|This article relies on references to primary sources. (February 2008)|
Cradley Heath High Street
Cradley Heath shown within the West Midlands
|OS grid reference|
|Metropolitan county||West Midlands|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Post town||CRADLEY HEATH|
|EU Parliament||West Midlands|
|UK Parliament||Halesowen and
Cradley Heath (/ /) is a small town and ward in the Rowley Regis area of the Sandwell Metropolitan Borough, West Midlands, England. Cradley Heath is often confused with neighbouring Cradley in Halesowen, although the two places have long been in separate local authorities, and until 1966 were in separate counties.
A part of the Black Country, Cradley Heath is one of several towns in central England still recognisable from their early 20th century appearance. Many of the shops and houses in the High Street are still standing after 100 years, though some were demolished in the mid-2000s to make way for a bypass, to ease congestion in the town centre.
Cradley Heath was originally an area of heathland between Cradley, Netherton, and Old Hill, in the Staffordshire parish of Rowley Regis. The residents of Cradley had grazing rights, subject to an annual payment to the Lord of the Manor. As on other commons in the Black Country, cottages were built encroaching on the heath. These were occupied by nailmakers, amongst other industries.
One landmark in the growth of Cradley Heath as a distinct community was the creation of Cradley Heath Baptist Church, in December 1833. This was the first Christian Church meeting in Cradley Heath, and has the distinction of having the first Afro-Caribbean minister in Britain, Rev. George Cosens, in 1837.
From the introduction of machine-based nail-making around 1830, Cradley Heath developed two prolific industries - chainmaking and nailmaking - which would remain strong for decades afterwards. Among the metallurgical companies that were active in the area was the British Iron Company and its successor, the New British Iron Company, who operated iron and steel works at Corngreaves from 1825 to 1894. The works subsequently continued under other owners until 1912. It was only during the 1980s recession that the iron-working industries based in Cradley Heath began to decline.
Over the summer of 1910 around 1000 local women were involved in the 9 week long Chainmakers Strike when they successfully campaigned for the implementation of the national minimum wage for the industry - effectively doubling their wages.
The Papers of the Cradley Heath Chainmakers' Trade Union are housed at the University of Birmingham Special Collections.
Cradley Heath was formerly a part of the Rowley Regis Municipal Borough, with the council house situated in Old Hill. Following the abolition of the borough in 1966, the council house remained in use as offices by Sandwell Council until 2012, when it was demolished to make way for the construction of a new fire station.
Cradley Heath today
Cradley Heath High Street is marked by two road junctions, Four-Ways at the east end, and Five-Ways at the west end. Four-Ways is the most altered by the new bypass, running parallel to the High Street, with the Tesco store at this end.
Cradley Heath remains a traditional shopping centre, offering an alternative to modern malls. It has two market halls and numerous privately owned shops and businesses. The old Market Hall has been in Cradley Heath for over 100 years.
The Black Country Bugle newspaper is based in Cradley Heath, which was set up by Derek Beasley, former chairman of Halesowen Harriers, which focusses on local history and culture of the Black Country and often features articles and poems written in the Black Country dialect.
Cradley Heath has two large municipal parks, Haden Hill Park, which contains Haden Hall and Haden Old Hall (the latter with Tudor origins) which was the ancestral home of the Haden family and the Mary McArthur Memorial Gardens (known locally as Lomie Town park).
An enterprise zone was developed in the deindustrialised eastern part of the town, near the border with Rowley Regis. Among the businesses based in this area is Footman James, which has been based on Waterfall Lane since its formation in 1983. It is now a part of the huge American AON group.
The Old Bank Building on Upper High Street which was built in 1908 for the United Counties Bank of Cradley Heath has kept its original place even with the new road layout with the modernisation of Cradley Heath. In 1973 the Old Bank Building became part of Sandwell Insurance and Sandwell Accountancy Services.
Cradley Heath High Street has not changed much since the subsidence in 1914 and the dip in the high street following the subsidence is very prominent and can be seen still today.
A part of the West Midlands conurbation, Cradley Heath is located in the south of the Sandwell Metropolitan Borough, approximately 8 miles west of Birmingham. It is situated in a low lying area of the Black Country, south of the limestone ridge that runs through the area, with the River Stour forming the southern boundary with Cradley, and the Mousesweet Brook (a tributary of the River Stour) forming the northern border, between Quarry Bank and Netherton. Both also act as the boundary between the metropolitan boroughs of Sandwell and Dudley.
