Brownhills lies at the north-eastern corner of Walsall, which it became part of in 1974. It is believed that its name came from the plentiful spoil heaps that once covered much of the area, as a result of the many coal mines that were part of the town's large-scale mining industry. The Brownhills name has been in use for at least 340 years. It is marked on Robert Plot’s map of Staffordshire from 1680 as ‘Brownhill’. At that time it was part of the Manor of Ogley Hay, that was part of Norton Canes.

The A5 which follows the ancient Roman road, Watling Street, runs through the northern part of the town, where a burial mound called Knaves Castle once stood. It provided evidence of early settlement in the area and could have been of Roman origin or earlier.


Part of Robert Plot’s map of Staffordshire from 1680.

Ogley Hay has links with Wolverhampton because it was given to the town by Lady Wulfrun as part of her grant to the Monastery of St. Mary in 994. After the Norman Conquest it was owned by the Canons of Wolverhampton as part of the Deanery manor, before becoming Crown property in the 13th century. The name Ogley Hay is derived from the Saxon name ‘Oogs's Leah’ or ‘Ocga Leah’ meaning a clearing in a wood.

The area consisted of heathland and woods, and formed part of Cannock Forest. Much of the local forest was cleared in the 15th and 16th centuries for the grazing of sheep, which encouraged the spread of heather and led to the creation of a huge area of heathland.

In 1765 a warrener named Richard Gildart bought the Catshill area for use as a rabbit warren. Warren Place and the Warreners Arms pub were named after it. The Warreners Arms, on the corner of High Street and Ogley Road, was built in 1871 and closed in 1999 when it became a McDonald's restaurant, which closed in 2004. In the 1930s the Brownhills Early Closers football team who were in the Walsall and District Thursday league, played at the rear of the Warreners Arms.

The local geology consists of sand and red clay deposits, overlying Triassic sandstone and seams of coal. The coal seams on the western side of the town around Brownhills Common are much nearer to the surface than those to the east, which in the 17th century led to the opening of many shallow mine workings. As the demand for coal increased, more mines opened, so much so that the coal mines began to dominate the local area.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, road transport was difficult because many roads were simply dirt tracks that were almost impassable during wet weather, especially for heavy loads. The problems of transporting coal from the mines were eased with the opening of the Wyrley & Essington Canal in 1797. The canal was built to link the local coalfields to the Birmingham Canal at Wolverhampton.

An Act of Parliament was passed on 30th April, 1792 to allow the work to commence. Much of the finance came from Wolverhampton businessmen, principally the Molineux family. Work soon started under the canal company's engineer, William Pitt. There were two branches, one to a colliery at Essington and the other to Birchills near the centre of Walsall. The canal joined the Birmingham Canal at Horseley Fields, Wolverhampton and opened on 8th May, 1797. The work included the building of Chasewater reservoir which was built as a canal feeder reservoir. Because the canal followed the contour of the land, locks were unnecessary and so some of the canal boats were wider then usual, as they didn't have to pass through narrow locks. They were unique to this canal and were known as 'Amptons' after their destination, Wolverhampton. Being a contoured canal and following an extremely circuitous route, it became known as "The Curly Wyrley".

A horse-drawn tramway was built in the early 19th century to link some of the coal mines with the canal wharves. The larger mines included Brownhills Colliery, Conduit Colliery, Coppice Colliery, Watling Street Colliery, and Grove Colliery. Many of the local miners lived on Wolverhampton Lane, which is now Pelsall Road.


The canal at Brownhills in the 1960s. From an old postcard.

Old Chester Road (now High Street) became a turnpike road in 1759, with a toll gate and toll house at Anchor Bridge. The road became known as the Old Chester Turnpike Road. The Anchor Inn was built around 1796 and Watling Street was vastly improved by Thomas Telford. The toll house at Anchor Bridge was demolished in 1910 when the road was widened.


The toll house and Anchor Bridge.  From an old postcard.


Part of the Brownhills entry in William White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire from 1834.

In the 1801 census, Brownhills is listed as having a population of only eight people. In the early years of the century the number of coal mines increased, spreading towards Watling Street and the Rising Sun pub, which closed in 2008 and was demolished a few years later after an arson attack. Many of the collieries belonged to William Hanbury of Moreton House, and William Harrison of Norton Hall.

