Saturday, 3 March 2012

A (Very) Brief History of Walsall

Whenever I visit (or move to) somewhere new, I always try to learn something about it's history. It will probably sound incredibly flaky to most people, but it's the only way I know of connecting with a place. Until I know something of its past, I usually feel as if I'm just floating along the surface. I've lived in Walsall for almost ten years now, and during that time I've collected some interesting titbits about the area and its history. The information I've included here follows a route of sorts, and contains modern reference points. Hopefully, someone might read something they didn't know before.

If I've included anything here that's inaccurate, please let me know! All corrections and additions are welcome!

As with most English towns, the nucleus of Walsall was the church. St Matthew's Church (on the hill above ASDA) was originally called All Saints Church. Apparently, the name change occurred as a result of the fair that was licensed to be held in the church grounds on St Matthew's Day. There is a local belief that there are tunnels extending under the Church, which connect to The White Hart manor house in (Caldmore) and also to Barr Beacon. The belief is that the tunnels were used by priests during the Reformation and later by Royalists during the Civil War. However, I have my doubts as to the validity of this beliefs given the sheer distances involved. (Please correct me if I'm wrong though!)

There was once a densely populated area that surrounded St Matthew's, named St Matthew's Close. It was comprised of old houses, courtyards and narrow alleyways. This was demolished after World War Two, to be replaced by flats in the 1950s. There are Almshouses beneath the church (on Bath Street). The original building was erected during the Tudor Period, however the current structures were placed there during the Victorian period. There also used to be a graveyard beneath what is now the Bath Street Gardens.

Beneath the Church on the other side is Ablewell Street. This street dates back to the 13th Century and was referred to as Avalwalle, which is Norman and means 'Beneath the Wall'. The aforementioned wall comprised part of the defences that surrounded the Church and the settlement. If you look at the difference in height between the level of Lidl car park and the Church grounds, then you can imagine how formidable the wall must have been. The upper part of Ablewell Street was known as King Street, which is now included in the Springhill Road and Birmingham Road.

Heading down from Ablewell Street, you then reach Bridge Street. The road was cut in 1766 and was known as the New Road. It formed part of the main route from Walsall to Birmingham (much as it does today, really. The 51 still goes that way today). The old route to Birmingham went through Digbeth (the Market Place), then onto the High Street (where the Black Country Arms is), along Rushall Street (which runs past the top of The Hole in the Wall), and then joins Ablewell Street (the two roads meet at the corner of Flan O'Brien's Pub, which is opposite Warewell Street).

The old town 'Lock Up' used to stand on Ablewell Street, and part of the structure now forms the cellars of the shops around the Warewell Street area. (The old Police Station was on Goodall Street, not a million miles away from the Lock Up. The Old Court House was at the bottom of Bridge Street, and is now a Wetherspoons pub. So you can sort of see how they all connected.)

Warewell Street (there is now a car park beside it) used to have a well beside it. It also boasted a Saddlers Ironmongery Works.

My favourite street around the Chuckery area was probably Dark Lane. It no longer exists so it has an air of mystery to it! Dark Lane was a narrow cart track that ran from the Sutton Road (going up Ablewell Street, the Sutton Road begins at the point where the 77 route deviates from the 51 route), across the Chuckery and came out at the top of Holtshill Lane (this is the road that opens up on Lower Rushall Street, opposite the back of Morrisons). Lower Rushall Street was a major route both in an out of Walsall, and as a result boasted dozens of inns and coach houses.

Lower Rushall Street originally ran past the Chamber of Commerce and Kwik Fit (instead of running off toward the traffic lights). It then ran straight through the Hatherton Lake and then went on to Lichfield. (There used to be toll gate along this road, and was called the Butts Toll Gates. Its stood at a point that is now at the centre of the lake.) On the rising ground to the east of the lake (somewhere along Arboretum Road) was Reynold's Hall, a large manorial complex. Arboretum Road was a continuation of Persehouse Street, presumably until the construction of the Broadway. (The Broadway originally just ran from the Lichfield road to Rowley Street, and was called Denmark Road. It was extended a little in the 1890s, and this addition was known as Foden Road.)

The area around the Hatherton Lake was once owned by the Reynolds family, but by the 1550s the land had been transferred to the Persehouse family.

The Reynolds estate comprised a farm and a hall. The hall had three parlours, nine bedrooms, three garrets, a brew house, a dairy house, a malt house, a dove house and a coach house. As I said, this was around Arboretum Road. The last person to live in Reynolds Hall was Richard Persehouse. The estate then passed to his godson, John Walhouse. Walhouse passed over the hall in favour of constructing a town house. This town house was on Lichfield Street, and the Chicago Rock Cafe was actually a part of this building.

There is a glacial boulder in the park (it now stands beside the Bandstand). This glacial rock travelled from North Wales during the Ice Age and ended up in the Fulbrook area. It was moved to the Arboretum in 1925. This boulder was known as the Devil's Toe Nail, and it was believed that if it was ever broken, it was grow back to it's original shape and size. As a result of its name and reputation, local children were once reluctant to go near it.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Friendship & Generosity

As the title suggests, this blog post is going to be a huge, mushy love in - so be prepared!  I just thought it might remind everyone that there are some truly lovely, generous and wonderful people in the world...

This Thursday just gone by, my wonderful friend, we shall call her Lady Anonymouse, gave me - yes, GAVE ME - a little, mini laptop computer!  It came complete with a power attachment thingy and an external disc drive.  Lady Anonymouse wanted nothing in return for the computer, there were no hidden catches or obligations (for those cynical souls that were wondering), it was a gift - plain and simple!

It was very gratefully received (I'm in the local wi-fi spot typing this entry on it right now!), and I just wanted to share a little bit of the love I felt with the rest of you!  Here it is... sharing it!  Feel the loving mush!

In fact, it gets better!  Upon the receiving the computer, my neighbour (a computer genius by all accounts) kindly looked at it for me, and turned it into an Internet surfing, document writing Mega-Machine!  He didn't ask for anything in return either.  He did it all because he's a lovely person!

So this is a Love In, and a bit of an online thank you to the lovely people I am fortunate enough to have in my life!  See?  There is such a thing as community, and I'm very fortunate to be a part of one...

The computer genius runs the All Gaming Blog - find him on Twitter @AllGamingBlog.  There's a forum, reviews, videos, and I'm sure if you ask, computer-related advice!  His amazing fiance runs The All Craft Blog (Twitter - @Theallcraftblog).  It's a place to share your crafty interested and to view the crafts and 'makes' (that's a proper crafting term, that is!) of others!

Anonymouse does have a blog and a Twitter account, but she's quite a private person, and I'm not certain whether she'd appreciate me promoting her stuff here...  Suffice it to say she's quite wonderful!

This is turning into a Disney Chick Flick now, isn't it?  I'll end on a car chase and big explosion to redeem myself a bit... Ready?

*ahem*  ...VROOOOOOOM!  VRROOOOOOOMMM!  squeaaaaaaaak (Brakes, those are brakes!)  Vrooom - vrooom!  VRRROOOOOOOOOOMM! BIG BANG!

There you go!  Roll end credits...