The modern Walsall Metropolitan Borough is a substantial area housing around a quarter of a million people. But it was not always so extensive, or so populous!
In 1831, the old Parish of Walsall, at that time divided into the townships of the ‘Borough’ and the ‘Foreign’ for the purpose of collecting the Poor Rate, included just 15,066 people.
But what were the Borough and Foreign? Simply put, the Borough was the old town itself, the rough equivalent in size of modern Walsall’s town centre. Today, it would not take you long to cross it on foot – if you got off the bus outside The Prince pub in Stafford Street and walked south to the Wheatsheaf pub in Birmingham Road, you will have travelled across the town of Walsall: the old Borough.
The Foreign was every place within the old Parish of Walsall but outside the Borough. In those days, when Bloxwich had a chapel of ease but no parish of its own, the Foreign primarily included such places as Bloxwich (the effective centre of the Foreign), Little Bloxwich, Blakenall Heath, Leamore, Birchills, Shelfield and (albeit semi-detached) Walsall Wood. It also included such smaller locations as Pleck, Caldmore, Chuckery and Palfrey.
Rushall, Pelsall, Brownhills, Aldridge, Streetly, Bentley, Darlaston and Willenhall, which were not part of the old Borough and Foreign, did not come under the administration of Walsall until the mid 1960s-70s, which changes caused some controversy within those towns and villages. The present Metropolitan Borough itself (preceded by the County Borough) came into being on 1 April, 1974.
The rivalries between these later additions and Walsall itself were foreshadowed by the long-standing feuding between Bloxwich and Walsall, which despite their distinctness and one-time geographical separation before the surrounding areas were filled in with houses, shops and industrial development, are thought to have been historically associated for almost 1000 years.
In practice, the separate identity of the Foreign or ‘forren’ goes back at least as far as the 13th century, when the Ruffus Charter of c1225 mentions the ‘forin woods’, and a lease of 1485 refers to ‘the Manor of the Forren of Walsall’.
A new law comes into force today (1st October) making it illegal to smoke in vehicles with someone under the age of 18 present. Both the driver and the smoker can be fined.
The reason for this law is protect children from the dangers of second-hand smoke. Every time a child breathes in second-hand smoke, they breathe in thousands of chemicals, which put them at risk of serious conditions including meningitis, cancer, and respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia.
People who break the law could be fined £50.
With one less place to smoke, there is one more reason to quit smoking. You can sign up to Stoptober – the 28 day challenge, also starting today, which supports smokers to stop. By signing up to Stoptober, you will receive a variety of free and proven support including packs, apps and emails to help you quit for 28 days and beyond.
At the same time, Walsall Council Public Health is currently supporting the trial of a new approach to help parents quit smoking and to prevent young people from picking up the habit. The campaign involves working with schools, initially ten secondary schools, to give young people the facts about smoking to create discussions with their parents and carers who want to quit. The programme has already been to Shire Oak Academy, Grace Academy and Elmwood school and will be in a number of schools across the borough this week. Continue reading Smokefree car legislation in force from today→
Bloxwich (Blocheswic in Domesday Book, 1086) or ‘Bloc’s Village’, existed before the Norman Conquest, as part of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Mercia, when the Mercian family of Bloc settled there.
In 1162, the Manor of Walsall was granted to Herbert Ruffus by King Henry II, Bloxwich being included as part of the Foreign of Walsall. Medieval Bloxwich, a small agricultural village, population c600, expanded in the 1700s with coal mining and cottage industries.
From the 1400s, Bloxwich had a chapel of ease within the parish of Walsall, but no separate parish until 1842. Originally dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury, All Saints Church dates mostly from c1872-5 when it was rebuilt. A 13th century preaching cross stands in the churchyard. A workhouse on ‘Chapel Green’ (now Elmore Green) was open by 1752. It was on the site of the present car park.
From the mid-1600s, a rivalry built up between Bloxwich and Walsall, when during the English Civil War Bloxwich was Royalist and Walsall Parliamentarian in sympathy. This traditional rivalry, now (usually!) more friendly, has continued down the centuries.
