BOAK building in Walsall burns down

As predicted here, several times (the last time six days ago), the local arsonists have again struck a historically important, derelict building in central Walsall, with the former BOAK building on the corner of Station Street and Bridgman Street now seemingly thoroughly ablaze.

I’m sure all our best wishes are with the emergency services dealing with this incident, and hope and pray nobody was caught inside.

The coincidences just keep happening.

Please note that the owners of all the images here retain full copyright and permission should be sought from them before use.

Update from @ResponseSGT posted 00:04:

Update from Blue Watch (Fire Service) in Coventry, posted 00:53:

Update from travel correspondent Tom Stokes, 05:39:

For pictures from ITV Central news, click here

Remarkable shot of the blaze taken from Leamore by friend of the Brownhills Blog, Steve Wilcox. Incredible.

Click on this link to visit Steve’s photo stream on Flickr.

Image posted by @ResponseSGT on Twitter at 11:15pm.

Photo posted again by @ResponseSgt on twitter: by 11:39pm the building is in imminent danger of collapse.

11:49pm image by @ResponseSgt on twitter: most of the internal beams burnt, the building collapses into Bridgman Street.

By 00:29am, another photo posted by @responseSGT shows major collapse, and that the building is clearly lost. I’m sad and angry. Hope all dealing with this are safe. Good luck, people, and thank you.

Walsall: where your heritage makes fine fuel. We haven’t got many old building left to lose…

Site of the BOAC building in central Walsall. Click on the image to see a larger version.

The BOAK building as I recorded it on the 14th July 2012.

This entry was posted in Bad Science, Environment, Events, Interesting photos, It makes me mad!, Just plain daft, Local Blogs, Local History, Local media, Local politics, News, planning, Shared media, Social Media, Spotted whilst browsing the web, Walsall community, Walsall Council and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

77 Responses to BOAK building in Walsall burns down

  1. Am incredibly sad about this

  2. em253 says:

    I worked in Walsall until 2007and could see the BOAK building from my office window. I used to love wandering around all those old factories along the canal, even though very few of them were still working (& they got fewer & fewer every year). So much history and such great industrial and architectural history. I’m very fond of Walsall and this makes me very sad.

  3. Graeme Fisher says:

    a) I hope they burned in it
    b) Why hadn’t it been redeveloped?
    Shades of Shannon’s Mill!

    Walsall has a fabulous architectural heritage – go there and walk through the town, but look up, not down. A tour of the centre at first floor level is very interesting.

    • stymaster says:

      Shades of Shannon’s Mill for sure. These old buildings are terribly expensive to restore, and very inconvenient.

      • Not just Shannon’s mill but also the one opposite the wharf bar and the old Jabez Cliff building next to the fountain.

        Owners of these old listed buildings should have a condition placed on their insurance that adequate security is in place at all times and if this can’t be proven then no money should be paid out. Accidents do happen but these are so obviously insurance related it’s unreal.

        Yet another brownfield site for walsall 🙁

  4. M Jones says:

    Very upset about this having got the building listed by applying to English Heritage some years ago. Shannon’s Mill (listed), Jabez Cliff (conservation area), Albion Tannery (about to be scheduled as an ancient monument)… all of the protected historic leather works in Walsall seem to catch fire.

    This building, Ravenscraig Works (affectionately called the BOAK by Walsall folk) was of international importance and was the finest example of a large scale turn of the century curriers in Europe if not globally. It’s large water tower with the BOAK name was a an icon for Walsall welcoming those arriving in the town by train.

    The shape of the building is also said to have been the inspiration for the massing of the New Art Gallery.

    The pictures are heartbreaking, but we know the score. ‘No suspicious circumstances’, or ‘vagrants’ who will never be caught and some regeneration spokesman from the council in the Express and Star tomorrow say ‘sad… but now we have a great development opportunity!’

    A well worn script in Walsall.

  5. Luke Harlow says:

    I live a mere 50 metres from this building and it saddens me to see this happening. i would have loved to have seen the place converted into a working building again, like the apartments at Art Court on the waterfront, or like Smiths Flour Mill

    however, i will admit, seeing the water tower collapse was quite a spectacle. it collapsed, and took out the corner on the building between bridgeman street and marsh street, sending flames and embers hundreds of feet into the air..

    but a great shame nonetheless

    my only photo:

  6. Erin says:

    Time to set alight the Civic Centre, in retaliation?! 🙂

  7. Greg Saunders says:

    i have just watched the beautiful boak building burn to the ground from my bedroom window in art court and my heart sank as i saw the orange reflection of the burning building across my walls. the final thud of the boak tower crashing to the ground just stood to remind me of how many times me and my partner have turned to each other and said that will be next. I have only lived in walsall 1 year and in that time 3 historical buildings have been set on fire leaving the landscape all but bare of interesting architecture.

