The exciting new vision for Brierley Hill…from 1944!

In March 1944 Brierley Hill Urban District Council received a proposed master plan for the area.  It presents a fascinating insight into how the town’s future was envisaged by leading dignitaries.  It is interesting to see how the plan influenced the town as it is today.  Below are some of my thoughts and the full article for the County Express.

What do you think?

1944 Master Plan Brierley Hill

  • The plan is the first recorded proposal for the new road in Brierley Hill which eventually opened as Venture Way in 2008 – a mere 64 years after the original idea was put forward to the Council. It remains open to debate whether this has resulted in the High Street becoming “…  a convenient and pleasant by way where shopping, amusements, and business activities could be carried on in comfort without danger from passing traffic.”
  • In recent years considerable debate has taken place over the Western Orbital proposal for a road to the West of the Black Country conurbation. Here, the 1944 visionaries discuss how hard it is to bypass the Amblecote Wolverhampton road – their concerns on this turned out to be correct as the Western Orbital was abandoned 12 years ago.
  •  The plan recognised that Brierley Hill is made up from distinct local communities. Building on this it is envisaged developing new homes around “existing nuclei”. This seemed to have been an effective part of the plan – as evidenced by the “new” community centres at Brockmoor, Kingswinford, Wordsley and Quarry Bank.
  • The illustration of the master plan for Brierley Hill town centre shows housing to the West.
  • This aspect of the plan was implemented through a “slum clearance” program lasting until the mid-1960s. The most visually striking example of this is the Chapel Street Flats. But Cottage Street, Level Street, Fenton Street, and Albion Street were all cleared. This has the unintended side-effect of damaging trade in the High Street. By the late 1950s traders were complaining about the “Exodus” of residents which had hit their businesses. They were looking forward to the building of the new flats at Chapel Street. All of this a quarter of a century before the development of the Merry Hill Centre.
  •  One of the biggest surprises was the proposal to use Marsh Park for the Civic Centre. This was to include council offices, a police station and a fire station. The idea was implemented almost fully – but at the other end of the town where the Civic Centre stands as evidence today.

Her is a transcript of the full story from the County Express, March 1944:

Approved by Brierley Hill Council

A report on post-war housing and reconstruction, prepares for Brierley Hill Urban District Council by their town planning consultant, Mr T. Alwen Lloyd and Mr H. Jackson, was adopted by the Council at their meeting on Monday.
The plan of reconstruction is a very extensive one, and has been worked out in some detail.
Cllr J. N. Hickman remarked that Brierley Hill was one of the first towns to move in that direction, and they would long have reason to be proud that at least in that one corner of the world there would be a brighter, healthier, and happier place in which to live.


It was reported that at an extraordinary meeting of the Public Works, Housing and General Purposes Committee on March 6, presided over by the Chairman (Cllr Hickman), the report of the councils Town Planning consultants, Messrs T. Alwyn Lloyd, P.P.T.P.I. and H. Jackson, F.R.I.B.A. was received. Mr Lloyd explained the principles which had guided his colleague and himself in the preparation of the report, and explain generally thereon, and afterwards he and Mr Jackson replied to points raised by various members.
The committee recommended that the report and recommendations be generally approved, and that the broad principles as to zoning, communications, open spaces, etc be included in the Council’s town planning scheme: also the Chairman and the Clerk of the Council consider what effective steps could be taken in regard to the publicity of the proposals. The Clerk explained that, with regard to the proposed Civic Centre in the Marsh Park, the conveyance to the Council contains a covenant restricting the use of the path the purposes of a public park and recreation grounds. He has been in communication with Messrs. Marsh and Baxter Ltd, and read a letter from the company stating that they would be prepared to waive the restriction to enable the Civic Centre to be constructed.


At Monday’s Council meeting, Cllr Hickman presented a summary of the report, which was as follows:
The report, with the accompanying maps refers to an outline planning scheme for the development of the urban district after the war, with the intention that after this has been duly considered by the Council, subject to any modification that may be decided on, the proposals shall automatically be embodied in the statutory planning scheme for the whole area. The present urban district comprises 5932 acres, with an estimated population in 1939 46,000. The district was only formed in 1934 by the amalgamation of the old Brierley Hill, Quarry Bank, and Kingswinford authorities. It contains a number of important industries of varied character. Existing development is of a dispersed order, consisting of communities that have grown up separately, and in consequence there is not the same cohesion as would have occurred if Brierley Hill had grown as one large concentration, such as one usually finds in other industrial towns.


The report recommends that advantage should be taken of the dispersed character of development by making the several parts of the district into better communities in the full sense, including the requested open spaces, shops, schools, communal facilities, and so on. Concurrently with this replanning of the outer areas, the central part of Brierley Hill proper has received close attention and a number of important improvements are recommended.
Roads: Owing to heavy congestion of traffic through the built-up area, it is evident that there must be traffic relief by new bypasses and other improvements in main road communications. The classified road A461  is a case in point, and the route for a bypass south of Brierley Hill is suggested from the direction of Stourbridge, avoiding Lye and continuing to Dudley, with a cross connections to the centre of Brierley Hill and other key points.
One of the chief recommendations is an internal bypass relieving the heavy traffic through the centre of Brierley Hill, by way of Church Street and High Street. This bypass or relief road would run immediately to the east of the High Street, through the old property and streets that in any case will have to be redeveloped before long. The internal bypass will include dual carriageways, service roads, with all necessary roundabouts and improvements at Street junctions. Alongside the relief road the future central bus station and car park for Brierley Hill have been placed.


