Oldbury, Langley and Warley were small hamlets in the northernmost
part of the Manor of Hales in Worcestershire. With the arrival of
the Normans in 1066, most of the manor of Halesowen was given by William
I to Roger Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, and transferred to Shropshire,
where most of his lands were held. About half of the lands of Warley,
however, were granted to William FitzAnsculf, whose base was at Dudley,
and this remained in Worcestershire (Warley Wigorn). The remainder
of Warley (Warley Salop) went into Shropshire with the rest of the
or 'Halas' entry in the Domesday Book
remained in the hands of Earl Roger's descendants until 1102, when
Robert de Belesme led an unsuccessful rising against Henry I, and
the manor was confiscated by the crown. In 1177, Henry II gave it
to his brother-in-law, David ap Owen, Prince of Wales, and it became
'Hales Owen'. It reverted to the crown on his death, and ten years
later King John granted it to the Bishop of Worcester to found a
of Halesowen Abbey from sketch by Elizabeth Reynolds in 1834
[in Sandwell Community History and Archives]
The first 'White
Friars', or Presmonstratensian Canons, arrived on 6th May 1216,
and Oldbury, like the rest of Hales Owen manor, came under monastic
rule. Hales Owen Abbey was not a large establishment, but
the relationship between the Abbot and the people of the manor was
often strained. The 'manor rolls' provide an insight to life in
the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Various watermills and
chapels in Oldbury are mentioned, and also the five open fields
that surrounded Oldbury. During the Black Death of the 1340s the
population of the manor was reduced by about a third.
church was St John's, Halesowen, and it remained such until
the 1840s, when the parish of Oldbury-cum-Langley was created. Because
of the distance from Oldbury to the church, the people of Oldbury
built a small chapel in 1529.
By 1538 Henry
VIII was suppressing and destroying monasteries throughout the country,
and the Abbot of Hales surrendered the Abbey to the King. The Manor
of Hales was given to Sir John Dudley, later the Earl of Warwick
and Lord Northumberland. In 1553 he tried to install Lady Jane Grey
as Queen, but the plot failed and he was executed. The manor was
confiscated, but released to his widow. Two years later his son,
Sir Robert Dudley, sold most of the manor and, soon after, it came
into the Lyttleton family. However, Sir Robert retained "… such
parte, parcelles and members of the premysses as be and do lye in
Oldbury and Walloxhall alias Langley Walloxhall …". Thus, the
separate Manor of 'Oldbury Walloxhall, alias Langley Walloxhall
alias Langley and Walloxhall' came into being.
The Manor of
Oldbury passed through several families as Lords of the Manor, including
Cornwallis, Featherstone, Grimshaw, Wright, Parrott and Allen-Frazer.
The lands were gradually sold off, and the Manor Court ceased to
operate in the early twentieth century.
Oldbury was a small country town occupied by smallholders and nailers
in the seventeenth century.
on corner of Birmingham Street and Church Square
The road through
Oldbury was turnpiked around 1760, and the first canals
came through the town twenty years later. Oldbury was well placed
to develop its mineral wealth with access to the markets of Birmingham
and the Black Country.
expansion was rapid an advances in technology made it possible
to mine the thirty-foot seam under the area. Coal mining and iron
working became the main industries in the first half of the nineteenth
century with collieries, forges and foundries arising around Oldbury
and Langley. The town had four blast furnaces, operating from the
1780s to the 1860s.
the 10-yard sea of the South Staffordshire coalfield - difficult
and dangerous work!
for work drew many people into the area, and the population
rose rapidly. As the demand for housing increased, many inferior
houses were erected, soon to be slums. Oldbury was slow to provide
good sanitation and water for its inhabitants, but slowly improvements
were made in the second half of the nineteenth century. With the
advent of the Highways Board in 1836, the Board of
Health in 1857 and the Urban District Council in 1894, the local
government of the area developed. Public Offices were built in the
Market Square, and gas works and a sewerage works constructed as
offices and library opened in 1891
to develop, with chemical manufacture starting in 1837 to supply
the glass works at Smethwick, followed by phosphorus extraction
in 1850, tar distillation and plastics. As coal mining and iron
extraction declined, brick making spread, exploiting the layer of
Etruria marl below Oldbury. Iron and steel manufacture expanded
with edge tools, railway carriages, boilers and tubes being sent
around the world.
expansion destroyed much of the green countryside that surrounded
Oldbury in 1800, leaving spoil heaps, marl holes, quarries, pits
and pollution throughout the area, and a legacy of reclaiming the
land throughout the twentieth century. What was not destroyed was
built over, and now little green space remains, save the parks and
open spaces bequeathed by industrialist benefactors.
hole at Rounds Green in the 1920s. This was the only marl
hole in Oldbury to last into the 21st century, albeit full
of water by then. It was filled in during 2008, removing the
lastv traces of the brick-making industry from the area.