    Why are we allowing this to happen and what can we do to stop it

    How can we protect our towns history if mindless people burn them down

    Why are we not lobbying the council and protecting our heritage

    And to whoever did this hideous crime thanks…..from my window i now have a fab view of gala bingo a pre fab shed with the remnants of walsall illuminations strung around it

    • Luke Harlow says:

      i was watching from the same building, made my self a cuppa, and nearly dropped it when i looked out the window..

  8. Luke Harlow says:

    Oh, and that video is NOT Walsall.. the cars are all left hand drive vehicles by the looks of it, and the geography from the video is all wrong..

  9. fowler hall says:

    i believe it was an inside job so was shannons mill, theyll just blame arsonists , the public should demand a real enquiry not the mickey mouse one theyll come up with in a few days

  10. Claire says:

    i live by the Station, it was scary being so close, and saddening to know that this probably happened thanks to mindless youngsters who thought it might be fun. I’m so glad no-one was injured. It is such a shame that the whole building is gone, I’d rather see an empty old building with potential for redevelopment than another modern eyesore.

  11. lovemoose says:

    Been in Walsall 19 years this year. I cannot believe the disrespect those in authority round here have for its heritage.

    We’re hoping to move back to my native birth east soon. I once thought it’d be hard to leave, but there’ll be nowt left to miss once I go.

    The place is being ruined.

  12. Maria says:

    Absolutely gutted about this. I live in Terret Close which is the apartments opposite the old Jabez & Cliff building which was set alight last year; and then the building next to it (Beebee & Beebee) also had the same happen and I had C.I.D come to my door asking if I had seen anything because they had found a vagrant inside and believed thats how the fire had started. We have struggled endlessly with vagrants who were going in and out of these buildings all day and night. One Sunday afternoon we even went into the one derelict buildling and discovered their drug paraphanlia with siringes everywhere. They then took (and still do when its wet or cold) to sleeping in our bin sheds and ripping open our bin bags, throwing the rubbish all over the floor and again leaving siringes and other items around. They have broken off the locks and key codes to all of our gates to Terret Close and its a private road for G*ds sake! I can honestly say in the 18 months I have lived in the town (although a Walsall resident since birth I lived in Walsall Wood up until last year) I have seen nothing but problems caused by vagrants who are dependant on alcohol and drugs. I have only managed to get sense out of one policeman who bent over backwards to help remove a vagrant sleeping in our storage cupboard (in reception of the apartments)! Walsall is full of heritage, history and wonderful stories about its leather history, sadly nobody seems to be tackling the problem of the idiots ruining this history for people to enjoy. In twenty years time the history of Walsall will only be able to be seen via old pictures on the internet and books in a library where underneath each picture you will see “building destroyed by fire…..”

  13. Mick_P says:

    Very sad indeed to see this news. Quite apart from the loss of a grand building that ought to have been in use, I always felt welcomed back to Walsall by the BOAK tower as I arrived on the train.

  14. Andy Dennis says:

    A sad loss to our heritage and our ability to read history from the urban fabric.

    Listing is the strongest protection available to the public authorities unless able to purchase, occupy and manage. There is no legal obligation on the Council or anyone other than the owner to maintain the fabric and security of the site. The building had been unused and a liability for about 50 years, which suggests it had no economic use in that form.

    Do you want the Council to use compulsory purchase to buy such buildings, with all the legal and other costs that would involve? And do you want your tax spent on its maintenance and conversion to something useful with no guarantee that this will not cost tens of thousands of pounds a year to keep up long-term? If so, how much? And what would you not spend money on to pay for it; i.e. which Peter would you rob?

    The fact is, in this country we don’t value our heritage where it matters – in the pocket! Here’s one possible route: similar to landfill tax, why not heritage tax diversion? Reduce tax burden by a limited amount on UK-based people and businesses who actually pay tax here, provided they spend (say) 50-80%, depending on cost and viability, of the rebate on preserving heritage. This might actually lead to wealthy people buying otherwise abandoned buildings like BOAK and doing something positive with them. Yes, it’s public subsidy, but at least the benefit would stay in the country. And the public pays one way or another. Or we can just wait until some of the public do the hard-nosed, economically sensible thing and purchase a lighter and a can of petrol …

  15. Developers dont care about heritage, the look, feel of towns like our … insurance job .. as its cheaper …bang a big metal/glass/concrete building up …make loads of money … no one in power will ever investigate …CASE CLOSED

  16. Andy Dennis says:

    Most developers I’ve met do care and understand that an important part of the economic appeal of a place can be its historical buildings, but they won’t do anything about it if it costs too much. All I’m suggesting is an incentive.

    • stymaster says:

      Developers, IME are only interested in £££.

      Therefore a financial incentive seems the only way. AIUI, new builds are not subject to VAT, refurbs are. How about changing that for heritage buildings? (how you define ‘heritage’ may be tricky!)

      It could reduce the cost of refurb, which, lets face it, is going to be high on a building like this.