Under this scheme, to be in accord with modern techniques for closely built-up areas, it is recommended that the High Street shopping and business zone should be treated as a precinct, kept free of heavy and fast through traffic, which would be diverted along the internal bypass. The High Street would then become a convenient and pleasant bye-way where shopping, amusements, and business activities could be carried on in comfort without danger from passing traffic.
Regarding the other chief classified road A491, running from Amblecote in the direction of Wolverhampton, it has not been found impossible to bypass this entirely, but suggestions are made for the drastic widening and improvement of the existing highway through Wordsley and Kingswinford.   Advantage has been taken of certain existing roads there for getting traffic relief, and the other important suggestion is for a through road to be constructed just east of the Kingswinford Wordsley crossroads, which could be undertaken as part of the post-war development of that area. There are also schemes put forward for improving the lateral routes via Bromley Lane and Brierley Road, Buckpool. That method would have the merit of avoiding a new north to south route through what is now largely open country of awkward level.
Future patterns of the urban district: there is particular emphasis on securing green belts and wedges of open land between and around the existing communities at Brierley Hill, Quarry Bank, Wordsley, Kingswinford, wall heath, and Pensnett, instead of these being linked up by a continuing process of ribbon development along the highways.  Each of these sub-centres comes in for separate treatment, and proposals are made for the location of community centres, to comprise full facilities for shopping, education, health, youth activities, amusements and open space.


The location for post-war housing, which naturally looms large in the Council’s programmes, has received detailed attention, and the report makes ample provision for new housing estates in suitable localities.  The principle followed has been to group these around existing nuclei so as to avoid sporadic disposition of housing, and conserve public services.  The new and old development would thus form compact communities where the residents will find scope for their social and cultural activities, as well as me housing provision.
The future of agriculture in the district has not been overlooked, and in appropriate places rural zones are included, in which farming, market gardening, and similar pursuits would continue. In the outlying portions of the district there will be opportunities for estate development of more open densities, so that houses of various types and sizes can be erected to suit public requirements. Special attention has been devoted to conserving the best soil for agriculture and horticulture, bearing in mind the fact that in pre-war years a great deal of this was sacrificed to uncoordinated building development. Effort should be made also to save all existing amenities and pleasant countryside still to be found within the urban district.
Industries: the district has suffered widely from the scars of past industrial activity. Proposals are made for treatment of the derelict sites, clearance of old debris, and levelling up tips and unsightly dumps, so that these can be brought into better use under the post war plan. There are recommendations for the extension of existing industries and for providing sites for new industries in certain areas. The continuing prosperity depends so much on industry that steps should be taken to retain the cooperation of industrialists and businessmen in securing a more orderly and efficient background to their activities in the future.


Civic Centre: Owing to the urgent need  for municipal buildings, steps were taken prior to the war to examine suitable sites, and preliminary proposals were explored. However, the authors of the report were asked to review the whole position and to advise the council on the most suitable location for the new civic centre. After pursuing their enquiries they came to the conclusion  that by far the best site for this purpose is Marsh Park and the land immediately adjoining it. This stands at the highest part and in the centre of Brierley Hill, where an imaginative scheme for public buildings grouped around formal gardens and other features on the hillside would dominate the town, and constitute a very fine scheme. This would include the clearing of some of the old properties and improving the access to Marsh Park up the slopes from several sides.
Redevelopment areas: Proposals are made for taking advantage for drastic replanning of these as occasion arises. One such area lies between the back of High Street and Moor Street,  and the railway. The plan includes for realignment and opening out of the streets for future buildings, including a better approach to and a new Brierley Hill station. There are other areas of this description which come within the replanning scheme.


Appreciative reference is made to the existing public open spaces, that these will be quite insufficient for post-war needs, and it is recommended that 150 to 200 additional acres should be secured. The chief proposal put forward is for obtaining an extensive area of central park belt. This would run from the north end of Middlepool  through the heart of the district, comprising old works, tips, pools, and waste lands as far as Buckpool,  where the park belt  would join the proposed rural zone. It would have incalculable amenity value and would avoid, as so often occurred in other towns, the indefinite extension of building over all land near the centre. The layout of this park built would give great scope for ingenuity and creating attractive features by the clearance of industrial debris,  afforestation  and planting of ornamental trees.   In it there would be fine opportunity for laying out large recreation grounds games pitches, playfields, and swimming baths. The park belt would enable pedestrians to walk through pleasant surroundings from one end of the district to the other, uninterrupted by main road traffic and rows of buildings.
All proposals in this report relating to the main roads will be submitted to the County Council.

The report was illustrated by a series of maps showing the general proposals, the Brierley Hill central replanning and civic centre and the neighbourhood planning of the five sub centres.
These were displayed around the Council Chamber.