Much of the land in the area belonged to the Hussey family, who were Lords of the Manor of Norton Canes. In 1836 on the death of Phineas Hussey, Charles Foster Cotterill, a merchant, who was appointed as a Capital Burgess of Walsall in 1832 and became mayor of Walsall in 1834 and 1835, purchased the manor of Ogley Hay. In 1838 the heathland, which covered about 1,000 acres, was enclosed and sold for uses including farmland and a flour mill, which opened in 1839 and closed in 1942. The last piece of land was sold in 1846.

The principal freeholders of the land were John Nicholson, of Liverpool; William Stubbs; William Middleton; and Messrs. G. and J. Brawn.


From the Brownhills entries in William White's History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire from 1851.


From Harrison, Harrod & Company's 1861 Directory and Gazetteer of Staffordshire.

The population rapidly grew. In 1831 there were 24 people living in the area, which increased to 221 in 1841. In 1861 there were 1,357 inhabitants and in 1871 the number had increased to 1,824.

Brownhills' first railway station was on the north western side of the large traffic island, where the coal miner statue now stands. It was behind where 'The Smithy's Forge' bar is today, at the end of Lichfield Road. The station was originally on the 17¼ miles long section of the South Staffordshire Railway between Walsall and Winchnor that opened on 9th April, 1849. There were also stations at Walsall, Rushall, Pelsall, Hammerwich, and Lichfield. From 1850 until 1871 the line was leased by the engineer John Robinson McClean with a head office at Lichfield, although he worked from Walsall. It became part of the London & North Western Railway, and by 1906, 21 trains a day ran in each direction through the station. Brownhills Railway Station closed in 1965 as a result of the Beeching Report, although the line continued in use for goods until 1983.


Brownhills railway station in London and North Western Railway days.  From an old postcard.

McClean also engineered the GWR broad gauge line from Birmingham to Wolverhampton, was the originator and engineer of the South Staffordshire Waterworks Company, builder of the Anglesey Branch Canal, and owner of several coal mines near Chasewater. The Anglesey Branch Canal was built in 1800 as a feeder to carry water from Chasewater Reservoir to the Wyrley and Essington Canal at Ogley Junction, just south of Lichfield Road. In 1850 it gained navigable status and was used to transport coal from many of the mines in the area. It became part of the Birmingham Canal Navigations in 1840.

Brownhills other railway station, which was on Chester Road North, stood on the Brownhills Branch from Aldridge to Norton Canes, where it joined the Cannock Chase and Wolverhampton Railway, and also several colliery lines. The section from Aldridge to Walsall Wood opened in 1876, followed by the opening of the section to Cannock in 1880. It was on the Midland Railway and opened for passengers in 1884. The station closed in 1960. Few passengers used the line, which was built mainly for coal trains from the many nearby pits.


Brownhills Midland Railway station.  From an old postcard.

Another ex-railwayman ,William Roberts, who had worked in a pit before becoming a navvy on the railway, acquired a number of properties in the area including public houses and farms. He became wealthy on the proceeds and became Chairman of the Council and a local magistrate. He was also a great benefactor in the local area until his death in 1906. His obituary in the Lichfield Mercury, Friday 9th February, 1906 reads as follows:

Death of Mr. W. Roberts, J.P., of Brownhills

A Remarkable Career

We very much regret to announce the death of Mr. William Roberts, J.P. of Brownhills which took place early on Monday morning at his residence the Station Hotel. The deceased gentleman, who was seventy seven years of age, had only been confined to his bed since the new year, though he had been ailing for some time previously. The deceased had been attended by Dr. J. C. Maddever.

The deceased career was a somewhat remarkable one. Born in a humble station of life, he had, by his own perseverance and dogged tenacity, built up an extensive licensing business and owned one of the largest concerns in the brewing trade under private proprietorship in the Midlands. The son of a Waterloo veteran, he was born at Shenstone near to the Bulls Head Inn, in 1828. From here, however, he removed in infancy, his father going to reside at Brownhills at a farmhouse, now known as the ‘Tommy Shop.’ As a boy he assisted his father upon the farm, and also worked for some time at the local collieries. It was here that he started his career as a navvy on the new line then being made from Walsall to Lichfield, but, displaying abilities far above the average, he soon rose to the position of a ganger.

