Sunday, January 28

Ettingshall Exploration

The first ‘Thursday Taster’ trip of 2018 sees Stephen joining me for two hours of detailed Ettingshall endeavour, piecing together railway heritage before witnessing new residential developments on the banks of the Birmingham Main Line Canal…

- Mr B by the old railway path -

Catching the half past eight tram from Wolverhampton St Georges, we make our way two stops down the line to Priestfield where our walk can commence. Railway remains enter the fray immediately as we join a metalled footpath from Bilston Road through to Monmore Green Stadium – the path plots the course of the old line between Priestfield and Wolverhampton Low Level, flanked by scrapyards and ever-populated by discarded car tyres.

- Wholesale Market -

The afore-mentioned stadium is home to greyhound and speedway meetings while East Park is also close at hand as one of Wolverhampton’s principal public parks. Hickman Avenue brings us past the Wholesale Market to Cullwick Street before the A41 Bilston Road supplies pub pictures concentrating on the Gate and the Angel. Elsewhere in Priestfield, we visit the former Ettingshall Primary School site on Herbert Street (the schoolhouse was demolished a few years back and replaced by a medical centre) and then pause to reflect at the local war memorial, whereby a solemn cross stands in front of a public hall on the corner of Ward Street and George Street.

- School Gates at Ettingshall Primary Site -

Turning our attentions now to Ettingshall Village, we weave this way and that as we criss-cross the estate hunting photo targets. Pembroke Avenue allows Stephen to demonstrate his ample knowledge about construction periods of council housing, whereas George Street presents a Wesleyan chapel that houses the Word of Spirit and Life (WOSAL) Baptist Church. The chapel building has foundation stones laid by representatives of the prominent Butler and Bayliss families – William Butler built his first brewery on John Street, Ettingshall prior to moving to Springfield (from where Butlers Ales would become synonymous with Wolverhampton), whereas the Bayliss family were well known in the local iron and kindred trade.

- Pembroke Avenue -

To New Road next where the local shops include the café I once sampled with Mr D9, not forgetting the bald-spot inducing Carling Black Label sign first discovered in May 2015. Just around the corner is Sidwick Crescent with some familiar flats but Ward Street is subject to new housing developments. The evolving streetscape here includes Northolt Drive, Pembrey Gardens and Turnhouse Crescent with several properties still in the process of being built – all very encouraging considering the depressing derelict patches that previously occupied the space. The Priestfield Sports & Social Club has been demolished to make way for the project but the Orange Tree and Old Bush pub buildings are to be retained (though neither seems to be trading at the moment).

- Stephen at Sidwick Crescent Bridge -

Ward Street also allows us to resume our railway ruminations by pondering the site of Priestfield Station, a junction location that was served by the lines from Wolverhampton Low Level towards both Birmingham and Dudley. The Midland Metro now uses the GWR route to Snow Hill but the Dudley line was abandoned with only earthworks for us to interpret this morning, hence Stephen poses by the remnants of Sidwick Crescent bridge. There were once four platforms in the vicinity (two for each line) plus a connecting footbridge and some hut-like waiting rooms; although the modern Metro line has a Priestfield tram stop it is in a slightly different location from where the railways station used to be.

- Ward Street Building Site -

Station scene surveyed, we stroll back along Ward Street past the building sites in order to join the towpath of the Birmingham Main Line Canal. Jibbet Lane Bridge has a slightly tumbledown quality to it and an evocative name, especially when paired with Catchems Corner Bridge nearby – we speculate whether the locality had links to public hangings or other associations with villainy, although such thoughts might just be the guesswork of two overactive imaginations! The canal is flanked by Bilston factories to one side and the modern residences branching off Coningsby Drive on the other, making for quite an architectural juxtaposition.

- Jibbet Lane Bridge -

Time ticks on so we exit onto Ettingshall Road, swiftly passing the Booker Cash and Carry store followed by a potato bungalow I remember from childhood. The New Inn stands prominently on the Bilston Road – Dixon Street – Ettingshall Road junction where it currently operates as an oriental buffet restaurant. We then leave Ettingshall behind, briefly heading back through to East Park before the clock defeats us and my shift at work awaits. Nonetheless, it has certainly been a productive morning with plenty of transport and local interest crammed in – a couple of hours very well spent!  

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