Walsall

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For the larger local government district, see Metropolitan Borough of Walsall.
Walsall
Walsall.jpg
From top left: Walsall waterfront project south; The New Art Gallery Walsall; Walsall waterfront project north; The new Manor Hospital
Walsall is located in West Midlands county
Walsall
Walsall
 Walsall shown within the West Midlands
Population 67,594 (Built-Up Area)
269,323 (Borough)
OS grid reference SP0198
   – London  124 mi (200 km) 
Metropolitan borough Walsall
Metropolitan county West Midlands
Region West Midlands
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town WALSALL
Postcode district WS1 – WS10,
Dialling code 01922
Police West Midlands
Fire West Midlands
Ambulance West Midlands
EU Parliament West Midlands
UK Parliament Walsall North
Walsall South
List of places
UK
England
West Midlands

Coordinates: 52°35′N 1°59′W / 52.58°N 1.98°W / 52.58; -1.98

Walsall (About this sound pronunciation ) is a large industrial town in the West Midlands of England. It is located 8 miles north-west of the City of Birmingham and 6 miles east of the City of Wolverhampton. Historically a part of Staffordshire, Walsall is a component area of the West Midlands conurbation, and part of the Black Country.[1]

Walsall is the administrative centre of the wider Metropolitan Borough of Walsall. At the 2011 census, the town's built-up area had a population of 67,594,[2] with the wider borough having a population of 269,323.[3] Neighbouring settlements in the borough include Brownhills, Willenhall, Bloxwich, and Aldridge.

History[edit]

Early settlement[edit]

Walsall in Medieval Times, 15th Century Watercolour by Henry Somerfield, The New Art Gallery Walsall permanent collection, 1976.278.P
View of Walsall in 1785, Engraving after Shaw, The New Art Gallery Walsall Permanent Collection 1976.102.P

The name Walsall is thought to have derived from the words "Walh halh", meaning "valley of the Welsh speakers" (referring to the Brythons). Walsall is first referenced as 'Walesho' in a document dated 1002. Possibly as a result of a clerical error, it is not referenced in the Domesday Book, while the settlements of Aldridge, Bescot, Shelfield, Pelsall, Bloxwich, Great Barr and Rushall within the Metropolitan Borough are.[4] However, it is believed that a manor was held here by William FitzAnsculf, who held numerous manors in the Midlands.[5] By the first part of the 13th century, Walsall was a small market town, with the weekly market being introduced in 1220 and held on Tuesdays.[6] The mayor of Walsall was created as a political position in the 14th century. Walsall is known as "the town of a hundred trades". (This appellation is a nod to the fact that nearby Birmingham is known as "the city of a thousand trades".)

Queen Mary's Grammar School and Queen Mary's High School were founded by Queen Mary I in 1554, and the schools carry the queen's personal badge as its emblem: the Tudor Rose and the sheaf of arrows of Mary's mother Catherine of Aragon tied with a Staffordshire Knot.[7]

The town was visited by Queen Elizabeth I, when it was known as 'Walshale'.[6] It was also visited by Henrietta Maria in 1643. She stayed in the town for one night at a building named the 'White Hart' in the area of Caldmore.[8]

The Industrial Revolution[edit]

The Industrial Revolution changed Walsall from a village of 2,000 people in the 16th century to a town of over 86,000 in approximately 200 years. The town manufactured a wide range of products including saddles, chains, buckles and plated ware. Nearby, limestone quarrying provided the town with much prosperity.[9]

In 1821, St. Matthew's Church was demolished with exception of the tower and chancel and replaced at a cost of £20,000[9] to a design by Francis Goodwin.[10] In 1824, the Walsall Corporation received an Act of Parliament to improve the town by providing lighting and a gasworks. The gasworks was built in 1826 at a cost of £4,000. In 1825, the corporation built eleven tiled, brick almshouses for poor women. They were known to the area as 'Molesley's Almshouses'.[11]

The 'Walsall Improvement and Market Act' was passed in 1848 and amended in 1850. The Act provided facilities for the poor, improving and extending the sewerage system and giving the commissioners the powers to construct a new gas works.[12] On 10 October 1847, a gas explosion killed one person and destroyed the west window of St Matthew's Church.[13]

Walsall finally received a railway line in 1847, 48 years after canals reached the town, Bescot having been served since 1838 by the Grand Junction Railway. In 1855, Walsall's first newspaper, the Walsall Courier and South Staffordshire Gazette, was published.

