Willenhall


Willenhall

infobox UK place
country = England
map_type= West Midlands
latitude= 52.57980
longitude= -2.06046
population= approx 40,000
official_name= Willenhall
metropolitan_borough= Walsall
region= West Midlands
metropolitan_county= West Midlands
historic_county= Staffordshire
post_town= WILLENHALL
postcode_district = WV12-13
postcode_area= WV
dial_code=
os_grid_reference= SO9698
london_distance=
constituency_westminster= Walsall North

Willenhall is a small town in the Black Country area of the West Midlands of England, with a population of approximately 40,000. It is situated between Wolverhampton and Walsall, historically in the county of Staffordshire. It lies upon the River Tame.

The urban district of Willenhall (established by the Local Government Act 1894) was partitioned in 1966 between the county boroughs of Walsall and Wolverhampton (since 1974 the metropolitan boroughs of Walsall and Wolverhampton).

The northern border of Willenhall has always been adjoining green belt land, although Willenhall has expanded so much in the last 100 years that its northern border has been moved by about two miles. This is mostly due to housing developments in the Short Heath and New Invention areas.

As a town it is historically famous for the manufacture of locks and keys. As early as 1770 Willenhall contained 148 skilled locksmiths and its coat of arms reflects the importance of this industry to its growth. Its motto is "Salus Populi Suprema Lex" - The welfare of the people is the highest law.

History

The first record of the settlement of Willenhall is from the eighth century when a treaty was signed there by King Ethelbald of Mercia. Willenhall was then referred to as Willenhalch which in Anglo-Saxon meant 'the meadowland of Willan'. Willenhala was mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) as a very small settlement, and it remained so until the growth of industry in the 18th century.

During the 10th century, Willenhall was in the Shire of Stafford and The Hundred of Offlow (unit of a 100 villages), consisting of 30 households and a population of around 120. In the Middle Ages, Willenhall was included in the parish of St Peters, Wolverhampton. Although there was a church in the village, people would have to travel to Wolverhampton for weddings and funerals. It was not until 1840 that Willenhall had a parish church. St. Giles was the first church to be built. The present church is the third on the site, dating from 1867. The River Tame flows through the churchyard and was until recent years one of the few places where the water surfaced.

Willenhall was a small agricultural village throughout the Middle Ages. From Tudor times, the natural mineral wealth began to be exploited with ore being sent out to charcoal furnaces in nearby Cannock Chase. The iron product was then returned to be turned into small metal goods. Nails were a common product and by the end of 17th century Willenhall had a healthy hand trade making: grid irons, curry combs, bolts, latches and coffin handles. According to the Hearth Tax Returns in 1665, Willenhall comprised 136 households and 894 persons. The population did not increase dramatically until the 18th century when iron and coal began to be fully exploited. The town grew up around the Market Place and Stafford Street with many tiny streets crammed with houses, workshops and pubs. Evidence of the town's growing prosperity is still visible today in the Dale House, once the home of the Hincks family and 33 Market Place, the home of the Clemsons, both maltsters.

Willenhall also suffered its very own great Fire in 1659 when most of the town centre was devastated. Most common homes at this time were still made of wattle and daub with glassless wind-eyes (windows), properties easily razed by fire. Re-building where money allowed was in brick; The Bell Public House being a good surviving example from 1660, although now closed for business.

Willenhall's first workhouse opened in 1741 adjacent to what is now Upper Lichfield St, it was in operation for 100 years before merging with Wolverhampton. By 1801, the population was 3,143.

Poor housing and lack of any proper sanitation led to a cholera epidemic in 1849 when 292 people died. The epidemic shocked the town into improving conditions, and in 1854 the Willenhall Local Board of Health was founded, a forerunner of Willenhall Urban District Council which took over in 1894.

To reflect a growth in civic pride several municipal buildings were erected: the Town Hall and Library building in Clemson Street in 1866, and a public baths in 1938. The clock in the Market Place was erected in 1892 by public subscription to the memory of Joseph Tonks who was a doctor working in the town post-cholera. He bought both health and sanitation to Willenhall but died at the age of 35. The memorial park was opened in 1922 in honour of those killed in World War I.

The majority of Willenhall became part of Walsall Metropolitan Borough in 1966. However, a percentage came under the jurisdiction of Wolverhampton City Council, and still continues to do so.

Future

Within the next few years Willenhall Town Centre is set to be revamped. Currently the outskirts of the town centre are lined with rundown abandoned factories, such as the old Yale, Chubb & Union factory, which are set to be demolished and replaced with new flats, houses and a Morrisons Supermarket. This development will create in excess of 400 new jobs for the town.

If funding is given the go-ahead to extend the Midland Metro tram system, one of the possible extensions is the 5 W's Route, which would run from Wolverhampton to Wednesbury via Wednesfield, Willenhall & Walsall. This development however will not be given the go-ahead until at least 2010.

There were plans to reopen Willenhall Bilston Street railway station, which was one of two old railway stations in the town (the other being Willenhall Stafford Street railway station), however recently funding for the line which the station would have served has been axed and the service is due to be withdrawn in December. Therefore plans for the reopening of the station have been scrapped.

Industry

Willenhall is famous for the manufacture of locks, and the UK's National Lock Museum is situated within the town.