Cllr Hickman said the meeting of the Public Works Committee was extraordinary in more ways than one. First, because of the most important and far-reaching proposals ever presented for consideration, and also for the remarkable unanimity and goodwill. He thought they would probably have to make adjustments to the proposals, which would take 50 years to complete, but some essential features could take place immediately after the war. Whilst the Council’s secrets should be safeguarded, he thought it would be interesting to exhibit some of the drawings in the town, and to publish the brochure.


The chairman (Cllr H Haden, JP)  said the adoption by the Council of the broad outline and general principles of the experts’ town planning and post-war reconstruction proposals marked an important step forward, and “vista of progress and development for their area. Big tasks lay ahead for that and future councils: tasks with commensurate opportunities. Time, money, energy, and enterprise would be required to give practical effect to the blueprint prepared by Messrs Lloyd and Jackson.   He expected the ratepayers would require to give their endorsement as the programme unfolded, but he had little doubt that general support and cooperation would be readily accorded, seeing that the object of the recommendations was to provide more houses, much-needed amenities, better communications, and improvement in the general conditions and layout of Brierley Hill urban district. “Let us hope” said Cllr. Haden, “that by reason of what in due time will be accomplished present and future generations may concede that in the year 1944 the members and officials of the Council showed courage, initiative and vision.”

Country Express March 1944

Read the minutes of Brierley Hill Civic Society – 17th March

Brierley Hill Civic Society
Brierley Hill Civic Society

Minutes of the meeting of Brierley Hill Civic Society held at St Michael’s Church, Bell Street South, on 17th March 2014 commencing at 5.30pm.


Shane Bastock, Beryl Biggs, Ruth Childs, Joy Cooper, Beryl Fisher, Robert Franklin, John Heathcock, John James, Betsy Lafferty, Tim Lee, Brad Jones, Andrew Mann-Ray, Lorna Morrison, Maggie Norton, Jenny Sunter, Tim Sunter, Rosemary Tomkinson, Dennis Whittaker


Judy Foster, Rachel Harris, Peter Hobbs, Zafar Islam, Ray Norton

Minutes of the previous meeting

The minutes of the previous meeting had been circulated and were agreed as a true record.

Matters Arising

Rosemary Tomkinson asked for clarification on the role of Dudley Council in the Brierley Hill in Bloom project. TS explained that it had been agreed to purchase and the punters through the council to achieve cost savings. SB enlarged on this point by explaining that the management of risk and therefore liability would remain with the local authority which afforded protection to organisers of the scheme.


JS informed the meeting of the correspondence received since February.

Membership dues to Civic Voice were now due. This amounted to £1.50 per member. So far between 10 and 15 members had renewed. The Civic Voice membership came with the benefit of free entry to a National Trust facility. It was noted that it was on the agenda for discussion later.

A leaflet had been received from Dudley Council concerning the Dudley Trail taking place on May 4th.

Civic Voice were also organising a national Civic Day on June 21. It was suggested that this might be something the Society would be interested in for future years.

Treasurer’s Report

DW reported that at the last meeting the Society has £36.71 cash in hand, and £741.22 in the bank. £65 had been paid in membership fees on 17 February, and £15 was contributed as the room collection. This brought the cash in hand to £116.71. £100 has thus been banked. This meant that the society has a total of £841.22 in its account. Two cheques totalling £110 remained to show in the accounts, meaning effectively this society has £731.22 available in the bank.

TS reported that some of the funding had been achieved as a result of the Community First grant. £200 of this was to pay towards a pull up display. The rest was to cover the cost of speakers and room hire. This money would need to be accounted for in the near future. It was agreed that TS and DW would discuss how much of the grant had been spent to date such action could be taken appropriately on any remaining funds.

Future Plans

A discussion ensued on how to cover the cost of speakers for future meetings. The society had been paying £15 for room hire and a £50 fee for each speaker. However, this had been funded through a grant from Community First. The amount of income from room collections was not, if it remains the same, cover the cost of speakers. RT said that it was important that those who attended the speakers events were aware of the expected level of donation. It was agreed:
To apply for a further grant from Community First
To ask members to pay 2 pounds and nonmembers 3 pounds for each speaking event
To explore fundraising activities to create a resource for funding speakers.

Members requested that information regarding meetings be displayed on the noticeboard at Marsh Park, in Farm Foods, and elsewhere through the town. Notices of meetings should also be sent to the local press.

BJ and TL raised the issue of how a greater awareness of cultural issues could be raised in schools. The meeting felt that this was one of the key objectives of the Civic Society. It was agreed that BJ, TL, SB and TS would liaise to explore how this could best be achieved. TS agreed to set the ball rolling by email. BJ intimated that with the correct program funding may be available directly from schools.

The offer by Civic Voice of free entry to a National Trust property was noted by the meeting. A number of members indicated that they would be interested in taking advantage of the offer as a group. It was agreed to conduct a small survey to see which property members would like to visit and when.

It was agreed that the next three meetings would consist of Cllr Judy Foster and officials talking about regeneration issues in May, a talk on the conservation of the town’s buildings in June, and TS would talk of his research into Brierley Hill’s Great War in July. The Society does not need in August, but the following five meetings should consist of speakers with historic interests.

