Tuesday, July 4

A Patent Shaft Pubcrawl

Historically one of Wednesbury's major employers was the Patent Shaft Steel Works which occupied a vast site where Wednesbury Parkway and the Black Country New Road are now located. The plant closed in 1980, another casualty of the decline of heavy industry in the Black Country, but it is still well remembered and the old works gates have been preserved as a feature on a prominent traffic roundabout. As part of our latest outing, the Hub Marketing Board (with a special guest appearance from Roger) would be paying a pub-based tribute to the Patent Shaft - here comes the tale of the trip...

- Wolf Watch -
Prior to our Wednesbury itinerary, there is something afoot in Wolverhampton as a wolf sculpture has appeared by the Horsman Fountain in St Peter's Gardens. Seemingly captured mid-howl, the statue is an early representative of the 'Wolves in Wolves' public art trail which will see thirty such creations appearing in various locations across the city. This particular example is called The Fallen and features commemorative poppy details along with the names of servicemen lost in the line of duty during World War One. The project as a whole takes place from 5th July to 24th September so we look forward to a summer of wolf-spotting!

- An Irish Interlude -
While in Wolverhampton we decide to sample our opening drinks of the day. Slater's Bar supplies some Top Totty with panoramic views looking out across Queen Square, then tucked away down Wheelers Fold is McGhees Irish Bar where we simply have to partake of the Guinness (and very nice it is too). The link with the Emerald Isle is very apparent on the jukebox too hence we find ourselves joining in with renditions of 'The Wild Rover (No Nay Never)' and 'Limerick, You're A Lady'.

- Midland Metro Replacement Duty -
Ordinarily the Midland Metro would be a simple link between Wolverhampton and Wednesbury but the service has been curtailed to terminate at Priestfield for a few months due to track repair works along the Bilston Road. We therefore have to avail ourselves of the connecting bus service whereby the 79 route is operating extra workings and a five-minute peak frequency to help cover the gap. Naturally the Chairman couldn't resist squeezing in some steering action upon departure from Wolverhampton Bus Station.

- A crafty checkout in the Angel -
Being on the bus allows us to take a darting detour before our Roger rendezvous. Our venue this time around is the Angel at Bilston, the resultant oche action giving the D9 Destroyer a slender 3-2 victory after WME Whirlwind suffers an unfortunate bounce-out at a crucial moment. The Secretary does at least have the consolation of nailing a 70 outshot for the highest finish of the day.

- A Parkway Tram Pose -
Connecting onto the tram at The Crescent, within a matter of minutes we are on former Patent Shaft territory at Wednesbury Parkway. The Chairman is in his element here, colourfully bringing to life notions of furnaces, rolling mills and Bessemer converters; the Patent Shaft and Axletree Company were initially noted manufacturers of bridges, railway axles, turntables and many other iron and steel items before the firm concentrated specifically on steel production during later decades. D9's homage speech also makes mention of the Gladstone, a lost pub once positioned on the end of Portway Road.

- Reunited in the Roost -
Our afternoon agenda involves sampling some of the surviving pubs that would have been frequented by Patent Shaft workers in years gone by. To that end, news reaches us that Roger has arrived and is awaiting us in the (Lord) Nelson further along Portway Road, a backstreet boozer that retains an industrial setting. It had been quite some time since Messrs D9 and SBI last had a pint together so with acquaintances restored we can continue the reunion in the Roost, a Brennan Inns establishment that was previously known as the Cross Guns.

- Patent Shaft Playback -
The Old Royal Oak is our next calling point with cobs and BFG ale providing sustenance as we watch a video detailing Patent Shaft's final days in 1980 - the clips show how the closure of the factory really was the end of an era, while the fashions, cars and general street scene of the time all add to the fascination. By contrast, the Old Blue Ball is a pub where time almost seems to stand still, a minor Black Country classic complete with the cherished grey peas and bacon - yum!

- The Blue Ball Bald Spot -
It's a little walk to our final Wednesbury watering hole so the bald spot gets an airing heading up towards Ethelfleda Terrace. We wander over to Walsall Street where the Park Inn looks quite plain to begin with but proves to have a bit of personality with a gallery of vintage local photos to peruse. By way of conclusion, we raise a closing toast to the Patent Shaft Steelworks and our pubcrawl is considered complete - hopefully it won't be quite so long before D9 and SBI next join forces. Cheers!

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