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Bloxwich – Then and Now

A short potted history of Bloxwich

Bloxwich High Street, showing the georgian 'George' pub, shops and Bloxwich Carnival procession, 1920s
Bloxwich High Street, showing the georgian ‘George’ pub, shops and Bloxwich Carnival procession, 1920s

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.

Bloxwich High Street, 2013 - the 'George' is now Bloxwich Hardware and the old banks have been replaced
Bloxwich High Street, 2013 – the ‘George’ is now Bloxwich Hardware and the old banks have been replaced

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.

All Saints' Church, war memorial and High Street, 1920s
All Saints’ Church, war memorial and High Street, 1920s

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.

All Saints' Church, war memorial and High Street, 2013
All Saints’ Church, war memorial and High Street, 2013

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.

Bloxwich High Street and Victoria Avenue looking south, early 1900s
Bloxwich High Street and Victoria Avenue looking south, early 1900s

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 High Street in 2013. Bloxwich Wesleyan Church was demolished in 1963 for a TESCO store which later had other uses, and is now a furniture store.
Bloxwich High Street in 2013. Bloxwich Wesleyan Church was demolished in 1963 for a TESCO store which later had other uses, and is now a furniture store.

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 Fountain in Promenade Gardens, the old Music Hall and ‘National’ (Church of England) School are visible in the background. Late 1920s.
Bloxwich Fountain in Promenade Gardens, the old Music Hall and ‘National’ (Church of England) School are visible in the background. Late 1920s.

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.

The Bloxwich Fountain was last restored and repainted, with new railings, in 2009-10.
The Bloxwich Fountain was last restored and repainted, with new railings, in 2009-10.

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.

Stuart Williams

This is just a taster article – more will follow, focusing on particular aspects of Bloxwich and district!

Historic pictures courtesy Walsall Local History Centre.

Modern pictures by Stuart Williams.