SMETHWICK (/ˈsmɛðᵻk/ ) is a town in
Sandwell , West Midlands,
Staffordshire . It is 4 miles west of
centre and borders
West Bromwich and Oldbury to the north and west.
Staffordshire county borough,
Smethwick is situated near
the edge of
Sandwell metropolitan borough and borders the Birmingham
districts of Handsworth ,
Winson Green ,
Quinton to the south and east, as well as the
Black Country towns of
West Bromwich and Oldbury in the north and west.
* 1 History
* 1.1 Architecture
* 1.2 Political history
* 1.3 Civic history
* 1.4 Transport history
* 2 Industry and commerce
* 3 Education
* 4 Transport
* 5 Public services and government
* 6 Districts
* 7 Places of worship
* 8 Parks
* 9 Public houses
* 10 Notable residents
* 11 See also
* 12 References
* 13 External links
Street nameplate on Rutland Road,
Smethwick in April 2007,
showing painted out "County Borough" lettering, and the original B17
It was suggested that the name
Smethwick meant "smiths' place of
work", but a more recent interpretation has suggested the name means
"the settlement on the smooth land".
Smethwick was recorded in the
Domesday Book as Smedeuuich, the d in this spelling being the
Anglo-Saxon letter eth. Until the end of the 18th century it was an
outlying hamlet of the south
Staffordshire village of
Harborne became part of the county borough of
Birmingham and thus
Warwickshire in 1891, leaving
Smethwick in the County of Staffordshire.
The world's oldest working engine, made by
Boulton and Watt , the
Smethwick Engine , originally stood near Bridge Street, Smethwick. It
is now at Thinktank , the new science museum in Birmingham.
One notable company was The London Works, manufacturing base of the
Fox Henderson Company which made the steel framework for the Crystal
Palace . This was founded by Charles Fox , whose inventions included
the first patented railway points. His notable employees included
William Siemens , the notable mechanical and electrical engineer. The
company was bankrupted in 1855 by the failure of an overseas railway
to pay for work done. The site was later used by the GKN company. In
2015 the site was being cleared to build the new Midland Metropolitan
Hospital which combines the
Sandwell General Hospital at West Bromwich
and City Hospital ,
Other former industry included railway rolling stock manufacture, at
Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company factory; screws and
other fastenings from Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds (GKN); engines from
Tangye ; tubing from Evered's; steel pen nibs from British Pens; and
various products from
Chance Brothers ' glassworks, including
lighthouse lenses and the glazing for the Crystal Palace (the London
works, in North Smethwick, manufactured its metalwork). Phillips
Cycles , once one of the largest bicycle manufacturers in the world,
was based in Bridge Street, Smethwick. Nearby, in Downing Street, is
the famous bicycle saddle maker, Brooks Saddles . The important
metalworking factory of Henry Hope "> The old Toll House
The oldest surviving building in
Smethwick is the Old Church which
stands on the corner of Church Road and the Uplands. This was
consecrated in 1732 as a Chapel of Ease in the parish of St Peter,
Harborne . The building was originally known as "Parkes' Chapel" in
honour of Mistress Dorothy Parkes who bequeathed the money for the
church and also for a local school. The chapel was later known as the
"Old Chapel", and the public house next to it is still called this. In
the church there are several fine memorials, including one to Dorothy
The Grade I listed
Galton Bridge spans the New Line canal and
railway. When built in 1829 by Telford, it was the longest single-span
bridge in the world. Its name commemorates Samuel Galton , a local
landowner and industrialist. It is identical to Telford's bridge at
Holt Fleet over the
River Severn built in 1828 and opened in 1830.
The public library by
The public library in the High Street was originally built as the
Public Hall in 1866–67 and is designed by
Yeoville Thomason .
Matthew Boulton and
James Watt opened their
Soho Foundry in the north
Smethwick (not to be confused with the
Soho Manufactory in nearby
Soho ) in the late 18th century. In 1802,
William Murdoch illuminated
the foundry with gas lighting of his own invention. The foundry was
later home to weighing scale makers W Labour's victory at the general
election would inevitably have seen him appointed as Foreign Secretary
for the government of
Harold Wilson .
