Heart bypass

I’m a bit busy today but one of the things I’ve come across in the Newspaper Archive deserves sharing here: A bizarre proposal in 1964 to tear up Brownhills Common in order to construct a bypass to relieve traffic on the Watling Street/A5.

It seems amongst several road bypass schemes proposed for Brownhills over the years, this abortive scheme to take traffic from the A5 at Newtown on a new road across Holland Park and the Common to the Chester Road at the old railway bridge on the Chester Road must be the most bizarre, and clearly never achieved the required support.

Bank Holiday Monday traffic queues on the then single carriageway A5 Watling Street in Brownhills, as captured by Fred Booth in the early 1960s.

I’ve never heard of this scheme before and am very interested in it: I suspect it was nothing more than cant and hot air to be honest, like many of these things are – but I’d be intrigued to learn the genesis of it.

Of note in the article are several things: Councillor Burt noting one council resident had two garages (the outrage!) and mention of a Stonnall Bypass – which I can currently find no other mention of, and I don’t think was the continuation of the Chester Road straight across the top of the village (discussed in this article here) as I thought that was much earlier. But I could be wrong.

The Chester Road originally went through the junction and along the top of Main Street in Stonnall, and was a notorious spot for accidents. At some point a new section of road was added giving rise to the peculiar road layout of minor lanes we have today. 1:1250 mapping from the National Library of Scotland Archive.

It’s interesting that many of the concerns about traffic have never abated and remain the same today – and also the unchanging political talking shops that have promised much in terms of road building solutions, but delivered nothing over the years.

The remnants of the Clayhanger bypass scheme can be seen in the incomplete construction of Northfields Way in Clayhanger and the road leading nowhere on the Watermead Estate. There was also a frankly bizarre proposal twenty years ago to bypass Brownhills with a road from the A5 over Home Farm and Cartersfield to the Chester Road near Stonnall that Walsall was so committed to that they expected Staffordshire Council to build and pay for it.

What do you recall of these or other maybe forgotten proposals? Please do let me know: Comment on this post, mail me on BrownhillsBob at googlemal dot com or give me a shout on social media.

Walsall Observer 17th July 1964

A PLAN to have the Brownhills stretch of the Watling Street bypassed and not converted into a dual carriageway, received support from a number of members of the council’s Road Safety Committee on Tuesday. Residents have already complained about the existing traffic dangers on the trunk road and feel that there would be a big increase if the road should be widened.

The recommendation that the bypass plan should be reconsidered by Brownhills Urban Council is to be forwarded for discussion by the local authority. Although there were many in favour of the by-pass, there were critics – one of them being the council’s Engineer and Surveyor (Mr. C. H. Hunt).

By 1967 things had not improved as this news report of a protest by parents at Watling Street School shows. Footage from ATV today held by the Media Archive for Central England.

Stating why he felt there should be a by-pass from Newtown Bridge across part of the Parade and joining up with the Chester Road, Councillor F. D. Burt pointed out that there were 11 road junctions along the Brownhills stretch of the Watling Street. The Chasewater traffic was increasing and teachers could not hear their pupils in the Watling Street Junior and Infants’ School at times. Pupils from the school encountered difficulties in crossing the road.

He said there was deep concern among residents along this stretch of the A5 and there was talk of a petition to the Minister of Transport. Pointing out that traffic was increasing. Councillor Burt added that such was the state of affairs in the affluent society, that one council house tenant in Brownhills had two garages.

Councillor E. C. Tomlinson thought a bypass would be the only solution to their problem. There was an increasing danger on the road and the numbers visiting Chasewater would rise. There would be additional vehicles using it when the Stonnall by-pus was laid.


Watling Street School is affected by the heavy traffic on the trunk road. The headmaster (Mr. J. H. Preece), told members that he was sure one of the road wardens who helped his children to cross the road would be badly injured one of the days. He himself would not do the job.

He felt that the traffic on the dual carriageway would go twice as fast as at present and he could see no more benefit in converting the road.

Local man Fred Shingler recorded cinefilm of the Watling Street just as, and after it was converted to a dual carriageway. You can read more about this remarkable film at this post here.

Mr. Hunt said that when the matter was discussed in council the majority were not in favour of the bypass. This would mean losing almost the whole of Holland Park and land for residential development. Coming out at the old railway bridge on the Chester Road would make matters worse.

Councillor T. Cawley felt that if a by-pass plan was approved it would only mean transferring the trouble from the front to the back. 

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6 Responses to Heart bypass

  1. andkindred says:

    Great find, Bob! I think I recognise some of the folks in the ATV film, which I guess is about 1961. Is there any harm in naming them? Andy (aka Ishmael).

    • BrownhillsBob says:

      Mace says it’s 67, but Mace’s captions are frequently tut, to be honest.

      Can’t see any harm myself, go ahead! Any idea on the ‘Stonnall bypass’?


      • andkindred says:

        First the date. At 19s is (I think) a Hillman Imp. Production only began in 1963, so it is at least a little later than I had thought. It’s just that I feel sure I would remember the protest if it was 1967.

        The people.

        At 57s, lady with glasses holding banner is Gudrun “Goodie” Wood. Goodie was German and came to England with a local soldier named George Wood. They lived in Castle Street. Goodie never lost her German accent, and spoke a strange mix of local dialect.

        At 1:20. Lady with child on her arm was Mrs Marigold.

        2:39 with glasses Mrs Shorthouse.

        2:10. I remember seeing the lorry the lady was talking about after it had gone through a telegraph pole, broken clean through, down by Doody’s club.

        2:47. Mrs Myring? (centre) Castle Street.

        I don’t recognise any of the children.

        The only Stonnall bypass I can think of was a scheme to upgrade Barracks Lane, but memory is vague,

        There was also a plan to build a flyover at Rushall, to speed traffic past the “Silly Isles”.


  2. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    vague memories of talk of a relief road or two..one to run near Barracks Lane and round Stonnall to join the Chester Road..A452….seemingly sat on …and filed away. The other, to run from the Miner Island in central Brownhills, to run around Clayhanger to join the A 461 near the IronDish in Shelfield…again, filed away. Then Brownhills UDC, which was itself part of Staffs CC was seemingly filed away, being merged with Aldridge UDC and the. both being absorbed in to the winderlad that is Walsall Met Borough in the mid 1970s….which is now a part of West Midlands thingy….
    I dont remember the A5 by pass scheme you illustrate in this article, though……….

    A very interesting and well researched article…Most appreciated
    kind regards

  3. Isobel Dams says:

    I’m fairly sure that our house in Pier Street was due to be demolished for some sort of relief road. A compulsory purchase order was put on it and we moved out in the summer of 1965. The house stood for some time and was allowed to deteriorate. It broke my dad’s heart as he’d been there since the 1930s and he had done so much work on it. Eventually it was demolished. The site is still there with, I think, some of the wall of the demolished Wesley an chapel next door. It was Good all House, first house on the right going down Pier Street with the clinic on the far side of it.No road was constructed. I have such happy memories of growing up there.

  4. Steve Cawley says:

    Nice to see my dear old dad got a mention Councillor T Cawley obviously opposed the by pass he was always fanatical about keeping HOlland Park

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