RH offered to facilitate speakers with a health interest should the Society so wish.

Brierley Hill SNOW

TL updated the meeting on the opposition to the Clean Power appeal. Over 900 letters have been delivered to the Planning Inspectorate opposing the plan. In addition to this a petition had gathered many signatures, a Facebook site and twitter account established, a website had been created and there has been extensive media coverage.

The SNOW campaign was hoping that the planning inspector would allow representation at the enquiry which is expected in mid June. If this was agreed a statement would be filed and spokespeople would be identified to put the case for local residents.

TL thanked Brierley Hill market for allowing them to have a stall for three days. The response had been overwhelmingly against Clean Power. One or two people had spoken in support of the employment opportunity, and one person had commented on whether the site would be suitable for residential development.

TS commented at how effective the campaign had been in mobilising public opinion. This was greatly to the credit of TL and his team. Following the last meeting the Society had written to the Planning Inspectorate to object to the proposals. A copy of the letter was available at the meeting for anyone who wished to read it.

Brierley Hill Christmas Festival

JS reported that the Christmas lights turn on will take place on 6th December.

Insight House was on board, the Santa Joggle was being supported by Birmingham Metropolitan College and DMBC were going to manage the lights switch onCommunity First funding may be available to support the project depending on the panel meeting due to take place on 18th March.

JS is keen to increase the participation of schools in the event. BJ and JS agreed to have a conversation on how this could best be achieved.

The meeting was appreciative of JS for her continuing work on this project.

Brierley Hill in Bloom

TS updated the meeting. £7500 of funding has been achieved through Community First, Brierley Hill Traders Association, and a legitimate anonymous donor.

The planters were on order and Birmingham Metropolitan College students were growing the plants.

It was hoped that individuals, community groups and schools would help to maintain the plants once they were in situ. This would require access to water within the town centre. The informal steering group were aware of this and working on plans accordingly.

It was agreed that the Civic Society would adopt some of the planters, and TS agreed to explore a rotor arrangements for members to look after them.

Information Exchange

SB and TS has met with New Heritage Regeneration at its request to talk about Brierley Hill. The meeting has been positive and discussions regarding ERDF funding has taken place. It was proposed to create an informal “doers” group to establish an action plan to press ahead with regeneration in Brierley Hill. SB and TS felt it was very important after this to succeed the local authority needed to view it as more than an exercise in ticking boxes.

The meeting discussed its disappointment that the momentum in the regeneration of Brierley Hill has been lost in recent years. It was hoped that the new initiative would enable some ground to be regained. It is aimed for the first “doers” meeting to take place by the end of April. Thereafter it would be possible to report back to the Society.

AMR reported on the proposed Celebrate Brierley Hill event which was taking place at Brierley Methodist Church on Tuesday, March 25. This builds on the success of last years Round Oak Memorial event. It was hoped to have speakers on Brierley Hill’s past, present and future. DW agreed to liaise with AMR regarding Brierley Hill’s past.

Any Other Urgent Business

There was no other urgent business. The meeting closed at 7pm.

How Stanley Harley won his DCM in 1917

On being honoured by Brierley Hill District Council in September 1917, Lance Corporal Stanley Harley modestly accepted a gift of a watch.  He didn’t give a full story of his achievements though – this would have been a breech of duty given the secretive nature of war.

View Larger Map

Following the war a book “The Worcestershire Regiment in The Great War” by H. Fitm. Stacke was published. The volume is available to view in the reference library in Stourbridge. It gives details of the “Action of Bouchavesnes” on 4th March 1917 where Harley won his medal.

As dawn broke (5.30 a.m.) on March 4th the British artillery opened a barrage fire. The opening crash of the bombardment served as signal (This was a variant on the usual method of synchronised watches) to the battalions detailed for the attack, and all along the front of the British trenches troops swarmed out and poured forward in a series of waves. The 1st Worcestershire were in the centre of the attacking line, with the 2nd Northamptonshire on the left. The right flank of the Worcestershire was on the road from Bouchavesnes to Moislains; south of the road the 2nd Royal Berkshire continued the front of attack.

The attack was immediately successful.

The German front line,”Pallas Trench,” was easily overrun and the attackers swept onward to their further objective, “Fritz Trench,” the German second line.

Led by Captain N. H. Stone, Lieutenant R. A. O’Donovan and 2/Lieut. J. A. Smithin the Worcestershire platoons charged “Fritz Trench.” These three officers were awarded the M.C.

There was a short but desperate struggle. The enemy resisted to the last, but the attackers were not to be denied.

For a few minutes a German machine-gun held up the onslaught, but the gun was rushed and captured by a party headed by Sergeant T. Guest. Sergeant Guest was awarded the D.C.M. for his actions.

Within a quarter of an hour from the start “Fritz Trench” had been secured.

In many places the trench had been so battered as to be unrecognisable; the attackers passed over it and pushed on down the slope to “Bremen Trench,” the enemy’s third line.

