Places Part One

Wednesbury Market.

This view of the Market Place was taken from Five Ways before the installation of electric traction for the tramways in 1892. A steam tramcar is coming through the market. Abreast of the engine, a group of colliers is seen returning from work, while in the middle foreground may also be seen a number of pit bank girls. The market is open on Fridays from five a.m. to eight p.m., and on Saturdays from six a.m. to eleven p.m.
This view has been taken from the lower end of the Market Place. The electric wires of the tramway are seen on the left. It is characteristic of Wednesbury that so few people are to be seen in the streets in the daytime, for being essentially a working man's town everybody is at work during the middle of the day, and the streets only become lively in the evening after factory hours are over. A coal cart is here the only evidence of vehicular traffic.

The Market Place.

Lower High Street.

Looking up into Market Place, where are now seen the Old Market Cross Inn and Richards' pawnshop, a view which in olden times was obstructed by the Market Cross, demolished in 1824.

On the left of the Lower High Street is seen the Turk's Head Inn, once a commercial hotel and coaching house, with its range of stables on the opposite side of the road.

Still nearer in the left foreground is the shop, once Joshua Booth's printing office, established at the close of 18th century, and which contained the first press known to exist in Wednesbury. Pamphlets printed here may be found in the Free Library.
This view is taken just outside Market Place, looking towards High Bullen. The opening to Earp's Lane on the right being seen just beyond the carriage.

The posting station in the right foreground is an old barn, a strangely surviving relic of Wednesbury's agricultural days.

Upper High Street.

The tall building on the right is The Grapes Inn, formerly The Royal Exchange Inn, and which in olden Wednesbury was a quaint hostelry known as The Green Man Tavern. The buildings on the left can be seen only part of the way along because immediately beyond them the thoroughfare is being widened. The High Street is part of the old coaching road through Darlaston to Wolverhampton and Salop.

Holyhead Road.

Holyhead Road is the main thoroughfare from Birmingham to Wolverhampton. It is, in fact, the old Roman Road from London to Holyhead.

The part seen in the picture is a diversion from the original road, and was cut in 1821 to save the mail coaches running through the Market Place and along the High Street.

Within living memory the road wore quite a country aspect, there being, as recently as 1830, no houses between the Dartmouth Hotel (the building from which the flag is flying) and the Red Lion Hotel in Bridge Street. In the foreground of the picture is seen the boundary wall of Brunswick House, the residence of Alderman Williams, J.P., and in the middle distance is the corner of Loxdale Street.
Bridge Street takes its name from the Bridge over the Tame Brook, the dividing line between the parishes of Wednesbury and West Bromwich. At one time it was a favourite residential quarter, but the noise and the smoke of the many works which have come into existence in that locality have caused a great depreciation in the value of house property. The hotel on the right is the old Red Lion, which was a well known hostelry in the coaching days.

Bridge Street.

It has recently been modernised by a firm of brewers, and will scarcely be recognised by former inhabitants. The three-gabled house on the left is the Coachmakers' Arms, one of the oldest unrestored buildings in the town.

Wednesbury Bridge.

The Bridge which spans the river Tame at Wednesbury was erected between 1819 and 1826 by Telford, the engineer. A few years later forty coaches a day passed over it; for it was part of the great Holyhead Road between London, Chester, and Wales, en route for Ireland. The construction of the bridge was undertaken as a relief work, the poverty of Wednesbury and other towns making implements of war being very severe after Waterloo.

Previously there was a ford across the bed of the stream, the approach to which is clearly indicated by the low level of the old cottages on the West Bromwich side of the Bridge.
A view of Wednesbury's only residential suburb, with the Church of St. Paul, Wood Green, in the distance.

On the right part of The Limes is seen the residence of Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, formerly occupied by Mrs. Edwin Richards, founder of the Art Gallery, and previously by Mr. Rooth. Below is seen a larger white house, which was the home of the late Quaker Lloyd.

Wood Green.

On the right of the road are the telephone wires, and on the left the tramway wires. The view is looking towards Bescot, Pleck, and Walsall. Wood Green is a favourite promenade, and on a fine Sunday evening presents a very busy aspect.

Wednesbury Brunswick Park (General View).

Brunswick Park was established in 1887 to celebrate the Queen's Jubilee.

It is a spot of great beauty, and is very highly appreciated by the inhabitants, and also by visitors, of whom it attracts large numbers.

The Park contains a large mound, from the summit of which a pleasing and extensive view of the surrounding country is obtained.

This view is taken from the Mound, and shows a large portion of the public pleasure ground with its bedding, shrubberies, and ornamental water. In the middle distance is seen the Waterworks Engine House, with Elwell's chimney stack beyond it, and Elwell's Pool on the right. In the far distance lie Walsall and Barr.
This Canal was cut in 1844 to run from Ryder's Green back into the other side of Birmingham, through Aston, and so relieve the traffic between Birmingham and the Black Country. Near Wednesbury it had to be carried over Hydes Lane by an Aqueduct. The view is from Crankhall Bridge, looking towards the valley of the River Tame. On the right the bank consists of drift sand, the latest of the geological formations.

Tame Valley Canal.