at Bristnall Fields in the 1920s.
had been following a different path. It remained part of Halesowen
Manor when Oldbury separated in the 1550s, and become part of Quinton
Parish in the 1840s. It joined with Oldbury and Langley again when
Oldbury Urban District was formed in 1894. Warley did not experience
the industrial development of Oldbury and Langley, not being situated
on the coalfield and being away from the canal system. It remained
rural farmland until given over to housing between the wars, and,
in the Brandhall area, from the 1950s. Part of Warley was transferred
to Smethwick in 1928.
increase in population of the early nineteenth century saw the growth
in churches and schools. The Church of England was weak in
the town until the creation of Oldbury and Langley parishes in the
1840s. The parish church, Christchurch, was opened in 1841, and
Trinity Church, Langley followed in 1852.
Oldbury, consecrated 1841
first Roman Catholic church
since the 1530s was opened in 1865, St Francis Xavier. Oldbury had
always had a strong protestant tradition, and it was the non-conformist
chapels of the Methodists, Baptists, Independents and Unitarians
that flourished in the mid-1850s.
Most of the
schools of the Victorian era were started by the churches,
and Oldbury had sufficient places for pupils not to need a School
Board when these were introduced in the 1880s. The same was not
true of Warley where a Board School was opened in 1881. The first
council schools were built at Rood End, Abbey Road, Rounds Green
and Titford Road between 1906
and 1911 for infants and juniors, and all are still operating a
The need to
train industrial workers led to the opening of a Technical School
in 1899 providing evening classes. A day secondary school was opened
in the premises during the day soon afterwards. The secondary school
was transferred to new premises in Moat Road in 1926, becoming the
County High School, and after WW2, Oldbury Grammar School. Comprehensive
education was established throughout the borough in 1974.
County High School soon after its opening in Moat Road, Langley,
King of Mirth, Oldbury Carnival Queen and their entourage providing
not only a great social event in the 1930s, but also essential
funds for the hospital.
part of the West Bromwich Union under the poor law changes
of 1837, and was represented on the Board of Guardians of West Bromwich
Workhouse. When the workhouse closed in the 1930s, it became Hallam
Hospital. Oldbury looked to West Bromwich for most of its hospital
facilities, and was part of the 'district' covered by the West Bromwich
and District Hospital from the 1860s. Many fund-raising events were
held to support the 'District' Hospital, including collections and
Carnival weeks throughout the 1930s.
in production at Oldbury Carriage Works in WWI
very heavily involved in production of armaments in both world wars.
Most of the tanks used in WW1 were made at the Oldbury Carriage
Works. Albright and Wilson manufactured phosphorus bombs, Chance
Brothers' Alkali Works produced TNT in a new Government factory
erected for the purpose.
wars, the Urban District Council set about changing the social
conditions in the area, with the expansion of education and welfare,
and large schemes of council housing and slum clearance.
and swimming baths were built in the 1930's. In addition to these
advances by the local authority, there was a heavy involvement of
local people in welfare efforts, through organisations such as the
Citizens' Society, and through fund-raising to support the local
Housing Estate at Warley, built between the wars
The Urban District
Council was granted a coat of arms in 1926. It pressed for borough
status, and it was granted a charter in 1935.
Coat of Arms------
As the Borough
of Oldbury, it continued to grow with new industries including the
manufacture of bottle, pens, sweets and cookers. After 1945 the
expansion continued with further house building and the arrival
of the M5 motorway in 1964. This decade saw the decline of the canals,
a major factor in Oldbury's prosperity. In 1964 Oldbury was joined
with Smethwick and Rowley Regis to become the County Borough of
Warley. Oldbury's independence had ended. It was further subsumed
by the creation of the Metropolitan Borough of Sandwell in 1974
from Warley and West Bromwich County Boroughs.
1970s and 80s, Oldbury town centre went into decline, and Oldbury's
heavy industries were lost. The town was 'rescued' by the arrival
of the 'Savacentre' shopping outlet, but its creation involved extensive
redevelopment of the old streets, houses, workshops and chapels
in the area. More change came with the demolition of Freeth Street
area and the opening of the Sandwell Council House. The whole face
of Oldbury has changed: many old buildings were destroyed, often
without an adequate record of them, and the old street pattern of
Oldbury obliterated. The process continues as more buildings are
demolished and replaced. The challenge for Sandwell is to preserve
the old whilst it develops for the future.
Council House facing the remains of the old Public Buildings
and the War Memorial in 2000. Even this recent scene is now
history as the Town Square has been redesigned
of Oldbury's history has been lost on the ground, and its preservation
through memory, document and image is the aim of the local history
societies set up through the local libraries in the 1990s.