There they bombed dugouts and roped in prisoners until it was realised that our own shells were falling closely around. Recognising from this that they had gone too far, those foremost of the victors fell back and rejoined the main body of the Battalion, who were busily working to prepare the captured positions for defence, under the personal direction of Colonel Grogan.

The Colonel was everywhere, controlling the dispositions and the entrenchment, inspiring all by his own cheerfulness and courage. Colonel Grogan was awarded the D.S.O. for his gallant leadership.

From “Fritz Trench” good observation could be obtained over the whole of the Moislains Valley. The captured position was in fact very important, and the whole weight of the enemy’s artillery and infantry was at once thrown in to regain it.

The work of consolidation was continued under an ever increasing bombardment from all directions, and soon the enemy commenced a series of violent counter-attacks. Most of those counter-attacks were made against the flanking Battalions and a fierce bombing struggle raged all the morning around “Fritz Cut,” immediately to the left of the Worcestershire line; but presently the enemy began to dash forward in increasing numbers up the open slopes.

The Worcestershire platoons opened a hot fire. Lance-Corporal F. H. S. Harley, in particular, did notable execution with his Lewis-gun, and the remnant of the attacking enemy were driven to cover. L/Cpl. Harley was awarded the D.C.M.

All day the enemy’s shells beat against their lost trenches, but by nightfall “Fritz Trench” was securely in our hands and the firing died away.

Later the 2nd West Yorkshire came up to take over the captured ground, and the 1st Worcestershire, weary but triumphant, tramped back to “Asquith Flats.”

The casualties, nearly all due to the enemy’s shell-fire, had been very heavy—over 200, including ten officers. Killed, 6 officers (Capt. R. P. Birtles, Lieut. R. M. Ross, 2/Lts. W. E. Deakin, F. M. Marrs, A. P. Rosling and W. Ward) and 44 men. Wounded 4 officers and 358 other ranks. Missing 11.

Further details can be found at


Stanley Harley – the man on top of Brierley Hill War Memorial – a town honours its hero


Following the end of World War One residents in Brierley Hill wished to erect a war memorial. A design was chosen and the ex-servicemen’s association was asked who should model for photographs from which the sculpture was designed.

They chose Stanley Harvey, the first Brierley Hill man to win the Distinguished Conduct Medal in the war.

The London Gazette, 11th May 1917, announced Harley’s award.  Its citation read:

“16370 Pte, (acting L./Cpl.) F.H.S. Harley, Worcs. R.

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.  He opened fire with his machine gun at a critical time and defeated all enemy attempts to counter attach.  Later, he carried two machine guns out of action through a heavy hostile barrage.”

As the first local man to win such a high military honour the town was greatly excited.  The local newspaper wrote:

Brierley Hill DCM

Amongst those mentioned in last Friday’s “London Gazette” as having been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal is Lt Cpl F.H. Stanley Harley, Worcestershire Regiment, son of Mrs Murray,  and stepson of Mr Charles Murray, 9, Hill Street, Brierley Hill. we understand the act of gallantry which gained Lance Cpl Harley the honour occurred in our attack on March 12 last. He was in charge of two guns. Upon the battalion reaching their objective all his team were wounded, and he was left alone; but though under very heavy German shellfire, he succeeded in bringing the guns safely through. The lance Cpl is an old boy of Bent Street Council Schools. He enlisted on September 2, 1914, when only 16 years of age, and will not be 19 until next July. He expects to come home shortly, and we understand arrangements are being made to publicly recognise the honour he has brought to his native town.  Before joining the colours he was employed at the Earl of Dudley’s Round Oak Works.

County Express 19 May 1917

Lance Corporal Harley returned on leave to Brierley Hill in September 1917.  The town council, meeting in the old Technical Institute building on Moor Street, honoured him with a presentation:

“A Hero Indeed.”

Brierley Hill DC medallist

Publicly Honoured by District Council

L-Cpl Stanley Harley, son of Mrs Murray, and stepson of Mr Charles Murray, of Hill Street, Brierley Hill, was the first Brierley Hill man to receive the DCM decoration. 
He arrived home last weekend on a 10 days leave, and as the time was too short to enable the town authority to arrange for a public reception, they decided to invite the soldier to Monday’s meeting of the Urban Council, so that the chairman (Mr AE Marsh) might, in the name of the town, congratulate him upon the distinguished honour he had won. 

L-Cpl Harvey was accompanied by Mr Murray, and on entering the Council Chamber received a very hearty welcome.

Brave, Brilliant, and Gallant.

The Chairman said he had a very pleasant duty to perform. 

They were met to congratulate L-Cpl Stanley Harley, of the Worcestershire Regiment, who had recently received the DCM for a very brave, brilliant, and gallant episode, of which he was the hero, and which occurred on March 4th  last-(hear, hear). 
Although all the men who were with him were killed, Harley, at great personal risk, took charge of two Lewis guns and brought them out of action safely-(hear, hear). It was a very brave and courageous act, and well merited the signal honour which has been conferred upon him-(hear, hear). 

