History of Oldbury, Langley and Warley
   
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Updated 22 August 2015
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OLD NEWS

 

Although out of date as 'news', these items are retained on the website because of the information they contain.

    OLD NEWS ITEMS  
  GO Olympic flame Passing through Oldbury
  GO Langley Distillery Fire and history
  GO Jack Judge House Opening of building, March 1011
  GO Old Court House Interior and history of building, dating from 1816
  GO Fire at Langley Maltings 130 year old buildings under threat after a fire
GO The Pauper Memorial The unveiling of the memorial on 21st November 2008
GO The Bells will ring out Appeal for Christchurch bells - now operational again
GO Worcestershire Regimental Museum Details of display on the regiment's history
GO St Michael & All Angels, Langley Threat to church building after closure
GO Mortuary Chapel, Oldbury Cemetery Demolition of last mortuary chapel
  GO Sale of St Michael & All Angels, Langley Handover to Iglesia ni Cristo

 

OLYMPIC FLAME PASSES THROUGH OLDBURY

History does not only relate to things in the distant past, it is being created continuously. On Saturday 30th June 2012 the Olympic flame passed through Oldbury and was greeted by a large and enthusiastic crowd. Even the weather was welcoming!

This was the first time the Olympic flame had made such a journey around the British Isles, and Oldbury may never see its return - so it was a brief, unique moment in history.

The torch bearer in the picture was John Ovis, a South African from Bitterfontein, seen here in Church Street passing the Waggon and Horses and Sandwell Council House.

Olympic flame

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LANGLEY DISTILLERY

 

The disastrous fire at Alcohols Ltd, Crosswells Road, Langley, on Monday 26th November has left many local residents counting the cost and their homes and cars were damaged by the intense heat of the fire. 200 people were evacuated, many to Moat Farm Junior School, and 100 fire-fighters tackled the blaze at its height. Photographs and a video have been posted on our associated Facebook site, and illustrate the advantage of this site for quickly covering such events.

 

Fire 1 Fire 2

The pictures above were taken by local residents showing the fire at its height.

A few days later the flames were out, and just the shell of the building remained.

fire3
fire4
distillery

The buildings in the 1970s

 

According to the Midland Chronicle 30 April 1920, " 'The Langley Distillery, Ltd' has been formed with a capital of £50,000 to carry on at Langley Green, nr Birmingham, and elsewhere the business of distillers, rectifiers, refiners of spirit, wine and spirit merchants, brewers, licenced victuallers, etc. " It goes on to list the seven directors, the nearest living in Wolverhampton, so it was not a local initiative.

At its heart was the manufacture of gin, a process carried out in part of the original brewery, built by Walter Showell in the 1870s. Some of the stills are over a hundred years old, but the youngest, 'Jenny', was opened a mere twenty years ago. This was not the part of the factory destroyed in the presentfire.

The original brewery buildings were badly damaged by fire between the wars, so the dangers of handling alcohols was experienced then. In those days the company had its own fire engine, 'Lillian' and fire brigade The Maltings in Western Road were also damaged by fire in 1925, so the site is no stranger to a blaze.

 

The core of the business has been the production of gin by diluting the concentrated spirit with water and blending the 'botanicals' required to give the particular flavour of the brand. These include such ingredients as juniper berries from Italy and the Balkans, coriander seeds from southeast Europe and North Africa, angelica root from France and Germany, lemon and orange peel from Iberia, orris root powder from Italy and liquorice, almond and cassia bark from Asia. Some brands have other secret ingredients, and in some cases the full recipe would be known to only a few employees.

Three of the brands produced at Langley were Martin Miller's Westbourne Gin, Sportsman Gin and London Dry Gin, and Langley Gin.. Sortsman Gin was advertised in bars in the 1930s with colourful painted metal sports scenes and bottle labels which announced The Langley Distillery, Ltd. Langley Gin was promoted with beermats!

 

sportsman's gin
gin label beere mat

 

The present owners do much more than distill gin and vodka: they produce alcohol-based products for a wide range of industries and products, including: specialist solvents, inks, coatings, perfumes, flavours, toiletries, cosmetics and automotive products such as screenwash.