On the completion of the line he went to Durham, where he executed several contracts in connection with railways, which at that time, were in their infancy. He had a large number of men under his control, and amongst the railway contracting, in which he took a large share, was the erection of the Stannidge Tunnel, between Stalybridge and Huddersfield, which is between three and four miles long. At this time he did a large amount of work in Lancashire and the north. While in this part of the country he became acquainted with his future wife, Miss Ann Bradley, the daughter of a shoemaker, whom he married at Yarm, in Yorkshire in 1852, and who survives him. On the death of his father he made his first venture in the licensed trade at the Tower Inn, Potter's Hill, Aston. He, however, only remained here about nine months, and in 1860 he heard from an old inhabitant of Brownhills, Mr. Joseph Marklew that the Station Hotel was vacant. Mr. Roberts immediately came over, and satisfactory arrangements being made with the late Mr. Harrison, of Aldershaw (Capt. W. B. Harrison's father), he first became the tenant of the house and eventually bought it.

At that time the hotel had nothing like the accommodation which it now possesses, but as the district became more populous and business increased, the house had from time to time to be enlarged. It is a curious coincidence that the deceased gentleman first entered as tenant of the Station Hotel on February 4th 1860, and died on February 5th, 1906, forty six years almost to the very day.

Mr. Roberts owned no fewer than twenty six licensed houses, all within a six mile radius of Brownhills. These included, in addition to the Station Hotel, where he resided up to the time of his death, six other houses in Brownhills, viz., the Shoulder of Mutton, the Royal George, the Wheatsheaf, the Warrener's Arms, the Swan Inn, and the Rising Sun. He also owned the Anglesey Hotel and the Globe Inn, Hednesford; the Crown Inn, Chadsmoor; the Crown Hotel and the Swan Inn, Cannock; Bridgtown Tavern, Bridgtown: Swan Inn, Wyrley; Freemasons' Arms, Newtown; the Spotted Cow Inn and the Spring Cottage, Bloxwich; the Newport Arms; the Elephant and Castle, and the Vine Inn, Walsall; the Boot Hotel, Walsall Wood; the White Lion, Pelsall; the Star Inn, Burntwood; the Vine (outdoor beer license) and the Yew Tree Inn, Norton; and the Muckley Corner Hotel, Muckley Corner. For the Anglesey Hotel at Hednesford the deceased paid £12,100, for the Spotted Cow Inn at Bloxwich, £8,000; and for the Vine Inn, Walsal1, £6,000; the average price paid for the remainder being about £3,000.

Mr. Roberts also owned a large amount of private and business property in Brownhills and district. In addition to his licensing business, the late Mr. Roberts took a keen interest in agriculture, and was a large breeder of cattle, and especially of pigs. He was the owner of three large farming estates, including the Pipe Place Farm, of 300 acres; the Warren House Farm, of 90 acres; and the Lodge Farm, of 65 acres.

Mr. Roberts bad been identified with the public life of the locality for a very long period. He was first elected a member of the old Brownhills Local Board in 1877, and sat continuously until 1894, acting as Chairman in 1892, 1893 and 1894. After an absence of three years, he was elected at a bye-election to a seat on the Urban Council, as it then was. In 1904 he was again appointed Chairman, succeeding Mr. J. Lloyd, and being re-elected in 1905, he thus held the office at the time of his death.

He took a deep interest in all the affairs of the Council, and was ever prominent in bringing forward schemes for the benefit of the ratepayers. He had no doubt to contend with much opposition at times, but having once formed his opinions he maintained them both inside and outside the Council Chamber.

Particular mention should be made of his work in connection with the sewage farm. He was a regular attendant at the ordinary and committee meetings of the Council, nothing but illness preventing him from being present. He took a prominent part in the erection of the Public Buildings at Brownhills in 1887 and in 1898 gave a steam fire engine to the District Council. From time to time he made handsome donations to various local authorities charities including two donations of £100 each to the Walsall Cottage Hospital, £100 to the Hammerwich Cottage Hospital, £105 to the Wolverhampton General Hospital, £100 to the Royal Orphanage, Wolverhampton; £100 to the Queen’s Hospital, Birmingham; £100 to the General Hospital, Birmingham; £25 to the Wolverhampton Eye Infirmary; and £25 to the Birmingham Eye Hospital.

During the great coal strike in 1893 be supplied free meals daily to a large number of the local strikers who were destitute. He also entertained the old people and others upon the occasion of the King’s, Coronation, and at other times the inhabitants of the locality enjoyed his hospitality.