Smethwick had been a focus of
immigration from the Commonwealth in the economic and industrial
growth of the years following the
Second World War
Second World War and Griffiths ran a
campaign critical of the government's policy. There were rumours that
his supporters had covertly circulated the slogan "If you want a
nigger for a neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour." Hardly had the heat
of the election subsided when, on 12 February 1965, United States
Malcolm X visited the region just nine days before his
assassination. He fuelled further controversy when he told the press:
I have come here because I am disturbed by reports that coloured
Smethwick are being treated badly. I have heard they are
being treated as the Jews under Hitler. I would not wait for the
fascist element in
Smethwick to erect gas ovens.
Malcolm X's visit to
Smethwick had been organised by a BBC News
journalist with a view to X having a debate with Peter Griffiths
Smethwick council house. Griffiths declined at late notice
and so an interview with X was conducted on the streets of Smethwick.
This was to be X's last TV interview before his assassination nine
days later. It was never aired.
Labour candidate and actor
Andrew Faulds defeated Griffiths in the
1966 general election and remained as an MP until his retirement at
the 1997 general election , 23 years after
Smethwick became part of
the Warley East constituency.
Peter Griffiths subsequently moved away
from the area and served as a Conservative MP for Portsmouth North for
Evolution of Worcestershire county boundaries
Originally a hamlet within the parish of Harborne,
Smethwick was made into an urban district in 1894, and later
incorporated as a municipal borough in 1899, and county borough in
1907. In 1966,
Smethwick was merged with the boroughs of Oldbury and
Rowley Regis to form the new
County Borough of Warley , and was
transferred into the county of
Worcestershire . This in turn was
West Bromwich in 1974 to form the
Borough , which was incorporated into the new West Midlands county.
In 1888, there had been plans for
Smethwick to be incorporated into
the city of Birmingham, but the urban district council voted against
these plans by a single vote.
The archives for the Borough of
Smethwick are held at Sandwell
Community History and Archives Service
BCN Main Line
Smethwick has a long association with canals, which were the town's
first major transport links from a time before decent roads and of
course railways. The
Birmingham Canal Navigation Old and New Main Line
Canals run through the industrial areas and right past the High
Street, running parallel to the
Stour Valley Railway Line: all three
end up in
James Brindley was the engineer charged with
building the canal, a man who gives his name to the busy district in
the centre of
Birmingham near the International Convention Centre,
National Indoor Arena and Broad Street.
Galton Bridge viewed from
the Galton Tunnel
The old main line was completed though
Smethwick by 1769. It required
12 locks to climb over the hill though the town; Brindley had found
the earth too soft to dig a cutting though at the time. Water was
supplied by two steam engines. One of them was located on the Engine
Arm which led to the
Smethwick Engine on Rabone Lane and the other was
near Spon Lane.
Smethwick New Pumping Station next to Brasshouse Lane
was added later in 1892. Because of the locks, the canal through
Smethwick became a bottleneck and
Thomas Telford was commissioned in
1824 to look at alternatives.
The new main line through
Smethwick was completed by 1829 and
completely bypassed all 6 remaining locks of the summit with a deep
Engine Arm and Stewarts aqueducts were built to carry
their respective canals over the new mainline. The cutting was built
through the land of the local businessman Samuel Galton and thus this
cutting created the Galton Valley and
Galton Bridge was named in his
honour. The bridge was the longest single-span iron bridge in the
world at the time. The canals of the new and old main line diverged at
one end at
Smethwick Junction near Bridge Street and rejoined at
Bromford Junction near Bromford Road in Oldbury.
