This weekend, I have been mostly excavating the mapping record for Birchills Iron Works. I know it’s way off our normal beat, but once I started looking at the geography following the remarkable sale post of last Friday, I couldn’t help but be captivated. I think other local history buffs will be, too.
I realised after an hour or so that whilst the Ironworks initiates the fascination, there’s an awful lot of other change going on in the cartography that’s remarkable. What we can actually see by following the course from 1886-1938 is the technological revolution that occurred after the industrial one. A gradual shift from processing raw materials, to using them for manufacture.
The first thing is to get oriented, to take a handle on where we’re talking about. The best way is to take the 1886-1887 map I featured yesterday, and overlay it on Google Earth.
This is fascinating. We can see that, just as Andy Dennis pointed out, the site of the furnaces is now public open space, south of the Water Company HQ. On the other side of Green Lane was the Ironworks, where TK Maxx is now. We can see the remnants of lost canal arms, rail lines, tramways and old shafts.
I’ve made an overlay for use in Google Earth, which can be downloaded at the link below. Instructions on using it can be found in this post. The overlay can also be used as a map in modern graphical Garmin GPS units like the 62, Colorado, Oregon, Dakota etc., but it’s only to be used as a guide, not a definitive plan.
By 1903 (above), the Ironworks has shrunk in size, and bricks are in demand, hence the number of new brickworks. There’s also a tram depot on Bloxwich Road. This is a place adapting to changing local needs, and very possibly the exhaustion of pre-existing resources.
By 1914, several new factories had sprung up, while the Ironworks seemed to contract a little further. There’s a tube works, saw mill, glue works, and housing is proliferating. The tramway depot has grown, too.
By 1938, only the basins of Birchills Ironworks remain. The tube plant, to the north, is now twice the size. The tram shed is now a huge omnibus depot, and Goodall Works has appeared to the north east. Housing growth has intensified, and now utilities are noted: a bowling green, a couple of pubs.
Any information about the glue, tube or metal factories is welcome, and I’m intrigued by Goodall works, too.
Most significantly, note the building just to the west of Green Lane, on the bottom of the map. That is Walsall’s first power station, and led me to realise that I was missing something in the mapping record. But that’s for the next post.