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Wednesbury is a market town in England's Black Country, part of the Sandwell metropolitan borough in the West Midlands, near the source of the River Tame. Historically part of Staffordshire, at the 2011 Census the town has a population of 37,817.


Pre-Medieval and Medieval times

The substantial remains of a large ditch excavated in St Mary's Road in 2008, following the contours of the hill and predating the Early Medieval period, has been interpreted as part of a hilltop enclosure and possibly the Iron age hillfort long suspected on the site. The first authenticated spelling of the name was Wodensbyri, written in an endorsement on the back of the copy of the will of Wulfric Spot, dated 1004. Wednesbury is one of the few places in England to be named after a pre-Christian deity.

Wednesbury is one of the oldest parts of the Black Country. The ending "-bury" comes from the old English word "burgh" meaning a hill or barrow. So "Wednesbury" may mean "Woden's Hill" or "Woden's barrow". It could also mean Woden's fortification, although the former description is often accepted.

During the Anglo-Saxon period there are believed to have been two battles fought in Wednesbury, in 592 and 715. According to The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle there was "a great slaughter" in 592 and "Ceawlin was driven out". Ceawlin was a king of Wessex and the second Bretwalda, or overlord of all Britain. The 715 battle was between Mercia (of which Wednesbury was part) and the kingdom of Wessex. Both sides allegedly claimed to have won the battle, although it is believed that the victory inclined to Wessex.

Wednesbury was fortified by Ethelfleda, daughter of Alfred the Great and known as the Lady of Mercia. She erected five fortifications to defend against the Danes at Bridgnorth, Tamworth, Stafford and Warwick, with Wednesbury in the centre. Wednesbury's fort would probably have been an extension of an older fortification and made of a stone foundation with a wooden stockade above. Earthwork ramparts and water filled ditches would probably have added to its strength. There is a plaque on the gardens between Ethelfleda Terrace and St Bartholomew's church stating that the gardens there – created in the 1950s – used stone from the graaf, or fighting platform, of the old fort. Exploration of the gardens reveals several dressed stones, which appear to be those referred to on the plaque.

In 1086, the Domesday Book describes Wednesbury (Wadnesberie) as being a thriving rural community encompassing Bloxwich and Shelfield (now part of Walsall). During the Middle Ages the town was a rural village, with each family farming a strip of land with nearby heath being used for grazing. The town was held by the king until the reign of Henry II, when it passed to the Heronville family.

Medieval Wednesbury was very small, and its inhabitants would appear to have been farmers and farm workers. In 1315, coal pits were first recorded, which led to an increase in the number of jobs. Nail making was also in progress during these times. William Paget was born in Wednesbury in 1505, the son of a nail maker. He became Secretary of State, a Knight of the Garter and an Ambassador. He was one of executors of the will of Henry VIII.

Post-Medieval times

In the 17th century Wednesbury pottery – "Wedgbury ware" – was being sold as far away as Worcester, while white clay from Monway Field was used to make tobacco pipes.

By the 18th century the main occupations were coal mining and nail making. With the introduction of the first turnpike road in 1727 and the development of canals and later the railways came a big increase in population. In 1769 the canal banks were soon full of factories as in this year, the first Birmingham Canal was cut to link Wednesbury's coalfields to the Birmingham industries.

In 1743 the Wesleys and their new Methodist movement were severely tested. Early in the year, John and Charles Wesley preached in the open air on the Tump. They were warmly received and made welcome by the vicar. Soon afterwards another preacher came and was rude about the current state of the Anglican clergy. This angered the vicar, and the magistrates published a notice ordering that any further preachers were to be brought to them. When Wesley next came his supporters were still there but a crowd of others heckled him and threw stones. Later the crowd came to his lodgings and took him to the magistrates, but they declined to have anything to do with Wesley or the crowd. The crowd ill-treated Wesley and nearly killed him but he remained calm. Eventually they came to their senses and returned him to his hosts.

Soon afterward the vicar asked his congregation to pledge not to associate with Methodists, and some who refused to pledge had their windows smashed. Others who hosted Methodist meetings had the contents of their houses destroyed. This terrible episode came to an end in December when the vicar died. After that Anglican/Methodist relations were generally cordial. Methodism grew strongly and Wesley visited often, almost until his death. Francis Asbury, Richard Whatcoat and the Earl of Dartmouth are among those who attended Methodist meetings, all to have a profound effect on the United States.

A steam tram service opened to Dudley, also serving Tipton, on 21 January 1884. The line was electrified in 1907 but discontinued in March 1930 on its replacement by Midland Red buses.

Wednesbury was incorporated as a municipal borough in 1886, maintaining this status for 80 years until it was absorbed into an expanded borough of West Bromwich in 1966.

2003 Stuck in Wednesbury (2)
Wednesbury Museum & Art Gallery.

In 1887, Brunswick Park was opened to celebrate Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.

Since 1900

On the evening of 31 January 1916, Wednesbury was hit by one of the first wave of German Zeppelins aimed at Britain during the First World War. Joseph Smith and his three children were killed in their house in the King Street area. His wife survived, having left the house to investigate the cause of a loud noise at a nearby factory, caused by the first bombs falling.

