|The Borough Council
and its works
The Town Hall and Art Gallery.
Another view of the Town Hall and
The town became a Municipal
Borough in 1886 and duly elected its first Borough
Council. The members were as follows:
|Richard Williams - Mayor,
J. H. Walton, Joseph Trow, J. A. Kilvert
Councillors - Market Ward:
|Edwin Butler, licensed
victualler, Charles Hinton, butcher
|J. G. Thursfield, solicitor
Town Hall Ward:
|Jamess Davies, engineer,
Dr. McKenna, G.P.
|William Perry, roll turner
King's Hill Ward:
|G. P. Butler, gentleman,
Austin Clews, baker
|Samuel Sanders, lockmaker
Wood Green Ward:
|Isaac Griffirhs, tube
manufacturer, Isaiah Oldbury, coach
|A. E. Pritchard, tube
The first officers appointed by the Council were as
|Joseph Smith -
Town Clerk. Salary £150
|E. C. Richardson -
|E. M. Scott -
Borough Surveyor. Salary £200
|James Campbell -
Rate Collector. Salary £150
|Dr. Walter Garman
- Medical Officer. Salary £84
|W. H. Coney -
Inspector of Nuisances and Market Inspector.
|2 Police Sergeants
- Inspectors of Dairies, Cowsheds and
Milkshops. Joint salary £10
Four important buildings appeared in
the later part of the 19th century. The new police
station was built in Holyhead Road to replace the
old Russell Street building. The Post Office on
Holyhead Road was built by the government and opened
in March 1883. The Volunteer Drill Hall opened in
Bridge Street in 1893, and the Nurses Institute in
Wood Green Road opened in 1897 to commemorate Queen
Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.
||The Drill Hall
The Conservative Club in its
|Another new building that appeared at the end of the
nineteenth century was the fire station at the High
Bullen. It opened in 1899.
At the time, Wednesbury
Fire Brigade was a voluntary organisation. Anyone
reporting a fire had to telephone the police station.
Often when a fire was reported, no horse would be
available, and so it could be a difficult and lengthy
process to get to a fire.
The new fire station.
|William Potter, a
Wednesbury Coal Jagger.
William Potter at the bottom of Russell
Known by sight to most Wednesbury people was
William Potter, of Holloway Bank, who died in
February 1907, at the age of seventy nine. He
was a "coal jagger," supplying his customers in
small quantities straight from the pit mouth.
His horse attached to three small trucks,
each with three wheels, and coupled together,
was the old man's peculiar method of "drawing."
These separate loads doubtless found quicker
sales among small consumers. This is the only
excuse for such an outrage on the mechanical
principles of draught, which forced the horse to
overcome the friction of nine wheels instead of
about two. From the 1908
edition of "Ryder's Annual".
Mr. Job Poxon and his Tricycle
Mr. Job Poxon, a well known
Wednesbury man, though now living in Blackpool,
has solved the problem of eternal rain, moved
thereto by the experience of last summer, and
the way to combat it. He is an ardent cyclist
and has constructed an umbrella for his tricycle
which enables him to defy the elements.
From the 1913 edition of
Sanitation and Health
One of the council's early considerations was
sanitation. The town was not immune from infectious
diseases. In 1889 there were 28 cases of diphtheria, 154
cases of scarlet fever, and 42 cases of typhoid. Some of
the living conditions in the town were extremely
primitive and many houses lacked a drain to connect them
to a sewer. Some of the worst slums were condemned and
demolished, such as the ones in Beggars Row, which were
removed in 1891, and 30 cottages in Elwell's Square at
Wood Green, demolished in 1897. Drains were eventually
laid and the number of water closets finally outnumbered
the antiquated ash privies by 1915.It also took a long time before the town had an
adequate domestic water supply. It took until 1943 for
all of the town's houses to have piped water, but even
then, some houses still had a shared supply.
10 stand pipes and 78 washhouse taps were shared by
200 houses at the time and in 1955 there were still 178
houses sharing taps.
The clock tower in the market
|One of the council's success stories took place at
the sewage disposal works at Bescot. In 1910 a new
method of bacteriological purification had greatly
improved the old method of chemical precipitation. As a
result visitors came from far afield to view the new and
improved process and an expert from Russia declared the
works to be "the very best that exist".
beginning of the council and the appointment of its
first medical officer, there were frequent discussions
about the building of an isolation hospital. Nothing
happened however, until the outbreak of smallpox in the
town during 1898 when 8 cases were reported. As a result
an isolation hospital opened the following year in
Dangerfield Lane with 28 beds.
Only one disease at a
time could be treated and the hospital was only used
intermittently. From 1909 to 1913 there were only 16
patients and so it was inevitable that the hospital
would eventually close. Arrangements were made to make
anyone living in Wednesbury and suffering from an
infectious disease other than smallpox, eligible for
admission to the West Bromwich Isolation Hospital.
|In 1929 Wednesbury became a member of the South
Staffordshire Joint Smallpox Hospital Board which meant
that any smallpox sufferers in Wednesbury were eligible
for admission to Moxley Isolation Hospital.