Today Galton Valley is a nature area and of more historical interest
than commercial, and used mainly for leisure rather than transporting
The LNWR was the first to construct a railway through
1852 from New Street towards
Wolverhampton and the North West, Rolfe
Street and Spon Lane opened that year followed by Soho in 1853. In
Stourbridge Railway opened a link between the Great Western
British Rail Class 33 at Swanage,
built by the
Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company
From 1854 the
Birmingham Railway, Carriage "> A
Midland Red D9 in
The town of
Smethwick has a long association with buses. From 1914
Birmingham and Midland Motor Omnibus Company (BMMO or
Midland Red) was based on Bearwood Road on the site of the current
Bearwood Shopping Centre until 1974. The garage later saw use as an
indoor market until it was demolished in 1979.
Smethwick never had
its own Corporation Transport Department, like
West Bromwich or
Birmingham . Most bus services until the earlier 1970s were provided
by the Midland Red,
West Bromwich and Birmingham. In the early '70s
all local bus transport was taken over by the WMPTE until deregulation
in the 1980s. Since then West Midlands Travel, now part of National
Express Group, has been the primary operator in the West Midlands.
Steam trams started through
Smethwick in 1885 operated by Birmingham
and Midland Tramways. These were replaced by electric trams in 1904
and then merged into the
Birmingham Corporation Tramways in 1906 and
trams eventually ran from both the
Dudley Road and Hagley Road
Dudley Road trams operated to
Cape Hill and then diverged
to either take the route towards
Dudley (Route 87) via the High Street
or towards Bearwood (Route 29) via Waterloo Road, terminating near the
site of current
Bearwood Bus Station and Kings Head public house.
Route 34 from
Birmingham to Bearwood along the Hagley Road and
terminated at the top of Bearwood Road next to the route from Cape
Hill, despite terminating slow close to each other there was no
physical link between route 29 and 34 in Bearwood. Route 34 was the
first route to go in
Smethwick in 1930 and the last tram route was
closed in 1939 and replaced by motor buses. Both the current National
Express West Midlands routes 82 and 87 are former tram routes and the
87 in fact uses the same number. The Hawthorns railway station
and metro stop
Midland Metro , opened in 1999, is more of a light railway than a
tramway. It follows the former
Great Western Railway
Great Western Railway track bed from
Birmingham Snow Hill railway station to the former
West Bromwich until Priestfield in Wolverhampton. After
that, it becomes a tramway proper and runs along the
Bilston Road into
Wolverhampton city centre. From late 2015 the service will be extended
from its current terminus at Snow Hill through the city centre to New
Street railway station. The metro can be caught at the Hawthorns
INDUSTRY AND COMMERCE
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Until the end of the 18th century,
Smethwick was largely rural, with
farming as the main industry. A water mill named Briddismylne is
recorded in 1499 as belonging to
Halesowen Abbey, thought to be on the
more recent Thimblemill site. In 1659, a mill in the Hockley Brook is
recorded as belonging to a Mr. Lane. The mill which led to the street
name "Windmill Lane" was built on land bought in 1803 by William
Croxall, a miller. The last part of the windmill building was
demolished in 1949.
The route of the canal, passing through the valley of the Hockley
Brook, the boundary with Handsworth on the north side of Smethwick,
resulted in most of the heavy industry being located there. The
railway was opened in 1852.
Soho Foundry main gate
Soho Foundry , opened in 1796 by
James Watt and
Matthew Boulton ,
trading as Boulton, Watt & Sons, was built to produce complete steam
engines to Watt's designs. Waste dumped from the foundry gave rise to
the name Black Patch to the field to the east. The
Soho Foundry is now
the headquarters of the Avery Company .
One of Smethwick's significant industrial enterprises of the 19th
century was the Fox, Henderson Company , formerly Brannah, Fox and
Co., which built the steel structure for the Crystal Palace in 1851.
