Wednesbury High Street
Wednesbury shown within the West Midlands
|OS grid reference|
|Metropolitan county||West Midlands|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||West Midlands|
|UK Parliament||West Bromwich West|
Wednesbury (// WENZ-bər-ee) is a market town in England's Black Country, part of the Sandwell metropolitan borough in the West Midlands, near the source of the River Tame. As of the 2011 Census, the town has a population of 37,817.
Pre-Medieval and Medieval times
It is believed that Wednesbury was originally founded as an Iron Age hill fort. The first authenticated spelling of the name was Wodensbyri, written in an endorsement on the back of the copy of the will of Wulfric Spot, dated 1004. Wednesbury is one of the few places in England to be named after a pre-Christian deity.
Wednesbury is one of the oldest parts of the Black Country. The ending "-bury" comes from the old English word "burgh" meaning a hill or barrow. So "Wednesbury" may mean "Woden's Hill" or "Woden's barrow". It could also mean Woden's fortification, although the former description is often accepted.
During the Anglo-Saxon period there are believed to have been two battles fought in Wednesbury, one in A.D. 592 and one in 715. According to The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle there was "a great slaughter" in 592 and "Ceawlin was driven out". Ceawlin was a king of Wessex and the second Bretwalda, or overlord of all Britain. The second battle, in 715, was fought between Mercia (of which Wednesbury was part) and the kingdom of Wessex. Both sides allegedly claimed to have won the battle, although it is believed that the victory inclined to Wessex.
Wednesbury was later fortified by Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great and known as the Lady of Mercia. Ethelfleda erected five fortifications to defend against the Danes at Bridgnorth, Tamworth, Stafford and Warwick, with Wednesbury in the centre of the other four. Wednesbury's fort would probably have been an extension of an older fortification and made of a stone foundation with a wooden stockade above. Earthwork ramparts and water filled ditches would probably have added to its strength. There is now a plaque on the gardens between Ethelfleda Terrace and St. Bartholomew's church stating that the gardens there - created in the 1950s - used stone from the graaf, or fighting platform, of the old fort. Exploration of the gardens reveals several dressed stones, which appear to be those referred to on the plaque.
Historically Wednesbury is within Staffordshire; in 1086, the Domesday Book describes Wednesbury (Wadnesberie) as being a thriving rural community encompassing Bloxwich and Shelfield (now part of Walsall). During the Middle Ages the town was a rural village, with each family farming a strip of land with nearby heath being used for grazing. The town was held by the king until the reign of Henry II, when it passed to the Heronville family.
Medieval Wednesbury was very small, and its inhabitants would appear to have been farmers and farm workers. In 1315, coal pits were first found and recorded in Wednesbury, which led to an increase in the number of jobs offered there. Nail making was also in progress during these times. William Paget was born in Wednesbury in 1505, the son of a nail maker. He is noted as having risen to the position of Secretary of State, a Knight of the Garter and an Ambassador. He was one of executors of the will of Henry VIII.
In the 17th century Wednesbury pottery - "Wedgbury ware" - was being sold as far away as Worcester, while white clay from Monway Field was used to make tobacco pipes.
By the 18th century the town's main occupations were coal mining and nail making. With the introduction of the first turnpike road in 1727 and the development of canals and later the railways came a big increase in population. In 1769, Wednesbury's canal banks were soon full of factories as in this year, the first Birmingham Canal was cut to link Wednesbury's coalfields to the Birmingham industries.
In 1743 the Wesleys and their new Methodist movement were severely tested in Wednesbury. Early in the year, John and Charles Wesley preached in the open air on the Tump. They were warmly received by the people and made welcome by the vicar. Soon afterwards another preacher came and was rude about the current state of the Anglican clergy. This angered the vicar and the magistrates published a notice ordering that any further preachers were to be brought to them. When John Wesley next came his supporters were still there but a crowd of others heckled him and threw stones. Later the crowd came to his lodgings and took him to the magistrates. However both magistrates declined to have anything to do with Wesley or the crowd. The crowd ill-treated Wesley and nearly killed him but he remained calm. Eventually they came to their senses and returned him to his hosts.
