Walsall Wood, 1881. A melting pot…

This is an effort to chart the growth of Walsall Wood, towards the turn of the last century. At this time, the village was growing; the expansion (I hesitate to use the word ‘wealth’) that this created shaped the community forever, and left a legacy that forms the major part of our community history. Here, reader and top blog contributor David Evans uses census data and other resources to analyse the community he loves and grew up in.

Batkin’s Store was quite an emporium, and was in the building now occupied by Roadrunner, although the former glory is hard to discern from the current appearance of the shop. Image from ‘Memories of Old Walsall Wood’ by Bill Mayo and John Sale.

David wrote:

In 1881 Walsall Wood was an expanding, vibrant community.

The population of Walsall Wood grew from 2077 in 1871 to 3242 in 1881 , the coal mine had started production in 1879, a railway line was soon to be opened, in 1882. (source; British History Online: Walsall Wood). The village was changing forever. The census for 1881 is a good guide to see how major changes were happening, and this census, in particular shows that  perhaps for the first time, each household had been given a form to fill in and hand back to the enumerator, who was a man named Henry Tobias Spittle. In  his introduction for this section of the census ‘Staffordshire/ Walsall foreign/ Aldridge/ district 12’, the good man Henry has listed his journey and route through the village. There are some interesting road names.  Commonside, nowadays called  Camden Street, Birmingham Road  (Brownhills Road from Friezland Lane to Streets Corner), Occupation Road  (Beechtree Road), Cemetry (sic) Road (Brookland Road), Hollinders Lane (now Queen Street and Vigo Road), Holly Bank (which only has a few houses then), Castle Road. He names the settlement ‘the Vigo’, but lists it as just ‘Vigo’. Henry also lists an Accommodation Road, whose location is unclear.

I wanted to see how the High Street in Walsall Wood was changing. It seems that very few shops existed at that time on the opposite side of the road to the church, where the shops are today, but on the St. Johns side of the Lichfield Road, from the Horse and Jockey to the Coppice Road, these trades and business had set up:

A dress maker from Worcester; a Prudential Insurance agent, from Great Bridge; Old Mr Stephen Green, aged 75 and born in the village, was the rent collector; there were a butcher, a pavior, a shoemaker from Clay Cross; a grocer from County Mayo, Ireland and there was a burnt out house where all had perished. Jacksons and Whitehouse were chainmakers and blacksmiths in the High Street, there was a printer from Hanley, a colliery clerk from Bristol,and the landlord of the Red Lion was Richard Smith, from Tamworth. The next-door cottage, Yew Tree Cottage had lost its teacher who had previously occupied it, and now a farm labourer lived there.

 So where were the  local school’s teachers?

The two 22 year old schoolmistresses were lodging with eldery  Mr. and Mr.s Shore in Coppice Road. Also in Coppice Road there was a land and house agent from Woodchester, Gloucester; a grocer, an engine driver from Pontypool whilst Abraham Harrison, the village’s last horse nail maker, was busy at work and his neighbours Mr Belgrave and son were blacksmiths.

In Commonside (nowadays Camden Street, leading to the canal) there was a boat builder, carpenter, fireman (I think he set the explosive charges in the coalmine) and four boatmen, born in St Pancras London, Oxfordshire, West Bromwich, and Sodom, which was near Wolverhampton, apparently. There was also a strange listing of four dwellings on the same site: another Fold! Birmingham Road boasted a carter from Churton, Salop,  two other carters and a boat loader, and a Mr Lees, earthenware dealer, from Blythe Bridge.

The part of Lichfield Road from Streets Corner to Coppice Road had a publican (perhaps at the nascent Royal Exchange?), a coach trimmer, a schoolmaster,and four excavators from Salop, Oxfordshire, London. A Mr. Brown was a victualler (but  where was this pub?)

There was a travelling fair in the village at the time. Perhaps it was somewhere near the Boot Inn, which would nowadays be about where Boatmans Lane meets the Lichfield Road.

Mr Hollinder and his large family lived, logically enough, in Hollinders Lane. Occupation Road is most interesting. There was the local constable, George Alldritt and his wife living in the Police House. He appears in a later census living by the Traveller’s Rest Inn, by the canal! There is a cordwainer in Occupation Road, a manager at a lime works, a builder and a lime burner… all local people. The Vigo workers are mainly coal miners or brickmakers.