At its peak this employed about 2,000 people at the London Works. The
bankruptcy and closure of the firm in 1856 had a devastating effect on
the local economy. The site of the London Works was later acquired by
Chamberlain and Nettlefold, and in 2014 was cleared to build the new
Midland Metropolitan Hospital , amalgamating the
West Bromwich with the City Hospital ,
Tangye was a notable builder of steam engines in the late
19th century. His designs, in a characteristic green colour, have a
distinctive elegance of form. He demolished
Smethwick Hall, on the
border with Handsworth, and built his factory, the Cornwall Works, on
Mitchells & Butlers opened a brewery on
Cape Hill in 1879. It was a
local landmark in
Smethwick and provided employment in the town for
123 years. However, following a decline in sales and revenue, American
owners Coors closed the brewery on 6 December 2002. It was demolished
two years later and a 650-home private housing estate was developed on
Teale "> Rolfe Street railway station in
Smethwick Rolfe Street railway station – Rolfe Street & North
Western Road (near the High Street). Located on the Stour Valley , it
is mainly for local trains between
Birmingham New Street ,
Galton Bridge – Oldbury Road. As a bi-level railway
station it sits on both the Stour Valley (a section of the WCML ) and
Jewellery Line . It has the same services as both the Hawthorns
and Rolfe Street railway stations, plus it has direct long distance
Birmingham International , Shrewsbury , Chester , Northern
Wales, Crewe , Liverpool and a limited peak time only direct service
* The Hawthorns – Halfords Lane and close to the West Bromwich
football ground . It sits on the Jewellery line just like Galton
Bridge station but also interchanges with the
Midland Metro , linking
Birmingham and Wolverhampton. The
Jewellery Line has regular direct
Birmingham Snow Hill , Solihull, Stratford-upon-Avon,
Stourbridge Junction ,
Kidderminster and Worcester. Chiltern Railways
also provide a limited service direct to London Marylebone .
The closest airport to
Birmingham , which is around 20
miles east at the other side of
Birmingham city centre. National
Express do provide some long distance coach services to some London
Airports from Bearwood .
* By road the fastest routes are either via the M5, M6 and M42
Motorways, or via
Birmingham city centre and the A45 .
* For travellers by rail there are direct train services from Galton
Bridge railway station or from Rolfe Street railway station changing
Birmingham New Street .
* There are no direct bus services from
Smethwick to the airport.
Passengers would have to travel to
Birmingham and change buses. The
principal bus service to the airport is the National Express West
Midlands 'Limited Stop' service 900 (
PUBLIC SERVICES AND GOVERNMENT
Smethwick is represented at
Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council by
12 councillors, covering the four wards of Soho the larger main
library is located on the High Street and a smaller one islocated on
SMETHWICK SWIMMING CENTRE
Formerly known as 'Thimblemill Baths', it is a public swimming pool
which opened in 1933, located on Thimblemill Road between Gladys Road
and Reginald Road in Bearwood. There are two pools (a 1933 main pool
and a 1968 small pool), gym, dance studio, sauna and steam facilities.
Second World War
Second World War the basement was used as an air raid
shelter and a supply depot for the US Air Force who were stationed in
Smethwick. The main pool was capable of being covered for the purpose
of public events; concerts, galas and exhibitions once took place
until the late 1960s. Famous acts including
Tommy Cooper , the Beatles
, the Rolling Stones , the Who , the Small Faces and the Kinks played
at the baths.
Smethwick is provided by the
West Midlands Police
West Midlands Police , who
have a police station on Piddock Road just off the High Street. West
Midlands Fire Service is responsible for fire and rescue. A fire
station is located on Stony Lane a short distance from the High
Street. Emergency medical care is provided by the West Midlands
Ambulance Service .
Smethwick is part of
Sandwell and West
Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust
. The closest hospital is City Hospital (previously known as Dudley
Road Hospital) located in Winson Green. Other local hospitals include
Sandwell General Hospital in
West Bromwich and Queen Elizabeth
Selly Oak .