Soon afterward the vicar asked his congregation to pledge not to associate with Methodists and some who refused to pledge had their windows smashed. Others who ventured to host Methodist meetings had the contents of their houses destroyed as well. This terrible episode came to an end in December when the vicar died. After that Anglican/Methodist relations were generally cordial. Methodism grew strongly in Wednesbury and John Wesley visited often, almost until his death. Francis Asbury, Richard Whatcoat and the Earl of Dartmouth are among those who attended Methodist meetings in the town. All of them were in different ways to have a profound effect on the United States.
A steam tram service was opened between Wednesbury and Dudley, also serving Tipton, on 21 January 1884. The line was electrified in 1907 but discontinued in March 1930 on its replacement with Midland Red buses along the route.
In 1887, Brunswick Park was opened to celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.
On the evening of 31 January 1916, Wednesbury was hit by one of the first wave of German Zeppelins which were aimed at Britain during World War I. There were four fatalities in the King Street area; a man called Joseph Smith and his three children were killed in their house. His wife survived, having left the house to investigate the cause of a loud noise at a nearby factory; it had been the noise of the first bombs falling.
In 1926, the first council houses built by Wednesbury council were occupied, but progress was somewhat slow compared to nearby towns including Tipton and West Bromwich. By 1930, a mere 206 families had been rehoused to the new council houses from slums. However, the building of new council houses rose dramatically at the start of the 1930s, the 1,000th council house in Wednesbury being occupied before the end of 1931. By 1935, 10 years since work began on Wednesbury's first council houses, some 1,250 of the town's older houses had been demolished or earmarked for demolition. By 1944, more than 3,000 council properties existed in Wednesbury. By 1959, that figure had exceeded 5,000.
During the later half of the 20th century, Wednesbury's industry declined, but since 1990 new developments such as an automotive park, a retail park and the newly pedestrian-only Union Street have given a new look to the town. The traditional market is still a feature of the bustling centre; while the streets around Market Place are now a protected conservation area.
The borough of Wednesbury was partitioned in 1966, with the majority of the town absorbed into West Bromwich, and small parts placed within the County Borough of Walsall. West Bromwich itself amalgamated with Warley in 1974 to form the present-day borough of Sandwell. Wednesbury now holds the postcode WS10, shared with Darlaston in the borough of Walsall, but is itself part of the Sandwell borough.
Wednesbury's bus station (which was rebuilt in 2004) is located in the centre of the town near the swimming baths and links are available to Wolverhampton, Birmingham, West Bromwich, Walsall and the shopping complex of Merry Hill.
It is served by the Midland Metro light rail (tram) system, with stops at Great Western Street and Wednesbury Parkway. The system's only maintenance depot is also located here. The current line runs from Wolverhampton to Birmingham, and a proposed extension to Brierley Hill is expected to open some time during the 2010s.
Between 1850 and 1993, the line built by the South Staffordshire Railway served Wednesbury. Passenger services were withdrawn after Wednesbury Station closed in 1964 under the Beeching Axe, but a steel terminal soon opened on the site and did not close until December 1992, with the railway finally closing on 19 March 1993 after serving the town for nearly 150 years.
Until 1972, the town was served by the Great Western Railway between Birmingham and Wolverhampton at Wednesbury Central railway station. Passenger trains were withdrawn at this time, with the Bilston-Wolverhampton and Wednesbury-Birmingham sections of the line closing completely at this time. The section of railway between Wednesbury and Bilston, which served a scrapyard at Bilston, remained open until 30 August 1992 but was re-opened within seven years as part of the Midland Metro.
