The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868
Description and History from 1868 Gazetteer
"WALSALL, a parish, market town, parliamentary and municipal borough in the hundred of South Offlow, county Stafford, 8 miles N.W. of Birmingham, 6 E. of Wolverhampton, and 119 N.W. of London. The town was formerly confined to an eminence, but has of late years extended over the plain or marsh beneath. It is built on a small rivulet which runs into the Tame, is a place of considerable antiquity, and ranks as the second market and manufacturing town in the county.
Queen Elizabeth is said to have visited it in 1586, and signed a deed conveying a grant of land to the town. Henrietta Maria, Queen of Charles I., stayed here in 1643, on her way to join the king at Edgehill. Charles I. granted it a charter, which was confirmed by Charles II. The area of the parish is 8,182 acres, and the population in 1861 was 39,690, being an increase of 12,868 since 1851. The parish is divided into two parts: Walsall Borough and Walsall Foreign. The population of the former in 1861 was 8,166; of the latter 31,524.
There are numerous canals running through and by the town, and the South Staffordshire branch of the London and North-Western railway has a station there. A new direct line to Wolverhampton is projected. The recent extension of Walsall is due to its proximity to a district abounding in coal, iron, and limestone. The manufactures here comprise saddlery, hardware, and coach ironwork, locks, bolts, and keys. There are also brass and iron foundries, chandelier and gas-fittings manufactories, tanneries, and extensive corn mills. The town is throughout lighted with gas supplied from the corporation works in Wolverhampton street, and draws a plentiful supply of pure water from the neighbourhood of Lichfield. There are large reservoirs connected with the waterworks near the Pleck.
The corporation, which consists of a mayor, 6 aldermen, and 17 town councillors, partly derives its revenues from lands and buildings within the parish, and from an estate at Bascote, in Warwickshire, which produces nearly £300 per annum. The Reform Bill of 1832 constituted Walsall a borough, and it returns one member. The townhall is in High-street: the old edifice, erected in 1734, has been demolished, and the foundation-stone of a new townhall and gaol was laid on the 24th of July, 1865, on the old site. The assembly-rooms are at the "George Hotel". The county court offices are in Lichfield-street, the public free library in Goodall-street, and the workhouse at the Pleck. In Littleton street are swimming and private baths, erected in 1861, supplied with water from the limestone springs. There is a small hospital, called the Cottage Hospital, in Bridge street. Opposite the grammar-school is a sheet of water surrounded by gardens, formed by the excavations for limestone. In the centre of the town is a square called the Bridge, the chief building in which is the "George Hotel". In the centre is a clock and two cannons from Sebastopol.
Walsall, which is in the diocese of Lichfield and archdeaconry of Stafford, has four churches. The parish church, dedicated to St. Matthew, stands at the top of High street, and is approached by a steep ascent and a flight of steps. The church was rebuilt, with the exception of the tower, spire, and chancel, in 1821, and is capable of seating 2,500; the annual value is £500. St. Peter's is in Stafford street, value £300, in the gift of the vicar. St. Paul's, the Bridge, is connected with the grammar-school and in the patronage of the governors, and the value is £50. St. John's, at the Pleck, value £112, is in the gift of the vicar. There are also within the parish churches at Walsall Wood and Bloxwich. There are numerous dissenting chapels in both the Foreign and Borough - about seventeen in number, belonging to the Independents, Baptists, Wesleyans, Methodist Free Church, and Primitive Methodists. The Roman Catholics have two chapels at Walsall and one at Bloxwich.
The free grammar school, in Lichfield-street, was rebuilt in 1849. The school was founded by Queen Mary, and has one exhibition to Oxford or Cambridge. It is endowed with 298 acres of land, producing about £500 per annum. The old blue-coat school has merged into a National school. The new pile of buildings in red and blue brick with stone facings in St. Paul street was completed in 1850, and has accommodation for 500 children, 40 of whom, according to the terms of the original institution, are clothed and educated gratis. There are other schools, and numerous Sunday-schools connected with the different places of worship, and numerous small charities belong to the poor of Walsall, consisting of doles of bread, clothing, &c. There are also the Harper and Mollesley almshouses, in Bath street, for six and eleven poor women or widows respectively. The annual proceeds of the Fishley charity, about £50, is devoted to apprenticing the children of the poor.
In Bath street is an old burial-ground belonging to the parish church. The new cemetery is at the Pleck. A medicinal well, called Alum Well, a short distance from the town, was formerly noted, its waters being impregnated with iron. Quarter, county court, and petty sessions are held here. The borough magistrates sit every Tuesday and Thursday. There are quarterly meetings of the ironmasters. Walsall has a coroner, town clerk, recorder, and treasurer, and there is an annual court-leet. There are two large branch banks in Walsall; the Birmingham Banking Company having an establishment in High street, and the Staffordshire Joint-Stock Bank one at the Bridge. The savings-bank has transferred its business to the post-office savings-bank. The principal landowners are Lord Hatherton, Earl of Bradford, and Captain Mellish. There are three papers published here: the Walsall Free Press, Saturday; the Walsall News, Saturday; and the Walsall Advertiser, Saturday and Tuesday; the latter is for free circulation.
The union county of Walsall contains the sub-districts of Walsall, Darlaston, Aldridge, and Bloxwich, being an area of 21,603 acres, and containing a population of 59,908. The county court jurisdiction comprises Aldridge, Barr, Bentley, Darlaston, Moxley, Norton, Pelshall, Rushall, Walsall, and Wednesbury. Tuesday is the market-day. There are three annual fairs-on the 24th of February, Whit-Monday, and the Tuesday preceding Old Michaelmas Day, and the races are held on the Wednesday and Thursday following. The racecourse is near the railway station."
[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) - Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]