Shops at Blakenall Heath, about 1950

About Blakenall Heath

Shops at Blakenall Heath, about 1950
Shops at Blakenall Heath, about 1950 (WLHC)

Beginnings

Blakenall Heath is first mentioned in about 1300 when it was crossed by the road from Leamore to Goscote, the present Blakenall Lane. It remained as largely uninhabited heathland for several centuries.

By 1763 a small community had grown up around the common.  In 1813 when Thomas Pearce published his History and Directory of Walsall there were several metal workers living in the area and during the 19th century new streets were laid out to house the growing population.

A National School and Church of England mission were opened in 1843 by which time houses were being built along Harden Lane – now Walker Road and Barracks Lane.

Christ Church

Interior of Christ Church, Blakenall Heath, 1950s (WLHC)
Interior of Christ Church, Blakenall Heath, 1950s (WLHC)

Christ Church originated as a mission of Bloxwich Church at the Blakenall Heath National School.

A site in Bloxwich Road, Leamore, was originally chosen to build a church in 1865 but the foundations were moved to a site in Blakenall Heath given by Lord Bradford.

The church, designed in Early English style by Mr. Naden of Birmingham and built from local limestone, was opened in 1870. It was consecrated in 1872 and a year later the parish was assigned out of Bloxwich.

The tower was not completed until 1882 with money provided by J. E. Bealey of the Hills farm who also presented the church with five bells.

Chapels and Schools

Booth Street Chapel, Blakenall Heath, 1930s (Cliff Webb)
Booth Street Chapel, Blakenall Heath, 1930s (Cliff Webb)

A Primitive Methodist Chapel was built in Chapel Street (known as Church Street 1884 – 1887) around 1886. It was converted into shops in 1920.

A Methodist Free Chapel was built on the corner of Booth Street and Blakenall Lane in 1871, by Mr. Booth, builder of Booth Street’s earliest houses. The chapel closed a few years later before being taken over by the Congregational Church in 1882.

A new chapel and schools were begun on the corner of Chantry Avenue and Blakenall Lane in 1933, and opened in 1936. In recent years that chapel itself was demolished and rebuilt.

In 1928, Blakenall Heath Junior & Infants School (now officially the “Sunshine School”) was opened by Ishbel MacDonald, daughter of the Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, next door in Blakenall Lane. Part of it is now in Field Road, Bloxwich, on the former R.C. Thomas School site.

Blakenall Heath Pubs

The old Kings Head, Blakenall Heath, 1920s (Colin Heeley)
The old Kings Head, Blakenall Heath, 1920s (Colin Heeley)

Pubs in Blakenall Heath included the Royal Oak in Harden Lane, and the King’s Head in what is now Ingram Road, near Christ Church. The King’s Head had been there since at least 1851, and by 1904 was being run by William Wooldridge. It was rebuilt in 1929.

The old Royal Oak was in Harden Lane, near the northern end, and was there from at least 1861, when the publican was James Emery, a bit-maker. It closed on 29th March 1929, when the new Royal Oak opened at the junction of Walker Road and Well Lane.

In Blakenall Lane from at least 1861 there was also the New Inn. The publican around 1900 was Joseph Whitehead. The old New Inn closed in 1938, when a new building was opened nearby.

Council Housing and Redevelopment

Blakenall from the air, 1939 (WLHC)
Blakenall from the air, 1939 (WLHC)

Between the wars the area saw a vast development in council housing following slum clearances in and around Walsall town centre.

The first council house in the borough opened at 98 Blakenall Lane in 1920 and by 1927, 450 houses had been built on the Blakenall estate.

In the late 20th century Blakenall Heath suffered from neglect and the rise of anti-social behaviour from a minority.

In the early 2000s parts of the old estate were demolished and new houses, together with the Blakenall Village Centre, were developed in an effort to regenerate the area.

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