After the fire had gone out – an appeal

The bottom of Station Street will never be the same again.

Last Friday evening, I came back home via Walsall at around 7:30pm. On the way through what was a very weary, against the wind journey, I popped down to take a shufty at what was left of the BOAK building, destroyed by a suspicious fire earlier in the week.

Sadly, after sneaking through the security barriers (look kids, I’m terribly reckless, don’t do it), I found little remnant of the once proud building. The demolition has clearly been swift and professional. The chimney seems to have been dismantled using a hydraulic platform, and as usual these days, rubble is sorted from metal for disposal.

This is a tragedy.

The chimney is now now more than a pile of rubble.

I have been in communication on Twatter and by email with a few other members of the Walsall online community who are rightly concerned about the continual attrition of our town’s heritage, history and architectural diversity. Not just by the common execution of arson, but by demolition, often unexpectedly.

It has come to our attention that there is no definitive list of lost buildings in Walsall and it’s environs, and I think we need to assemble one. We would also quite like to curate a list of buildings currently under threat; maybe with an objective of making the public more aware of their vulnerability.

It should be pointed out at the outset that this isn’t just about the handsome, Victorian buildings that are becoming so rare, but about all buildings that are, or were, loved in our communities. Pubs, churches, houses, factories, shops. Anything that gives the borough its character.

We invite views, contributions and ideas on this topic, from bloggers, photographers, historians, urban explorers and anyone with an interest in local architecture and culture. Suggestions on how to manage such a project, and how to collate the material in one place are particularly welcome. This is not our baby. It should be a community thing, driven by those who share a common concern.

I know this will be of interest to many – The Stymaster, Pheaseyviews, Linda Mason, The Plastic Hippo, The Mushroom, Rich Johnstone, Stuart Williams and others too numerous to mention. Please let me know what you think.

If you haven’t, please read the commentary from reader Andy Dennis on the BOAK fire. Andy makes well reasoned, fine points about this stuff which are very difficult to argue with.

Our jewels are being taken from under our noses. We need to start focusing our disquiet.

Comment here, or BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot Com. Cheers.

Services are being disconnected on both sides of the site.

The metal has been carefully sorted for recovery. This is a very professional job.

As many commentors noted, the fire was very close to the Savoy Garage. That must have been a headache for the emergency services.

Seriously heavy machinery has been brought in. This operation must have cost a fortune.

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25 Responses to After the fire had gone out – an appeal

  1. excellent idea! the cinema building near to Morrisons in Aldridge held memories for one old chap who stopped to chat to me when I was there doing a charity collection… Maybe we should even take pics of Brownhills town centre before the planned redevelopment renders it unrecognizeable (rather like Tesco’s car park lol).. I have to say I do find it hard to call the High St a ‘town centre’ after living for a long time in a much larger place, though I cherish the locals’ right to do so. Maybe it will be easier once said redevelopment has transformed the neighbourhood.

    • Sadly, Brownhills has no redevelopment due anytime soon, and if we did, it would have minimal affect on the High Street – but point taken. (Tesco have backed down, and the only Pllan B is playing on the tinny mobile held by the kids outside the offy).
      The Avion in Aldridge is just being turned into a Wetherspoons. Superb urbex on the wonderful Stymaster blog here:

      As I say, all contributions welcome. Please feel free to get out with your cameras.


  2. Andy Dennis says:

    I agree that there should be a monitored list of “important” buildings and other features with an assessment of risk and some way of keeping an eye on them.

    Officially, buildings that satisfy the criteria are listed and their status kept under review. Other buildings are protected by conservation area status. A third, local list is also kept by the Council -see and

    Whether the current disposition of resources supports the degree of monitoring that is desirable, or even necessary, I do not know, but these lists seem to be a good starting point.

  3. Gazza Thomas says:

    Bob, Walsall MBC should have a list of buildings at risk already for you, FOI request should get that for you….

    • Cheers, Gazza.

      I understand that, and thanks – although the list is effectively meaningless in a civic sense, it’s useful – we’re after the stuff that slips under the radar, too. Places like the Miners Arms, The Warreners, St. john’s School, and so on.

      Walsall’s register of listed buildings can be found here:

      Readers may be surprised to find what’s included and what isn’t: The only listed structures in Brownhills being two bridges. Local listing, of course, confers no legal status except being noted.


    • Good idea on FOI request but the usual response is “financial sensitivity” regarding the owners of the sites and the FOI request is usually refused, perfectly legal, so as not to discourage investment.

  4. David Evans says:

    HI Bob
    an excellent idea. Learn from local history;- Walsall Wood High Street, the side of the church, early 1960s All the houses were demolished, and their social and economic history was “lost” for a proposed much -needed road widening scheme. The road has yet to be widened, by the way.( 2012)
    kind regards

  5. stymaster says:

    Fantastic idea. Count me in.

  6. Gazza thomas says:

    Certainly what’s below the radar would be excellent , hopefully that could then be used to make sure the council protect what is felt by the public and create a living doomsday record for use forever

  7. PorkTorta says:

    I’m in. Not sure how I can help, but I’ll gladly do all that I can.

  8. Again, what an excellent idea. I was sore when we lost The Miners Arms but losing BOAK was devastating. Aldridge lost most of its wonderful High St buildings in the late 60s, little is left of the lovely village I remember.

    Bob you do a wonderful job in photographing buildings when on your travels and those pictures are scattered over this blog and your #365. Perhaps we need a central online resource for such pics. Flickr group maybe? Do we do come together as a borough or as the separate entities that make up the borough? Personally I think something like this is stronger and more united in numbers rather than each fighting their own little corner.

