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Town of 100 trades; NOSTALGIA.


IT'S the Midland manufacturing town that once drew the admiration of the late great poet Sir John Betjeman.

The one-time Poet Laureate declared Walsall "a borough which is obviously proud of itself " and proclaimed its High Street "one of the most attractive streets in England".

That was before the urban planners of the 1960s struck.

By the time they had done their worst, not much of the town's proud heritage was left standing. In its place stood what was later described as "a bleak soulless open space".

One thing that even the concrete vandals of the Sixties and Seventies failed to destroy, however, was Walsall's reputation as 'the town of a hundred trades'.

Even today, when so many goods originate from factories in China and the Far East, Made In Walsall is still a stamp of quality and pride.

In obscure backstreet factories highly-skilled metal and leather workers still labour to make saddles for the Household Cavalry, turbochargers for Porsches and handbags for export to Japan.

And, of course, the town also boasts its glorious Arboretum, one of the finest urban parks in the country, lit up each autumnby its famous Walsall Illuminations, . Betjeman would no doubt turn in his grave at some of the modern monstrosities that have sprung up, but there are still plenty of reminders of its past.

St Matthew's church still dominates Church Hill, the market still thrives where it has every week since 1220 and the town's manufacturing heart still beats strongly.

A new book by local historian Michael Glasson, Walsall Through Time, shows through hundreds of Then and Now photographs the changing face of the town.

Walsall Through Time, priced pounds 14.99, is published by Amberley Publishing (01285 760030) and can be ordered through


FLYING THE FLAG: Dudley Street, decked out for the Silver Jubilee of George V in 1937, was another of the narrow, winding streets spreading out from Church Hill. ON PARADE: The horse and cart of coal merchant Tommy Hartshorne is decorated in Short Street ready for the May Day horse parade around 1930. Today the area is a large trading estate. The town's High Street was described by Sir John Betjeman in 1959 as "one of the most attractive streets in England". Within 10 years nearly every building had been bulldozed. COMMUNITY SPIRIT: Local residents in Lower Forster Street celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935. The building behind them is the Globe Works of saddle-makers Jabez Cliff & Co. ABOVE: The Arboretum was taken over by the Walsall Corporation in 1884. A guidebook of 1932 commented: "The Arboretum is Walsall's choicest beauty spot. The flower gardens are a joy, the lake, with its boats and its water fowl, the greenhouses, the tennis courts, the bowling greens, the bathing pool, the tea house and rose gardens combine to charm all who give themselves time to see the beauty of the place." ABOVE LEFT: Walsall's town square The Bridge takes its name from along-vanished brook over the Walsall Brook. By the late 19th Century the space was surrounded by impressive buildings, including the George Hotel, a celebrated coaching inn in its heyday. LEFT: Butler Brothers in Park Street were manufacturers of high-quality saddles. The crowded and slightly ramshackle working conditions seen in this photograph from around 1930 were typical of the trade.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Aug 14, 2011
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