Meanwhile, in ‘Lichfield Road, back’ i.e. from Shire Oak  back down the hill as far as Boatmans Lane but on the opposite side of the road to the church, we have a retired lead miner from Shropshire (Stiperstones mines, perhaps?), a labourer in a chemical works, a Primitive Methodist Minister visiting someone, a greengrocer, a carpenter, a traveller named Zachariah Beddow, born in Horseley Heath, Staffordshire. There’s a bootmaker, a grocer/butcher (Batkin, which is now Roadrunner, opposite the old school) and some more excavators, four of them, single men. These chaps possibly lived in the old house by the railway, where the railings are now; there’s a blacksmiths, drapers and a publican Mr Cherry ( Traveller’s Rest, now the car sales lot opposite Hall Lane junction, I think [I was under the impression the Travellers Rest was on the site of the Health Centre – Bob], yet another grocer,  a boot and shoe dealer and Mr. Dabbs the butcher.

It seems that the Coach and Horses was not yet open or built, and surpisingly one other pub may be missing – either the Travellers Rest or the Boot. The numbers don’t add up. And the Hawthorn Tree Inn,(Drunken Duck) opposite the medical centre, has not appeared on the scene as a public house.

Where did the influx of  miners come from?

A lot were local Walsall Wood men, chiefly in Occupation Road, High Street by the church, and in Coppice Road, for example. But there is an increasing quantity of young miners, some of who have settled and have young families. They come from  the Black Country towns, but there are many who came from great distances;-

Swan Village, Prince’s End, Kingswinford, Shardlow (Derbyshire), Middleton (Warks) Holly Hill, Oakham; quite a few labourers from Melton, Killsborough, Mayo, Galway, Roscommon, Swineford, Balleywaron and Dublin in Ireland, and other miners from Devonshire, Broseley, Winchester, Stockport, Ashby, Dedington, Yale, Gretts Green,Eastwood (DH Lawrence’s home town) a David Evans from Chell (!), Fryford, New Delavel, Merville, Leek, Hanley, Hinton Blewell, Uttoxeter, Preston View (Hereford) and Marlpool.

In Coppice Road a Gipsy, Seth Boswell, born in Radnor, lived with Susannah Lee, another Gipsy born in Alvechurch, as his neighbour.

There was no  nurse, midwife  or doctor listed in the village. There was no baker, no undertaker, no chemist, no tailor, no mention of the Post Office or telegraph clerk, if there was one at that time.

The parts of the village south of the canal, Hall Lane, Bullings Heath and Green Lane, appear in another census district, as do Lindon Road and Friezland Lane, part of Catshill, Brownhills at that time.

The village was beginning to burst at its seam. Young miners were arriving, some had settled and started families, many houses had miner-lodgers, and soon a railway would open up and the production at the coal mine, and at the brickworks, could escalate.  And the social conditions at that time?  Drinking water was from shared wells, no mains sewerage system.   The burial records for the village make sad reading. Infant mortality was very high.

To be continued…

David Evans, September 2012

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29 Responses to Walsall Wood, 1881. A melting pot…

  1. Clive says:

    Nice one Dave and Bob, the travelers rest, if you walked down the high street toward shelfield, as you walk over the canel bridge the pub was just a few yards down there on the lefthand side. opposite the alley way from Hall lane.
    Best wishes Clive.

  2. Clive says:

    I remember the Travelers rest, from the 60s, I had a paper round and there dog attacked me, I also got bitten by a dog at the back of the Horse and Jockey
    when delivering papers to the fair ground people.
    and all for seven shillings and six pence, and it was a sunday round.
    kids today dont know there born…lol

  3. pedro says:

    Cannot see details at present as the Archive site is faulty, but…

    1907 Jan BUDC present accommodation road from Walsall Wood Canal Bridge to Beech Tree road.

    Regards Pedro

  4. pedro says:

    White’s Directory says Sodom is a hamlet adjoining Can Lane 1 mile ENE of Sedgley.

    A Primitive Methodist strong hold!

  5. BEV says:

    David do you know the surname of the manager at the lime works in Occupation road by any chance ??