Harley, he believed, was the first Brierley Hill man who had received the DCM decoration, and it was felt that such a distinguished honour reflected credit on the town itself, and should be publicly recognised. As chairman of the Council he congratulated L-Cpl Stanley Harley, and at the same time asked him to accept a little present-a silver luminous wrist watch-as a small token of the gratitude of the town for his noble action-(hear, hear). In handing to the hero gift the Chairman said: “We are all very proud of you, and I have very great pleasure in welcoming you to this Council meeting tonight.”

A Hero Indeed.

Mr G Fred James (vice chairman) said he would like to associate himself with the appreciate reading remarks from the chair. 

L-Cpl Harley was a hero indeed-(hear, hear). Few of them three years ago thought the war would be on now. During that time anxiety is had crowded upon them. Many of the people of Brierley Hill has lost their dearest and best.  The papers has been almost daily filled with the stories of horrors perpetrated by a faux unequalled insanitary in the history of the world. 

But although they had had their terrible happenings, they had on the other hand read  of actions which had gladdened their hearts. The bravery of our men was worthy of the most distinguished honours; they were heroes indeed. And what has pleased their most was the fact that Brierley Hill boys were among them – (hear, hear). 

The Staffords and the Worcester’s has distinguished themselves on many occasions, and he hopes that the time was not far distant when the town might welcome back all those brave lads who have so faithfully fought our cause in foreign lands-(hear, hear).

Although many have distinguished themselves, perhaps when the records of the regiments came to be written they would hear something about individual doings. In the meantime we all prayed that the war might be quickly over, so that we might have the pleasure of welcoming back our brave lads. Perhaps when the proper time pain they would be able to give their heroes are more public welcome-(hear, hear).

The Town Pride.

Mr T Williams said he has known Harley’s family for many years. Brierley Hill was very proud of him-(hear, hear). Many other Brierley Hill lads had won distinctions. Several have been decorated with Militarily Medals, and he thought it was up to the Council and the town to see that these heroes were properly recognised. He thought steps should be taken almost immediately to show that the town appreciated the honours which the men had brought to it-(hear, hear).

A Modest Reply.

L-Cpl Harley, who was warmly received, thanked the Council for their congratulation, and the chairman of his very nice present. The lads of the Black Country were all doing their bit to bring glory to their native towns-(hear, hear). He was unable to give his experiences publicly, but he would be glad and proud to tell the story of how he won the DCM to any of the members of the Council should they care to hear it-(hear, hear). As to the probable length of the war, he thought that the next three years would see the finish of it -(laughter).

The Chairman said he would very much like to hear Harley related his experiences. He added that there had not been time to have an inscription engraved on the watch, but this would be done later. 

County Express 8th September 1917

1873 – St Mary’s RC Church opens amidst pledges of support to the queen and to fight for equality

St Mary's RC Church Brierley Hill

St Mary’s Church, High Street Brierley Hill is one of the buildings mentioned in Pevsner.

Designed by Walby Pugin the St Mary’s Church was opened on Wednesday 15th October 1873.  The Birmingham Daily Post of 17th October contained the following article describing the events of the day.  Even in those days there were worries about the condition of the building – foundations had cracked and the bell tower was (and is) yet to be be completed. During many toasts at a celebration in the public hall Brierley Hill dignitaries pledged the loyal support to Her Majesty “…if the socialistic, horrible, and infidel days which seemed imminent were to arrive”!

Opening of a Roman Catholic church at Brierley Hill Friday On Wednesday, a new Roman Catholic church was opened at Brierley Hill, with a great amount of ceremony.

The proceedings included the solemn opening by the Right Rev. Dr. Ullathorne, the rendering of a mass by a chosen choir, a sermon by the Bery Rev. Monsignor Capel, a public luncheon in the afternoon, and a special service at night.

The building itself fronts the High Street, or main thoroughfare, and consists of a nave, north aisle, chancel, sacristy, a small chapel, and tower.  its dimensions inside are 80 ft by 30 ft, and with a height of 50 ft. and it will seat 400 persons.  it is of red brick, with Bath stone dressings, and its styple is an example of Early English.

The pulpit is the gift of Mr Haskow, of Stourbridge, the font of Mr. W. W. Bright, and Mr Emery has acted as clerk of the works.

The proceedings commenced yesterday by service in the church, and a procession, including the Bishop, Monsignor Capel, and Conon O’Sullivan.

The church was well filled.

The choir rendered Mazzhingi’s Mass and selections from Weber, the solos being given by Miss Short (Birmingham), Mrs Hadly, Mrs. Bunce, Mrs. Beardmore, Mr Short, and Mr. Law.

Monsignor Capel then preached from the following words:

“I have chosen and have sanctified this place, that My name may be there for ever, and My eyes and My heart remain there perpetually;” after which the formal solemn opening of the church took place.

The celebrant was the Right Rev. Dr. Ullathroen, assistant priest the Rev. Canon O’Sullivan; deacons of the throng, Rev. Dr. Acton, Rev. S. Johnson; deacons of the mass, Revds. G. Duckett and Rev. John Ullathorne; masters of the ceremonies, Reev. S. Fenn and Rev. W,. Grancy.

The Vicar General (the Rev. Canon O’Sullivan) then proclaimed, in the name of the Bishop, a forty days’ indulgence to the members of the Roman Catholic faith present.  A collection was are, and softly afterwards the congregation dispersed.