19th-century painting of the racecourse, Bradford Street, Walsall, now in the collection of The New Art Gallery Walsall

First World War[edit]

Over 2000 men from Walsall were killed in fighting during the First World War. They are commemorated by the town's cenotaph: which is located on the site of a bomb which was dropped by Zeppelin 'L 21' – killing the town's mayoress, and two others. Damage from the Zeppelin can still be seen on what is now a club on the corner of the main road, just opposite the furniture shop. A plaque commemorates the incident. The town also has a memorial to two local VC recipients, John Henry Carless[4] and Frederick Gibbs.[14]

20th century developments[edit]

Walsall's first cinema opened in the town centre in 1908; however, the post World War II decline in cinema attendances brought on by the rise in television ownership resulted in that and all of Walsall's other cinemas eventually being closed. The first Wurlitzer theatre organ in Great Britain was installed in the New Picture House (later renamed the Gaumont) cinema in the town centre.

Slum clearances began after the end of World War I, with thousands of 19th-century buildings around the town centre being demolished as the 20th century wore on, with new estates being built away from the town centre during the 1920s and 1930s. These were concentrated in areas to the north of the town centre such as Coal Pool, Blakenall Heath (where Walsall's first council houses were built in 1920), Goscote and Harden.[15] after the end of World War II, Beechdale.[16]

Significant developments also took place nearer to the town centre, particularly during the 1960s when a host of tower blocks were built around the town centre; however, most of these had been demolished by 2010.

The Memorial Gardens opened in 1952 in honour of the town's fallen combatants of the two world wars. The Old Square Shopping Centre, a modern indoor shopping complex featuring many big retail names, opened in 1969.

The Saddlers Centre, a modern shopping mall, opened in 1980, being refurbished within a decade.

The Jerome K. Jerome museum, dedicated to the locally born author (1859–1927), was opened in 1984.

The town's prolific leather industry was recognised in 1988 when the Princess Royal opened Walsall Leather Museum.[17]

Redevelopment and local government reorganisation[edit]

Walsall underwent modernisation in the 1970s with a new town centre being built at the expense of some medieval properties. In 1974, Walsall was transferred from the county of Staffordshire to form the metropolitan county of the West Midlands. Walsall is currently undergoing a new era of urban regeneration with many brownfield sites being replaced with modern houses, flats and offices.hu

The Saddlers' Centre, a modern shopping complex, was opened in the town centre in 1980. This included a new Marks & Spencer department store.[18]

Early 2000 saw the opening of The New Art Gallery Walsall in the north-west of the town centre near Wolverhampton Street, along with the new Crown Wharf Retail Park shortly afterwards.[17] Part of Park Street, the town's main shopping area, was redeveloped around the same time. The centrepiece of this redevelopment was the new British Home Stores department store, which relocated from St Paul's Street at the end of the 1990s.[19]

Construction is[when?] ongoing in St Matthew's Quarters. A new Asda store opened in 2007 and when completed St Matthew's Quarters will also include brand shops and modern flats. Walsall College has moved to a new site within the town centre whilst on the old site Tesco has recently opened a new 10,000 sq ft (930 m2) shopping complex.

The other plans are to redevelop Old Square Shopping Centre (opened in 1969) to make it bigger and connect it to the St Matthew's Quarter.

The Savoy Cinema was a landmark on Park Street for more than half a century after its opening on 3 October 1938. It was refurbished in 1973 and became the Cannon Cinema after a takeover in 1986, but closed on 18 November 1993 after operating as a cinema for 55 years. It was demolished some 18 months later and the town's new Woolworth's store was built on its site.[20] The store closed down at the end of 2008 when the retailer went into liquidation,[21] and the building was re-occupied by a new T J Hughes department store which opened on 9 October 2009.[22] However, the building became vacant again on 14 August 2011 when financial difficulties led to T.J. Hughes pulling out of the town after less than two years of trading.[23] It was re-occupied two months later with the opening of a Poundland store in the building on 22 October that year.[24]

Geography[edit]

Skip Lane looking east – parts of Walsall are semi-rural. Barr Beacon is on the horizon.

