« PreviousContinue »
£ 8. d.
manufactories . . . . . 6,844 7 0
pany . . . . . . 54 10 0
The gross estimated rental will be 10 per cent. higher than the rateable value upon buildings, and 5 per cent. higher upon lands. The rural district of the Delves comprises 600 acres of land; the number of houses is 26, with 135 inhabitants.
Although Wednesbury occupies an important position among the manufacturing parishes of South Staffordshire, yet, as with the majority of such localities, no attention has been paid until of late to the comfort and cleanliness of the dwellings of the inhabitants. No provision was made for the paving, lighting, and draining of the town, any more than for a good supply of water. Mr. Rammell remarks that
“ the natural sources of water have mostly failed and been diminished, by reason of the mining operations carried on in the parish and neighbourhood, consequently the inhabitants suffer a want almost amounting to destitution in regard to this important element, having to send, in many instances, a great distance to procure it, and at a very considerable expense. The poorer people are generally obliged to use water lying in stagnant pools, filthy and unwholesome in the extreme for most domestic purposes, being unable to procure a better supply. The consequence of this scarcity of water is that the dwellings of the poor are unavoidably dirty, and as they are generally small and badly constructed, closely packed together, without drainage of any sort, and ill-ventilated, epidemics, endemics, and contagious diseases prevail at all times in Wednesbury. The cholera in 1832 and in 1849 committed fearful ravages, 90 dying of this fearful disease in 1832, and 218 in 1849. The mortality for many years has been very high, the average of the seven years ending Michaelmas, 1849, being after the rate of 261 in 1000; whilst that since Michaelmas, 1849, has been much heavier, there having been 198 deaths in the eleven weeks ending March 18, 1851, being at the enormous rate of 62 per 1000 per annum.” From this continuous and alarming increase in the average ratio of mortality, it became obvious to all that some steps must be taken to improve the general condition of the town, consequently a petition signed by more than one-tenth of the rated inhabitants was presented to the General Board of Health, praying for an inquiry into the sanitary condition of the parish, with a view to the application of the Public Health Act. A commissioner, T. W. Rammell, Esq., was sent down by the Board, who entered upon the inquiry on the 19th of March, 1851, and published
his report, before alluded to, in June following. The result was an order in Council, bearing date the 26th day of December, 1851, appointing the Reverend Isaac Clarkson “to exercise the powers and perform the duties vested in or imposed upon the Chairman of the Local Board of Health by the Public Health Act, 1848, in relation to the first election by owners of property and ratepayers, and to perform all other duties requisite to be performed in conducting the first election of members of the Local Board of Health for the parish of Wednesbury.” The election was accordingly proceeded with, and the requisite number of persons chosen. The Board thus constituted sits every alternate Monday, and has already done something towards the improvement of the town, inasmuch as the greater part of it is now lighted with gas, the lodging-houses are better regulated, many nuisances have been removed, and attention paid to the building and arrangement of all new houses in course of erection. A plan of the parish has been prepared by the Surveyor to the Board, Mr. T. W. Fereday, of Wolverhampton, and it is hoped that a thorough system of draining, with a good supply of water, will speedily follow.
It is much to be feared that the morals and religion of the inhabitants of Wednesbury, in days gone by, were as little attended to as the sanitary condition of the place. The unenviable notoriety it has gained in the annals of bullbaiting, cock-fighting, and other low and brutal amusements leads to this conclusion, and points to the generation just passed away as one Godless and desperately wicked. The population was suffered to increase, and no additional churches provided, neither were schools to be found for the education of the young,—and hence the evil lives of the people. Happily the case is different now; and it is mainly
owing to the exertions of the present vicar that Wednesbury is so well supplied with church accommodation and schools.
We now proceed to give an account of the new churches and schools according to the date of erection, commencing with
S. John's Church.
In the year 1843 an act was passed, (6 and v Vict. c. 37,) intituled “ An Act to make better Provision for the Spiritual Care of Populous Parishes,” and commonly called “ Sir Robert Peel's Act,” of which the vicar, the Rev. I. Clarkson, immediately took advantage, and caused the parish of Wednesbury to be divided in such a manner as to constitute three new ecclesiastical districts, viz. :—S. John's, S. James's, and Moxley, reserving the larger proportion of the population to the parish church.
S. John's was formed into an ecclesiastical district in the year 1844, and the Rev. John Winter, M.A., appointed the perpetual curate, by the Crown. Divine service was celebrated in a licensed room until the church was built.
The first encouragement given to the erection of the church was a promise made by the late E. T. Foley, Esq., to endow it with a moiety of the great tithes of the whole parish.
The site was given by the late Samuel Addison, Esq., in addition to £500 to the building fund, and £700 for the completion of the spire. The foundation stone was laid by Lady Emily Foley, on Thursday, March the 27th, 1845, and the church consecrated by the Lord Bishop of the Diocese on Wednesday, May 13, 1846. The sermon at the conse cration was preached by the Rev. Isaac Clarkson, from 2 Chron. vi. 414“ Now therefore arise, O Lord God, into
Thy resting place, Thou and the ark of Thy strength,” &c. On the following Sunday the sermons were preached by the Revs. J. H. Sharwood, M.A., and J. B. Owen, M.A. The collections at the consecration and on the Sunday following amounted to £115 19s. 2d.
The church is built of stone, in the Early English style of architecture, having a capacious and lofty nave, surmounted by a clerestory, with an open timber roof; north and south aisles; and a high and elegant tower and spire, facing the main street. The whole area of the nave is occupied by open seats. The chancel is lighted by a triple lancet window, having deep and richly ornamented arches, supported by columns, with floriated heads. The font (the gift of the architects) is placed at the north entrance, and is in accordance with the style of the church. An organ has lately been presented by James Bagnall and Thomas Walker, Esqs.; it is unfortunately placed so as to block up the principal door, but it has led to the removal of an ugly gallery. Gas has lately been introduced into the church, but the fittings, being after the similitude of those used in shops and such like buildings, are very unsightly. The church contains one thousand sittings—one half of which are free. The architects were Messrs. Daukes and Hamilton; the builder—Mr. Isaac Highway, of Walsall. It appears to have been more in accordance with the taste of the builders to place the church on a line with the street, than to adhere to the universal custom of having it due east and west.
The cost of the church including the site, tower, and spire) was £5,758 6s. 4d. This sum was raised by grants from the Lichfield Diocesan Church Extension Society (of £920), from the Incorporated Society for Building Churches and Chapels (of £400), and the remainder by voluntary