This Bustleholme Sandbed has been boated away in thousands of tons to all the surrounding towns of the Black Country, where, as sharp, gritty building sand, it fetches about 9d. a ton, or, as finer sand, for foundry purposes, a small portion of it realises almost 5s, a ton. Gravel is also obtained here. Along the banks of the Canal to the "High Bridges" is a pleasant walk, well known to most Wednesbury people.

Town Hall and Art Gallery.

These institutions form a row of public buildings of which Wednesbury has every reason to be proud. The Town Hall was erected in 1871, and will seat upwards of 1,000 persons.

It contains a semicircular Gallery, and an orchestra in which is placed a handsome organ presented by Alexander Brogden, Esq., the then member of Parliament for the borough.

The instrument cost £1,300. In the year 1891 the old approaches to the Town Hall were replaced by handsome corridors, other important structural improvements have been effected, and the interior and municipal offices were decorated at a total cost of upwards of £2,000.

By means of the corridors the Town Hall and the Art Gallery are connected, and the utility of both buildings is considerably enhanced thereby. The Art Gallery, opened by the then Mayor (Mr. John Hunt Thursfield), on November 4th, 1891, is the outcome of a bequest left by Mrs. Richards in 1885, consisting of a valuable collection of pictures, with £2,000 towards a building to contain them, £1,000 for the caretaker's salary, and £500 for the re-gilding of the pictures. It is, without doubt, the most imposing structure in the town.

The value of the Richards Collection at the Art Gallery, here shown, has been estimated variously at sums ranging from £5,000 to £10,000.

The total cost of the building was £6,000.

Wednesbury Art Gallery – The Richards Collection.

Lloyd’s Bank.

The wing in which the bank business is conducted is comparatively new. The residential portion, however, is old. At the beginning of the century this house was the residence of Edward Wright, Esq., a gentleman of independent means. About 1830-40 it was used as Mr. Peter Turner's Private Academy for young ladies and gentlemen. Later it became the "Wednesbury Old Bank" of Messrs. Philip and Henry Williams.

Now it is one of the very many branches of the great banking house established by a member of that Lloyd family whose history is so closely connected with Wednesbury. At one time its gardens extended beyond the Police Station, while at the rear (where St. John's Church stands) was a large field containing a pleasant cottage farm.

The two churches which crown the hill upon which Wednesbury is built are visible from all points of the compass, and are the first objects which catch the eye of the pedestrian from whichever quarter he approaches the town.

Our view, a very effective one, is taken from the limestone mound which rises from the Old Park Road. The cottages in front constitute part of Hall End.

Wednesbury (looking S.E.).

On the right of St. Mary's is seen the Roman Catholic schools, and on the left the presbytery. Between the two churches the residence of the Vicar of Wednesbury is just visible. The white house on the left of the picture is the residence of Mr. G. S. Guy, J.P., and among the houses to the right of the Parish Church is included the one which was once occupied by Mr. J. Russell, founder of the Crown Tube Works. Wednesbury natives will easily identify the situation of the "Tommy Shop."

Cemetery Chapel.

Wednesbury Cemetery, one of the prettiest in the Black Country, and which has an area of 12½ acres available for burials, was consecrated l0th March, 1868, when all the school children of the town were paraded. Its total cost was £10,000, and it was the outcome of years of agitation during the old days of Vestry government. Under the Burial Act the Town Council (as Local Authority) now constitutes the Burial Board.
The burial ground is "the clergyman's freehold." The Burial Board are responsible for monumental fees, but fees on interments they do not receive. The chapels (one for the Established Church, and one for the Free Churches) accommodate about 80 people in each. The architect was Mr. Samuel Horton.
A mining expert has proved the antiquity of coal-getting in Wednesbury by stating that its "Parish Church, built during the 11th century has its foundations laid with Pockstone, or 'clay hardened by the action of fire,' from the burning coal below, at a very shallow depth, and which caught fire by spontaneous combustion."

Subterranean Fire at King’s Hill.

The Parish Registers bear witness to the same ever present mining danger. In 1731 they record that a collier was "most dismally scorched and roasted to death by the Hellish Wildfire, June ye 20th", in fact, numerous entries attribute death to "Wildfire," or "firing of the damp." The present fire at King's Hill was first reported in 1894 as threatening the safety of Old Park Road. Whether it originated by spontaneous combustion, or through colliers carelessly firing some old workings, is a moot point. In February, 1897, the road actually fell into holes, and all traffic had to be stopped. In April a sensation was caused not only in this locality but throughout the country by the tragic death of the Corporation watchman through falling into one of the burning holes. The view shows the Black Horse Inn on the left, and All Saints' Parsonage on the right.

An Openwork at King’s Hill.

This openwork is at King's Hill, immediately on the right of the present subterranean fire. There is a deserted openwork on the opposite side of the Old Park Road.

Hereabouts the famous ten yards seam crops out near the surface, but somewhat thinned, and very much perished by the percolation of storm water, and of little commercial value.

Whether the perishing of the thick coal has weakened the mine roofs and thus occasioned a vibration, the friction from which has caused combustion to set up, will never be known, but it is a theory which may possibly account for the underground fires which have been known for centuries past in Wednesbury. At this openwork an old bell pit, a century or two old, was discovered.


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