In 1966 an important event happened, as a result of the Local Government Reform Act. Darlaston lost its status as an urban district, and came under the direct control of Walsall Metropolitan Borough. As a result, Darlaston Urban District Council held it's last meeting at the Town Hall on Tuesday 29th March, 1966. When the council members attended the meeting they found a wreath of assorted daffodils in the corridor. The attached message read as follows:

"From the tradespeople of the town. In Memory of D.U.D.C."

Councillor Mrs. E. E. Wilkinson, who chaired the meeting said that "The spirit of the Darlaston people was good, sound and independent. They were the kind of people who see that their town was not forgotten."


The final meeting of Darlaston's council members.

On Saturday 26th March, 1966 seven Darlaston councillors were elected to the Fellowship of Darlaston and presented with commemorative caskets and scrolls at a celebration dinner. They can be seen in the photograph opposite.
 

Left to Right:
Back Row - Mr. J. A. Wilkes, Mr. J. A. Smith,
Mr. F. Baker, and Mr. T. Croft.
Front Row - Mr. E. Sutton, Mrs. E. E. Wilkinson, and Mr. T. W. Wilkinson.


One of the town's last council meetings. From the collection of the late Howard Madeley.

In the early 1960s Darlaston Comprehensive School opened on the area of George Rose Park that is adjacent to Herberts Park Road. This was part of a plan to streamline secondary education in the town, which resulted in the closure of Slater Street (boys), and Salisbury Street (girls) Secondary Modern Schools. The school became Darlaston Community Science College, part of Walsall LEA with just over 1,100 students, nearly 80 full time teachers and about 35 support staff. Students actively engaged in work with adults from many agencies that were associated with the college. As a result of this work in the community, the college was awarded a School's Curriculum Award in June 2000.

In September 2009 the school became Grace Academy, which has since expanded and taken over much of the old George Rose Park.


Darlaston flats, John Wootton House and Great Croft House. Courtesy of Bill Beddow.
In the mid 1960s two 15 storey blocks of flats, Great Croft House and John Wootton House were built next to the site of the old Wesleyan graveyard off Great Croft Street.

This was a time of great change in the town centre, which would soon look very different.


The flats near completion in 1965. Courtesy of Bill Beddow.


The old flats, John Wootton House and Great Croft House, and the Bull Stake. Taken by Richard Ashmore. Courtesy of John and Christine Ashmore.

Two adverts from 1954. Courtesy of Christine and John Ashmore.


Moxley Road (often called Wood's Bank) in the mid 1960s.


One of Darlaston's oldest buildings, the lovely Pardoe's Cottage. Taken by Richard Ashmore. Courtesy of John and Christine Ashmore.

Darlaston Post Office which opened in 1912 and has served the town well ever since. Taken by Richard Ashmore. Courtesy of John and Christine Ashmore.
 
In 1970 and 1971 much of the old town centre was demolished for the construction of St. Lawrence Way. The casualties included Great Croft Street, Eldon Street, and part of Bilston Street. The two fifths of a mile length of road cost £226,800 and was opened in July 1971 by Lord Harmar Nicholls, a former chairman of the Council.

Pinfold Street J.M.I. School and the Wake Field from the top of the old pit bank that used to be where the bungalows in Wiley Avenue South are today. There were two filled-in mine shafts on top of the bank. If you dropped a stone into one of them it took a long time to reach the water at the bottom.

The Wake Field was named after Pat Collin's fair, which came regularly to the town. The photograph shows the fair on a cold winter's day in the mid 1960s. The land was owned by Pat Collins who purchased many disused coal mines, clay pits, and sand pits in the Black Country, levelled them and laid gravel to make a suitable surface for his fairs.

The southern edge of the Wake Field looking towards Moxley Road. This photograph from the early 1960s was taken from the top of the old school air raid shelters and shows the area that was once occupied by the old Victorian houses and their back gardens. Immediately behind the houses was a courtyard with a large double gateway onto Moxley Road.

This photograph shows the derelict Shaw's scrap yard that stood on the western side of the pit bank by the Wake Field. Access to the yard was via a double gateway at the end of Woods Bank Terrace. The scrap yard was owned by Charlie Shaw, a generous man who used to drink in the Moxley Arms. First thing in the evening he would buy everyone in the pub a drink.

The Leys, as seen from Great Croft House in 1965. Courtesy of Bill Beddow. The house on the right was called Pear Tree House, but also known as Lion House because of the cast iron lions that were on the gate posts. It was built in 1852 by Edwin Bruerton, a wealthy pawnbroker, and a church warden at St. Lawrence's Church from 1862 until 1884. He also owned a large house on the corner of Cock Street and Dorsett Road, next to the Dartmouth Arms. The pub can be seen in the centre of the photograph, although the house was long gone. The house became the town's first library, the Mechanics Institute. On the left is the Seven Stars pub, and on the right is the Leys Hall.

Three adverts from 1954. Courtesy of Christine and John Ashmore.


Great Croft Street in 1963, on a wet Sunday afternoon, looking towards Pinfold Street. Courtesy of Irene Bishop.
The photograph above was kindly sent in by Irene Bishop who lived at number 30 Great Croft Street, the second front door on the left. This is part of the area that was redeveloped in the early 1970s. She recalled that this was the only house left standing in the street, the others having been demolished around the beginning of World War 2. Most of the occupants were re-housed at Bentley. The site of the houses opposite was occupied by air-raid shelters. On the right-hand corner is Belcher's offices and on the left is the Castle pub, which was run by the Foxalls during the war. When there was an air-raid, Irene and her family used to go into the cellars of the Castle instead of the nasty-smelling air-raid shelters opposite. The small single storey building on the extreme right behind the car is the air-raid warden's post, which was looked after by her father, the ARP warden.