In politics the deceased was a staunch Conservative, and at one time occupied the position of Chairman of the local Association. He was also a Churchman, and formerly held the office of warden at St. James' Parish Church. He also gave a portion of the site upon which the Mount Zion Primitive Methodist Chapel is now erected. The deceased was a great believer in the Friendly Society Movement, and was a member of most of the local lodges including the Oddfellows, the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, the Foresters, the Free Gardeners, and many others.

Immediately the death of Mr. Roberts was announced, the flag at the Public Buildings was hoisted half-mast high, and everywhere there were signs of the respect in which the deceased was held. Much sympathy is expressed with the widow. The funera1 will take place at St. James’ Church this morning at half past eleven o'clock.

After the opening of Brownhills first railway station in 1849, there was a great expansion in the local mining industry and an increase in the population. The many new pits included Cannock Chase Colliery, which opened in 1856; Walsall Wood Colliery, which opened in 1876; and Wyrley No. 3 Pit, that opened in 1896. Many of the miners lived in the Ogley Hay area, which led to the development of the town centre. In 1878 Watling Street School opened, followed by Brownhills Gas Works in 1880, the Council Building in 1882, and the formation of Brownhills Urban District consisting of Ogley Hay, Shire Oak, Walsall Wood, and Norton Canes. In 1896 the population was 12,500.

Local government began in the form of vestry meetings at St. James Church, where a number of local officials were elected including the first Constables, Overseers of the Poor, Rate Collectors and a Surveyor of Highways. The vestry was superseded by Brownhills Local Board of Health, formed in 1877 when the town of Brownhills was officially recognised for the first time after becoming a Local Government District on 29th September, 1877. This happened under the terms of a new Act that authorised the amalgamation of rural districts into larger local government areas. The locally elected council's first meetings were held in the School Board offices, owned by Mr. Roberts, in High Street, until 1882, when the Council Building, in Chester Road North, with its distinctive clock (added in 1911), opened. The first election resulted in a great deal of dissatisfaction because six of the nine candidates came from Norton Canes. In all future elections the area was properly divided into wards.

In 1881 the Local Board decided to build the Council Building and took out a loan of £2,000 to cover the cost. The building opened in 1882. One of the distinctive features of the building is the large clock on the front, which is made of copper, porcelain, and decorated with gold leaf. The coronation of King George V took place in 1911 and the council's Coronation Committee were left with a surplus of £19.5s.5d. which was put towards the purchase of the clock. Further funds were raised, including £3.4s.0d. from Mr. Twigden's electrograph, which had been used on the Wakes ground. The clock, which cost £95 was restored in 1951 for the Festival of Britain celebrations. The building remained in use by the council until 1966 when the Aldridge and Brownhills Urban District Council was formed. It then became offices for a construction company and now houses Brownhills library, Holland Park Surgery and Lloyds Pharmacy.


The Council Building with its decorative clock.  From an old postcard.


Another view of the Council Building.  From an old postcard.

Brownhills Fire Brigade was formed in 1898 when Mr. William Roberts, J.P. gave a Merryweather fire engine to the council, which was pulled by two of his brewery horses. The fire brigade was manned by volunteers, and the fire engine was kept in the yard behind the Council Building. Initially the brigade was summoned by a bell on the Central School, which was superseded by a bell on the Council Building that also rang the chimes on the clock.

Churches

In 1838 Ogley Hay became a parish, although it was without a parish church until the building of  St. James Church in 1850 -1851. In the late 1840s the local population greatly increased and so it was decided that a parish church was urgently required. The matter of providing funds for a church was considered at a meeting held in the Ogley Hay schoolroom on 10th December 1849, attended by local landowners and businessmen. A proposed site was inspected and a building committee was formed, consisting of the Rev. James Downes, J. Brawn, W. Hanbury, W. Stubbs, W. Middleton, Round, Chawner, Naden, Bannister, Smith and Stevens.

Funds were soon raised and the church was designed by G. T. Robinson of Wolverhampton. In 1850 tenders were received from several companies for the building of the church, which was carried out by Hardwick & Son, of Birmingham, for £1,150 plus a further £37 if the ceiling had to be boarded. Funds amounting to £3,570 were given by the Lichfield Diocesan Society, the Incorporated Church Building Society, many organisations and private individuals. The foundation stone was laid by Viscount Lewisham, on August 22nd, 1850, and the building was consecrated by the Rev. John Lonsdale of Lichfield on Wednesday 15th October 1851.

