In the early 17th century, travel was a precarious business due to the poor state of most roads, which were at best well worn dirt tracks. Some were described as being in a ruinous state, impassable for wagons and carriages in winter, or after a period of heavy rain. They could also be dangerous for travellers.

Improvements began in the 18th century when turnpike trusts were set up to improve and maintain the more important roads in the area, and build new roads in return for a toll, which road users had to pay. Each trust was established under the terms of an individual Act of Parliament that gave the trust the necessary powers to collect tolls, maintain the road, erect a toll house, and a toll gate where the tolls were collected. They became known as turnpike trusts because of the similarity of the gate which controlled access to the road, to the turnpike barrier used to defend soldiers from attack by cavalry.

A trust was established for 21 years, after which the responsibility for the road would be handed back to the local parish. Often trusts would apply for an extension, and exist for a longer period. By the 1830s there were more than 1,000 trusts, maintaining around 30,000 miles of road in England and Wales. From 1766 trusts were required to build milestones to indicate the distance between principal towns on the road. Road users were obliged to follow new rules of the road, including driving on the left, and not damaging the road surface.

The Woodsetton toll house at the Black Country Living Museum.

There were several turnpike trusts in Tipton and the surrounding area which looked after some of the major roads including the A4037 with toll houses on Dudley Road and Gospel Oak, the A461 at Great Bridge, and the A457 Sedgley to Tipton road, which opened on 11th November, 1843. One of the toll houses which came from Woodsetton has been moved to the Black Country Living Museum.

Woodsetton toll house in its original location.

Tipton’s southern boundary follows the A4123 Birmingham New Road which was built in the 1920s to relieve the A41 Holyhead Road between Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Construction was carried out by Robert McAlpine & Sons at a cost of £573,750. The road took three years to build and was designed as a through road, avoiding town centres. It was officially opened on 2nd November, 1927 by the Prince of Wales, who with the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, travelled along the road to a civic reception in Wolverhampton. Work began on upgrading the road to a dual carriageway in 1939. It was completed at a cost of £39,000.

The old toll house and toll gates on Penn Road, Wolverhampton. From the Wolverhampton Journal.

The old Shelton Toll House at Blists Hill Museum, Madeley.

The Railway Era

The South Staffordshire Railway

In 1850 Tipton’s first railway stations opened at Dudley Port and Great Bridge on the South Staffordshire Railway that ran between Lichfield and Dudley via Wednesbury and Walsall. The building of the line was authorised by an Act of Parliament on 3rd August, 1846. The line was engineered by John Robinson McClean, and built in three sections. The northern section opened on 1st November, 1847, the middle section opened on 9th April, 1849 and the final section from Walsall to Dudley opened on 8th May, 1850.

John Robinson McClean leased the railway and agreed to work it himself for 25 years. There was also the Darlaston Branch, a branch from Walsall to Cannock Chase, and a branch to the coal fields near Brownhills, which all opened later. On 1st February, 1861 the South Staffordshire Railway was leased to the London & North Western Railway Company, which purchased the existing 23 locomotives and agreed to accept delivery of an additional six locomotives that had been ordered from William Fairbairn & Sons, at Manchester. On 15th July, 1867 the London & North Western purchased the line, which was absorbed into their network.

South Staffordshire Railway's number 1 locomotive 'Dudley', built by William Fairbairn & Sons. It later became London & North Western Railway's locomotive number 297. From The Locomotive Magazine, January 1898.
The last of the batch of six locomotives ordered from William Fairbairn & Sons was named 'Tipton'. It is described as a six-coupled long boiler goods engine. It was initially numbered as South Staffordshire Railway number 29, but soon became London & North Western Railway, number 316.

The line officially closed in 1964 but the Walsall to Round Oak section continued in use until March 1993.

Tipton Railway Station

Tipton station is on the Stour Valley Line which was originally known as the Birmingham, Wolverhampton & Stour Valley Railway. Construction of the line was authorised under the terms of an Act of Parliament passed on 3rd August, 1846. The line had seven intermediate stations located at Smethwick, Spon Lane, Oldbury, Dudley Port, Tipton, Coseley, and Ettingshall Road. After the service had been established, stations were added at Bushbury, Albion (near Oldbury), Monument Lane, and Monmore Green.