The late 1970s saw changes in Darlaston that would have been unimaginable in the previous decade. Most of the large factories that formed the main stay of Darlaston's industrial might were forced out of business by the recession. This dealt a terrible blow to Darlaston, especially as the previous ten years were so successful. During the next decade the large companies disappeared one by one until a large part of the town became a derelict wasteland. The situation wasn't helped by the fact that tax still had to be paid on empty useable buildings, and so the roofs were quickly removed as factories became empty, so avoiding the tax. This meant that the empty buildings quickly deteriorated, became unusable, and were demolished to leave an industrial wasteland.


Building work begins on the Leys flats.

In the early 1970s through to 1978, much of King Street and High Street was demolished to make way for the new ASDA store, new shops, and a new library.

Changes also took place on The Leys with the building of two more 15 storey blocks of flats, Leys Court and Alma Court, which were to have a relatively short life.

Part of the site covered Smith Street, and so before work could begin, the buildings there were demolished.


Another view of the construction of The Leys flats with Old Church School in the background.


The Leys flats, Alma Court and Leys Court, nearing completion. Taken by Richard Ashmore. Courtesy of John and Christine Ashmore.


A fine view of the Leys flats. Taken by Richard Ashmore. Courtesy of John and Christine Ashmore.

 
View images of the town centre from the 1960s to recent times, and a Bentley panorama:
 
The 1960s
Dereliction and Demolition
The Late 1970s Rebuild
The 21st Century Rebuild
Lost Buildings
More Lost Buildings
A Panorama of Bentley in the early 1960s
 
With large numbers of people permanently out of work, and little investment, Darlaston's future looked bleak, especially when more jobs were lost as a result of the closure of the area's last large factory, F. H. Lloyds, which closed in April 1990.

Since that time the town has recovered remarkably well. Nearly all of the derelict factory sites have now gone and been replaced with new housing estates, end even new industries. One of today's success stories is the rebirth of Charles Richards' Imperial Works thanks to George Dyke Limited, which now occupies much of the site and has built new factory units there. The old Wilkins and Mitchell factory on the opposite side of Heath Road is now an industrial estate, and the businesses in the road seem to be as busy as ever.

Today's Station Street looks as industrialised as ever with several new businesses there. Until 2015, bolts were still produced in the old GKN Atlas Works by Caparo Atlas Fastenings Limited, which sadly went into liquidation on 19th October, 2015. Much of the factory is occupied by ZF Lemforder UK Limited, which designs and manufactures automotive suspension components, and operates a just-in-sequence supply of suspension assemblies.

Today few people are out of work in the town, and the newly built houses give the area a look of prosperity, so different to the old Victorian terraces which were commonplace. Access to the town improved with the building of the Black Country Route from Bentley to West Bromwich, which opened in mid 1995. It follows the old Darlaston-Willenhall and Darlaston-Moxley boundaries, and has greatly changed the eastern end of Moxley with the large traffic island.


One of the recent housing developments was the Woods Bank housing estate on the site of G. B. Longmore's Springfield Works, in Mill Street, which produced bright drawn steel. After closure, the site was acquired by Bellway Homes, who built the estate.


Another view of the housing estate from February 2005 when building work was well underway.

The new ASDA store in the town centre attracts large numbers of shoppers. Sadly many of the traditional shops in King Street have now gone, but most have been replaced with new businesses, and few are empty. Many of the old derelict industrial areas have been revived thanks to investment and redevelopment schemes, and very few empty factories remain. One such scheme, the Darlaston Heritage Economic Regeneration Scheme was designed to restore historic buildings and historic open spaces. Three areas that were improved are Darlaston War Memorial, the Owen Memorial Gardens, and Victoria Park, which received a £67,000 facelift thanks to Walsall Council and Darlaston Local Neighbourhood Partnership.

The Town Hall closed in September 2006 on health and safety grounds. Thankfully Walsall Council spent £325,000 to renovate the building, which reopened in June 2008. To mark the opening, organist Mervyn Jones was joined by the Wolverhampton Orpheus Male Voice Choir and popular Xylophone player Jack Williams for a two-hour performance, which was given to an appreciative audience of 150 people. Hopefully the Town Hall will continue to be in use for many years to come. It is now home to Darlaston's Sport and Leisure Services, and there are concerts given by Borough Organist, Peter Morris, on the Slater Organ.

An interesting event took place in St. Lawrence's churchyard on 19th October, 2014. It was the relaying and dedication of a plaque to commemorate the renovation of the churchyard on 20th June, 1954.

The renovation had been carried out by Darlaston Urban District Council under the chairmanship of Councillor A. G. B. Owen C.B.E., J.P., C.C.

Sadly the original plaque was stolen in 2014 by metal thieves, and so David Owen kindly had a non-metallic replica made, and installed on the site.

Quite a few people came along on a windy autumn Sunday morning, and a short service of re-dedication was held in the churchyard, led by the vicar, Liz Jones. 


David Owen O.B.E. and the plaque.


The new plaque, kindly sponsored by David Owen O.B.E.


The service of re-dedication. Liz Jones, Vicar of St. Lawrence's Church is on the right.


Some of those who witnessed the event.


The party included Tony Highfield on the far left, Liz Jones 3rd from the left, David Owen, at the back, last but one on the right, and Bill Madeley, ex-Mayor of Walsall on the far right.


The original plaque.


The dedication ceremony in 1954.


Another view of the 1954 ceremony. Courtesy of Christine and John Ashmore.

All-in-all Darlaston's future looks good. Hopefully investment in the town will continue, and it can look forward to a bright future.

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