Some history of Oldbury
Oldbury is, as a local colloquialism implies, as old as the hills. It was referred to in the Domesday survey of 1086 as Ealdenbyrig which means 'old burgh.' Yet, for much of the last millennium it formed part of the Manor of Halas [Halesowen] and, as such, the town was a peculiar part of Shropshire. It has since been a detached part of Worcestershire and since 1974 within the county of West Midlands. The town prospered in the industrial revolution and was eventually given a charter in 1935. However, it has since lost its autonomy and forms part of the larger Sandwell Council.
For those who can remember Oldbury in the 1970s, the changes in the town centre will make you weep. Many of the historic buildings have been demolished in the name of supposed progress. The once impressive town square has been diluted with the banal modernity of the extensive council offices and a large supermarket. The addition of an ogee-capped tower on the latter fails to salvage a wretched blot on the landscape.
The retail park built next to the supermarket has ripped the commercial heart out of the old town centre which has been left to decay. Try standing next to the war memorial and visualising what the square may have once looked like. It really was quite grand with imposing buildings, a large hotel and an enclosed garden where the traffic roundabout now stands. One building which has been spared is the old red brick library designed by the West Bromwich firm of Wood and Kendrick and built in the 1890s. The building features a corner tower which Nikolaus Pevsner described as being in 'a vaguely Norman Shaw 1630-50 style.'
The books in the library were moved to the Old Court House in Church Street, a building erected in 1816 and used as a magistrates court until recent years. The building was also used as a Police Station until a new purpose-built station was constructed in low town. Church Street still has a few historic buildings. The oldest structure in the street are the offices known as 'The Big House' which has the date of 1705 above the doorway featuring a curly pediment. However, it is thought that other parts of the fabric are even older.
Much of the Georgian square around Christchurch survives and allows the visitor to picture how Oldbury looked following the town's new-found wealth of the industrial revolution. Looking a bit tatty these days, it must have appeared rather fine in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The houses were probably occupied by the owners of the town's factories. Even the church, dating from 1840, has passed its sell-by date and was converted into an office complex.
Facing the church is a building with that was the first branch of Lloyd's Bank to be opened outside Birmingham. In fact, they were persuaded to provide banking services in Oldbury by Albright and Wilson, a large chemical factory who had tired of having their wages vehicle being robbed when travelling from the bank in the city. Proving that there is no sentiment in banking these days, Lloyd's closed the branch in favour of another property on the opposite corner.
Oldbury has produced a fair number of famous musical personalities including Sir John Frederick Bridge who was the organist at Westminster Abbey between 1875 and 1918. He was the chief musician at the coronation ceremonies of King Edward VII and King George V. The gifted violinist Theodore Pearsall was born in Popes Lane. After studying at the London Academy of Music, he was spotted by Charles Halle who recommended he studied under Professor Joachim in Berlin where he died tragically young. Although buried in Berlin, a memorial was erected in the churchyard at Oldbury. Jack Judge, a fishmonger of Low Town, is said to be the man who o-composed "It's a Long Way to Tipperary." He died in 1938 and is buried at Rood End Cemetery. The main composer of the song was Henry James "Harry" Williams, brother of Ben Williams, licensee of the Malt Shovel.
More information on Oldbury to follow. I probably created the page as I had a link to Oldbury from another page. When building the site it is easier to place links as they crop up rather than go back later on. I realise this is frustrating if you were specifically looking for information on Oldbury. There is information on Worcestershire dotted around the website - click here for a suitable starting place.
Have Your Say
If you would like to share any further information on Oldbury - perhaps you drank in one of the pubs in the past? Or maybe knew a previous publican running one of the boozers? Whatever the reason it would be great to hear of your stories or gossip. Simply send a message and I'll post it here.
Related Newspaper Articles
"The adjourned enquiry touching the death of Henry Parsons , shoemaker, of Birmingham Street, Oldbury, who was alleged to have
died from the effects of injuries sustained in an affray between him and Edward Jordan, of Brades Village, was resumed on Tuesday, at the West Bromwich Workhouse, by
Mr. F. W. Topham, Deputy-Coroner. Jordan was present in the custody of the police, and the evidence given at the former enquiry was read over by the Coroner so as
to enable Jordan to cross-examine the witnesses. Mr. C. E. D. Maile, surgeon, of West Bromwich, deposed to having made a post-mortem examination of the
body; he found a small bruise about the size of shilling on the forehead, an abrasion by the right ear, and a large bruise on the left knee. He did not detect any
injury to the bones. The heart was diseased. The liver was also diseased, and had the appearance of one addicted to drink. In his opinion death resulted from a diseased
heart, caused by a collapse, no doubt accelerated by the affray. If the affray had not taken place he had no doubt the man would still be alive, but his heart might
have failed him at any time, as it was so badly diseased. By the juryman: Did not think the injuries the deceased received would have caused his death if his heart
had not been diseased. The Deputy Coroner, summing up the evidence, pointed out that on the 9th of August deceased appeared to have struck Jordan without the slightest
provocation, and then a fight ensued in which the deceased got the worst of it. If the jury were of opinion that the deceased's death was accelerated by what took
place, then it would be their duty to return a verdict of manslaughter, but if they thought that death had resulted from disease of the heart they would say so. The
jury, after deliberating some time, returned a verdict of "Accidental death," but the Coroner having explained that if death had not resulted from the affray
it must be from natural causes, the jury amended their verdict to one of "Death from natural causes."
"Miners and Tradesman's Sick and Death Society"
Dudley and District News : August 21st 1880 Page 3