Wednesbury

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For the legal principle, see Wednesbury unreasonableness. For the former parliamentary constituency, see Wednesbury (UK Parliament constituency).

Coordinates: 52°33′11″N 2°01′12″W / 52.553°N 2.020°W / 52.553; -2.020

Wednesbury
Wednesbury - the High Street.jpg
Wednesbury High Street
West Midlands
Wednesbury
Wednesbury
 Wednesbury shown within the West Midlands
Population 37,817 (2011)[1]
OS grid reference SO9895
    - London  125.9m 
Metropolitan borough Sandwell
Metropolitan county West Midlands
Region West Midlands
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town WEDNESBURY
Postcode district WS10
Dialling code 0121
Police West Midlands
Fire West Midlands
Ambulance West Midlands
EU Parliament West Midlands
UK Parliament West Bromwich West
List of places
UK
England
West Midlands

Wednesbury 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. At the 2011 Census the town has a population of 37,817.[1]

History[edit]

Pre-Medieval and Medieval times[edit]

It is believed that Wednesbury was 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.[2] 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.[3]

During the Anglo-Saxon period there are believed to have been two battles fought in Wednesbury, in 592 and 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 715 battle was 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.[3]

Wednesbury was fortified by Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great and known as the Lady of Mercia. She erected five fortifications to defend against the Danes at Bridgnorth, Tamworth, Stafford and Warwick, with Wednesbury in the centre. 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.[3] There is 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 in 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 recorded, which led to an increase in the number of jobs. Nail making was also in progress during these times. William Paget was born in Wednesbury in 1505, the son of a nail maker. He became Secretary of State, a Knight of the Garter and an Ambassador. He was one of executors of the will of Henry VIII.

Post-Medieval times[edit]

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 main occupations were coal mining[4] 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.[4] In 1769 the 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. Early in the year, John and Charles Wesley preached in the open air on the Tump.[5] They were warmly received 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 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, but they 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 hosted Methodist meetings had the contents of their houses destroyed. This terrible episode came to an end in December when the vicar died. After that Anglican/Methodist relations were generally cordial. Methodism grew strongly and Wesley visited often, almost until his death.[6][7] Francis Asbury, Richard Whatcoat and the Earl of Dartmouth are among those who attended Methodist meetings, all to have a profound effect on the United States.[8]

A steam tram service opened to Dudley, also serving Tipton, on 21 January 1884. The line was electrified in 1907 but discontinued in March 1930 on its replacement by Midland Red buses.[9]

Wednesbury was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1886,[10][11] maintaining this status for 80 years until it was absorbed into an expanded borough of West Bromwich in 1966.[12]

Wednesbury Museum & Art Gallery.

In 1887, Brunswick Park was opened to celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.

Since 1915[edit]

On the evening of 31 January 1916, Wednesbury was hit by one of the first wave of German Zeppelins aimed at Britain during World War I. Joseph Smith and his three children were killed in their house in the King Street area. His wife survived, having left the house to investigate the cause of a loud noise at a nearby factory, caused by the first bombs falling.[13]

In 1926, the first council houses were occupied, but progress was low compared to nearby towns including Tipton and West Bromwich. By 1930, a mere 206 families had been rehoused from slums. However, the building of council houses rose dramatically at the start of the 1930s, the 1,000th council house being occupied before the end of 1931. By 1935, 10 years since work began on the first council houses, some 1,250 older houses had been demolished or earmarked for demolition. By 1944 there were more than 3,000 council properties; by 1959, more than 5,000.[14]

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 pedestrian-only Union Street have given a new look to the town. The traditional market is still a feature of the bustling centre, and the streets around Market Place are now a protected conservation area.[15]

The borough of Wednesbury was partitioned in 1966, with the majority being absorbed into West Bromwich, and small parts in the County Borough of Walsall.[16] West Bromwich amalgamated with Warley in 1974 to form the present-day borough of Sandwell.[17] Wednesbury has the postcode WS10, shared with Darlaston in the borough of Walsall.

The bus station, rebuilt in 2004, is in the town centre ear the swimming baths with links 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 maintenance depot is also here. It runs from Wolverhampton to Birmingham, and a proposed extension to Brierley Hill is expected to open in the 2010s.[18]

A picture of Wednesbury Town railway station in 2003.

