1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Walsall

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WALSALL, a market town and municipal, county and parliamentary borough of Staffordshire, England, on the northern edge of the Black Country, and on a tributary stream of the Tame. Pop. (1891) 71,789; (1901) 86,430. It is 120½ m. N .W . from London by the London & North-Western railway, on which system it is a centre of several branches, and is served by the Birmingham–Wolverhampton branch of the Midland railway and by canals. The town, though of ancient foundation, is modern in appearance. The central part stands high on a ridge at the northward termination of which is the church of St Matthew, dating in part from the 15th century, but almost wholly rebuilt. The council house and town hall was completed in 1905; there are two theatres, a free library and museum, and an institute of science and art. Recreation grounds include a picturesque arboretum. Reed's Wood and Palpey Park. Queen Mary's Schools are a foundation of 1554; here are believed to have been educated John Hough (1651–1743), the president of Magdalen College, Oxford, whom James II sought to eject from office, afterwards bishop of Oxford, Lichfield, and Worcester; and John, Lord Somers (1651–1716), Lord Keeper and Lord Chancellor of England. There are large charities, and Walsall was the scene of the charitable work of Sister Dora (Miss Pattison) whom a statue commemorates. Coal, limestone and ironstone are mined in the neighbourhood. The most important products are saddlery and leather-work, horses' bits and all metal harness fittings; there are iron and brass foundries, and locks, keys, bolts and other hardware are made, both in Walsall and at Bloxwich, a large industrial suburb. Three annual fairs are held. The parliamentary borough returns one member. The town is governed by a mayor, 8 aldermen and 24 councillors. Area, 7480 acres.

Walsall (Waleshales, Walshall, Walsaler) is included in the list of lands given in 996 to the church of Wolverhampton, which, however, did not retain it long. It was granted by Henry II to Herbert Ruffus, and Henry III confirmed it to his grandson (1227). Later the manor passed to the Bassets and the Beauchamps, and Warwick the King-maker held it in right of his wife. Henry VIII granted it (1538) to Dudley, afterwards duke of Northumberland. William Ruffus in the reign of John granted to the burgesses, in consideration of a fine of 12 marks silver and of a rent of 12d. for every burgage, all services, customs and secular demands belonging to him and his heirs, except tallage. Henry IV confirmed to the burgesses a grant of freedom from toll on the ground that Walsall was ancient demesne of the Crown. A mayor and twenty-four brethren who formed the council of the borough are mentioned in 1440, but the earliest charter of incorporation is that of Charles I (1627), confirmed in 1661, incorporating it under the title of "the Mayor and Commonalty of the Borough and Foreign of Walsall" under the act of 1835 the town was governed by a mayor, six aldermen and eighteen town councillors. It was not represented in parliament till 1832. Walsall had a merchant gild in 1390; in the 17th century it was already known for its manufacture of iron goods and nail-making. In the 18th century the staple industry was the making of chapes and shoe-buckles, and the town suffered when the latter went out of fashion. Two fairs, on Michaelmas day and September 21, were granted in 1399. The Tuesday market, which is still held, and two fairs on October 28 and May 6, were granted in 1417 to Richard Beauchamp, earl of Warwick.

See Victoria County History, Stafford, F. L. Glew, History of the Borough and Foreign of Walsall (1856).