Readers who have been here for a while will know that one of the recurrent and most intractable stories on the blog over the 12 years of it’s existence has been the exasperating and somewhat depressing story of Ravens Court, the derelict and decaying 1960s shopping precinct at the heart of town, owned by a London-based property developer who was left with it following Tesco cancelling plans to rebuild its Brownhills store.
Just lately you’ll also have noticed a lot of political rhetoric and posturing from political quarters, in videos and posts on social media by our MP, Wendy Morton, and the West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street.
In impassioned communiques, the two have spoken of their desire to see the situation resolved, and of the immense pressure from residents of the town, who would welcome an end to the blight on Brownhills that is Ravens Court.
It seems the end is in sight to our misery: In a press release received yesterday from the Mayor’s office, it can be revealed that Ravens Court will soon be demolished and replaced with a museum and leisure facility celebrating the history of our town.
I’m sure like me, you will welcome an end to this sorry saga. The press release said:
‘The state of Ravenscourt and the subsequent impact on my and Wendy’s popularity has gnawed away at me over recent years and I’ve been lobbying to get something done.
Wendy Morton MP and I want to see the precinct torn down and redeveloped to breathe life back into the area and I promised we’re getting closer to making it happen.
Today I can reveal that we’re going to ensure Ravens Court is bought for the public good, and transformed into a cultural asset the whole area can be proud of.
Our plan is simple: We’re going to get Walsall Council to transfer a large sum of money to the wealthy landlord who owns Ravens Court before the election, in return for which the Council will hopefully pay for the demolition and fund the construction of a new interactive learning centre dedicated to Brownhills and Walsall Wood culture, history and art.
The Street-Morton Centre will be a buzzing hive for the community, and feature the latest technology to attract tourists curious about the town’s history of mining sculpture, street food, brutalist architecture, industrial odours and agricultural football.
There will be an 80 seat restaurant with views over the canal serving the best culinary experiences the town has to offer with a choice of goose with orange or normal chips, with or without gravy, and a theme bar celebrating the history of Poxon’s Butchers, sponsored by the Black Pudding Council of Great Britain.
For the kids there will be activities where youngsters can experience life as it was in Brownhills a century ago, working underground at age 14, living without sanitation, avoiding the rent man and entering the lottery to have a real industrial accident.
We anticipate funding will be provided by Historic England, The National Lottery Community Fund and the Pork Scratching Marketing Board.
We intend to clarify all these details further when I’m elected again.’
I’m amazed at this, I must say. I had warned readers to expect some scheme or other with Ravens Court from the diminutive Mayor and his chaperone, Mrs. Morton, but nothing on this scale.
I scouted quickly yesterday for opinion on the matter, and spoke to local community activist and Clayhanger Kid author, Brian Stringer. Brian was not surprised, but sceptical of the promised new dawn, ‘We had that Andy Street down in the cutting just before the last lockdown, and he was offering us a new project to work on. He said that he’d noted how much rubbish and hardcore we’d shifted on the track, and he thought we’d be best placed to knock down Ravens Court. Said he’d slip us a tenner for out trouble.
‘Bob and Mick were all for it, as they thought we could use some of the rubble to raise the track level near the bund where it always floods. But I said we should hold out for at least £25. What with Tim’s litter picking schedule and my hassles with the wildlife down in the cutting of late it would take us at least three days to raze the site. They reckon they’d manage it in two. They’re mad.’
I also spoke to others who were not so happy with the project, either. Several wanted some form of museum for the Staffordshire Hoard, or the much loved and long closed market. Others wanted a wider spread of historical exhibits, detailing things we once had here, like shops, banks and police patrols.
I caught Wendy Morton in an unexpected moment (I’d taken my camera out to clean the lens whilst stood outside Costa and she just appeared out of nowhere) and asked her about the Staffordshire Hoard angle.
‘We approached Stoke and Lichfield about that, and they were perfectly happy to let us have the hoard, but we’d need to put down something of equal value as surity. They laughed and put the phone down when I suggested they could have Aldridge. So obviously that was impossible.
‘Anyway I think a historical centre here is crucial. With all the visiting politicians coming here from faraway places like me, the Mayor and that bloke we’ve put up for PCC, how better can they learn to integrate with the local community? When I first came here I had no idea that mooning was an ancient local greeting.’
I, of course, welcome the end to the Ravens Court saga, and look forward to experiencing interactive displays about quaint local customs such as fencing the video, getting two tenner bags of a Friday and learning about the town’s immense history of local eccentrics. But I really can’t see were the money’s coming from.
Time will tell.
A section 80 has been applied for, and demolition is scheduled to commence on the 31st April 2021, just before polling day.
The owners of Ravens Court have been contacted for comment on the matter, but when I called, couldn’t stop laughing long enough to say anything.