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THE OPENING OF 'JACK JUDGE HOUSE'

The official opening of Jack Judge House took place on Thursday 24th March 2011 by the Mayor of Sandwell, Cllr Pauline Hinton

 

Adrian Holmes, Sandwell's Town Crier, announces the opening of Jack Judge House. The Mayor of Sandwell, Cllr Pauline Hinton, cuts the ribbon to open the building, assisted by Jack's two great great grandchildren, Hannah and Connor Nicklin.
The Mayor and Town Crier with the Nicklin family, Jack Judge's irect descendants.
Cllr Mahboob Hussain opens Oldbury Library

 

The building

The new building in Halesowen Street, Oldbury, comprises council offices and a new library for Oldbury. It is built on the site of shops that were bombed in WW2 or demolished in the 1970s, and, for a while, the location of Oldbury bus station.

 

 

 

 

There's no excuse for not visiting - the crossing leads right there!

The building is named after John Thomas Judge, 'Jack', Judge, born into an Irish family living in Low Town in December 1872. Jack became a local entertainer, and later toured the country as a variety artist, singing, whistling and telling jokes - a typical act of the time. Jack's name is known worldwide as the composer of 'Its a long, long way to Tipperary', a song that became famous when it was taken up by Allied soldiers in WW1.

 

Apart from a bench near the Council House, this building is the first significant public recognition of Jack Judge in his home town. The entrance to the building includes a plaque with a short biography of Jack and a picture of him.

 

 

 

 

 

The new library has a large meeting room with exhibition cases for displaying items on the history of Oldbury, Langley and Warley. Exhibitions will be arranged by the local history societies in the area: the first exhibition features Jack Judge. This room will become the new home for Oldbury Local History Group, whose meetings are at 2.45 on the third Tuesday of each month.

Article on the Life and Music of Jack Judge

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THE OLD COURTHOUSE

Oldbury Library has moved from the old courthouse, which dates from 1816, when it was a debtor's prison. It was subsequently used as a county court, a magistrates' court, and, for much of the twentieth century, as the police station for Oldbury. [See its history].

New jail cells and and exercise yard were built for the police and to serve the magistrates' court around 1905, when the police station moved into the ground floor below the court. An additional administrative building was added at the same time. These are important buildings in the history of Oldbury, and much of the fabric remains, as shown below.

The Magistrates Court

Interior of the courthouse, as left by Warley Magistrates Court when it moved to a new building on Oldbury Ringway. The magistrates' bench, lawyers' and clerks' accommodation, and dock are still in place. This was the original court dating from 1816, but may have been modified at later date.[Photo: April 2011, Dr Terry Daniels]
   
Details of the court: The view from the bench; the magistrates' area with the only open fire and later radiators; detail of the decoration. [Photos: April 2011, Dr Terry Daniels]

   

The Jail

The original debtors' prison of 1816 was very primitive, and was upgraded around 1850 (see article). The area under the first-floor court became Oldbury Police Station early in the 20th century, and the jail that remains today is the police cells. These were joined to the court by an internal corridor.

The jail cells with the high solid wall of the exercise yard. These are directly connected to the court by steps which the accused would have climbed to learn his fate. [Photo: April 2011, Dr Terry Daniels]
   

Oldbury's derelict jail in April 2011. The top pictures show the linking steps between the cells on the right and the courthouse, upstairs of the left. The exercise yard was enclosed by a high wall, with a barred top.

The cells were 'minimalist' in construction, with a wooden bed, a toilet, and a barred window. The cell corridor shows the supports for the water cisterns that operated the toilets in the cells, The lights in each cell were also controlled from here. There is another cell at the end of the corridor separated from the others by an additional barred door - was this for extra security or women prisoners? The doors were of solid construction. At least one key was not 'thrown away'. [Photos: Dr Terry Daniels]

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LANGLEY MALTINGS

 

On the evening of 8th September 2009 fire broke out in the derelict Maltings in Western Road, Langley. Half of the roof of the grade two listed building was destroyed before the fire was put out, and three of its characteristic outlet towers were destroyed. So, another iconic building in the history of Oldbury is damaged or lost.

The maltings were erected by Walter Showell around 1880 on the side of the Titford Canal to supply malt to his new 'Crosswells Brewery' a hundred yards away across the railway line. This was one of the largest breweries in the area, and Showell's Ales were distributed throughout the Midlands. Local barley was used in the malting process, supplemented with grain brought in by barge and, later, by railway.

Malting ceased in 2006, and the building was sold by its owners,Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries, in 2007, since when it has been allowed to deteriorate. It was one of the last maltings to still use the traditional 'floor' malting process: the grains of barley were steeped in water and then spread over the floor of the maltings, the mass being frequently turned to permit even germination. At the end of the twentieth century, there were only five maltings in the country still using this process.