The first council houses in Wednesbury were built in the early 1920s, but progress was low compared to nearby towns including Tipton and West Bromwich. By 1930, a mere 206 families had been rehoused from slums. However, the building of council houses rose dramatically at the start of the 1930s, the 1,000th council house being occupied before the end of 1931. By 1935, some 1,250 older houses had been demolished or earmarked for demolition. By 1944 there were more than 3,000 council properties; by 1959, more than 5,000; the largest development in Wednesbury being the Hateley Heath estate in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

In 1947, the Corporation granted a licence for the operation of a cinema, on the condition that no children under 15 were to be admitted on Sundays. The cinema operator challenged this decision in court, claiming that the imposition of the condition was outside the Corporation's powers. The court used this case to establish a general test for overturning the decision of a public body in this type of case, which is now known as "Wednesbury unreasonableness".

The borough of Wednesbury was partitioned in 1966, with the majority being absorbed into West Bromwich, and small parts in the County Borough of Walsall. These changes saw the Dangerfield Lane estate (developed during the interwar and early postwar years) being absorbed into Darlaston (now part of an expanded Walsall borough), while Hateley Heath was absorbed into West Bromwich township, and Wednesbury township gained the Friar Park estate from West Bromwich township. West Bromwich amalgamated with Warley in 1974 to form the present-day borough of Sandwell. Wednesbury has the postcode WS10, shared with Darlaston in the borough of Walsall.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Wednesbury's traditional industry declined, but since 1990 new developments such as a new light industrial estate, a retail park and the pedestrian-only Union Street have given a new look to the town. The traditional market is still a feature of the bustling centre, and the streets around Market Place are now a protected conservation area.

In the late 1980s, a section of land near junction 9 of the M6 motorway was designated as the location for a new retail development. The first retailer to move onto the site was Ikea, who opened their superstore in January 1991. Throughout the 1990s, the retail park expanded to include several more large units, although most of these were empty by 2009 due to the recession. However, most of the units were occupied again by 2012 and the retail park is now home to retailers including Next, TK Maxx, Outfit, Boots, Curry's, B&Q and B&M. Curry's opened their original store on the site in 1995 in what was then Europe's largest electrical superstore, but within 10 years had relocated to an even bigger building on the retail park, with Next taking over the original Curry's building.

Wednesbury's Friar Park estate was the location for the filming of rap group Credit to the Nation's music video for the hit Sowing the Seeds of Hatred in 1994, along with a bridge over the nearby Tame Valley Canal.

Wednesbury was also the scene of two major tragedies during the second half of the 20th century. On 21 December 1977, four siblings aged between 4 and 12 years died in a house fire in School Road, Friar Park, at the height of the national firefighters strike. The house was demolished soon afterwards, leaving a gap in a terrace of council houses.On 24 September 1984, four pupils and a teacher from Stuart Bathurst RC High School were killed when their minibus was struck by a roll of steel which fell off the back of a lorry just outside the school.

Wednesbury 2010.
A picture of Wednesbury in 2010.

For well over 100 years, Wednesbury was dominated by the huge Patent Shaft steel works, dating from the 19th century and active until closure in 1980, which escalated the rise in unemployment locally. The factory was demolished four years later, and by the mid-1990s it had been developed as a new light industrial estate. The iron gates of the factory are still in existence and have recently been mounted on the traffic island where the Holyhead Road passes the bus station, in tribute to the works.

2003 Stuck in Wednesbury (1)
The Stuckist show at Wednesbury Museum & Art Gallery, 2003

In 2003, Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery staged Stuck in Wednesbury, the first show in a public gallery of the Stuckism international art movement.

Morrisons opened a supermarket in the town centre on 4 November 2007, creating some 350 new jobs. A number of council bungalows had been demolished, along with a section of the town centre shops, to make way for it.

The archives for Wednesbury Borough are held at Sandwell Community History and Archives Service.


  • Church Hill, near the town centre, is notable for being the location of St Bartholomew's Church.
  • Brunswick, to the immediate north of the town centre, was mostly built at the start of the 20th century around Brunswick Park.
  • Friar Park, was originally in West Bromwich, and was built in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
  • Myvod Estate, approximately one mile to the north of the town centre towards the border with Walsall, was built in the 1920s as Wednesbury's first major council housing development.
  • Wood Green, situated around the A461 road northwards in the direction of Walsall. Landmarks include Stuart Bathurst RC High School, and on the opposite site of the road is Wood Green Academy. Since 1990, a large retail development has sprung upon around Wood Green, extending to the site of the former FH Lloyd steel plant in Park Lane.
  • Golf Links, mostly built in the 1940s and 1950s with both private and council housing, in the south of the town.
  • Woods Estate, to the north-east of the town centre, was built mostly as council housing between 1930 and 1962.


  • Wednesbury North : Wednesbury Central, Wood Green & Old Park
  • Wednesbury South : Hill Top, Leabrook, Golf Links, Millfields, Harvills Hawthorn
  • Friar Park : Woods & Mesty Croft, Friar Park

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