A local landmark is Barr Beacon, which is reportedly the highest point following its latitude eastwards until the Ural Mountains in Russia. The soil of Walsall consists mainly of clay with areas of limestone, which were quarried during the Industrial Revolution.[25]

Suburbs and areas[edit]

Demography[edit]

Walsall Compared
2001 UK Census Walsall Walsall MB West Midlands conurbation England
Total population 170,994 253,499 2,284,093 49,138,831
White 81.6% 86.4% 79.6% 90.9%
Asian 14.6% 10.5% 13.5% 4.6%
Black 1.7% 1.4% 3.9% 2.3%
Source: Office for National Statistics[26][27]
Walsall numbers artwork - 12.JPG
Population according to a Park Place Shopping Centre mural

The 2001 Census gives the Walsall Urban Subdivision as the fourth most populous in the West Midlands conurbation, with a total resident population of 170,994.

The religious distribution of Walsall Metropolitan Borough can be said to be roughly 80% Christian, 10% Muslim, 6% Sikh, 3% Hindu and 1% Other. Within the Walsall urban area the distribution can said to be roughly, 60% Christian, 25% Muslim, 12% Sikh, 6% Hindu and 2% other. However the 2008 British Social Attitudes Survey (BSA) shows, in Britain, those who profess no-religion have risen from 31% to 43% between 1983 and 2008. In 2009, this was found to have further risen to 51%. Conversely, in 1983 66% identified as Christian, in 2008 the number was 50%. In 2009, this further declined to 43%.[citation needed]

The Walsall dialect is often referred to as "Yam-Yam". The accent is often incorrectly referred to as a Brummie accent by people from outside the West Midlands.

Economy[edit]

Walsall has had many industries, from coal mining to metal working. In the late 19th century, the coal mines ran dry, and Walsall became internationally famous for its leather trade. Walsall still manufactures the Queen's handbags, saddles for the Royal family and leathergoods for the Prince of Wales. Walsall is the traditional home of the English saddle manufacturing industry, hence the nickname of Walsall Football Club, "the Saddlers". Apart from leather goods, other industries in Walsall include iron and brass founding, limestone quarrying, small hardware, plastics, electronics, chemicals and aircraft parts.

Walsall's location in Central England and the fact that the M6 runs through the Metropolitan Borough of Walsall has increased its investment appeal. The main RAC control centre is located in Walsall close by J9 of the M6 and there are now plans to redevelop derelict land in nearby Darlaston and turn it into a state-of-the-art regional centre. Between Bloxwich and Walsall there is a business corridor where TK Maxx has recently opened a regional depot. Currently established businesses include Homeserve plc and South Staffordshire Water.

Education[edit]

Walsall is home to the University of Wolverhampton's Sports and Art Campus and School of Education, all part of the Walsall Campus in Gorway Road, which includes a student village. Walsall College provides further education, and is based around three sites across Walsall. There are ten secular junior schools and two religious junior schools in Walsall. Walsall also houses many secondary schools, including comprehensives, academies, private and grammar school (Namely Queen Mary's Grammar School for Boys and Queen Marys High School For Girls)

Schools within the town are administered by SERCO.

Religion[edit]

St Martin's church was consecrated in 1960 to serve the suburban housing estates of Orchard Hills, Brookhouse and Park Hall.

Transport[edit]

Walsall Bus Station is made up of two smaller bus stations, Bradford Place Bus Station and St Paul's Bus Station, one being larger than the other and providing more services. Over 90 bus routes operated by eleven bus operators serve Walsall. Services from St Paul's Bus Station leave Walsall in many directions; there are services south-east to Birmingham; west to Wolverhampton, Willenhall, north to Bloxwich, Cannock and Brownhills; and east to Sutton Coldfield and Aldridge, with many to the latter. In addition, more infrequent services to Lichfield run. St Paul's is also home to the Walsall Information Centre. Bradford Place operates buses mainly to the south and south-west, to West Bromwich, Oldbury, Dudley and Stourbridge. There are also numerous shorter bus routes leaving from both stations which give the town centre a link to housing estates including Alumwell, Beechdale, Chuckery, Park Hall and the Mossley Estate.