As a result the hospital in Dangerfield Lane closed
and the building was temporarily used for housing
The Richards Room in the Art
A wide-angle view of the Richards Room, as
seen in 1908.
problem of inadequate housing and also the shortage of
housing continued for many years after the formation of
the Borough Council. In 1913 the council appointed a
sub-committee to look into the alleged shortage of
houses and to report their findings to the Sanitary
Committee at the earliest possible date. It took 12
months for their investigations to be completed, after
which the Sanitary Committee recommended that an
application should be made to the Local Government Board
for a loan of £5,240 for the building of 24 council
houses at Hobs Road, Wood Green. Unfortunately the
application was made at an unfortunate time, the start
of the First World War. It was rejected but 21 houses
were built in 1915 by a private firm.
Another view of the Richards Room.
|After the war local councils were offered a subsidy
for each council house built, thanks to the terms of the
Housing and Town Planning Act of 1919. At Wednesbury 250
houses were built at Wood Green, and 108 at Manor Farm.
But there were still many overcrowded houses in the
town, and in 1925 the situation was noted by a
government inspector, who was very critical of the poor
housing conditions in the town. This resulted in
questions being asked in the House of Commons by Alfred
Short, the borough's member of parliament, who came to
Wednesbury and made a scathing attack on the council.
The council took no action to remedy the situation until
1926, and only then because of a tempting government
subsidy, and the lack of private sector building.
The Town Hall.
In between 1926 and 1930 a total of 206 council houses
were built at Mesty Croft, 144 houses at Churchfields,
32 on the Holyhead Road, 26 in Wellcroft Street, and 16
in Edward Street. By 1931 1,000 council houses were
occupied, and in 1933 a slum clearance scheme saw the
demolition of old houses in Queen Street, Moxley, Short
Street, and Portway Road. The programme was enlarged and
by 1935 the number of houses that had already been
demolished, or were about to be demolished reached 1,250;
one 6th of all the houses in the town.
Another view of the Town Hall, as
enlarged in 1913.
|In 1944 there was an immediate need for 700 houses
and so reclamation work began at Park Lane and Hobs Road,
and a plan was put forward to build 1,420 council houses
on 6 sites.
At the time the total number of inhabited houses in
town had reached 8,409, of which 3,088 were council
The Town Hall. Courtesy of Brian
Groves and John Hellend.
The Public Library, Walsall
Road. Courtesy of Brian
Groves and John Hellend.
Another view of the library, from
the 1918 Wednesbury Official Handbook.
|Post war council housing estates are found at
Park Lane, Old Park Road, Dingley Road, Crew Road, Friar
Park, the Golf Course, Millfields, Dangerfield Lane
(Lodge Holes), Mesty Croft, Cross Street and Balls Hill.
Between the end of the war and December 1958 nearly
2,000 council houses were built, and in April 1959 the
5,000th council house had been completed. Over 2,800
houses and old age pensioner bungalows have been
completed since 1945.
In November 1889 the council decided to apply for an
order for permission to supply the borough's
electricity. Nothing was done until 1898 when the newly
formed Midland Electric Corporation began its
activities. The MEC were formed in June 1897 and became
the first company to distribute electricity over a large
area of the Midlands from their power station at Ocker
|Wednesbury Council entered into an agreement with
the Midland Power Company in which the MPC would provide
the electricity which would be distributed by the
council throughout the town (except King's Hill where
the MPC distributed the power themselves).
Unfortunately the venture proved to be unprofitable for
the council and so they decided to apply for an
application to generate their own electricity.
The Council's electricity
Another view of the electricity generating
An advert from 1918.
|This was vigorously opposed by the MPC and rejected
by the Local Government Board.
In 1909 the council got
their wish and borrowed £10,000 to build an electricity
Yet again the venture was not a
success and proved to be unprofitable. Local businesses
complained about delays and breakdowns in the supply
network, and tradesmen were angry because of a steep
rise in the council's charges for electricity.
the council had lost £6,000 in the venture and so in
April of that year it sold the entire system to the MEC
for £75,000 to settle its debts.
A once familiar sight, Ocker Hill
power station, founded by the MEC.
The entrance to the park.
|Brunswick Park, Wood Green opened to the public in
1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.
The council purchased 28 acres of land from the
Patent Shaft & Axletree Company, on which to build the
park, which has been a popular attraction ever since it
|The park is built on the site of a former pit mound
and has 20 acres of lawns, shrubs, trees and flower
Another view of the park.
Brunswick Park and the Lodge.
The fountain in Brunswick Park.
Another corner of the park.
'Invalids' Walk' in Brunswick Park.
Changes and new local government
On 1st April, 1966 under the terms of the Local Government
Reform Act, Wednesbury lost its status as a Municipal
Borough and came under the direct control of West
Bromwich Borough Council, as did Tipton. At the same
time King's Hill became part of Walsall. On 1st April,
1974 Sandwell Metropolitan Borough was formed with the
merger of West Bromwich and Warley Borough Councils. The
new borough includes six Black Country towns: Oldbury,
Rowley Regis, Smethwick, Tipton, Wednesbury, and West Bromwich.
Two of the last acts of Wednesbury Borough Council were
the beginning of the town's ring road in the 1960s and
the start of a scheme to improve the town centre.
The Market Place in 1914.
Proceed to Pubs