For many years, Wednesbury was dominated by the huge Patent Shaft steel works. The factory sprang up in the 19th century and remained active until its closure in 1980. This caused mass unemployment in and around Wednesbury. The factory was demolished three years later, and by the mid-1990s it had been developed as an enterprise zone - one of several government initiatives to bring employment to areas suffering economic decline due to deindustrialisation. However, the iron gates of the factory are still in existence today, thirty years after its closure and have recently been mounted on the traffic island where the Holyhead Road passes the bus station, in tribute to the works.
Wednesbury is situated on Thomas Telford's London to Holyhead road which was built in the early 19th century. The section of this road between Wednesbury and Moxley was widened in 1997 to form a dual carriageway, completing the Black Country Spine Road that had been in development since 1995, when the route between Wednesbury and West Bromwich had opened, along with a one-mile route to the north of Moxley which provided a link with the Black Country Route. The original plan had been for a completely new route to be built between Wednesbury and Moxley, but this was abandoned in favour of widening the existing route as part of cost-cutting measures.
Morrisons opened a new supermarket in the town centre on 4 November 2007, creating some 350 new jobs. A number of council bungalows had been demolished, along with a section of the town centre shops, to make way for this development.
- Church Hill
- Friar Park
- Myvod Estate
- Wood Green
- New Town
- Golf Links
- Woods Estate
- Wednesbury North
- Wednesbury South
- Friar Park
- Jack Beasley, footballer, professional football centre-forward.
- Jon Brookes, drummer with The Charlatans.
- Tia-Maria Byrne, née Reader. Modern historian devoted to Wednesbury and its sociological history.
- Bill Chambers, footballer, served as inside forward with Halifax Town and Chester.
- John Cooper, footballer, played with Southampton in the 1920s.
- Roy Cross, footballer, played for Port Vale in early 1970s and transferred to Nuneaton Borough in 1975.
- James Currier, footballer, striker for Bolton Wanderers.
- Norman Deeley, footballer, Wolverhampton Wanderers 1951-62.
- The Garman Sisters, members of Bloomsbury Group, lived at Oakeswell Hall in the early 20th century.
- Matt Hanson (aka MC Fusion), lead vocalist, Credit to the Nation.
- Dennis Harper, footballer, Birmingham City, 1956-57.
- Moses Haughton the elder, 18th-century engraver, designer and painter.
- Moses Haughton the younger, late 18th- and early 19th-century engraver and portraitist.
- Alan Hinton, footballer, Derby County, Nottingham Forest and Wolverhampton Wanderers, 1960s–70s.
- Marty Hogan, baseball player and manager.
- David Howarth, politician and Member of Parliament.
- John Ashley Kilvert, became mayor, after surviving the Charge of the Light Brigade
- Kevin Laffan, playwright and screenplay writer.
- Alex Lester, BBC Radio 2 broadcaster.
- Wilson Lloyd, late 19th-century Conservative political leader who sat in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom.
- Len Moorwood, footballer, goalkeeper for teams including West Bromwich Albion and Burnley in early 20th century.
- Neil Morris, musician was born and raised in Wednesbury
- William Paget, 16th-century English statesman.
- Charles Partridge, footballer, goalkeeper for Small Heath in 1890s.
- Lee Payne, bassist.
- Ernest Perry, played for Stoke and Port Vale.
- Roy Proverbs, former professional football player.
- Sir Kevin Satchwell, educationalist.
- Fred Shinton, footballer, West Bromwich Albion, Leicester City, and Bolton Wanderers.
- Dr Karl Shuker, zoologist, cryptozoologist, and author.
- Henry Treece, poet and novelist.
- Tom Troman (1914–2000), cricketer
- Billy Walker, legendary footballer who played for Aston Villa for the entirety of his career.
- Richard Wattis, character actor.
Patent Shaft steelworks was erected on land off Leabrook Road near the border with Tipton in 1840, serving the town for 140 years before its closure in 1980 during the first stages of the recession. Demolition took place in 1983.