Walsall railway station is situated on Station Street in the town centre and is also accessible from the Saddlers shopping centre. There are typically four trains per hour from the station to Birmingham and one train per hour to Cannock and Rugeley with fewer trains in the evenings and on Sundays. There is also a suburban station at Bescot.

Walsall is served by the A34, the A454 and the M6 for road travel. There are three nearby junctions on the M6 motorway: J7, J9 and J10. The stretch between these junctions is one of the busiest in Europe[citation needed].

A tram service was erected in the town towards the end of the 19th century and ran until 2 October 1933.[28] Walsall Aerodrome operated from the 1930s until 1956.[29][30]

Culture[edit]

White Hart, Caldmore Oil painting by an unknown artist, The New Art Gallery Walsall permanent collection, 1976.088.P

Arboretum and illuminations[edit]

Walsall Arboretum was officially opened on 4 May 1874 by the wealthy Hatherton family. It was hoped that the park would provide "a healthy change from dogfights, bull-baiting and cockfights", however the 2d (old pence) admission was not popular with the public and within seven years the council took over ownership to provide free admission. Among the attractions available were two boating lakes on the sites of former quarries, tennis courts, an outdoor swimming pool, and later – in the extension – a children's play area and paddling pool.[31]

Over the years the Arboretum has seen many events and changes, including the beginnings of the Walsall Arboretum Illuminations as an annual event in 1951.[32]

Originally white bulbs in trees for courting couples in the autumn, in the 1960s and 1970s, the lights were purchased secondhand from Blackpool Illuminations, but over the years they were increasingly made "in house" and are now all are.

The Illuminations had up to sixty thousand bulbs and took year-round planning.[33] Although the event had attracted an estimated 250,000 people in 1995, lack of growth beyond this figure has raised the prospect of major redevelopment as the light shows have been exactly the same for a number of years.[34] In February 2009, Walsall council announced that the Illuminations will not take place in 2009, 2010 and 2011.[35]

In January 2010, it was announced that the Illuminations had been permanently scrapped and would be replaced by other events such as concerts and laser shows throughout the year.[36] The existing lights would be sold off where possible to interested parties.

Art gallery[edit]

Walsall's new art gallery

The New Art Gallery Walsall opened in 2000. Named, as was its predecessor, the E M Flint Gallery in memory of Ethel Mary Flint, head of art at Queen Mary's Grammar School, an exhibitor at the Royal Academy, and a former mayor of Walsall, it contains a large number of works by Jacob Epstein as well as works by Van Gogh, Monet, Turner, Renoir and Constable. The large gallery space is host to temporary exhibitions.

Museums[edit]

Walsall Library & Museum

Walsall has two museums, Walsall Museum and Walsall Leather Museum. Walsall Museum features local history objects primarily from the manufacturing trades and also has a space for temporary exhibitions, while the leather museum displays a mixture of leather goods and has recreations of leatherworkers workshops.

Public art[edit]

The refurbished Sister Dora statue stands at the crossroads of Park Street and Bridge Street. Opposite this stood a locally famous concrete hippopotamus,[37] which has since been moved to a corner of the square and replaced by a fountain. The hippo was designed by local architect and sculptor John Wood.

Literature[edit]

Though the novelist and essayist Jerome K. Jerome was born in the town, he never wrote about it. Some writers have, including the Walsall born John Petty (1919–1973) who set a number of his books in Walsall, most famously Five Fags a Day (1956). More recently the comic novelist Paul McDonald has used Walsall as a location for Surviving Sting (2001) and Kiss Me Softly, Amy Turtle (2004).[38][39]

Sports[edit]

Walsall's football club, Walsall F.C., the Saddlers, was founded in 1888 when Walsall Town F.C. and Walsall Swifts F.C. merged. They won their first game against Aston Villa. The club currently play in Football League One.