In the afternoon, a luncheon took place in the Public Hall, Brierley Hill: Sir Charles Clifford in the chair.

He was supported by the Rev. Canon O’Sullivan, Rev. P. Davies (Bloxwich), the Revds. Hall, Timothy, and Ryder (Wolverhampton), Revds. Bathurst and Fogarthy (Wednesdbury), Rev. T. Cukcett (Rugely), Rev. J. Bond (Dudley), the Revds. Barney (Willenhall), Power, Stoker, &c., Major Moseley, Mr Barclay, &c.

After the dinner the Chairman proposed “The Health of Pope Pius IX.” -(loud cheers)- and expressed his belief that before his Holiness died he would have obtained the victory over the enemies of his Pontificate and see his religion triumphant. (Hear, hear, and cheers.) – The Chairman then proposed “The Health of the Queen,” and said he was certain that her Majesty would have the loyal support of the Roman Catholics if the socialistic, horrible, and infidel days which seemed imminent, were to arrive. (Applause.)

The toast was drunk with cheers. – The Chairman next proposed “The Bishop and Clergy of the Diocese,” and spoke highly of the whole course of Bishop Ullathorne’s life, both abroad and at home.  He also counselled Roman Catholics never to leave off trying to obtain their rights, by political as well as by other means, until they stood upon and equality with their fellow beings in the country. (Hear, hear.) –

Canon O’Sullivan, in a humorous speech responded on behalf of the bishop and clergy.

Mr R. Barclay proposed “Success to the New Church,” and praised the Rev. Mr. Revell for his sacrifices in the cause.

Mr Revell said that the work had been on hand twenty years, and £1,000 was ready to hand when he came among them.  He hoped to live to see the completion of the work. (Applause.) – Mr Talbot responded.

Major Mosely proposed “The health of Monsignor Capel,” and this was drunk with great enthusiasm and cheering.

The Very Rev. Monsignor Capel thanked his audience for their kind but somewhat noisy welcome, which was particularly complimentary to a stranger.  He had heard, among other things, that the foundations of the building were cracked a little, but he had faith in the roman Catholics of Brierley Hill, who had truth and pluck on their side, as well as unity, and with these they could not help succeeding. (Hear, hear). The building in which they had just worshipped was the work of a man of genius, and his art was shown in all his work.  (Hear, hear).  In concluding, he trusted that the younger members would do all to help to clear off the £000. debt on the building.

Mr Emery, having spoken as to the original movement for building the chapel, Mr Emery, jun. proposed “The health of Mr Walby Pugin, the architect, and Mr Horton, the builder.”

There were several other toasts, and the company, numbering nearly 200, then left.

In the evening the church was again crowded to hear an address from Monsignor Capel.


Memories of Round Oak – fantastic video

Round OakThis is a fantastic video of Round Oak steelworks, taken in 1984, not long before it was demolished to make way for the Waterfront Business Park.

The video is embedded from The Only Way Is Dudley Facebook site, and may take a second or two to load. It is worth the wait.

The video appears to be taken from a vehicle travelling along Dudley Road and then turning into Level Street.

It has already had over 50,000 views on The Only Way Is Dudley Facebook page and there’s lots of comments reminiscing about the works underneath.

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Travels with Pevsner: “As if a place like Brierley Hill needed any flats”

PevsnerNot sure what to make of Brierley Hill’s entries in Pevsner’s ‘The Buildings of England’.  The Staffordshire volume (1974), the last of 46, covers the Brierley Hill area.  Two comments caused me to raise my eyebrows.

In the foreword, Pevsner acknowledges the help of Edward Hubbard who had planned the routes for Pevsner to take when he surveyed buildings throughout Staffordshire…”taking in his stride such obstacles as the Black Country and the Potteries”.  An obstacle!!! how dare he!  Still an interesting outsider’s view illustrating how our sub-region is perceived.

In the Brierley Hill section of the work six local buildings have merited inclusion.

The first of these is St Michael’s church.  The entry (p80) reads:

ST MICHAEL, Church Street. 1765. Brick. The w tower resorted and largely rebuilt in 1900.  The top is hardly facsimile. Side of four bays with the two middle ones projecting and pedimented.  Two tiers of windows, arched below and small and segment-arched about. Brick quoins. The chancel more ornate inside.  it must belong to the restoration of 1873-88. The church faces ten new high blocks of flats. As if a place like Brierley Hill needed any. (My emphasis)

What on earth did he mean by that? “As if a place like Brierley Hill needed any”?

There’s no explanation and Pevsner went to his grave in 1983 so I suppose that the remark will be forever unexplained.  How odd though.

For the record the other entries (also p80) are:

CHRISTCHURCH, High Street, Quarry Bank. By Thomas Smith, 1845-6. A Commissioners’ church. Yellow brick, lancet Gothic transepts, chancel of 1900. Thin hammerbeam roof.

ST JOHN, High Street, Brockmoor. by Thomas Smith, 1844-5. Also a Commissioners’ church. Neo-Norman, of plum and yellow brick. Bellcote; no tower. Transecpts and a short chancel.

