Walsall: Etched in Bricks

This town, overlooked 

By residents of towers

Living layered lives up Hill Street on the Chuckery

Where long ago people raised poultry

This town, passed over

By the motorway

Raised on stilts above soiled fields

This town has history scored in bricks and street signs

See how rich in life

This poor town has once been

~

Walsall, valley of the Welsh

Who lived here first

A place of water for the trades

Potters on Warewell Street 

Drew water to work clay

Clothiers of Persehouse Street

These mills not just for grain

Brought in by reapers from Tasker Street

The noise of the Rollingmill

Giving metal a squeeze

~

Go to Wittimere and the canal basin

Washed black with tan

From stained saddlers’ hands

Tackle for the palfrey who grazed 

On Acres Short and Long

Since ploughed up for streets

As are the Butts

Where ‘Tavern, school and skyscraper stand

The site of men bending longbows in practice

But Time’s arrow has taken flight

~

Follow this town through these names

The route to the Marsh

Flowing into Navigation Street

Where manufactures and goods

Hauled to the Wharf

Were sent to imperial ports

By canal up through the locks

And from that empire have returned

Nurses, doctors and busmen, carers

Shopkeepers, police and railway workers

Teachers, binmen, footballers

Who filled Walsall’s gapped terraces

When jobs went and hope had gone

~

The glebe still marked, was land for priests 

Who lived off tithes

Paid by men and women of the fields

Lying beneath the cobbles, concrete and stone

But now alongside the Christian

Churches, halls and schools

Nanaksar Gurdwara and Aisha Mosque

Have made good derelict space 

For this poor town

Is not a godless place

~

Christopher Perry

6th June, 2020

~

n.b.  These are just a few of the place, street and road names I wondered about when I worked and wandered about Walsall for four months during the first half of 2019. A town rich in people and history. 

Chuckery: an area of Walsall thought to have specialised in raising poultry.

Warewell: a water source associated with making wares, usually pottery.

Persehouse: A place of clothe makers.

Tasker: A worker, labourer, often a reaper, or thresher.

Rollingmill: A machine that compresses metal to specific thickness.

Mere (as in Wittimere): lake.

Palfrey: A gentle pony for women to ride.

Long Acre / Short Acre: Roadside grazing area.

Butts: Targets for archery. Shares the source of “but” the French for goal in football.

Glebe: land reserved for priests to cultivate.

Tithes: Annual charge of 1/10th of all produce given to the clerics of Medieval England.

Nanaksar Gurdwara: One of Walsall’s Sikh temples.

Aisha Mosque: One of the Muslim mosques of Walsall.

~

This poem was my entry for a competition about Walsall, a town in the Black Country in central England. A thriving centre of industry for generations, it now features annually as one of the four most socially deprived boroughs in the England. What went wrong?

~

CLP 8th June 2020

On the Towpath (II)

Every piece strewn

Where difficult to retrieve

Rubbish placed with care

.

n.b. In Walsall the mess of litter is hard to avoid. It is distressing to think that some people make such an effort to dump their rubbish in places other than the municipal dump.

It is shocking to see how much waste has been thrown from passing cars, caught in hedgerows, blown into bushes, snagged in tree branches, snared on barbed wire, caught in slats of security fencing, dumped in the canal and streams.

It is depressing to see this mess. Clearly there are many things wrong here. Litter and waste are symptomatic of broader issues.

CLP 25/03/2019

On The Front Page

Through now hollow eyes

Looking down on Walsall lives

No questions asked.

.

Founded in 1868 The Walsall Observer lived a predatory existance absorbing competitors throughout its 122 year existance, until it was culled itself by its eventual and ultimate owner, Trinity Mirror. This is a conglomerate of newspaper titles, which now calls itself Reach plc that is based at Canary Wharf in London’s revived docklands.

Observer is a passive role. Would this regional title have lived longer had it been given a more lively title? Does nominative determinism apply in business?

Walsall FC formerly Walsall Town Swifts FC currently struggle in the depths of League One, (the 3rd Division). Would they be doing better had the club not dropped the surname in 1896? The club is certainly long established enough to be amongst the high flyers, like their neighbours, Wolverhampton Wanderers, (The Wolves). I sense it has remained a modest competitor because of its more modest branding. Follow the Wolves, or follow the Swifts? It’s easier keep up with a wolf, I suppose.

Had this town newspaper been called The Walsall Inquisition, would people of power been more wary of the Fourth Estate in this community? Would the newspaper been a ferocious watchdog for the people’s interests?

The sandstone used to build this imposing facade was glowing in the last light of late afternoon, but the building looked most sad. Its bold headline never more apt, as life went on below and the old Observer watched on without comment.

CLP 04/03/2019

On Walsall XI

Canal basin pool

New art, new buildings, new start

Money spent, not shared

.

CLP 14/02/2019

n.b. Rejuvenation has led to modern buildings, waterside developments and the arrival of poverty professionals. Walsall Council continues to struggle to find ways to improve the environment, provide choices and opportunities, educate and care for the lcal population. Many committed people, many challenges.

Not easy with a national government wasting over £2bn on “an act of national self-harm”; Brexit is fiddling whilst Home burns.

.

CLP 14/02/2019

On Walsall X

Evening robbery

Hotel reception

Reality TV

.

n.b. A walk-in takeaway. A small hooded lad. No one to challenge him. A girl’s purse his prize. A pathetic, small town drama caught on CCTV. No one hurt.

One of those incidents that fracture faith and weaken trust, leading to the locking of doors for the victim and perhaps the perpetrator too.

CLP 12/02/2019

On Walsall IX

M6 flys over

Concrete pillars hold it up

Pollutants rain down

.

n.b. Looking at this map one realises that the prevailing south-westerly wind blows vast amounts of diesel smuts, nitrogen dioxide and other exhaust filth across the metropolitan borough of Walsall.

This section of Britain’s motorway network is rarely free-flowing, so fumes are an issue. Of course, no one would ever build a school nearby.

CLP 13/02/2019