By the early 1800s Bloxwich was surrounded by canals, allowing goods to be transported more easily, encouraging expansion. The village became justly famed for its light metalwork and especially ‘awl blades of Bloxwich repute’. A monument to the ‘bitties and tackies’ of Bloxwich, a mound of anvil stones, is in Bloxwich Park (the village green) and a Victorian fountain is in the Promenade Gardens.
Interesting buildings, apart from the largely Victorian High Street, include amongst others Bloxwich Hall, built 1830, restored as offices in the 1980s and Bloxwich Hospital, formerly ‘Manor House’, built c1850 and made a maternity hospital in 1928, now offering mental health services for older people. Eden Florists (the ‘Cottage Shop’) has 1400s foundations.
The 1832 Methodist Chapel in Park Road has since the early 1900s been a cinema, garage, factory and retail unit. Its 1864 successor was replaced in the 1960s by St John’s Church. A splendid Victorian villa, ‘Bellfield’, is situated in Stafford Road. And, close to the Bloxwich boundary on the A34, is Yieldfields Hall, a haven for Roman Catholic recusants from the mid-1600s onwards.
Bloxwich is noted for its historic pubs, dating from the 1700s-1930s. Those currently open include the Royal Exchange, Turf Tavern, Romping Cat, Bell Inn, Wheatsheaf, Spotted Cow, Spring Cottage, Hatherton Arms, Prince of Wales, Lady Diana, Lamp Tavern and Sir Robert Peel. The Georgian ‘George’ is now a hardware store. Modern pubs include the Queen’s Head, Magic Lantern and One Man and His Dog, and at Little Bloxwich the Beacon Way and Saddler’s Arms.
Fairground and cinema mogul, Liberal councillor, mayor, MP and Freeman of the Borough Pat Collins, ‘King of Showmen’, was based from the early 1900s at his Bloxwich Wakes Ground on the present ASDA site. He built a cinema, ‘The Grosvenor’ (later becoming an Odeon) on High Street, which is now a Wetherspoon’s pub named after him, ‘The Bloxwich Showman’. His home, Lime Tree House, remained until c1972.
Bloxwich had an 1857 Music Hall (now used for sports), and three cinemas from c1912. The last, Pat Collins’ 1922 Grosvenor (later Odeon) closed in 1959 and has since had several uses. Bloxwich’s first (1861) police station was built onto the Music Hall and is now a school reception. The second police station (and library!) opened in 1874 and is now part of the Bloxwich Memorial Club. It was followed by Bloxwich Public Buildings in 1882-4, demolished in 2000 for the present Bloxwich Police Station, opened in 2002 by the Princess Royal.
A new Bloxwich Library on the Pinfold was converted from a WWII ARP First Aid Station in 1948, itself being replaced by the present Bloxwich Library & Theatre (Bookmark Bloxwich) in 1960-64.
The Bloxwich area was heavily developed for council housing from around 1925-39. Such housing expanded further during the 1950s-60s, mainly at Mossley, Beechdale, Lower Farm, Dudley Fields and Chepstow plus the Rivers at Blakenall Heath. Many private and housing association dwellings have been built in more recent years.
Bloxwich’s first purpose-built school was ‘The National’, built 1828 and rebuilt 1862 (now Bloxwich C.E. Primary). The first ‘Board’ school opened at Leamore (1872). Various others opened in the early-mid 1900s. Comprehensives arrived in 1958 (T. P. Riley and later Frank F. Harrison and Forest) and more primaries in the 1960s. Elmore Green High School (now Primary) became the T. P. Riley Annexe. T. P. Riley Comprehensive was replaced by Walsall Academy in 2002. In recent years there have been more changes.
Today, Bloxwich is a pleasant, leafy place to live, semi-rural in places and with a range of attractive parks, playing fields and green spaces which add to its character, while still being proud to be part of the historic Black Country.
This is just a taster article – more will follow, focusing on particular aspects of Bloxwich and district!
The people of Bloxwich and district are well-known for their interest in local history and heritage, whether it be of people and places, pubs and parks, chapels and churches, or ghosts and goings-on in their own area.
And both The Bloxwich Telegraph and its predecessor The Bloxidge Tallygraph are well-known for supporting that interest.
