The origins of the town are now very obscure due to intense coal mining during the 18th and 19th centuries that destroyed any archaeological evidence of Darlaston's past. There were no Roman Roads in the immediate proximity and so there is nothing to suggest that there was any occupation at that time. The nearest roads were Watling Street in the north and one from Wall to the fort at Metchley that went through Sutton Coldfield.

Most of South Staffordshire and the West Midlands was originally covered by forest, scrub and marsh. Early colonisation started in the 6th century when Anglo-Saxons came from France, The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.

Angles and Saxons first reached our shores during the Roman occupation and were mentioned by the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus who considered them as barbarians along with the Picts and Scots. He mentions raids in 365, and the mid-fifth century Gallic Chronicle records a large raid in 410 after the Roman army had departed.

At this time there were frequent raids by continental pirates and many towns employed mercenary soldiers for protection. These soldiers were Angles and Saxons from northern Germany who brought their families with them and were given farmland as payment for their services. Soon the mercenaries realised that they were stronger than their employers and so began to take over the running of many areas. The Anglo-Saxons slowly colonised England, moving northwards and westwards, pushing the native Celts into Cornwall, Wales and Scotland. By 850 A.D. there were three competing kingdoms; Mercia, Northumbria and Wessex.

South Staffordshire was a part of Mercia, which was derived from the old English word “Mierce”, meaning People of the Boundaries. The kingdom developed from settlements in the upper Trent valley and was colonised by a band of Angles called the Iclingas. Slowly the area was populated and the kingdoms of the Saxon and Angles in the midlands amalgamated to form the kingdom of Mercia.

Settlers moving into the area would have found or made clearings in the woodland to build their houses, keep their cattle and grow their crops. Evidence for such clearings and settlements can be found in many of the names of local towns. The old English word “leah” means a woodland clearing and can be found in some local place names:

Bentley, Brierley Hill, Coseley, Cradley Heath, Dudley, Sedgley and of course the area in Darlaston known as The Leys.

The old English word “halh” meaning a pocket of land appears in Willenhall and the word “tun” meaning a settlement is found in Bilston, Wolverhampton and Darlaston itself.

Darlaston before colonisation.

The map shows how Darlaston may have been in the 7th and 8th centuries when people first settled here. Darlaston Brook follows the Walsall branch of the Birmingham Canal Navigation, and joins the River Tame in Shepwell Green. It marked the historic boundary between Willenhall and Darlaston, but unfortunately most of it was culverted when the Black Country Route was built in early 1995

Bird Brook began just north of Stafford Road, and approximately followed Rough Hay Road, from where it went across The Green. It then followed Richards Street and The Flatts to join the River Tame near James Bridge. It was culverted late on in the last century and so has nearly been forgotten.

Stafford Road joins The Leys, and until the end of the 19th century it was called Baulk Lane. In medieval times and earlier, agriculture was carried out using the Open Field System. The available land was divided into three large areas, which in turn were divided into small strips. These were allocated in such a way that each person had an equal share of the most fertile, and least fertile land. As there were no fences, each person's land was separated from his neighbour's by unploughed strips, which were also used for access. These were called baulks, and often survived to become modern roads, as did Baulk Lane.

In about the 8th century a tribe called the Anglian Mercens came from the north. Initially they followed the Trent Valley, and began spreading along the valleys of the Tame and its tributaries. They were known as the Tomsaetan (dwellers by the Tame), and would have been the first people to settle here. There were several natural advantages for them in this area, the ready-made clearings, a good water supply from the local brooks, and a slightly elevated position making the site easily defendable. Darlaston possibly comes from the name Deorlaf's Tun or town, which could have been the name of the leader of the first tribe to settle here. It was originally called Deorlaveston.

Read about the Anglo-Saxons

Darlaston was not mentioned in the Doomsday Book, but this doesn't mean that it did not exist in 1086, as many other local villages such as Walsall were also excluded. Bentley was included in the Manor of Willenhall, and Darlaston could have been considered to be part of the Manor of Wednesbury, or more likely the Manor of Sedgley, which in those days covered a large area. From the middle ages and possibly earlier, Darlaston was part of the Manor of Sedgley. As recently as 1882 a part of Sedgley Parish known as Barnes Meadow became part of Darlaston. This is the area of George Rose Park that is adjacent to the canal. It became part of Darlaston under the terms of the Divided Parishes Act of 1876. In 1935 it became the King George V Playing Fields to commemorate the King's Silver Jubilee. It is now part of Grace Academy.

From the 12th to the 15th centuries Darlaston was ruled by the de Darlaston family who were the lords of the Manor. The existence of their manor house was long forgotten until a reference was discovered in a document which recorded that Edward Hayes, Lord Stafford's steward, lived at Darlaston manor house in 1543. The Hayes family lived there after the de Darlastons had died out, the house was then called the Great Croft. It is impossible to determine the exact location of the manor house, but there are several clues which all point to a possible site. It was customary to build a parish church close to the eastern side of the manor house with a straight path leading to it. Once a lord of the manor's funeral procession had passed this way, it would remain in use as a public right of way, often still existing today.

St Lawrence's Church stands on the site of the original parish church, and from there a pathway ran past the front of what was the original Asda store, to the site of the United Methodist Church in St Lawrence Way. The site is slightly south west of the parish church and so is in approximately the correct direction.

Today the site is covered by the new ASDA car park and the adjacent bus stops in St. Lawrence way.

St. Lawrence's Church in the late 19th century.

St. Lawrence Way is on the site of Great Croft Street which was likely named after the manor house or great croft. This would have been a farming community, with plots of land for the Lord's use, plots for the peasant's use, and common land.

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