|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
The final meeting of Darlaston's
|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
Left to Right:
Back Row - Mr. J. A. Wilkes, Mr. J. A.
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
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
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.
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.
adverts from 1954. Courtesy of Christine and John
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
Building work begins on the
|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.
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
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 Late 1970s
||The 21st Century
||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
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,
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.
of the housing estate from February
2005 when building work was well
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
|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
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
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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