Now, our readers can look forward to reading a range of local history articles penned by our editor, Stuart WIlliams – all within these pages. Some of these will be new, others will be updates or expansions of past features we have published over the years.
You can even look forward to some spooky fiction around Hallowe’en time…
First up will be a short potted history of Bloxwich, entitled Bloxwich – Then and Now. Watch this space!
On Wednesday 7th October, Blakenall Village Centre will have been open for 10 years, and as part of celebrations to mark the occasion, staff at Blakenall Library are preparing a series of free activities during the build-up to the big birthday!
Situated inside the Centre in Thames Road, Blakenall Heath, the library will be busy preparing for their anniversary celebrations by offering a range of free activities and competitions, starting with a Bunting & Badge making drop-in session between 9.30am-12.30pm on this Saturday 26th September.
The decorated bunting will form part of a display in the library during a special week of celebration beginning on Monday 5th October.
This Saturday (tomorrow), there will also be badge making on offer, where children will be able to take their badges away with them. In addition, to tie in with a ‘Great Blakenall Bake Off’, there will be a competition to ‘Pin the cherry on the cake’ which will be judged in the Blakenall Village Centre on that Saturday.
This is all in the lead up to the birthday week, which will host a Barcode Lottery, a quiz for adults, a treasure hunt for children as well as design and name a mascot for Blakenall Village Centre.
Blakenall Library is free to join and has regular activities which include an Adult Reading Group, a Cradle Club and a brand new Chatterbooks Reading Group for children which will be launched on Wednesday 7 October.
Our ancient Anglo-Saxon village means many things to many people, and now is a good time to be thinking about this, because local community heritage-minded campaigners are calling for a flag to be created for Bloxwich!
Great precedents in recent years for this idea have been the Black Country flag, which has not only been seen on houses, cars and boats all around the Black Country – including Bloxwich – but also world-wide and even on the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa; and of course the popular Willenhall flag, also a community design. Both of these flags reflect the rich history and heritage of the places they represent, so why not Bloxwich as well?
Awl blades, anvil stones, the Wishing Tree, the wakes/carnival, industry and agriculture are just a few of the many historic and cultural aspects of Bloxwich. Bloxwich always had both a Black Country industrial side with mining and metalwork, and a green side with farming and its many leafy parks, so red and green could be good colours to use. But all of this is yet to be decided, and more ideas will be needed and welcomed – which is where the people of Bloxwich come in!
Organisers will soon be launching a competition for flag designs to be submitted in a bid to create an official flag for Bloxwich.
Popular Facebook-based Community group Bloxwich Old & New will be hosting the competition alongside the UK Flag Institute. Martin Morris of Bloxwich Old & New, the competition organiser, is convinced that Bloxwich deserves to fly the flag.
Mr Morris told the Bloxwich Telegraph: “We want every one of any age and talent to submit a design. The final winner will be chosen by the public and the flag will be officially launched as the Bloxwich flag.”
The flag will be designed by the community, for the community. A competition will be held in Bloxwich to choose the top designs, with the winner decided by a public vote. Local business, Bloxwich Hardware Store, is proud to sponsor the competition and look forward to flying the flag on the High Street.
Local Councillors Louise Harrison and Matt Follows are backing the campaign and “…hope the Bloxwich flag will be a symbol for the whole community to rally around, raising awareness of the town and celebrating our heritage”.
Bloxwich resident Brad Allen, said: “The Bloxwich flag will be great for the whole community – to celebrate our identity, history and the future of the town”.
A judging panel in association with the Flag Institute will select a shortlist and the winner will be chosen by public vote..
The competition will be launched soon and an announcement and entry form will be posted in the Bloxwich Telegraph as well as being sent out to the regional media.
Walsall’s first town centre cinema for two decades continues to rise from the ground with the scheme just months away from completion.
The 8 screen complex will be run by The Light Cinema and is expected to be finished next spring.
Five bars and restaurants are included in the first phase of the development, which include Hungry Horse, Bella Italia, Pizza Express and Chiquitos. Property developer Kier is in advance negotiations with the fifth tenant for the final unit in phase one.