Metro Cammell set up business in Wednesbury after buying the Old Park Works near the border with Darlaston from Patent Shaft in 1949, where it produced railway coach bodies, railway wagons and pressings for other factories in the group. The plant remained opened until 1989.
FH Lloyd steelworks was formed at a site on Park Lane near the borders with Walsall and Darlaston during the 1880s, and would provide employment to the local area for some 100 years. However, recessions plagued its final few years and FH Lloyd finally went out of business in 1982. Triplex Iron Foundry then took the site over, but their ownership was short lived and it was then sold to Swedish home products company IKEA in 1988, being demolished almost immediately to make way for the superstore which opened in January 1991.
IKEA purchased the former FH Lloyd steel plant from Triplex in 1988, and opened one of its first British stores on the site in January 1991, just 14 months after the development had been given the go-ahead.
Property developers JJ Gallagher had purchased the bulk of the FH Lloyd site site in 1988 and once mineshafts were filled in, decontamination was completed and the River Tame was diverted, the land was suitable for mass retail development. A Cargo Club supermarket-style retail warehouse, part of the Nurdin and Peacock group, which opened in July 1994. It was one of just three Cargo Club stores in Britain, and the venture was not a success, and by the end of 1995 it had been shut down following heavy losses. A B&Q DIY superstore opened on the site in 1997.
The next two units were opened in 1995 and let to Currys and PC World and a Burger King fast food restaurant was opened opposite. By this stage, the area was known as Gallagher Retail Park and incorporated the nearby Ikea and Cargo Club stores.
A further phase of development was completed in 2000, with Furniture Village, Furnitureland and SCS setting up business in the new units, while Currys moved to a new store in this phase (this Currys store was the largest electrical superstore in Europe on its completion) and their original unit was re-let to furniture retailer MFI, who would remain there until the business went into liquidation eight years later. Pizza Hut and KFC opened fast food restaurants on the development in 2002.
Next and later on TK Maxx, Outfit, Boots, Mamas & Papas all opened in the refurbished phase next to Currys after they moved to the site. Both Curry's and PC World stores are now known as 'Megastores'.
- "Census 2011 Key Stats". Sandwell Trends. Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
- Michael Alexander (2002). A History of Old English Literature. Broadview Press. ISBN 1-55111-322-8.
- F. W. Hackwood (2002). Wednesbury Ancient and Modern. Brewin Books Ltd. ISBN 1-85858-219-9.
- John Holland (1835). The History and Description of Fossil Fuel, the Collieries, and Coal Trade of Great Britain. Whittaker ; G. ISBN 1-144-62255-7.
- A step for travellers to get on or off their horses
- Hackwood, Frederick William (1900). Religious Wednesbury, its Creeds, Churches and Chapels. Dudley: Dudley Herald.
- Wesley, John (1745). Modern Christianity Exemplified at Wednesbury (Second ed.).. Witness statements collected by John Wesley, quoted by Hackwood
- John Lednum (1859). A History of the Rise of Methodism in America. Lednum. ISBN 1-112-17734-5.
- Brunswick Park: Historical Summary
- Barratt Homes: Brief history of Wednesbury
- Sandwell MBC: Conservation
- British History Online: West Bromwich Social Life
- British Publishing: The Sandwell Official Guide
- Department for Transport: Midland Metro (Wednesbury to Brierley Hill) - Inspector's report
- Rail Around Birmingham and the West Midlands: Wednesbury Town Station
- "Archive: Diary", stuckism.com. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
- Milner, Frank ed., The Stuckists Punk Victorian, p.210, National Museums Liverpool 2004, ISBN 1-902700-27-9. An essay from the book is online at stuckism.com.
- Reichler, Joseph L., ed. (1979) . The Baseball Encyclopedia (4th ed.). New York: Macmillan Publishing. ISBN 0-02-578970-8.
- "Cargo Club: the profitable failure". Grocer. 1995.