St James Church originally consisted of a chancel, a nave without aisles, and a small tower at the western end with three bells and chimes, and seating for 388 people. The first service was given by the Rev. James Downes on Sunday, 19th October, 1851. On 19th December, 1851 James Downes performed the first recorded burial service there.

A vestry meeting was held on 3rd July, 1854 to discuss the erection of a parsonage. Those present were the Rev. James Downes, W. Middleton, W. Stubbs, J. Brawn and W. Hanbury. Land for the building had been given by J. Nicholson, of Liverpool and plans had been drawn up by the architect Mr. G. T. Robinson, of Wolverhampton. The building, which was expected to cost around £860 was built by Hardwick & Son, of Birmingham, behind the church in Vicarage Road.

James Downes continued until 1857 as Officiating Minister. The first curates were the Rev. H. J. Brookman, 1856-1857 and the Rev. Thomas Jackson, 1858-1860. At the turn of the century, the Parish of Ogley Hay became the Parish of Ogley Hay with Brownhills.

After the First World War the cenotaph was built in the graveyard and dedicated by the Bishop of Lichfield, John A. Kempthorne. In 1956 the church acquired the church hall, which officially opened on 6th October, 1956.


Looking along Church Road towards St. James Church.  From an old postcard.

The church had two mission churches, The Good Shepherd at Muckley Corner, built in 1880 (closed in 1968), and the Church of St. Thomas, built on the south side of Watling Street in 1874, and closed on 24th November 1973.

The Independents and Primitive Methodists also built chapels in 1820 and 1840 respectively.

Schools

The Central Schools, Brownhills Bridge, Brownhills, was designed by G. H. Cox and built in 1893 in Queen Ann style, of orange brick with orange terracotta and stone dressings. Inside the front porch is a plaque carrying the names of the first members of the school board. It was a mixed school until 1932 when the girls moved to new premises in Great Charles Street. The school was originally designed for 210 boys and girls, and 120 infants and was later known as The Annexe. In 1972 it became a comprehensive school and then closed in 1980 when Brownhills School, on the opposite side of Holland Park opened. The Girls High School also moved there at the same time.

The substantial building alongside Pelsall Road, which was added later, became the senior boys school. Finally a third building was added to join the two buildings together. After closure in 1980 the site was put on the market by the council with a selling price of £600,000. At the time it was hoped that the site would be sold and the building demolished and replaced by apartments. Luckily the Brownhills Local Committee objected to the plan because of the building's local historical importance. As a result, the council locally listed the building which secured its future. The building was then refurbished and is now Brownhills Community Centre and Street Riders Motorcycle Training Limited. The community centre is a self-supporting enterprise that provides education, recreation and leisure facilities for the general community.


Looking along Pelsall Road with Central Schools on the right. The photo was taken before the building alongside the road was built.  From an old postcard.

Brownhills School is the town's main secondary school. It formerly had several names: Brownhills Sports College, Brownhills Community Technology College, Brownhills Community School, and Brownhills Comprehensive. It became a technology college in 2002 and since 2005 has been associated with the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust.

Watling Street Primary School on the A5, next to the northern end of The Parade, opened in 1878 and still occupies the same site today. The school originally had three departments, the boys' school which opened on 23rd March, 1878 with Charles Atkyns as headmaster; the girls' school which opened on 1st April, 1878 with Emily Atkyns as headmistress; and the infants' department which opened on 13th November, 1879 with Maria Crowe as headmistress. The school could cater for 500 children. In 1901 the average attendance was 180 boys, 180 girls and 120 infants.

Today it has around 200 students between the ages of three and eleven, and in 2006 had the best Key Stage 2 results in Walsall. There are four other primary schools in the town, St. James Primary School, Church Road; St. Bernadette's Catholic Primary School, Narrow Lane; Brownhills West Primary School, Shannon Drive; and Millfield Primary School, Catshill Road; and also Holy Trinity Church of England Primary School, Church Street, Clayhanger.

High Street

A coffee house once stood on the corner of High Street and Lichfield Road which opened in 1854. It had a  library and reading room and held theatre evenings. In 1913 it became the first Working Men's Club in the town.