It is a striking building, rising from the side of the canal, the water at the base of its walls, and a feature of the canal walk from Oldbury locks to Titford Pool. This was not its first major fire. On 25th September 1925 the maltings caught fire and half of the building destroyed. Added hazards in 1925 were the location of the Shell-Mex petroleum tanks next to the maltings, and tar wagons in the railway yard opposite: both long since gone. On that occasion,the maltings were part of a commercially successful operation, and were quickly rebuilt. Their future now is much less certain, but it is to be hoped that they can be retained and a new use found for them.

 

The maltings today  

Inspecting the scene after the fire, 10th September 2009

Photos: Dr Terry Daniels
Happier times - a picnic in front of the maltings at a recent BCN Rally Photo: Dr Terry Daniels

The maltings and the Shell-Mex storage tanks in the 1920s, before the first fire

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'BLESSED ARE THE POOR' - THE PAUPER MEMORIAL UNVEILED

On an otherwise cold and grey day, weak sunlight greeted the unveiling of the Pauper Memorial in Heath Lane Cemetery, West Bromwich on Friday 21st November 2008. It was symbolic of the light and warmth they seldom found in life once the stigma of poverty and pauperism had struck them.

Why is this relevant to Oldbury? The pauper buried in unmarked graves were those from the workhouse for the West Bromwich Poor Law Union, which included Oldbury, Langley and Warley. Some of the paupers will have come from Oldbury.

The memorial at last gives recogition to the hundreds interred in the green spaces of the cemetery - it was illegal to add a headstone to a pauper's grave. It has been carved in grey granite in India, and shows a pauper family, the father and mother bowed down, but the child looking up, perhaps in hope.

It is estimated that 2,500 paupers are interred in the cemetery, many of them in mass graves, but there are no records of who was buried in any particular plot. The memorial will provide a focus for those wishing to pay their respects.

More information: www.westbrompaupers.org.uk

These photographs show Professor Carl Chinn addressing the crowd before the unveiling, the unveiling by Carl Chinn and the Mayor of Sandwell, Cllr Bob Price, and the blessing of the memorial by the Vicar of All Saints Church, West Bromwich. ----------- ----------------------[Photographs: Terry Daniels]
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THE BELLS WILL RING OUT

Note: there is a more detailed article on Christchurch Clock and Bells on the main website, together with a recording of the bells at their opening ceremony after restoration.

 

Christchurch in the October sunshine flying the Sandwell Flag for Mayor's Sunday [Photo: Terry Daniels]

You may have noticed that the clock in the tower of Christchurch , Oldbury has been striking the hours again for some months. A new clock is linked to one of the bells in the tower with a striking mechanism.

New striking mechanisms have been added now to all of the eight bells so that the bells can be rung electonically for local and national celebrations, and strike the Westminster chimes on the quarter hours during the day. They should burst into life shortly!

The peal of eight bells was originally installed in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee following generous donations of the eight bells and a public subscription which raised 320 for the work, The tower had to be raised by 16 feet (5 metres) to accommodate the bell chamber, which is why the brickwork for the top section of the tower does not match that of the lower part. The bells were originally swung from a ringing chamber below the bell chamber, but, following the alterations to the church in the 1990s, this area now houses the central heating for the building, and the tower is deemed to be too weak to swing the bells anyway.

A clock was installed four years later which struck the hours and played the Cambridge (or Westminster) chimes on the quarters - the original clock has long gone, but the dial and hands remain, operated by a modern mechanism.

The inside of the tower showing the No 7 bell

Tenor bell showing the mechanism for swinging the bell and the original striking mechanism for the 1890 clock.

The original clockface and the recently installed clock mechanism.

 

Photographs: Terry Daniels, October 2008

 

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THE WORCESTERSHIRE REGIMENTAL MUSEUM

Members of Langley Local History Society visited the Worcestershire Regimental Museum in September. This followed a talk by John Lowles earlier in the year on the history of the regiment, in particular the history of the Oldbury Volunteers. The Volunteers existed from 1860 to 1908, when they were disbanded on the inauguration of the Territorial Army.

The story of the Oldbury Volunteers is available as an Adobe Acrobat file.

The museum traces the history of the regiment from its inception as the Farrington's Regiment of Foot in 1694 to the latest action of the Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters Regiment. Members of the society were impressed by the displays and recommend a visit.