Non league Rushall Olympic are based in the north of the town. The club currently play in the Northern Premier League Premier Division

Walsall also has a cricket club, Walsall Cricket Club who won Birmingham League Premier Division in 2006.

Walsall RUFC is Walsall's rugby union team which is currently competing in Midlands 1 West.

Aldridge and Walsall Hockey Club currently plays in the West Midlands Premier League and is managed by Sir Mark Grundy.

Walsall was also once home to Formula 1 constructor Ensign Racing, in Walsall Wood from 1973 to 1980, before moving to Chasetown.


Walsall was home to a horse racing course. The grandstand was constructed in 1809 at a cost of £1,300 on a piece of land donated by the Earl of Bradford on a lease of 99 years. Soon after completion, one of the lower compartments was converted into a billiards room, which contained a table donated by Lord Chichester Spencer of Fisherwick Park. Throughout the 19th century, races were held annually at the racecourse at Michaelmas.[40]

Shopping[edit]

Statue of Sister Dora

In 1809, a market house was constructed at the end of High Street, on the site of the market cross, for the sale of poultry, eggs, butter and dairy produce. The building was demolished in 1852 along with other buildings that had fallen into disrepair.[41] A pig market was constructed in the town in 1815 on High Street. At its peak, the market would handle the sale of 2,000 pigs per day.[42] In 1847, the corporation tried to construct a new market hall on the 'Bowling Green', to the rear of the Dragon Inn. The scheme proposed to use a large amount of public money to construct the hall. Shopkeepers feared that their businesses would be affected and demonstrations were held across the town against the proposals. The demonstrations forced the plans to be shelved.[12]

Park Street remains Walsall's main shopping high street with Bridge Street cutting through the middle to host two average-sized indoor shopping centres at opposite ends; 'The Old Square' and 'Bradford Mall' formerly known as the 'Saddlers Centre'. The recent development known as 'Crown Wharf Retail Park' is host to larger scale shops, including the first non-food Asda store. Other redevelopments include that of the former 'Quasar Centre' now known as 'Park Place Shopping Centre'. The Broadwalk Retail Park is also located within Walsall.

The area around Walsall's new art gallery is soon[when?] to be redeveloped into a huge shopping area coined 'the Waterfront' designed by architect Will Alsop with space available for restaurants, cafés, and a new hotel.

Recent changes[edit]

Projects due for completion in 2009 and 2010 include Walsall Manor Hospital redevelopment worth £174 million, the new Walsall College worth £65 million, the Waterfront South development worth £60 million and the St. Matthew's Quarter worth more than £25 million. Other projects with approval include £500 million Walsall Gigaport which is a high-speed fibre optic internet environment for national and international businesses, Waterfront North development worth £65 million and the Waterfront Lex development.[43][44]

Walsall Transport Package worth £17 million was also due for completion in 2009 but was actually completed earlier, allowing the early opening of a £55 million supermarket development to create scores of extra jobs. This is an overall development of roads in and out of Walsall town centre as well as those towards Walsall Arboretum.[45]

[46]

Notable residents[edit]