The town centre rapidly grew in the 20th century, with more shops at the northern end. In 1920 there were bakers, confectioners, a bank, a blacksmith, boot and shoe makers, builders, butchers, chemists, a chimney sweep, a coal merchant, cycle makers and dealers, drapers, a dressmaker, fish and chip shops, a fishmonger, fruiterers, furniture dealers, a glass and china dealer, grocers, hairdressers, hardware dealers, insurance agents, an ironmonger, a lawn mower repairer, milliners, newsagents, a pawn broker, a plumber and painter, a post office, tailors, tobacconists, and an undertaker. Almost everything that the local population needed was close at hand.

The Post Office stood next to the shop of local baker and confectioner, Jabez Brewe, that was on the corner of  High Street and Lichfield Road. The Post Office and Telegraph Office as it was then called was run by Thomas Heathcote, until 1917. It contained the town's first telephone exchange, in a cabinet behind the counter. As the number of local telephones increased, the exchange needed enlarging and so was moved to a room above the haberdasher's shop next door.


A group of children in High Street, with the Post Office in the background. From an old postcard.


Another view of High Street, with Lichfield Road on the left. From an old postcard.


A slightly more recent view of High Street with Jabez Brewe's shop on the left and the Station Hotel on the right. From an old postcard.
On the opposite side of High Street behind the Station Hotel was the wakes ground where for many years Brownhills wakes were held in the first week of November. In the mid 1890s a horse racing track stood between the canal and the railway and during wakes weeks was used for the Brownhills Colliery Steeplechase. Near the Station Hotel stood the Royal George public house which was replaced by the Regent Cinema.

Nearby on the southern side of the street was Mount Zion Primitive Methodist Church which opened in 1895, and a few doors away was the Palace Picture Theatre, built in about 1912. Early silent films were accompanied by local musicians playing a piano, a cello and a violin. During wakes week, variety shows were held there. On the corner of Pier Street was the Wesleyan Chapel, which from 1964 was also home to the Primitive Methodists after the demolition of Mount Zion Chapel.

In between High Street and the canal stood the Ogley Hay and Brownhills Gas Company which opened in 1880 and continued to produce gas until the early 1930s. The site was near Lindon Drive where Humphries House stands today

In 1913 the first local bus service provided by the London North & Western Railway began running between Brownhills and Hednesford. Seven years later Walsall Corporation began a regular bus service between Brownhills and Heath Hayes. In 1926 Walsall Corporation began to operate a regular bus service between Brownhills and Walsall, via Pelsall. The local population continued to grow, reaching 16,852 in 1915.


A London and North Western Railway bus with its driver and conductor in about 1915. The bus ran between Brownhills and Chase Terrace. From an old postcard.
The Inter-War Years

A popular local venue, the Memorial Hall in Lichfield Road, known as 'The Memo', built in memory of those who lost their lives in the First World War, opened in 1926. Two years later the Regent picture house opened in High Street.

In 1926 the ownership of Brownhills Common was transferred to the local Council, and the eastern end, nearest to the town centre, was landscaped and new trees were planted.

The council began a much-needed house building program that involved the purchase of large areas of farmland, which were used for the building of council houses. The scheme, in the mid 1930s, included the demolition of the slum properties in Ogley Square, that stood on the eastern side of St. James Church, on the corner of Ogley Hay Road (now Ogley Road) and Mill Road. The development included the building of The Wheatsheaf public house that stood on the corner of the two roads, but was demolished in the late 1990s and replaced with modern housing. Until demolition in the mid 1930s, the site was occupied by an earlier pub called The Woodman. By 1937 there were over 1,000 council houses and flats in Brownhills Urban District.

Coal mining is a dangerous occupation, in which accidents can have serious consequences. In 1861 an accident led to the deaths of seven miners, including an eleven year-old boy, and more recently in October 1930 an explosion at Grove Colliery killed fourteen miners, ten of whom were from Brownhills. Grove Colliery originally belonged to William Harrison Limited and was one of the largest and most productive pits in the area. It opened in about 1870 and by the mid 1920s employed around 1,000 men. At 18 minutes past nine on the evening of the 1st October, 1930 an explosion occurred in the pit which led to the deaths. Those who died and causes of death where as follows:

