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Forum Home > Dead and Buried. > Wolverhampton. A nasty smell.

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Listening the other day to the radio, there was a man who, like a lot of others, including me at times, was pondering on just what defined the Black Country. The people, the industries, the coal, or the towns. He was pretty clear, that in his vision, Wolverhampton should not be included. Having possibly already had a good look at the site, you may have formed the opinion, that not all of us agree with that sweeping statement. And for a whole lot of reasons, far beyond the argument about the coal seams. It would be rather stupid to deny, that the 1832 Cholera Epidemic, only affected Bilston and Willenhall, and the hundreds of deaths in Wolverhampton don't count. Shared industries, and the movement of labour added to the regions wealth, and the appalling conditions under which a large part of this workforce lived, were to be found anywhere in the Black Country.  As we shall now see,


You would have thought that conditions might have improved, in the 8 or so years since 1832, not so, inertia seems to be a stock in trade of many local authorties of the time. " The houses were in a filthy and delapidated condition. The streets are very narrow, and the system of alleys and Courts all add to the problem of overcrowded and insanitry dwellings. There are just two privies for twenty houses, the drainage of which is largely uncovered, and frequent blockages cause then to overflow." The words of an inspector in the early 1840s, and like London's great Stink, the appalling smell was blamed for the spread of fever and illness. Wolverhampton's drainage ditch's, enlarged and deepened since 1832, ran through some very densely populated area's. Darlington Street, Salop Street, Stafford Street, Lichfield Streett, Oxford Street, Berry Street, Carribee-Island, Market Street, Brick-Kiln Street, and many others. The open sewer behind Darlington Street, was rather ominously reffered to as " The Black Brook " by the locals. I don't suppose you would have had much time left on this earth, if you had the misfortune to stumble into that in the dark. Only when the wind blew directly to the south, and at a rate of knots, would anyone have breathed air that didn't smell of something obnoxious. The people in Sedgley, or indeed in Coseley, probably wouldn't have noticed the difference, as I said before, shared experiences. There was so much rotting and unspeakable things decomposing in the streets of Wolverhampton, that it would have taken hundreds of carts, working 24 hour shifts, many months to clear. Smithfield, came in for a special mention. Piled up in the place, was at least 400 tons of Pig, Horse, and human manure, that on rainy days produced ankle deep wading conditions. It was supposed to be collected weekly, but they appear to have been short of funds, now where have we all heard that before. They eventually got some of it shifted, and did make few minor adjustments to get rid of the smell, but all to no avail, in 1848, the dreaded Cholera came back.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 27, 2011 at 4:47 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

The town must have shown a degree of improvement some years later, as in November 1866, they were favoured, by what can only be described as, a " flying visit ",by no less than Queen Victoria. There was of course, a certain amount of craftiness about all this, for the great and good of the Town had subscribed to have a statue of the late Prince Albert, cast and erected in the Market Place. Knowing full well, that the Queen would be unlikely to refused to unvail it, they duly sent her an invitation. It worked. The Queen left Windsor, about 10am on the day of the great event, and passed through a good portion of the Black Country, before arriving at 1.10pm, at the towns Low- Level Station. The council had sold tickets for the arrival, ( didn't miss a trick our ancesters ) and about 800 people were crowded onto the platform to welcome her. The procession then wound it's way down Kings Street, Queens Street, Dudley Street, Snow Hill, Cleveland Street, Salop Street, Darlington Street, and into the Market Place. In the centre, stood the magnificent bronze efigy of the late Prince, proudly sitting in the saddle of his horse. ( subject to a bit of modern day jesting, as to whether the horse is either coming or going ) A large canopy had been erected, under which sat a further 2,000 privileged folks, all having paid for the seats. ( crafty move ). Surrounded by almost 800 policemen and a troop of of yeomanry, the brief ceremony began, and ended with the unvailing, three loud cheers, and the playing of the National anthem. The return journey began, via Skinner Street, School Street, Waterloo Road, Stafford Street, Little-Berry Street, Princes Street, and again down Queens Street. The whole route was lined with over 1,500 militiamen, supplimented with policemen. Heading the royal progress were the Troop of yeomanry, and a detachment of the 8th Hussars. Queen Victoria, possibly by now feeling a bit peckish, and no doubt in need of the use of the " ablutions, ( it's not clear if the train had any " facilities " ) was then served Lunch. Her strength now back to normal, she boarded the train at 3.45pm, and sped back to Windsor, where it arrived about 6.50pm.


The old dear had been in Wolverhampton, for just 2 hours 35 minutes, and if you allow an hour for Lunch, the whole lot, two processions and the unvailing, took just over 1 hour and 30 minutes. The expense of the visit, all the soldiers and police, the building of a large Arch of Coal, weighing close to a 100 tons, and the big pile of coal just after it, the decorations and all the flowers, ( mostly out of season and specially grown )  were never publically disclosed at the time. Given the time though, 1866, it must be one of the first big Publicity Stunts in the Black Country. I would say well done Wolverhampton, but today we have to put with the ramifications of all of it. All the spin and political shuffling that goes on, could very well be the fault of the old towns elite. We are possibly still paying for it all as well.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

December 12, 2011 at 11:48 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

It's not only rubbish that causes nasty smells either, sometimes it's bit of scandal that perfumes the air. Dunstall Park Race-course Company, a rather solid and respectable establishment, whose offices were in Darlington Street, were on the end of some serious investigative journalism in November 1910, just 4 months after the highly successful air show. Although not a top venue for racing, it never the less attracted large crowds of well informed and knowledgable Blackcountry folk, all out for a good time. As normal, after counting, the cash was deposited in the company Secretary's safe, prior to banking. When the safe was opened, it was found to be short of several hundred pounds, and understandably, the Police were called. Now I know detection methods were not that good in 1910, but what followed next was disgraceful. There had not been, as it was quickly deduced, a burglary, the doors were unmarked. Neither had the safe been forced, clearly, a key had been used. Very much then an inside job as they say. The Police, totally ignoring the fact that someone high up in the organisation had suddenly " disappeared ", and the fact that this individual had already been " fingered ", declined to take any action against him because he had such a " good honest character ".  Instead, they arrested a lowly office clerk, marched hin off to the local nick, and proceeded to pressure him into confessing to the deed. Only the intervention of the press, saved the unfotunate (and innocent) man from being charged with theft. After three days he was released, and the very next day, someone paid a cheque into the Companies account, for the exact amount of the missing money. For the first time, the rather shy Wolverhampton Police, now questioned the man who had rapidly disappeared, and was now back in the bosom of his family. Edward Cresswell, for it was he, was a very lucky man. He had been the Companies Secrectary for the last 23 years, and as far as the records show, the Company dropped any charges. He was of course dismissed from his post, and so he should have been, but what interests me more, is how the Company treated the poor innocent clerk, who had been so badly mistreated. Anyone with the answer, please tell me.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

March 22, 2012 at 4:25 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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