The first municipal housing in Darlaston, was built in 1920 to the south of Herberts Park in Herberts Park Road and Partridge Avenue. This was the beginning of a large undertaking which finally improved the housing conditions in the town. 3,500 council houses had been built by 1965, nearly 2,000 of them in Bentley.

Many of the new housing estates had roads that were named after local councillors, which became common practice. Although most of the councillors have long been forgotten, their surnames are well known thanks to roads such as Wiley Avenue, Berry Avenue, Hall Street, Lowe Avenue, and Stanbury Avenue.

   
Read about some of the councillors who had roads named after them
   

After the war Emmanuel Hartsorne brought two army surplus lorries, and founded the firm, E. Hartsorne & Son Ltd. road transport contractors. They operated from Springhead garage and by the early 1930s operated a large fleet of vehicles specialising in long distance haulage. Emmanuel died in 1939 and the business carried on going from strength to strength.

 

Pinfold Street in the 1920s. From an old postcard.
The programme for the unveiling of Moxley war memorial, and the service of dedication that took place on Sunday 16th April, 1922.

Courtesy of Christine & John Ashmore.

 

In September 2013 the memorial was rededicated after a £45,000 refurbishment that was paid for by Walsall Council. The work included the installation of plaques which carry the names of the local people who gave their lives for their country during the First World War.

George Rose Park

George Rose Park was named after John George Rose, Chairman of the Council from 1911 to 1914, and 1919 until 1924.

After the 1914-1918 war, unemployment in Darlaston was high, with about 2,000 people out of work.

George Rose introduced several schemes to find work for them, one of which was the building of the park.


George Rose Park. From an old postcard.

Other schemes included the building of a new sewage works, and the building of Midland Road from Darlaston Green to Willenhall.


The park gates. From an old postcard.

The park was built on an old mining area known as Herbert's Park, that consisted wasteland, slag heaps, and pit mounds. The council paid £2,000 for Herbert's Park, and £551 for an adjacent piece of land. The project began in 1921 and took three years to complete. Casual employment was found for over 700 unemployed people, who were paid from a special fund amounting to £3,349, that was set aside for the purpose.

Town Architect C. W. D. Joynson designed the park, in which the old pit mounds were incorporated as grass covered banks. On Saturday 29th March, 1924 a ceremony was held at the nearly completed park. Hundreds of people came along and 140 lime trees were planted by individuals and organisations to form a walkway known as Yardley Avenue, in recognition of Alderman Yardley's services to the town. Councillor George Rose gave a speech during which he said that football pitches, cricket pitches, tennis courts, a bowling green, and a children's playground would be provided. He also asked for donations to cover the cost of a bandstand, a shelter, and some seats.

It had been intended to add a swimming pool at a later date, but it never materialised.

The park was formally opened in pouring rain on the afternoon of Saturday 1st November, 1924. Sadly George Rose died in August, 1924 and so didn't live to see the opening. The park was named after him in recognition of his help for the unemployed.


Another view of the park. From an old postcard.

On the afternoon of the opening a large procession headed by the town band made its way from the Town Hall to the park. Alderman Yardley performed the opening ceremony by unlocking the gates in Willenhall Street with a silver key. In his speech he said:

The thoughts of all assembled here must inevitably be tinged with sadness upon the reflection that the one man who inspired the idea of the park and did so much to bring the scheme to a successful issue, has not been spared to witness the realisation of one of his most treasured dreams. I refer of course to our late Chairman. I am sure that you will agree with me when I say that no more fitting memorial could be raised to his memory than this park, which will ever be known as George Rose Park and remain a permanent record of the good work of one of Darlaston's most faithful and loyal citizens.

After the opening, the procession reassembled and made its way to the Owen Recreation Ground at Darlaston Green.

The park covered 34 acres, and was created at a cost of £16,000.


An advert from 1963.

James Bass & Son Limited the well known Darlaston furniture manufacturers were incorporated in 1928.

The company manufactured wooden school and office furniture which sold throughout the country, and had an extensive retail shop in Walsall Road.

James Bass was also a local councillor.


An advert from 1921.

 


James Bass.


Two adverts from the early 1920s, when most things could be purchased locally.