(ST JOHN, Dudley Wood. 1931 by Sir Charles Nicholson. GR)

ST MARY (R.C.), High Street, E of the parish church. 1872-3 by E.W. Pugin. Brick, nave and chancel in one; no tower. Windows to the (rituals) s with plate tracery. A typical asymmetrical, busy E.W.P. front, and inside typical of E.W.P. capitals.

and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly:

CIVIC BUILDINGS, Bank Street. Of brick, large and not symmetrical. by J.P. Moore, early fifties to 1962.

Pensnett also has an entry, again a church:

ST MARK, High Street. 1846-9 by J.M. Derick. A large, serious, decidedly High Victorian building.  it cost £6,700. Small ashlar, with a transept and an unfortunately incomplete s tower.  Mainly lancet windows. Round piers, high nave with clerestory, high chancel. – STAINED GLASS. The E window probably of c.1850.



Nikolaus Pevsner – Wikipedia

E. W. Pugin

Church Commissioners – Wikipedia

List of commissioners churches in the English Midlands – Wikipedia

Brierley Hill Team – covering local churches






Lost Cricket and Football Clubs and Grounds in the south of the Black Country – Terry Church Book Launch

Wallheath based author Terry Church launched his latest book “Lost Cricket and Football Clubs…” at Stourbridge Cricket Club on Saturday (9th November).  The book recalls over 100 clubs now lost to the area, including many in Brierley Hill including:

  • IMG_0687Brierley Hill Grammar School Cricket Club
  • Wordsley hospital cricket ground
  • Stuart Crystal sports club
  • E.J. and J. Pearson Ltd cricket ground (behind the Birch Tree Public House)
  • Jury Hollow-ware Cricket Club – on Thorns Road
  • Brierley Hill Alliance (now ASDA in Brierley Hill)
  • Marsh and Baxter – now at least still a sports ground with Dudley Social occupying the High Ercal site
  • Richard and Thomas Badwin (Cookley)
  • Round Oak Steel Works (now the privately owned David Lloyd Leisure Centre.

The list reads like a roll call of lost industries too.

The grounds of Marsh and Baxter, Richard Thomas and Baldwin’s and Round Oak were provided by the three major employers of labour in the town of Brierley Hill…The employment and wealth generated by these three companies was immense and at one time (they) would have employed…close on five thousand people

It was more than jobs that were lost when the old industries closed, mainly in the late seventies and early nineties.  A whole social infrastructure was lost too.

The book tells the story of the clubs and makes fascinating reading.Terry’s website is

The Brierley Hill Alliance football ground
The Brierley Hill Alliance football ground – now ASDA carpark
Round Oak Ground
Round Oak football ground. Now the site of the David Lloyd Centre

You are invited to “More Miles Than Venice: an appreciation of the canals of Birmingham and the Black Country” – a talk by Graham Fisher MBE – Civic Society Monday 18th November, 5.30pm

I am delighted to invite you to the next meeting of Brierley Hill Civic Society which takes place on Monday 18th November 2013, at St Michael’s Church, Bell Street South, Brierley Hill.

Graham Fisher MBE

Our speaker is the renowned Graham Fisher M.B.E. Graham will be talking on “More Miles Than Venice: an appreciation of the canals of Birmingham and the Black Country”, with some special highlights regarding Brierley Hill.

For those who know such things Graham is a highly regarded speaker. As one paper put it:

Spend just a few moments in Graham Fisher’s company and you quickly realise he is an extraordinarily engaging Black Country character – offering informed opinions about anything from existentialism to the current economic doldrums.

I do hope you can make what should be an absolutely fascinating talk.

The agenda for the meeting will therefore be:

  1. More Miles Than Venice: an appreciation of the canals of Birmingham and the Black Country – a talk by Graham Fisher MBE
  2. Apologies
  3. Minutes of the previous meeting (see below)
  4. Matters arising not elsewhere on the agenda
  5. Treasurer’s report
  6. Brierley Hill in Bloom update
  7. Brierley Hill Christmas Festival
  8. Brierley Hill Community Forum merger
  9. Information exchange
  10. Any Other urgent business

I do hope you can make the meeting which should be fascinating for all of those interested in the past, present and future of Brierley Hill. Look forward to seeing you on Monday.

Kind regards,


[button link=”″]Minutes of BHCS October Meeting[/button]

Mapping the Brierley Hill fallen of World War Two

RemembranceMapBrierley Hill’s UDC Book of Remembrance contains the names, addresses, ranks and date of death of those who lived within the borough’s boundaries and lost their lives in service during World War Two.

Reading the addresses of the fallen is very moving, and brought home to me the emotional impact of the loss.  These people could have been neighbours of mine.

Mapping them gives an idea of what the terrible impact must have been on local communities.  The edge of the clusters coincides with the boundary of the former Brierley UDC.  Empty spaces within the boundary can be accounted for as either having no homes there…or simply that the estates now there weren’t built at the time of the war.

Try zooming in to see the maps in more detail, and click on the link below to view a larger version of the map.  How many of the fallen lived by you?

View Brierley Hill Book of Remembrance 1939-1945 in a larger map