It became known as the Stour Valley Line because of a projected line from Smethwick to Stourbridge, which never happened. Wolverhampton High Level Station and the section to Bushbury belonged jointly to the London & North Western Railway and the Shrewsbury & Birmingham Railway, under the terms of an Act of Parliament passed on 9th July, 1847. This gave both railway companies running powers over the line, in which they had both equally invested.

The chief engineers were Robert Stephenson and William Baker. Construction quickly began at the Birmingham end on the 845 yard tunnel into New Street Station. The line was completed on 21st November, 1851. It had taken just over four years to build. The Shrewsbury & Birmingham Railway expected to start running trains into Birmingham in December 1851, but the London & North Western had other ideas.

On 10th January 1851 the Shrewsbury & Birmingham signed a traffic agreement with the London & North Western’s rival, the Great Western Railway, which led to an offer to amalgamate in 1856 or 57. The London & North Western heard about this and so invoked their 1847 agreement and denied access to the Shrewsbury & Birmingham Railway, which led to a bitter dispute.

Agreement was finally reached in 1854 and Shrewsbury & Birmingham trains started to run to Birmingham, but the London & North Western had set a high fixed rent for S & B trains using New Street Station. The S & B finally joined the Great Western Railway on 1st September, 1854 and continued to run their trains on the Stour Valley line until November of that year.

The Stour Valley Line near Smethwick. From an old postcard.

On 1st February, 1852 the line was opened for London & North Western goods, and from 1st March 1853 a half hourly service started from Wolverhampton to Birmingham which was designed to prevent the Shrewsbury & Birmingham from gaining access. The London & North Western claimed that due to the frequent service it would now be dangerous for Shrewsbury & Birmingham trains to run alongside their own.

The line became a great success. By the 1870s around 120 passenger trains and 50 goods trains ran daily in and out of Wolverhampton High Level Station.

From an old postcard.

The Oxford, Worcester & Wolverhampton Railway

The railway was built under the terms of an Act of Parliament dated 4th August, 1845 which authorised the railway company to construct a line from the Oxford & Rugby Railway at Wolvercot Junction to Worcester, Stourbridge, Dudley, and Wolverhampton, with a branch to the Grand Junction Railway at Bushbury. It was to be a mixed gauge line, partially funded by the Great Western Railway. The chief engineer was I. K. Brunel who greatly underestimated the construction cost.

By 1st June, 1849 all of the available money had been spent. Only the middle section had been partially completed, so the Railway Commissioners ordered the Great Western Railway to complete the line. The GWR refused, and a legal battle commenced. As a result of the financial problems it became known as 'the old worse and worse.' The line was eventually completed by April 1854, and opened in its entirety on 1st July, 1854.

The section from Evesham to Stourbridge had opened on 3rd May 1852, but as little money was available, six second-hand locomotives had to be acquired. The Stourbridge to Dudley section opened to goods traffic on 16th November, 1852, and to passenger traffic on 20th December, 1852. By this time the company had ordered twenty locomotives from R and W Hawthorn Limited, at Newcastle upon Tyne.

On 4th June, 1853 the section from Wolvercot Junction and Evesham opened, and on 1st December, 1853 the line opened between Dudley and Tipton. Tipton was later called Tipton Five Ways to avoid confusion with the station in Owen Street. There were four intermediate stations between Tipton and Wolverhampton: Princes End, Daisey Bank (later called Daisy Bank), Bilston, and Priestfield.

On 23rd August, 1858 a children's excursion from Wolverhampton to Worcester carrying 1,500 passengers in thirty seven coaches had a number of mechanical problems. On the way to Worcester some of the couplings were broken, and so the train returned in two halves, the first consisting of thirty coaches. Unfortunately the still overloaded train broke in half at Round Oak and ran down a bank near Brettell Lane. As it travelled down the bank out of control it ran into the second train killing fourteen people and injuring fifty others. Image from the Illustrated Times, 4th September, 1858.

By August 1862 eleven trains ran daily from Wolverhampton to Oxford, the fastest time being 3hrs 25mins. There were also trains to Evesham, Worcester and Dudley.

Tipton Five Ways Station eventually closed in 1962, though the line remained open until 22nd September, 1968. The station buildings were soon demolished.

The complex local rail network.

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