  6. David Evans says:

    HI Bev
    Staffs/Walsall foreign/Aldridge/district 12
    register entry number 162;
    Philip Richard Prince,42, wife, 1 son, two daughters, boarder Miss Bennett aged 53, lived in second house listed. FIrst house listed was Mr Stokes, builder, third house listed was Mr Alldritt the “active” policeman.
    I hope this is useful, Bev. Best wishes….
    I love Pedro’s find in White’s directory. Wonder what the chapel was called!
    kind regards

    • BEV says:

      Thanks David, bit of a shot in the dark really, my great great grandmother had a brother who worked in a Lime works in Rushall, just thought he might have moved nearer his sister in occupation rd, but its not the right surname. Thanks anyway for checking.

  7. D.Evans says:

    HI Bob
    Travellers Rest pub;-
    Oakparkrunners blog, Walsall Wood Past and Present shows an old photo, with John Wesley standing at the front door , and your blog’s article “Faggits,
    FAGGITS, December 3, 2011 shows a photo of a young lad standing by the canal behind the pub.

  8. Julie Le-Moine says:

    Lovely to read about the history of walsall wood and to see my family mentioned there! My mother recently passed away and whilst sorting her personal belongings out I have found an old photograph…I would love to find out who the men folk of Walsall Wood were on it..maybe if I scan it and post it, somebody could throw some light on it for me?….

    • Hi Julie.

      Please do! Any material you have, that you’d like to share, is welcome.

      If you need a hand, please shout up.

      You can contact me on BrownhillsBob at googlemail dot com or as William Roberts on Facebook.

      All such donations are welcome, and if you need help scanning, just drop me a line.



    • David Oakley says:

      Hi Julie,
      I knew a Mavis Hollender and a Peter Hollender from
      Queen Street in the 1930’s. If your photo is from that period, I may be able to help.

  9. David Evans says:

    HI Julie
    please, please do….any photos of Walsall Wood and people, places.events..
    kind regards

  10. David Evans says:

    HI Bev
    also in the same road,;-
    John Cresswell, his wife Ann Cresswell, sons Fred , Arthur and Noah.
    John was lised as a “lime burner” at time of census.
    census record ;- entry 170…

  11. Julie Le-Moine says:


    Thank you, Mum was part of the Hollender family from the Wood. I will have a go later scanning and posting it to you Bob. She didn’t have a lot but I will see what else I can find as well while I am at it.


  12. Julie Le-Moine says:

    Thank you David for your kind offer. I have emailed the photo to Bob for his perusal….My mum lived in Queen Street too…I am not sure how old the photograph is…I am guessing it is early 1900’s….I may be wrong..Mavis and Peter Hollender must have been my mums auntie and uncle(another guess!!!)….

  13. Ray Wall says:

    Hi everyone. This is the kind of historical fact that makes my daily reading of trhe Brownhills blog very much worthwhile. They say that old age crystalises one’s memories of half a century ago – in my case 80!, and many of the street names, buildings and their locations are very clear in my mind. I left Walsall Wood in 1953 and yet I can recall these street names without effort, even though today I can easily lose myself in my local suburb of Sydney. I recall that the headmaster of St John’s school was a man named Henry Boot – a wonderful and humane teacher who, inter alia, taught me the rudiments of music. In my weekly talk with my brother (in High Heath) on video Skype, Bill spoke briefly about his first job at Coppice Colliery, aged 14. There must be a few men, or more than a few, who could impart their irreplaceable knowledge of mine conditions in the last century and have them recorded for the generations ahead (if this is not already underway). Thanks again, Bob and David (and contributors) for a great posting. Regards, Ray, from Sydney

  14. David Evans says:

    Hi Ray
    stay tuned… 1891 review to follow. Thanks for your kind comments. Would love your brother to offer his memories…in any way…

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  19. Rob says:

    I was interested to read of the gypsy named Lee who lived in Coppice Rd, (the road of my birth coincidently). When I attended St Johns School in the sixties. There was a family called Lee, reputedly of gypsy origin who attended there at the same time.

  20. Clive says:

    Hello Rob, the Lee`s are still in and around Walsall Wood area. They run a skip firm from Coppice Industrial Estate Brownhills, (By the transmitter tower)

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