  17. Barry Carpenter says:

    West Midlands Fire Service Flickr slideshow

  18. Chanden says:

    My family used to own the BOAK building and it was a textiles factory for many years. It’s been disused for the past ten years or so. I’m only 27 but I grew up running around that place with my brother and cousins. I’ve got so many memories of all the different floors and the history behind the building. The photos of the blaze have made me cry and I can’t believe it has gone. The BOAK chimney was always a sign of “home” to me.

    I hope they find who has done this and throw the book at them. It’s just one more nail in the coffin of society.

  19. Pingback: Video of BOAK fire last night now available « BrownhillsBob's Brownhills Blog

  20. jim says:

    How convenient……the greedy developers are already already rubbing their fat hands together!

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  22. claire says:

    terrible dont idiots understand the dangers of this type of act especially so close to that petrol station
    & why are people saying marks & spencers has gone

    • theonlywayiswalsall says:

      There is a you tube video that incorrectly states M&S and the Train station have gone, the video was clearly uploaded to spread mis-information as ratings and comments are disabled. You say a lot of this mis-information during the riots last year, seems some people get a kick out of it.

      As for understanding the danger of arson, who ever did was probably given a few quid. Doubt it was kids at 10:30 at night, seemed pretty well organised.

  23. Very sad indeed. My grandfather worked there for years. Yet another piece of Walsall’s leather industry heritage gone. I’m with M Jones on the explanation.

  24. theonlywayiswalsall says:

    Interesting note about the fire inspections, wonder if this is something they might consider.

  25. jim says:

    im with chanden….i wish i had those memories of yours.
    as for throwing away the key, i`ll bet the “criminal investigation” will be shortlived!

  26. Caz says:

    Also sad to have seen this from the new flats at the canal, though an impressive sight to watch collapse, the old tower has always welcomed me back when travelling on the train. Quite scary as well when you consider the amount that have gone in the past few years. Shannon’s Mill fire occurred when I lived up near the new Asda and had only just moved in, far too much of a coincidence that all these old buildings are going up in smoke.

    For those interested I did get a video of the collapse. Like I say, sad to watch but very impressive as well.

    • Thanks for sharing. That’s incredible!



    • Neil says:

      Very sad. Makes me physically sick to see the devastation. I’m not in a position to get to Walsall this week but I presume the building is beyond salvation?

      • Caz says:

        Completely gone now. Went out to the pub last night, between 19.00 and 21.00 when I returned home it had been pulled down. There’s a digger there now clearing it all away. No way it could have survived – the walls left in the above vid stayed until yesterday evening but were leaning away from each other. Could’ve probably held a while since there were thick metal girders between them but so close to a busy road/petrol station/train station I doubt it was worth the risk of leaving them there, particularly as the road was already closed.

  27. Roy Nuttall says:

    The question not asked so far is who owned these buildings ? Was it the same company or the same individual ? And if not, were the different owners connected ? If property companies or property speculators are involved as owners, perhaps their development plans, when they appear as surely they will, should be kicked into touch and a higher authority brought in to decide on what development should be allowed.Preferably, something that will benefit the general community.

  28. Roger Boak says:

    This was built by my grandfather and my Father, Uncle Aunts and cousin all worked there and tried to save it from the downturn in the leather trade but regrettably failed.

    I can’t help but have a degree of concern that like the Shanon building was this an unfortunate accident or ???
    But does anyone rally care and more importantly will the real perpetrators be bought to book ? Regrettably I doubt it.

    Roger Boak

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  30. Grannde Pablo says:

    Tonights E&S suggests Persimmon owned the building & had plans to turn it into apartments as part of the general redevelopment around that part of town.

    • George says:

      If this turns out to be true then I feel for Persimmons. They have already suffered the misfortune of having not one but two historic buildings, the Decorate building and the Albion Tannery, being burnt down on their Hatherton Street site.

      Luck like Calamity James ;-(

  31. Andy Dennis says:

    I really hope there is a high degree of sarcasm in that!

  32. carl says:

    ERIN. I find the comment about setting fire to the Civic Centre quite disturbing as my wife happens to work there, we should not joke on these matters as peoples livelihoods are at stake let alone their safety !

  33. Chanden says:

    In case anyone is interested, I found this link with my family a short while ago. It shows a team who made their way into the building to explore and they have posted some lovely pictures.

    Obviously my memories are of the denim trade rather than leather works, you can see a photo of the button machines and sewing machine manuals.

    You can also see that everything was made of wood.

    Roger, that building was only in mine and my family’s life for about 15-20 years I am guessing and it still feels almost as if an old friend has passed away. I dont know how you feel but that building makes me think of my grandfather too.

    Enjoy the pictures

  34. Dave Bishop says:

    When certain old buildings sit on land that developers would love to get their hands on, the only way quite often is if something tragic (such as an ‘unfortunate’ fire!) happens. Afterwards the buidling is clearly unsafe and ‘benevolent’ developers offer to knock it down free of charge in exchange for the site. Simples – works every time!!

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