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,[19] but a steel terminal soon opened on the site and did not close until December 1992, with the railway 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 Wednesbury-Birmingham section of the line closing. The Wednesbury-Wolverhampton section survived for another decade, and between Wednesbury and Bilston, serving a scrapyard at Bilston, remained open until 30 August 1992 and was re-opened within seven years as part of the Midland Metro.

A picture of Wednesbury in 2010.

For many years, Wednesbury was dominated by the huge Patent Shaft steel works, dating from the 19th century and active until closure in 1980, which caused mass unemployment. 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. The iron gates of the factory are still in existence and have recently been mounted on the traffic island where the Holyhead Road passes the bus station, in tribute to the works.

Wednesbury is on Thomas Telford's London to Holyhead road, built in the early 19th century. The section 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 linking with the Black Country Route. The original plan was for a completely new route between Wednesbury and Moxley, but this was abandoned as part of cost-cutting measures.

The Stuckist show at Wednesbury Museum & Art Gallery, 2003

In 2003, Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery staged Stuck in Wednesbury,[20] the first show in a public gallery of the Stuckism international art movement.[21]

Morrisons opened a 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 it.

Neighbourhoods[edit]

  • Church Hill
  • Brunswick
  • Friar Park
  • Myvod Estate
  • Wood Green
  • New Town
  • Golf Links
  • Woods Estate
  • Oakeswell

Wards[edit]

  • Wednesbury North
  • Wednesbury South
  • Friar Park

Schools[edit]

Notable natives/residents[edit]

Notable employers[edit]

Former[edit]

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 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.[23]

FH Lloyd steelworks was formed at a site on Park Lane near the boundaries with Walsall and Darlaston during the 1880s, and provided employment for some 100 years. However, recessions plagued its final few years and it 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.[24]

Current[edit]

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.[25]

Property developers JJ Gallagher had purchased the bulk of the Lloyd site in 1988 and once mineshafts were filled in, decontamination was completed and the River Tame diverted, the land was suitable for mass retail development. A Cargo Club supermarket-style retail warehouse, part of the Nurdin and Peacock group, opened in July 1994. It was one of three Cargo Club stores in Britain, and the venture was not a success: by the end of 1995 it had been shut down following heavy losses.[26] 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 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 was completed in 2000, with Furniture Village, Furnitureland and SCS, while Currys moved to a new store in this phase (the largest electrical superstore in Europe on its completion) and their original unit was re-let to furniture retailer MFI, who remained there until the business went into liquidation eight years later. Pizza Hut and KFC opened fast food restaurants in 2002.

Next and later TK Maxx, Outfit, Boots, Mamas & Papas opened in the refurbished phase next to Currys after they moved to the site. Both Currys and PC World are now known as 'Megastores'.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Census 2011 Key Stats". Sandwell Trends. Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  2. ^ Michael Alexander (2002). A History of Old English Literature. Broadview Press. ISBN 1-55111-322-8. 
  3. ^ a b c F. W. Hackwood (2002). Wednesbury Ancient and Modern. Brewin Books Ltd. ISBN 1-85858-219-9. 
  4. ^ a b 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. 
  5. ^ A step for travellers to get on or off their horses
  6. ^ Hackwood, Frederick William (1900). Religious Wednesbury, its Creeds, Churches and Chapels. Dudley: Dudley Herald. 
  7. ^ Wesley, John (1745). Modern Christianity Exemplified at Wednesbury (Second ed.). . Witness statements collected by John Wesley, quoted by Hackwood
  8. ^ John Lednum (1859). A History of the Rise of Methodism in America. Lednum. ISBN 1-112-17734-5. 
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ Brunswick Park: Historical Summary
  11. ^ Barratt Homes: Brief history of Wednesbury
  12. ^ [2]
  13. ^ [3]
  14. ^ [4]
  15. ^ Sandwell MBC: Conservation
  16. ^ British History Online: West Bromwich Social Life
  17. ^ British Publishing: The Sandwell Official Guide
  18. ^ Department for Transport: Midland Metro (Wednesbury to Brierley Hill) - Inspector's report
  19. ^ Rail Around Birmingham and the West Midlands: Wednesbury Town Station
  20. ^ "Archive: Diary", stuckism.com. Retrieved 30 March 2008.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ Reichler, Joseph L., ed. (1979) [1969]. The Baseball Encyclopedia (4th ed.). New York: Macmillan Publishing. ISBN 0-02-578970-8. 
  23. ^ [5]
  24. ^ [6]
  25. ^ [7]
  26. ^ "Cargo Club: the profitable failure". Grocer. 1995.