A lovely photograph showing a group of people in their Sunday best, standing on an area of derelict land off Dangerfield Lane in the early 1930s. They were using the land as an allotment. The houses in the background  are on Moxley Road, or Woods Bank as it was known, and the chimney is part of Longmore Brother's factory. On the right is part of Dangerfield Lane, and the Lodge Holes Colliery spoil heaps. The photo was taken near to the footpath that ran from Dangerfield Lane to Holyhead Road, where Margaret Road was later built. You can see the end of it on the right. In the mid 1930s the area was redeveloped for housing by Wednesbury Council. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.
By the late 1920s the old Cock Street burial ground, which had been disused since 1860 when James Bridge Cemetery opened, had fallen into a state of disrepair. In the early 1930s it was renovated by the Owen family and reopened in 1932 as the Owen Memorial Garden, dedicated to Alfred Ernest Owen.
 
Two views of the Owen Memorial Garden photographed in the late 1930s by the late W. J. Ashmore. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.
 
Another of the late W. J. Ashmore's photographs. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.   A modern view of the garden on a sunny day in October, 2014.

The Bentley Hall Brick Company Ltd. was founded in 1933. Its high quality bricks were used by numerous building contractors within about a thirty mile radius of the town. They had an 80 acre site from which most of the clay for the bricks was obtained.

The area had previously been extensively mined and consisted of spoil heaps from the numerous gin pits. Much of the clay came from the spoil heaps and the production processes were fully mechanised including a Hoffman continuous kiln capable of drying over 200,000 bricks a week.


An advert from 1963.

Darlaston finally expanded to its present size on the 1st of April 1934 when it took over the Parish of Bentley as part of the Staffordshire Review Order.
Len Mitchell
A well-known name in Darlaston was Len Mitchell, who had four shops in Pinfold Street.

He lived at 62 Old Park Road (now number 136), and started in business around 1930, selling cycles and cycle accessories in a shed, in his garden, next to the house.

After several break-ins he moved the shop into his front room, and traded from the house for a few years.

In 1934 he opened his first shop in Pinfold Street, selling cycles and cycle accessories.


Two of Len Mitchell's shops in Pinfold Street in the early 1970s.

He became a dealer for some well-known makes including B.S.A., Dawes, Defiance, Hercules, Hopper, Phillips, Raleigh, and Triumph. Len soon expanded into other areas, opening a pram shop, selling a range of baby carriages, pushchairs, toys, and bedding, and also carried out pram repairs. Two other shops followed. One sold handbags, jewellery, and fashion accessories. The other sold furniture, radios, televisions, and electrical domestic appliances. He was an agent for Bush, Murphy, Philips, and Pam. Items were available for rental, or on hire-purchase.

I remember going to the shop with my father to purchase our first mains-powered radio, a Bush bakelite model. I was 4 years old at the time. I also had a child's tricycle that came from the shop.

It was a family-run business. Len's two daughters, Marion and Dorothy worked in the shops, as did Dorothy's husband, Leslie Raffle, who managed the TV and radio shop. Another employee, Ben Mills was Marion and Dorothy's cousin. Other employees included Mary Jennings, and Joan Marson.

Len Mitchell retired in 1963, and left the running of the business to the other family members.


Len's other shops in Pinfold Street.

The shops closed in 1982 because of impending demolition. At the time Walsall Council announced a scheme to extend St. Lawrence Way through the shops to join Darlaston Road. The scheme was soon abandoned, and of course the shops are still there today (October 2010).

Len Mitchell died in 1987 at the age of 88, and was survived by his wife, who lived for another year. Dorothy Raffle died in January 2000. The shops, which offered an important local service, will be fondly remembered by many people. 

A Silver Jubilee

The Silver Jubilee celebrations of King George V and Queen Mary were held from 6th May to 12th May, 1935. The streets were decked with bunting, street parties were held for children, and musicians, and jazz bands toured the town. Sporting events took place in public parks, and an ox was roasted at Catherine's Cross. On the evening of the 6th May, a large bonfire was lit at The Flatts, on top of 'Sandy Bank' where Darlaston Baths now stands. A parade passed through the town to light the fire. It included local councillors, torch bearers, members of the territorial army, the 1st Moxley Scout Troop, and the 2nd Darlaston Scout Troop. The fire was lit by Councillor Harry Berry, of Hollydene, Slater Street, Darlaston.


The programme for the events. Courtesy of Christine and John Ashmore.

The first page of the programme. Courtesy of Christine and John Ashmore.

The next page of the programme. Courtesy of Christine and John Ashmore.

The last page of the programme. Courtesy of Christine and John Ashmore.
A Coronation

In 1937 Darlaston celebrated the coronation with a procession through the town centre, followed by a service at the football ground.