Died from severe injuries:
John Holland, aged 41, lived in Old Town, Pelsall
John Hackett
, aged 33, lived in Castle Road, Brownhills
Alfred Heath, aged 33, lived in Hednesford Road, Brownhills
Harold Smith, aged 38, lived in Pier Street, Brownhills, and was the licensee of the Pier Inn
William Whittaker
, aged 62, lived in Fourth Avenue, Brownhills

Died from severe injuries and carbon monoxide poisoning:
Alfred Boden, aged 50, lived in Church Road, Norton Canes
James Malley, aged 44, lived in
Chase Road, Burntwood
John Scoffham,
aged 46, lived in Chase Road, Brownhills
Alec Martin
, aged 32, lived in Fourth Avenue, Brownhills

Died from burns and carbon monoxide poisoning:
Benjamin Corbett,
aged 52, lived in Church Street, Brownhills
William Robbins
, aged 46, lived in Trinity Cottages, Watling Street
Richard Howdle
, aged 30, lived in Slough Cottages, Brownhills
John Brownridge,
aged 39, he lived in Wilkin Road, Brownhills

Died from carbon monoxide poisoning:
John Whittaker, aged 44, lived in Field Lane, High Heath, Pelsall

A funeral service for the ten miners from Brownhills was held at St. James Church on 7th October. They were buried side by side, in the graveyard behind the church, where a memorial was erected in their memory. They were buried with full military honours because six of them had fought in the First World War.


Grove Colliery. From an old postcard.


A view of High Street from outside the Council Building. From an old postcard.


High Street in about 1937. A. Jones was a watchmaker and jeweller. From an old postcard.

The Post War Years

1947 was a year to remember because of the severely cold winter, one of the coldest on record, with six weeks of snowfall. Brownhills was completely cut off by the very deep snow. This was followed by the worst recorded floods in the area, which resulted in the drowning of many livestock.

Grove Colliery closed in 1950, and demolition of the surface buildings and structures was carried out in about 1964. Coal mining was the dominant industry in the area, employing much of the working population, until the 1950s when most of the surviving pits closed. By the Second World War, many of them were worked-out. At the end of the war the government decided to nationalise the industry, which resulted in the passing of the Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946, and the formation of the National Coal Board (NCB). When the local mining industry had gone, a severe economic decline followed, which resulted in the closure of many shops in High Street.

In 1966 Brownhills Urban District merged with Aldridge Urban District to form the Aldridge and Brownhills Urban District. This was the result of a recommendation by the Local Government Commission for England. In 1974 Aldridge and Brownhills Urban District Council became part of Walsall Metropolitan Borough, which was formed on 1st April, 1974 following a local government reorganisation.

Many improvements have been made since Brownhills became part of Walsall. A 'Townscape Masterplan' has been created to assist in the town's regeneration, to encourage the development of shopping facilities, leisure provision, the refurbishment of run-down properties, and improved transport facilities, including a new transport interchange to  incorporate Park and Ride facilities and cycle links to the town centre.


The Brownhills sign in High Street, designed and produced by John McKenna. From an old postcard.

Shopping facilities have greatly improved with the opening of a number of large retail premises including an Aldi supermarket, a Tesco supermarket, and the Wilko store. There are now very few empty shops, particularly at the northern end of High Street. Plans have also been made for the redevelopment of the dilapidated Ravenscourt Precinct, which opened in 1966.

Brownhills Common and Birch Coppice are now delightful places to visit with a good selection of trees and wildlife, and Clayhanger Common has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest. There is a nature reserve on the northern part of Brownhills Common and at Shire Oak Park.

Other leisure actives include the skate park and multi-sports area at Holland Park on the edge of the Common. This opened in 2002 and the Brownhills Canoe and Outdoor Centre which opened in 2006, provides canoeing and kayaking lessons on the canal.


The statue of the miner, as seen in January 2018.

There is now a fine Brownhills sign in High Street and the well known Brownhills miner statue, both designed and created by John McKenna.

The galvanised steel sign was unveiled on 13th December, 2000 and the wonderful miner statue was erected in May 2006.

The forty feet high statue, which was commissioned by Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council in 2005 was floodlit in 2008 to make it visible at night.

In the same year the statue was named 'Jigger' after a competition was organised to choose an official name for the statue.

The statue is named after Jack 'Jigger' Taylor who died when the roof of Walsall Wood pit collapsed in 1951.

Another view of John McKenna's wonderful masterpiece, also taken in January 2018.

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