- Old Hill
- Haden Hill
- Lomie Town
||Brierley Hill||Dudley and Netherton||Rowley Village and Oldbury|
|Amblecote and Quarry Bank||Blackheath|
|Lye and Stourbridge||Cradley||Halesowen|
Sandwell Council is the local education authority for Cradley Heath, and is responsible for maintaining all the schools in the area.
There are several primary schools in the districts of Cradley Heath. The local secondary school, Ormiston Forge Academy, is situated in Wright's Lane, Old Hill, and has served the area since the 1960s. Other nearby secondary schools are located outside the town in the Dudley Borough, in neighbouring Netherton and Halesowen.
Although some have closed, Cradley Heath, like much of the Black Country, has many current and former church buildings. The main Anglican churches are St Luke's, Four-Ways, Cradley Heath, and Holy Trinity. The Grainger's Lane Methodist Church closed in 2004, but the building is still considered a landmark.[by whom?] A number of other Methodist buildings in the area, mostly around Old Hill, amalgamated to build a new building at Lawrence Lane. There is also a Wesleyan Reform Union Chapel, St James', relocated from Cradley Heath to Old Hill because of the bypass. The Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses can be found opposite the Holy Trinity Church in Old Hill.
Four-Ways Baptist Church is the only General Baptist church in Cradley Heath. The congregation rejected a proposal to close the building,[when?] and continues to meet. There are several Strict and Particular Baptist Churches, including Spring Meadow and Station Road, both in Old Hill.
Cradley Heath is served by bus and rail services, with Cradley Heath railway station and the bus station situated together, forming the Cradley Heath Interchange. The railway is on the Birmingham to Worcester line, with regular services between the two. Bus services provide connections to surrounding localities such as Birmingham, West Bromwich, and the Merry Hill Shopping Centre.
There is an additional railway station in the Old Hill area of the town, which is the preceding station on the same line.
The town was formerly home to the Cradley Heath Heathens, a Motorcycle speedway team, which originally operated as Cradley Heath Cubs. They participated in British speedway from 1947 until 1995, featuring World Champion riders such as Erik Gundersen and Bruce Penhall.
The speedway track was situated in Dudley Wood, outside the town boundaries in nearby Dudley, but was closed and demolished for redevelopment in the mid-1990s. Now operating as Dudley Heathens, the team currently race in Wolverhampton, with plans to develop a new stadium alongside Gornal Athletic F.C. somewhere in the Dudley area.
Parks and leisure facilities
The main parkland is Haden Hill Park, the former home of the Haden family and now in the care of Sandwell MBC. Alongside Haden Hill House are Haden Hill Leisure Centre, housing a swimming pool and other facilities, and Old Hill Cricket Club.
The Cradley Heath Liberal Club has substantial facilities on Upper High Street, just east of Four-Ways. The Regis Restaurant, Old Hill, was for many years a community hall but the future has been in doubt after Sandwell MBC found it uneconomic.
Cradley High School and leisure centre was demolished in 2009, but once provided basketball and indoor tennis facilities to the surrounding neighbourhood.
It is host to an annual festival over the last few years called Cradley Women Chainmakers' Festival.
- "Ward Profile - Cradley Heath and Old Hill". Sandwell Trends. Sandwell MBC. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- Rev. Idris Williams, A History of the Four Ways Baptist Church, Cradley Heath, Staffs. Centenary Souvenir, 1933.
- Idris Williams, op. cit., p. 35.
- "Rowley Regis UD/MB through time". Vision of Britain. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
- "Demolition of Cradley Heath's iconic Municipal Buildings under way". Halesowen News. 11 October 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- "The 'Stute' to be rebuilt". BBC News. 19 January 2006. Retrieved 23 October 2012.
- "Character area profiles - Sandwell". Wolverhampton City Council. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
- "Closing the last chapter in the chronicles of Graingers Lane Church in Cradley Heath". Black Country Bugle. 22 July 2004. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
- "Heathens' chairman hopes to use planned arena in Dudley". BBC News. 17 May 2012. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
- VIH web site, About us.
- Cradley Heath and Old Hill Ward on ONS site
- Sandwell MBC web site
- River Stour
- Cradley Heath Amateur Operatic Society
- Black Country Images