MARKET PLACE, THE CLOCK TOWER AND THE CONTROVERSIAL MOVING OF THE MARKET.
Wednesbury has held a market for many years.
The Market Charter on July 9th 1709 was granted to John Hoo, the Lord of the Manor, to hold fairs and markets in Wednesbury.
There was then a market every Friday and a fair twice a year, on April 25th and July 23rd. The Saturday market didn’t start until 1825.
The first fairs dealt with the buying and selling of cattle and beasts but it gradually changed until it became purely for amusements.
The interesting custom was the “Beating Bands” or the “Walking the Fair”. This consisted of the Beadle (a local dignitary) dressed for the occasion and principle men of the town holding a procession around the streets.
They would stop for “refreshments” at the Elephant and Castle on the High Bullen and then again when they reached the Market Place.
After the march they dined at the expense of the Parish.
“After it stopped an unofficial attempt was made during Wake Week to hold the procession where the Beadle was replaced by a man on a donkey dressed in ribbons.”
Some unusual things were sold at the Market Place during the 18th and 19th Century – including wives. Wives were publicly auctioned but the last recorded sale in the district was Dudley, 1859.
The actual market was moved from the Market Place to the Shambles in 1971, amongst many protests from locals, stall holders and Councillors particularly Cllr Ray Partridge.
They felt that besides breaking with tradition it would also effect the trade of shops in the Market Place, in retrospect they were probably right – many shops have since closed.
NOW, THIS WON’T SURPRISE YOU.
It was the West Bromwich Corporation who decided to move the market, as their Town Planning Committee had decided that it was a traffic hazard and a health risk.
Another thing the corporation did that annoyed the people was spend just £5,500 on the move yet the West Bromwich market moved at the same time and had £330,000 spent on it even though Wednesbury market was much bigger.
THE OLD MARKET CROSS SCHOOL
Before the clock tower was built the site was occupied by the Market House or Market Cross. This was described as a fairly typical structure of its kind. Basically it consisted of an upper floor resting on stone columns and arches with steps going up into it. The rooms were used first as a school, then as a Court Request and a Petty Sessions court.
Offenders were once tied to the door posts to be flogged.
The Parish Stocks were also quite close by.
But eventually it fell into disrepair and was demolished in 1824.
The clock tower which replaced it was paid by public subscription and was erected to celebrate the coronation of George V and designed by C.W.D. Joynson.
Amazingly the tower doesn’t have any clockwork mechanism. Instead it is operated by electricity and the time is measured by a master clock in the Town Hall. It still has a 1 cwt bell in the tower which used to strike every hour. However it has not done so since the second world war.
It has been suggested that the striking mechanism might have been taken out due to the terrible row. It is supposed to have sounded lovely a mile away, but close by …..it wasn’t!
AND ITS WEST BROM AGAIN;
In 1970 West Bromwich Corporation struck again!
It carried out a survey on the boroughs clocks and saw that the Carters Green clock (West Bromwich) and the Wednesbury clock were without chimes.
They then spent what money they had on the Carters Green clock which still chimes and simple forgot about Wednesbury …. again!
So, what new?