and kitchen scales made by Salter's. Apart from its enlightened policy towards its workers this firm achieved a couple of other distinctions - a claim for the production of possibly the first wholly English typewriter, and a works football team, then The StrolIers, who formed the basis of the future champions West Bromwich Albion.

In 1966 West Bromwich absorbed two of its immediate neighbours in alocal government reorganization. One of those places, Tipton, perhaps epitomized more than any other true Black Country town. Even today the ravages of the Industrial Revolution are obvious on its landscape. So much coal was taken out of its ground that by the 1920s the fight to pump water trom the mines was lost.

Iron was the other mighty attraction of Tipton for the early industrialists after Dud Dudley was supposedly the first to smelt iron with coal in 1619. Another locally bom man, Sir Alfred Hickman, was known as the 'Iron King of the Midlands'. The nineteenth century BIoomfield Ironworks manufactured such a high quality product that it was acknowledged worldwide.

A different kind of farne came to the Horseley Bridge and Engineering Co. Ltd. when it built one of the world's first steam driven iron boats. Many surviving canal bridges are evidence of the company's main work which today's succes-

sor firm continues with the construction of motorway bridges.

Another form of bridge had been produced within the boundaries of the third member of the 1966 union. Wednesbury's Patent Shaft made the world's first all-steel bridge erected at Benares over the Ganges in 1885.

It was a different product that had gained renown for Wednesbury as 'tube town' after Cornelius Whitehouse developed a new method of butt welding. James RusselI acquired the patent and together with his brother John secured a temporary prosperity for the town. Present-day financial troubles with the loss of Patent Shaft have a familiar ring in an area that has suffered economie depressions both last and earlier this century.

For Wednesbury there was a certain irony in the local government amalgamation since West Bromwieh was once part of the Wednesbury Parliamentary District. Apart from the Industrial Revolution all three towns played a significant role in the development of Methodism. Despite the very hostile reception in Wednesbury for John Wesley there was a strong commitment in the town, and neighbouring Tipton was the site for the first meeting house. West Bromwieh on the other hand underlines the biblical saying of 'a prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house'. In America there was national recognition of Francis Asbury as the 'Prophet of the Long Road' after he hadgone there to further Wesley's aims. Not until recently has a postcard been produced locally of his boyhood home on Newton Road.

J.B. Priestley, in his classic 'English Journey', had some harsh words for the Black Country, Wednesbury, and West Bromwich in partieular. In his final chapter he did partly redeem the situation by saying that if he were forced to choose between living abroad or in England then he would head straight for West Bromwieh!

Acknowledgments

Most of the postcards in this book are from the SandweIl Pictorial Civic Record - in some cases collectors have allowed the Iibrary service to copy their originals. Such public spiritedness has permitted a wide range of scenes and views to be shown in this publication. If any individuals have cards not in this book they might like to consider donating them or allowing copies to be made by the library. In either situation such generosity will be acknowledged in the photographic archive.

Thanks to Tony Price of Mitchells & Butlers for the loan of cards 27,28,46 and 97.

Many thanks to Patricia Burford and Vanessa Hili respectively present and past members of the staff at the Central Reference Library at West Bromwich; thanks also to Jean Wade for assistance in visiting many of the present day sites of scenes depicted in some of the views; and most of all thanks to John Maddison for the help that he has given in his dual roles as local studies officer for SandweIl and secretary of West Bromwich Civic Pride Association.

1. This view, published by Raphael Tuck & Sons, almost gives an impression of peaceful seclusion that even in 1868 tempted one journalist to describe the main thoroughfare as befitting a smart country town. When he turned off what some claim is Englaud's longest High Street the Black Country was 'faithfully portrayed in every building and every human face'.

2. This was the bustling scene behind the photographer in the previous card. Above the two gentlemen in conversation on the corner of Sandwell Road was an office of the auctioneer Thomas Harford, whose company survives as the oldest established firm of estate agents in the town. The adjacent tobacconist was Mrs. Coope who was succeeded by Henry Rotton. A few doors along was an ironmonger's store with Lewis Joseph Evans there for nearly a quarter of a century. At 351 was Martin Magor, the chemist, while his neighbour was Mary Holden, the butcher- unlike today many a woman ran such a business.

3. A party oflocal blind people and their helpers line up outside the Olympia on the High Street at the start of an outing. Formerly known as the N ew Hippodrome Music Hall it always presented a mixture of variety and films. The theatre and neighbouring stone masons, the Alexander family who formerly had premises in St. Michael's Street, are now the site occupied by Guest Motors Ltd. Real ale followers will probably be amused by the Whitbread advertisement adjoining Joseph George Tomkins the printer.

4. This Valentine's series card shows a close-up of Highfields, one of the tewn's larger residences th at was not one house but three. The Siddons family, Hili Top industrialists, had the longest stay of its many residents. The building was sold to the Corporation in 1922 but the outbreak of war saved it from demolition in 1939. The Memorial Gardens that now front Highfields were opened in 1951 replacing 'the eyesore of wartime air raid shelters' .

5. Christ Church was built near the new centre of West Bromwich as the turnpike road developed into the High Street. Work began after the laying of the foundation in 1821 but was delayed the next year with the bankruptcy of the builder and the church was finally consecrated in January 1829. The Gothic style seen here in a Wrench series postcard was designed by Francis Goodwin who in 1831 was among architects invited to submit proposals for a new House of Commons. His subsequent plans were described as 'the best' but his determination in 1835 to enter the public competition for the new Houses of Parliament proved too much for his health, with fatal consequences,

6. Christ Church's proximity to Heath Colliery led it to being badly damaged by mining subsidence during the mid-1850s. Restoration was completed in 1858 and again in 1876 after further subsidence. This card shows the church floodlit to celebrate the Michael Faraday Electricity Centenary in September/October 1931. The church was eventually closed in 1975 and demolished in 1980 fellowing a fire. Although the graveyard walks remain with the time trees planted in 1886 the graves were recently levelled for office re-development on the site.

7. The little boy in this postcard, produced by a 10cal stationer, may well have attended the schoolroom at the rear of the Baptist Church on the opposite side of the High Street to Highfields. The four classrooms could accommodate 350 scholars! The church with its 70 foot tower was built in 1886 opening in May of the following year; the total cost including land was i5,100. It was demolished in 1973 and a new church was opened in Tantany Lane. The site now adjoins the local college with the headquarters of the West Bromwich Building Society, occupying most of the land and that of the two neighbouring properties formerly to the right of the church on the corner of Dartmouth Street.

Tawn Hall ar.d Pubtic Buildings, West Bromwich,

8. The Town Hall was erected in 1875 on part of the Lodge estare that belonged to the Izon family of ironfounders. It was designed in an Italian Gothic style and constructed in brick and stone. The Market Hall to the left, completed in 1874 with Saturdays as market day, was not a commercial success as people preferred to use the more traditional markets higher up the town. The Hall was demolished after 1899 and the land used for the erection of a public library.

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