Twin towns[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Official Black Country History website, with considerable coverage of Walsall's history
  2. ^ "All UK Towns & Cities in Population Order (2011 Census)". LoveMyTown. Retrieved 9 September 2013. 
  3. ^ "KS101EW - Usual resident population". 2011 census. nomis - official labour market statistics. Retrieved 9 September 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Glesson, Mike (2009). "A Walsall Timeline". Walsall: Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council. Archived from the original on 2009. Retrieved 22 June 2010. 
  5. ^ Edward Lees Glew (1856). History of the Borough and Foreign of Walsall. J.R. Robinson. p. 3. 
  6. ^ a b Arthur Freeling (1838). Freeling's Grand Junction Railway Companion to Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham. p. 125. 
  7. ^ Stafford Knot
  8. ^ Edward Lees Glew (1856). History of the Borough and Foreign of Walsall. J.R. Robinson. p. 9. 
  9. ^ a b Arthur Freeling (1838). Freeling's Grand Junction Railway Companion to Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham. p. 126. 
  10. ^ Edward Lees Glew (1856). History of the Borough and Foreign of Walsall. J.R. Robinson. p. 20. 
  11. ^ Edward Lees Glew (1856). History of the Borough and Foreign of Walsall. J.R. Robinson. p. 28. 
  12. ^ a b Edward Lees Glew (1856). History of the Borough and Foreign of Walsall. J.R. Robinson. p. 15. 
  13. ^ Edward Lees Glew (1856). History of the Borough and Foreign of Walsall. J.R. Robinson. p. 21. 
  14. ^ London-gazette.co.uk/issues/29899/supplements/472
  15. ^ "Walsall - The growth of the town | A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17 (pp. 146-165)". British-history.ac.uk. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  16. ^ "New homes for sale in Walsall - new homes for sale - Zoopla". Findanewhome.com. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  17. ^ a b "A History of Walsall". Localhistories.org. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  18. ^ "Walsall Station to Walsall M&S (13) | Flickr - Photo Sharing!". Flickr. 2 July 2010. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  19. ^ "‘A Pebble on Water’ by Rowan Moore « Caruso St John Architects". Carusostjohn.com. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  20. ^ "Cannon Walsall in Walsall, GB". Cinema Treasures. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  21. ^ "Woolworths store to be reborn". Express & Star. 27 July 2009. 
  22. ^ TJ Hughes opens in Walsall's former Woolies
  23. ^ "Closure dates named for TJ Hughes stores". Express & Star. 5 August 2011. 
  24. ^ TV star opens shop but MP says job crisis is Shameless
  25. ^ Edward Lees Glew (1856). History of the Borough and Foreign of Walsall. J.R. Robinson. p. 5. 
  26. ^ "KS06 Ethnic Group: Census 2001, Key Statistics for urban areas". National Statistics. Retrieved 16 February 2009. 
  27. ^ "KS06 Ethnic group: Key Statistics for urban areas, summary results for local authorities". National Statistics. Retrieved 16 February 2009. 
  28. ^ "Our Century 1925-1949". Expressandstar.com. 2 October 1933. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  29. ^ "Helliwells aircraft component factory at Walsall airport". Black Country Bugle. 25 November 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  30. ^ "Airfield; S of Aldridge". Black Country History. Retrieved 19 May 2013. 
  31. ^ "Walsall Virtual Arboretum". Walsall MBC. 
  32. ^ "Walsall Illuminations 2006". Walsall MBC. 
  33. ^ "Walsall Illuminations 2005". BBC. 
  34. ^ "Final chance for Illuminations". Express and Star. 
  35. ^ "Light are turned off in crunch". Express and Star. 
  36. ^ "Illuminations scrapped for Good". Express and Star. 
  37. ^ Geoff Harvey; Vanessa Strowger (2004). Rivals: The Off-Beat Guide to the 92 League Clubs. Aesculus Press Ltd. p. 178. ISBN 1-904328-13-X. 
  38. ^ "People - Brownhills near Walsall West Midlands". Members.madasafish.com. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  39. ^ "Laurahird.com". Laurahird.com. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  40. ^ Edward Lees Glew (1856). History of the Borough and Foreign of Walsall. J.R. Robinson. pp. 30–31. 
  41. ^ Edward Lees Glew (1856). History of the Borough and Foreign of Walsall. J.R. Robinson. p. 16. 
  42. ^ Edward Lees Glew (1856). History of the Borough and Foreign of Walsall. J.R. Robinson. p. 17. 
  43. ^ "Walsall Regeneration Company". Walsall-regeneration.co.uk. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  44. ^ "Walsall Redevelopments". Walsall.gov.uk. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  45. ^ "Walsall Express & Star". Expressandstar.com. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  46. ^ Gibbs, Frederick (11 January 1917). "Lieutenant" (Notable Residence received VC). London Gazette. London Gazette. 
  47. ^ "Comic creator: John Byrne". URL retrieved 25 July 2006.
  48. ^ Noddy Holder (1999). Noddy Holder – Who's Crazee Now?. Ebury Press. ISBN 0-09-187503-X. 
  49. ^ "Black Country - Features - From Saddles to Chuckles". BBC. 25 January 2008. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 
  50. ^ "Twin town - Mulhouse". Cms.walsall.gov.uk. Retrieved 18 May 2014. 

External links[edit]