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Harden is an area to the north of Walsall and borders with Bloxwich, Blakenall Heath, Coalpool, Goscote and Rushall. The whole area was part of the industrial revolution, with mining and metal processing being the main industries. Although close to the A34 main road from the Stoke (potteries) to Birmingham, it is still served by canals.
The area mostly developed with council housing between 1920 and 1960, though some of the older properties have been gradually demolished since the late 1990s.
A large area has been left as park land for community use.
Crime and poverty
Harden is one of the most deprived parts of the Walsall borough and also has one of the highest crime rates, although it has recently started to improve due to a regeneration of the neighbourhood.
Harden Infant School for 5-7 year olds was opened in 1938 on Goldsmith Road, with the Junior School for 7 to 11 year olds being added a year later. A nursery unit was later added to the infant school, and the infant and junior schools have now been merged to form a 3-11 primary school.
The south of Harden was developed for further council housing in the 1950s, when the new W.R. Wheway School was opened for children aged 11 upwards. It became Forest Comprehensive (an 11-16 school) in September 1973, but closed 19 years later. The building survived as the Hawbush Centre, a local community centre.
Parts of Harden have been plagued by coal mining subsidence and this has resulted in homes having to be demolished around Shakespeare Crescent in the late 1990s. Another reason for demolition of some properties was that they had been attacked by vandals and arsonists while they were empty, which would have increased the cost of refurbishing and re-letting them.
There was uproar in May 2004 when Bloxwich Housing Trust announced plans to demolish nearly 900 homes in Harden and the surrounding area. Local residents complained that demolition of the estate would destroy the community spirit, while other residents accused the local authority of deliberately running the area down so they would have to pay as little as possible when buying the privately owned homes under compulsory purchase as part of the redevelopment.
Nearly all of the demolished houses in Harden were on the Poet's Estate, which was built during the 1930s. For years it has been plagued by vandalism, drugs, joyriding and arson attacks. Some houses on Shakespeare Crescent were demolished in the late 1990s due to subsidence as well as attacks by arsonists and vandals. Further demolition work began in 2005 and most of the houses on the estate were gone by the end of 2007.
Some homes on the estate, however, are being retained. The regeneration of the estate will feature many new private and social houses as well as a new road link with neighbouring Goscote, where most of the houses were demolished in the late 2000s.
The Forest Estate at Harden was developed at around the same time as the Poet's Estate, on the southern opposite side of Harden Road, but more than 200 council houses were added in the 1950s and so was Forest Comprehensive School, which closed in 1992 due to falling numbers. The remaining pupils were transferred to Frank F. Harrison School in nearby Leamore, but the Forest buildings were retained as Hawbush Centre community facility.