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Wednesbury History in brief


St Pauls church

The church in the photograph is St Paul’s in Wood Green, Wednesbury, near to junction 9 of the M6 motorway. The church was built in 1874 and partly endowed by the Elwell family who owned the local forge. It’s built from red sandstone and in 1888 a spire, clock and a peal of bells were added. How do I know all this? I have a book  published in 1908 full of facts from Victorian times about the town that I live in. The town was prosperous then and they built churches, the Town Hall (1871), Art Gallery (1891),  parks, baths and much more.

My book is the Ryder’s Annual, a Wednesbury red book and directory and was  published in 1908 by Ryder’s who did general printing and also printed and published the town newspaper. The newspaper was the Herald and I think their office was still there when I was a child. The address is listed in the annual as just ‘The Herald Office”, Wednesbury. (The shop was in Spring Head)

In 1908, Wednesbury had just 4,737 people registered to vote. This was before women were allowed to vote. The MP was a Liberal named Clarendon Golding Hyde, Esq. of the Lyndhurst, Squires Walk, Wednesbury.

The Lord of the Manor in 1908 was Paul Foley, Esq., of Stoke Edith Park, Herefordshire. The Lady of the Manor was Dame Mildred Anne Bateman Scott of Great Barr Hall.  The Mayor of Wednesbury was Councillor. J. Handley J.P.

In 1908, electricity was being installed by the council in Wednesbury and street lighting introduced. The population of the town was growing and had grown from 4,100 in 1801 to 26,544 in 1901. The town was thriving and business was good! Thomas Jones ran the town as town clerk for the princely sum of £400 a year. Compare that to the salary and pension of the chief executive of Sandwell Council! It is also interesting to compare his salary to that of the park keeper, Joseph Pym. Joseph Pym was paid £85 and six shillings but also got his house, gas, coal and uniform free. He also had one hell of a garden!

In those days, the Post Office, another fine Victorian building adjoining the Town Hall, was open from 7am until 10pm in the evening and even opened for 2 hours on Sundays! The first delivery was at 6.45 am and the fifth (yes, the fifth) was at 5.45pm!

My book has a section on the parish church that stands high above the town and is dedicated to St Bartholomew. It occupies the site of a heathen temple of the God Woden, according to the book. I thought that was a fort where Lady Ethelfreda of Mercia fought the Vikings… The church is Gothic and the book says the original church was probably built between 1080 and 1216.

St Bartholomew's church

Extensive restoration and improvement of the church took place in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

The Free Library in Walsall Street was opened on March the 20th, 1878. The new library was being built when my book was published on land donated by the mayor, Councillor J. Handley at a cost of £5,000. The money being given by Dr A. Carnegie.

Some older residents might remember The New Theatre Royal in Upper High Street, which was built in 1891 and accommodated 1,500 people. I think that was later known as the Hippodrome. I remember going to a pantomime there when I was a kid! I think it was Cinderella, but the scene I remember most was someone burning cakes. Maybe it was given a local theme and it was King Alfred? His daughter was Lady Ethelfreda of Mercia (b.872 AD), who was said to have built a fort in Wednesbury.

Please comment, click like and share with your social networking friends. If people like this post, I can perhaps tell the story of ‘Rough Moey’ swapping his wife and ‘babby’ for beer in Wednesbury market place; next week. There are other stories of men selling their wives in the book too!

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5 Responses

  1. Where can I get one of those red books? 🙂
    is there one for earlier dates, because I’m trying to find names of every business that ever was in Wednesbury …. not a lot to ask for is it?

    I love the Sepia photo of the church!

    February 23, 2013 at 07:35

    • Hi Tina,

      You have to look in secondhand book shops and libraries for old books that are out of print. I know Sandwell Council have a lot of old books in there archives. The early books by Hackwood are really good.

      You have a big job finding every business in Wednesbury. Just doing all the pubs is a challenge! You seem to have some interest with the Facebook page and so keep trying!

      February 23, 2013 at 08:29

      • I seem to be able to find every Red Book except the Wednesbury one.

        Having ploughed through every available Trade Directory from 1818 to 1940 I’m now satisfied I have really found every single pub that ever existed there!
        That makes me feel better.

        But I was wondering if you could help me again?
        Some time ago I came across the story of a meteor in Wednesbury on 22nd Nov 1672.
        It actually named the people involved and went into a lot of detail.

        I posted about it on THOW ages ago but can’t find it now.
        I have searched my computer but can’t find it there either.
        I do have a reference to it in Hackwood’s ancient & modern, but it is just that … a reference.

        Where on earth did I find that full descriptive version? I’m stumped because all my Googling comes up blank.

        Have you a clue?
        it also mentioned the strange echo when the windmill window were standing open towards the Church.

        i’m pulling my hair out! 🙂

        March 23, 2013 at 13:02

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