  9. Excellent idea. In a couple of the things I’m involved in online, we’re already too late; so much has been lost, but more importantly, it went unrecorded. A project to record as much as possible now, whether current or archive material, would serve future historians well.

  10. My thanks to Bob for bringing this important matter up. I should say that apart from my own independent work with and outside The Bloxwich Telegraph and The Borough Blog, I also work for Walsall Local History Centre and am Vice Chairman of Walsall Civic Society as well as organiser of the small Bloxwich & District Local History Society.

    Walsall Civic Society is supportive of such initiatives as discussed in this post but is only a small group so it’s unlikely they could take a survey on as a group, though anyone wishing to do survey work would be encouraged and a link-up could be possible. In any case it’s a matter for community concern everywhere, and most of the borough’s towns and villages don’t have a civic society (Pelsall does). Some do, however, have local history societies whom it would be worth making aware of any project.

    I’m always keen to encourage people to photograph their own area for posterity – even examples of ordinary houses are of long-term historical interest. But there needs to be some associated, albeit brief, info on each building for context, even if it’s only an accurate location.

    The official statutory and local lists have already been pointed out, and these are useful starting points. There are of course interesting buildings which are not listed, usually because they have been changed too much or are too recent. That doesn’t mean they are not worth recording of course.

    The most useful unpublished heritage building list for any project is ‘Buildings of Interest’ by former Walsall Council Conservation Officer Peter Arnold, prepared in the early 1980s. There is a hefty bound copy at Walsall Local History Centre. It’s not available online anywhere. It could be transcribed if someone wants to do it – the text for each building is brief and includes points of architectural interest.

    I would suggest the most practical way to record buildings of interest borough-wide and raise their profile is to set up a collective ‘Borough Survey’ of historical buildings – not just those at risk, though they should be covered first – to be put online using a dedicated ‘Pro’ Flickr Account and associated Flickr Group and also build up a backup collection on CD-R, ideally to be donated to Walsall Local History Centre. The info from ‘Buildings of Interest’ could then be added to each building in the Flickr account and the group could be used to discuss the work.

    There would need to be some discussion about copyright and licensing – perhaps pictures should be made available with a Creative Commons license, for example.

    There is already a very active Walsall Flickr Group with an interest in and concern for old buildings but that is a general group and it would be logical to set up a dedicated ‘Walsall Borough Survey’ group separately to maintain a focus specifically on the concerns raised. The new Group could also include members’ pictures even if the ‘masters’ are not in the dedicated Flickr account, which would allow the linking-in of Urbex pictures, for example..

    As to buildings that have been lost, many of Walsall’s finest buildings have been lost in the past 150 years. I refer you to local historian Ann French’s book ‘Lost Buildings of Walsall’ as a source in this regard. Also if you check out Walsall Local History Centre’s photo website ‘Walsall – A Click in Time’ you will see how much has already been lost in all parts of the borough:

    Hope this helps the debate.

    Stuart Williams

  11. Flickr sounds like a good suggestion to me. Pretty easy to use, can add geographical info, tags to comment on specific parts of the building, space for people to leave their stories and memories and questions. The process alone will hopefully get people looking around them (even more than they do already) and recording the places that matter to them. So, great idea, I’ll bring my camera with me on my next trip to Walsall.

  12. val smith says:

    This is my favourite building in the whole of the area, I want to cry when I see how many of the features have been damaged on it.

    Ifind it highly suspicious that buildings that Walsall Council try to get rid of, then find they are listed/ protected suddenly burn down leaving Walsall council free to put up their vision of a new and modern Walsall.

    Highgate Brewery they were willing to get rid of that, until CAMRA members got in and objected.

  13. Graeme Fisher says:

    Echoes of Shannon’s Mill?

  14. Anton Baker says:

    I think there are a lot of people documenting Walsall pictorially before it all disappears under the developers’ bulldozers, but like myself all individually and not with any coherence. The Boak arson has spurred me on again – I can’t think of a similar recent event in Walsall that has had such a profound impact on me. In my local we talked about little else for two or three nights. We all came to the same conclusion – we all feel affected because whenever you pulled into Walsall on the train, the sight of the Boak chimney meant you were home, and that marker that we felt would always be there ingrained in our heads, has been taken away. Shadily.
    I’d welcome any and all attempts to document Walsall in a more collective and organised way, and would really like to contribute stuff to that.

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  17. Martin says:

    I think we could start by putting a bomb under the council’s regeneration and planning services.
    Planning seem to drag their heels over some site (Mellish Rd church) but rush through others (whatever it is where the Four Crosses used to be); Regeneration talk a load of nonsense about ‘atracting new investment’ but they’re fixated on the Giggleport.
    Both of them need to get their acts together so these places don’t languish and get torched.

    • stymaster says:


      I like that.

      I have *no idea* what the regeneration lot are doing, if anything.

      The Giggleport is a load of old bollocks, clearly, so I do hope they are doing something else.

      • Martin says:

        It’s the Giggleport becasue they’re having a laugh if they think
        a) Giga-anything is still cutting edge and
        b) having high-speed email is enough to get a company to relocate here.

        You need more than the big open empty space you get by bulldozing an old factory to get inward investment – how about a council with a vision, for a start?

        I’m not holding my breath though, so I’ll just go and take some photos beofre anything else gets burned down or demolished.

  18. Hi I’m a friend of Linda (the madoldbaggage) and I’ve begun to feel more and more that we need to record old buildings – I’m a bit hit and miss but I post them publically like this

    I’d happily contribute

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