Western Darlaston

The area had previously been exploited for its abundant coal deposits; and many spoil heaps, and hollows left from the filled-in pit shafts remained. The remnants of Herberts Park Forge could be found at the western end of Forge Road (now Herberts Park Road), and parts of the old Wood’s brick works could still be seen by the canal at Moxley. There were sand pits, clay pits, and pools; and in the middle of it all, Andrews Farm and a herd of cows.

The old Victorian terraced houses were tightly packed along the few decent roads that were there at the time, mostly on land that had been untouched by the coal mines. Sometimes houses were built behind others with a courtyard in-between. They became known as “the courts”, each with its own small, close-knit community of not so well-off people, who greatly enjoyed life, much as we do today.

Foundry Street. Some of the typical Victorian housing in the area.

During the 19th century the local population increased to such an extent that houses were in short supply and many of them, usually with just two rooms up and 2 down, housed several families, often with a whole family living in a single room. In 1881 the town had a population of 13,600. By 1920 this had increased to over 18,000. The town had a total of 3,708 houses, most of which were concentrated on the western side of the town in Catherine’s Cross Ward. The distribution was as follows:

Catherine’s Cross Ward 1,180
The Green Ward    925
All Saints’ Ward   871
Central Ward    732



Most of the houses had no internal water supply, washing facilities being provided at the back in an external brewhouse, with a tap, a sink, and a boiler. There was usually a back yard, and of course an outside toilet. Some houses, even in the early 1920s were not connected to a sewer, and so the toilets were emptied at night by the night soil men, who had the unpleasant task of taking the contents of countless toilets to the local sewage dump on a horse-drawn cart. There were no toilet rolls, people used old cut-up pieces of newspaper.

The streets were lit by gas, and every day the lamplighter would do his rounds at lighting-up time, lighting the lamps and then extinguishing them at daylight.

The area reverberated to the sounds of industry. There were dull thuds from forging machines, echoing hammering noises as steel objects were hammered in the factories, clattering noises as steel bars and strips were moved around, humming noises from the machines, and a dull red glow in the sky at night. All typical sights and sounds of the Black Country.

A map of the area showing the many old coal mines, clay pits, and sand pits.

Early each morning a steady stream of people would depart on their way to the local factories, usually consisting of the men folk and young unmarried women. The married women usually stayed at home, looking after the house and children.

Many of the factories produced nuts and bolts, and had grown to a large size. During the First World War orders flooded in, thanks to the war effort, but in the early 1920s the industry was deep in recession and many factories closed or were taken over. Luckily there were many other local industries not so badly affected, and so the town remained relatively prosperous.

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