To make trading easier, New Road was opened in the early 19th century. Outside the town itself, settlements grew up around local industries. The area around Lane Head and Sandbeds had a thriving mining community and Portobello grew around the brickmaking industry. There was a lot of coal mining in the Willenhall area until the 19th century when the industry came to a dramatic halt after a strike when the mines were flooded and lost forever. The main industry in Willenhall, for which it has become famous, is lockmaking. Lockmaking began in the area in Elizabethan times mainly in Wolverhampton, Willenhall and Bilston. It was concentrated in Willenhall, where lock making began as a 'cottage industry' with many families producing locks and parts for locks in sheds or outhouses at the rear of their homes. Because long hours bending over their work tended to produce workers with lumps on their backs, the town became known locally as 'Humpshire', and is still regarded as such with affection by many locals.

As late as 1956 there were still local men who had humps. Some public houses even had holes in the wall behind the wooden bench seats to allow their patrons to sit comfortably with their hump in the hole. The last example of such a 'pub' was demolished in the early 1950's. The Bell Inn in Market Street was an example of such a pub with curved holes in the walls to allow hump backed drinkers to sit up straight. Rushbrook's was a bakery in Market Street Willenhall and following the withdrawal of the farthing (1/4 penny) as legal tender in the mid 1950s, Rushbrook's struck their own "Rushbrook Farthing" in order to continue to price their bread and cakes competitively and still give change. In the early 1960s the Spring Vale Tavern in St Anne's Road was renamed The Rushbrook Farthing in remembrance of this unusual practice.

Transport

Public transport

Willenhall is well served by buses. The town centre lies on the 529 Bus route, which links Walsall and Wolverhampton. Other local bus routes link the town to Ashmore Park, Wednesfield, Wednesbury, Darlaston, Bilston & Bloxwich as well as the local areas of Coppice Farm, Pool Hayes, Short Heath, Lodge Farm, Little London, New Invention, Bentley, Portobello & Lane Head.

Most of these bus routes are operated by National Express West Midlands, which operates over 80% of the bus network in the West Midlands conurbation. Some services are also operated by A2Z Travel, Choice Travel & Diamond Bus.

Willenhall is poorly served by other modes of public transport. Both of the towns two train stations (Willenhall Bilston Street railway station & Willenhall Stafford Street railway station) have been closed for over 40 years, and although plans were bought to reopen Bilston Street, this never materialised due to the withdrawal of funding for the rail line it would serve.

Willenhall is currently not served by the Midland Metro Tram Network, but one of the numerous expansion plans for the system is the 5 W's Route, which would link Willenhall with Wednesfield, Wolverhampton, Walsall & Wednesbury via Darlaston, Bentley, Reedswood, Birchills, New Cross Hospital, The Manor Hospital & Heath Town.

Willenhall is one of only 6 Towns in the West Midlands conurbation which does not have a direct public transport link to Birmingham.Fact|date=August 2008

Road infrastructure

Willenhall is a maximum of 10 minutes drive away from Junction 10 of the M6. Many main roads run through the area including The Keyway (which runs from Willenhall to Wolverhampton/Willenhall border) and the A454 The Black Country Route.

Due to its central location, Willenhall is home to the main hubs of Poundland and City Link, as well as transport companies Aspray and Nightfreight. Additionally dairy firm Robert Wiseman has a depot in the town.

Education

Willenhall is well educated, being the home to three Secondary Schools. St Thomas More RC School is located near to the border of Bilston, Willenhall School Sports College is located on the towns Lodge Farm estate and Pool Hayes Community Performing Arts College is located on the towns Pool Hayes Estate.

For younger students in Willenhall there are numerous primary schools, these are:
* Fibbersley Park School - "A recently built Super School located near Willenhall Memorial Park, made up of the merger of Clothier Street, Little London & "
* Short Heath Junior School, Rosedale CofE Primary School & Lane Head Nursery School - "Three federated schools located on the outskirts of the Lodge Farm Estate & Lane Head."
* Barcroft School - "The product of the recent merger of Elm Street Infants and Albion Road Juniors. Located near Willenhall Town Centre"
* Woodlands Primary - "Located in the Short Heath area of the town, very near to Lane Head."
* Lodge Farm Primary - "Located next to Willenhall School Sports College, very near the border with Bentley."

port

The town has a football club Willenhall Town F.C. who play in the Southern Football League Division One Midlands. In the 2005/06 season the club won the Birmingham Senior Cup with a 1-0 win over Stourbridge. Their most successful period was in the early 1980s, when they reached the First Round of the FA Cup in the 1981-82 season and were FA Vase runners-up in 1981.

Willenhall also has its own Rugby Union football club, formed by some employees of Rubery Owen in 1966. They are based in nearby Essington.

Neighbourhoods

* Short Heath
* New Invention
* Lodge Farm
* Poet's Estate
* Rough Wood
* Coppice Farm
* Portobello
* Fibbersley
* Allens Rough
* Little London
* The Crescent
* The Summers
* St Anns
* Manor Farm
* County Bridge
* Pool Hayes
* Sneyd
* Scholars Heath
* Rose Hill
* Lakeside
* Park Side
* St Giles
* Lane Head

Twin towns

* Drancy flagicon|France

External links

* [http://www.walsall.gov.uk/transport.pdf Walsall Transport strategy]
* [http://www2.walsall.gov.uk/localhistorycentre/Local_Heritage/landmark/willenhall-inn.asp History of the Bell Inn]

References


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