Kier is expected to complete its handover to the tenants next month, whereupon the cinema operator will kit out the building with the latest hi-tech Extreme screen, which delivers a more intense experience through super-high quality audio and visual.
Walsall’s last town centre cinema (The Cannon, originally the ABC/Savoy) closed in 1993. The 1930s art deco ‘super cinema’ was replaced by the Woolworths building at the top end of Park Street, now occupied by Poundland and Pure Gym near the New Art Gallery.
Walsall Council’s deputy leader, councillor Adrian Andrew was given a tour of the facility earlier today, and said that this latest scheme was another key piece in the jigsaw of regenerating the town.
“I’m delighted to see with my own eyes that Walsall’s new cinema is on track to open early next year,” he said.
“People are not going to be disappointed with this venue, which will nicely complement the existing leisure facilities in the Waterfront area.
“The £65m Waterfront development has been a resounding success so far, regenerating 17 acres in the town and creating hundreds of jobs in the process.
“There aren’t many towns in the UK that can boast the same degree of regeneration as Walsall.
“Kier and its contractor G F Tomlinson, together with The Light are committed to completing the project on time in early 2016.”
Phil Dove of The Light Cinema added: “This is a wonderful location for Light Cinemas and we are looking forward to working with everyone in Walsall. It’s incredible to see what’s already happened and the exciting plans for further regeneration.
“We’re confident that the Walsall public will very much appreciate this bespoke cinematic experience. The Light offers a unique social vibe and meets the individual and collective needs of the community.”
Kier has agreed terms with three additional operators for the second phase and has one unit remaining of up to 5,000sq ft, which could be split for the right operator. Interested parties should contact Nick Ferris of Jones Lang LaSalle in Leeds or Stuart Burdon-Bailey of Jones Lang LaSalle in Manchester.
Walsall Libraries have just launched their new programme of computer taster courses for the whole academic year starting from September 2015 – July 2016.
There are now an extensive range of courses available from lots of individual teaching slots where you can seek help on specific things e.g. if you are unsure of how to create an email, how to buy and sell online, to more structured sessions on Ebay, Family History, CV help and Work Clubs.
In partnership with Walsall College, some libraries will be running 3 week basic taster courses and also a brand new 3 week course covering social media, and using comparison websites.
Helena Denham Information and Learning Co-ordinator said “Walsall Libraries love to offer new learning opportunities for our customers. Libraries are a great place to learn in an informal, relaxing and friendly environment.”
To book your place please visit or telephone your local library, or check out Walsall Libraries’ Adult Zone, then click ‘Learning’ on the website at www.lovelibrarieswalsall.co.uk
Forthcoming events at Forest Arts Centre, Hawbush Road, Leamore, WS3 1AG.
Thursday 3 September at 2pm and Thursday 1 October at 2pm Senior Citizens Orchestra Concert
The Orchestra perform monthly concerts at Forest Arts Centre. Their programmes offer fabulous music and feature a whole range of classical favourites. Many concerts also include invited guests and performers.
Tickets: £1 Please note tickets can only be purchased 30 minutes before the start of the concert.
Wednesday 9 September at 1.30pm The Carpenters Tribute Show
Popular vocalist and Forest Arts Centre favourite Nicky Moran, returns with her amazing Carpenters Tribute Show. The show offers a fabulous and nostalgic afternoon of entertainment with authentic costumes and musical arrangements. Reliving classic hits and household favourites such as Top of the World, Jambalaya and We’ve Only Just Begun, Nicky and her band perform wonderfully the beautiful music of The Carpenters.
Friday 11 September at 7.30pm Evening Cinema “Birdman” (18)
Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) – famous for portraying an iconic superhero – as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself.
Tickets: £3 / £2 (concession) – Please note can only be purchased 30 minutes before the start of the film.
Walsall Operatic Society present “Something Old, Something New”
Following last year’s sell out performances, Walsall Operatic Society invites you to join in the celebration of its 60th anniversary concert.
This musical theatre extravaganza will span a wide variety of shows ranging from Easter Parade to Kinky Boots and from Chicago to Matilda. There promises to be something for everyone in this wonderful musical spectacular.
For further information regarding the show please contact 01922 477001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org