Bloxwich was once particularly rich in old public houses, many dating to the Georgian era and before.
By the time local historian Billy Meikle (1858-1943), who spent most of his life in Walsall, wrote about the old Bull’s Head pub in Park Road, Bloxwich, few such early inns remained, and today many surviving Bloxwich pubs are sadly closed, converted or under threat for economic reasons.
The original Bull’s Head inn had been in what was later named Park Road, Bloxwich, since Tudor times. The name of the pub is traditionally said to be inspired by the bull’s head which was part of the coat of arms of John Skeffington, a Bloxwich landowner of the 1500s. However there was once a long tradition of bull-baiting in Britain, and pubs of this name often refer to this now-extinct blood sport, so there may also be an element of this in the origins of the name.
The Bull’s Head was for centuries a thriving social centre and a popular meeting place for local workmen. Indeed the ‘Amicable Society’ – the town’s largest friendly society – met there from 1785. They had seventy-two male members and by 1811 there were forty women on the register. A Catholic Society also met there in the early 1800s, with Titus Somerfield as secretary and a membership of 260.
William Colbourne owned the Bull’s Head in 1813. By 1818 Thomas Taylor had taken over, and was still there in 1834. In 1851, Samuel Taylor was the licensee but by 1880 it had changed hands again. William Fryer was the landlord in 1908, by which time the weekly takings were £11 and four shillings.
Though latterly having a plastered Victorian façade added, by the time Billy Meikle came on the scene in the early 1900s the pub still retained its ancient oak beams, an ingle nook and an 18th century fireplace, giving it a cosy atmosphere. In 1938, Meikle wrote that forty years ago the Tudor fire grate had been removed.
The old Bull’s Head was much-loved, both by locals and by Meikle, who photographed the pub, together with its last landlord Arthur Banks and his wife, on 10 June 1927, not long before it was demolished by Walsall council.
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’.
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!
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 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
Local residents are being asked to help with the search for relatives of a recently deceased man.
Environmental health officers at Walsall Council are keen to get in touch with any family members of Mr George Brian Leach who passed away in Parklands Court Nursing Home, Park Road, Bloxwich on 4 August.
Mr Leach, who formerly resided at 34 Austin Road, Upper Forster Street, was born in Bloxwich on 8 November 1933.
Aged 81 when he died Mr Leach it is believed that he retired from British Rail and had never been married.
Neil Harris, principal environmental health officer, said: “We would like to pass on our condolences to Mr Leach’s family and friends.
“We would be grateful to hear from any relatives of Mr Leach or anyone who might have helpful information about his family so that they can make proper arrangements for his funeral.
“We appreciate this may be difficult but we encourage anyone with information they think may be useful to get in touch.”
If anyone has any information about Mr Leach’s family they are asked to contact Julie Faulkner in environmental health on 01922 653018.
It may be British summertime, but it’s never to early to take to the stage – and it’s panto-time for local primary schoolchildren.
Youngsters from Elmore Green Primary and St Peter’s RC Primary schools in Bloxwich have magically grown ears and tails to take part in the summer panto run by the Cart Before the Horse community theatre group.
The musical panto ‘Soup from a Sausage Skewer’, based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, aims to be educational and fun, with lots of references to classical works of literature and music. But it’s all carried out with a cast of ‘mice’…
The first two performances, with children from Elmore Green Primary, are this Sunday, 21 June, at 2pm and 5pm, at Bookmark Theatre, Elmore Row.
The second, on Sunday June 28 at 2pm and 5pm, will include children from St Peter’s RC Church.
Tickets are available from the library on 01922 655900 at £7 adults, £5 concessions, or £15 for a family ticket (max 5 people).
Covering Bloxwich, Little Bloxwich, Blakenall Heath, Leamore and Birchills