The Worcestershire Regiment Museum is open Monday to Saturday at The Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery, Foregate Street, Worcester, WR1 1DT

Regimental Museum website: http://www.worcestercitymuseums.org.uk/coll/worcs/worcind.htm

The Bugle presented to the Oldbury Volunteers by the Ladies of Oldbury in 1860

Oldbury Volunteers who served in the Boer War 1900-1901

A volunteer's uniform from the 1880s

Photographs: Terry Daniels, 2008

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FACING DEMOLITION - ST MICHAEL AND ALL ANGELS, LANGLEY

The church of St Michael and All Angels at Causeway Green Road, Langley Green was the parish church for Langley from 1890, replacing the smaller Trinity Church, Langley. Recently, with falling congregations, it proved impossible to maintain the fabric of this large late-Victorian church, and, after due process, it closed this year. The last service was held on 1st July 2007, ironically as always on these occasions, with a large congregation of people associated with the church across the years, but no longer attending!

The Birmingham Diocese has been unable to find a purchaser for the building to date, and it is now likely that the building, at the heart of the Langley community for nearly a century, will be demolished.

The building contains many interesting features, including a Nicolson organ, tablets and memorial stones to leaders of the Langley area, and several fine stained glass windows. These windows are of concern to local people and Langley Local History Society.

One is a fine window dedicated to Gladys Pryor, the daughter of the Vicar, who died at the age of twelve in 1900. This was made by the Camm studio in Smethwick, and includes Gladys as one of the children gathered at the feet of Christ.

The east window contains a fine crucifixion panel showing Mary, St John and Mary Magdalene at the foot of the cross. There is also a three-light window in memory of Mary Amphlett, with the pastoral theme of Christ the Good Shepherd, and a modern baptistry window showing the progress of the soul from conception to rest in heaven.

Of particular concern are the two war memorial windows commemorating the dead of Langley in the Great War. The main window depicts in its three lights St George, Faith and Hope. It also lists the names of sixty-four men of the parish who died in the Great War, the only public record of these men. The second window commemorates Cecil Percy William Lloyd, who was associated with the church, and was killed on the Somme in 1916.

Langley Local History Society accepts that the closure of such buildings may be inevitable when they are no longer viable, and takes no view on the decision for closure itself. It is concerned, however, that the historic fabric is preserved and adequately protected during the period when the building is not in use, and suitably re-sited following any decision to demolish the building.

 

 

Colour photographs: Dr Terry Daniels, 2005

St Michael's Church and Schools, 1900s

The nave and sanctuary of St Michael and All Angels Church

Detail of the Gladys Pryor window

The Langley War Memorial window

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DEMOLISHED - THE MORTUARY CHAPEL IN ROOD END CEMETERY

 

The remaining mortuary chapel in Oldbury Cemetery, Rood End has been demolished. This was a lovely building with polychrome brickwork erected when the cemetery was opened in 1857 by the Oldbury Burial Board. The cemetery originally featured two chapels, the one just demolished on the 'unconsecrated' side of the road, and a similar chapel taken down many years ago on the Anglican 'consecrated' side. The chapel had been neglected for many years, becoming no more than a splendid pigeon house. Nevertheless, it is a pity such a fine building of historic interest had to be pulled down.

Langley Local History Society did manage to save a blue, a red and a yellow brick from the chapel, and two souvenirs, the carved faces of a man and a woman which were sited on the outside of the east window. These were blackened after 150 years in Oldbury's industrial atmosphere, and slightly damaged on removal, but they will be restored as a reminder of the old mortuary chapels.

 

The chapel awaiting demolition, autumn 2007 [Photo: Terry Daniels]

-Coffin carrier used in the cemetery in former times [Photo: Janet Smith]


 

ST MICHAEL'S CHURCH TO IGLESIA NI CRISTO

 

Leaders of the Birmingham Diocese and Iglesia ni Cristo after the Sale of the building

Photo: Birmingham Diocese

 

The church of St Michael and All Angels at Langley Green closed in 2007, and the building was sold to the Phillipines-based church Iglesia Ni Cristo at the beginning of April 2014. The building swarmed with builders and underwent an internal transformation that simplified the interior to suit the style of worship and belief. All stained glass, tablets and the WW1 memorial cross have been removed.

 

scaffolding

The exterior of the building has been cleaned, the stonework repaired, and the roof tiled in the original shade (long since blackened by Oldbury's atmosphere). The building looks a sparkling gem.

iglesia ni cristo

iglesia interior

Exterior and interior photographs of Iglesia ni Cristo on their open day in September. The new pews had not been installed at that time. Some of the original carved wood behind the St Michael's altar has been retained, albeit without the carved symbols. The interior is plainer and simpler, but much of the original structure remians.

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© 2008 The Local History Societies of Langley, Oldbury and Warley