Districts of Smethwick
* Black Patch & Soho
Cape Hill , (including Windmill Lane and French Walls)
* High Street
Smethwick (including Victoria Park)
Smethwick (Brasshouse Lane, Albion Estate, Hawthorns,
* The Uplands
Galton Village )
PLACES OF WORSHIP
* The Abrahamic Foundation, High Street
* The Akrill Memorial Church, The Uplands – now the
* The Apostolic Church, Broomfield
* Bearwood Baptist Church, Bearwood Road
* Church of God of Prophecy, Regent Street
Gurdwara Baba Sang, St Paul's Road, Smethwick
Gurdwara Nanaksar, Waterloo Road
* Guru Nanak
Smethwick , High Street
* Holy Trinity Church, South Road & High Street
* Jami Mosque and Islamic Centre, Lewisham Road
* Masjid Usman, Shireland Road
* The Old Church, the Uplands
* Raglan Road Christian Church, Raglan Road
* Rounds Green Methodist Church, Abbey Road
* St Gregory's Roman Catholic Church, Three Shires Oak Road
* St Hilda's, Abbey Road
* St Mark's Church of England, Hales Lane
* St Mary's Church of England, St Mary's Road, Bearwood
* St Matthew with St Chad C of E Church, St Matthew's Road
* St Philip's Roman Catholic Church, Messenger Road
Smethwick Baptist Church, Regent Street
Smethwick Elim Pentecostal Church, Woodland Drive
* Warley Woods Methodist Church, Abbey Road
Smethwick Congregational Church, Mallin Street
Black Patch Park , Foundry Lane, Soho
* Harry Mitchell Park – Parks Street & Uplands
* Lewisham Park, Dartmouth Road, Smethwick
Lightwoods Park , Hagley Road & Lightwoods Hill, Bearwood
* Londonderry Lane Playing Fields, Londonderry Lane/Manor Road,
Smethwick Hall Park – Stoney Lane, Uplands
* Victoria Park – High Street & Windmill Lane estate
* Warley Park, Abbey Road & Lightwoods Hill, Bearwood
Smethwick Park – Holly Lane & West Park Road, West
* The Abbey (Abbey Road & Thimblemill Road, Bearwood)
* Bear Tavern (Bearwood Road & Three Shires Oak Road, Bearwood)
* Blue Gates Hotel (High Street & Stony Lane)
* Cock and Magpies (Hagley Road West & Beechwood Road, Bearwood)
* The Dog (Hagley Road West & Galton Road, Bearwood)
* The Hollybush (The Uplands & Parks Street)
* Ivy Bush (St. Paul's Road & Mallin Street, West Smethwick)
* The Midland (Bearwood Road, opposite Rutland Road, Bearwood)
* Moilliett Arms (Cranford Street & Grove Lane, Windmill Lane
* Night Inn (Great Arthur Street, High Street)
* Old Chapel Inn (The Uplands & Church Road)
* Old Corner House (Soho Street & Rabone Lane, Soho)
* Old Talbot (High Street & Trinity Street)
* The Pheasant (273 Abbey Road, Bearwood)
* Puffing Billy (Raglan Road, Cape Hill)
* Red Cow (High Street)
* The Robin (Suffrage Street & Corbett Street, Windmill Lane estate)
* Seven Stars (
Cape Hill & Windmill Lane)
* The Shireland (Shireland Road, Cape Hill)
Soho Foundry Tavern (Foundry Lane, Soho)
CLOSED: RECENTLY OR OTHERWISE
* The Barleycorn (Bearwood) – closed
Dudley Arms (Cape Hill) – now a restaurant
* The Falcon (Windmill Lane estate) – demolished
* The George (Windmill Lane estate) – now a restaurant
* The Hussar (Windmill Lane estate) – demolished
* London Works Tavern (Soho) – demolished
* The Londonderry (Londonderry) – demolished
* New Navigation (Lewisham Road) – demolished following fire
* New Talbot (Bearwood) – demolished
* Old Comrades Club (High Street) – demolished
* Queen's Head (Londonderry) – now a vets
* Sampson Lloyd (Cape Hill) – closed
* The Thimblemill (Bearwood) – demolished
* Waggon -webkit-column-width: 30em; column-width: 30em;
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* ^ Guru Nana