The programme for the celebrations.

 


Details of the procession to the football ground.


The layout for the coronation service at the football ground.

A.   The Waverley Road entrance for the procession and the public.
B.   Rectory Avenue temporary entrance for school children, old age pensioners, choirs, and ticket holders.
C.   Slater Street entrance for the public.
1.   Public entering after the procession at the Waverley Road entrance.
2.   Public entering at Slater Street.
3.   Fire Brigade.
4.   St. John's Ambulance Brigade.
5.   Ex-service men.
6.   School children.
7.   Territorials.
8.   Work's representatives.
9.   Friendly societies.
10.   Salvation Army.
11.   Girl Guides.
12.   Boy Scouts.
13.   Seats for 300 old age pensioners and disabled.
14.   Band.
The service was conducted by the Rev. L. Robinson, representing Methodist churches, the Rev. T. Chadwick, vicar of All Saints' Church, Councillor W. G. Berry, chairman of the council, and the Rev. A. B. Lavelle, the Rector. Other events during the day included the following:
Time  

                                                        Event

8.30 a.m.   Gratuities to the unemployed, paid at the Town Hall.
9.00 a.m.   Ringing of the Parish Church bells. Also intermittently during the day.
11.00 a.m.   Broadcast service at the Parish Church.
2.15 p.m.   Town Hall Band marched and played from the Bull Stake to the football ground, arriving in time for community singing at 2.30 p.m. Followed by a football match and gymnastic display.
3.00 p.m.   School children assembled at their respective schools for tea and entertainment.
4.00 to 7.00 p.m.   Tea and entertainment for old age pensioners at Rubery Owen's canteen.
7.00 to 10.00 p.m.   The Town Hall Band played light music at Victoria Park.
9.00 p.m.   Fairy lights at the Town Hall, and Victoria Park, and floodlighting at the war memorial.
9.15 p.m.   A torchlight procession by the Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, members of the council, and the coronation celebrations committee, through the town centre to The Flatts for a bonfire and firework display.
    

The impressive bonfire at The Flatts on 12th May, 1937. Photographed by the late W. J. Ashmore. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.
Officials and members of the 1st Moxley Scout Troop pose for an official photograph beside the bonfire.
 
Two more views of the bonfire, also photographed by the late W. J. Ashmore. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.
 

The structure begins to collapse as the fire takes hold. Photographed by the late W. J. Ashmore. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.


The aftermath of the bonfire. Photographed by the late W. J. Ashmore. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.
Darlaston Baths


The old public baths.

A notable event in 1938 was the opening of the public baths in Victoria Road by the Earl of Harrowby.

The pool measured 100ft. by 35ft., and the depth varied from 3ft. to 9ft. 3 inches. It held 133,000 gallons of water, that was filtered, heated, aerated, and sterilised at the rate of 35,000 gallons per hour. Facilities existed for organised instruction in all types of swimming, life saving, and water polo.

Considerable improvements were carried out in 1946 when the ceiling and upper parts of the walls were fitted with acoustic tiles to reduce noise. In 1966 the building was modernised at a cost of nearly £14,000 but sadly it closed in 1993 due to lack of funds for refurbishment, and stood in a derelict state for several years.

Funds were eventually raised for a replacement swimming pool and the new baths opened in November 2000. The award winning pool was designed by Hodder Associates and Consulting Engineer Arup.


The interior of the baths in 1976.


Building work at Darlaston Baths in 1938. Photographed by the late W. J. Ashmore. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.

The baths, nearing completion in 1938. Photographed by the late W. J. Ashmore. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.

The completed baths. Photographed in 1938 by the late W. J. Ashmore. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.


The interior of the baths in 1966.

Views from Darlaston Green in the late 1930s

The eastern side of Rubery Street. Photographed on Sunday 28th February, 1937 by the late W. J. Ashmore. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.
 
Alf Peace sitting on on his homemade bicycle in Rubery Street. Possibly in 1937. Photographed by the late W. J. Ashmore. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.   Another view of Rubery Street in the late 1930s. Photographed by the late W. J. Ashmore. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.
 
Snow in Beard Street. The cycle tracks were made by postman Richard Ashmore, on his way to work. Photographed by the late W. J. Ashmore. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.   A final view of The Green. Photographed by the late W. J. Ashmore. Courtesy of John & Christine Ashmore.


Blockall in the late 1920s. From an old postcard.


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