Wonderful Wolverhampton

Although not mentioned in the Domesday Book, Darlaston is an ancient village, mentioned in documents concerning William de Darlaston in 1245. It is now a south-western suburb of Walsall.

There are various suggestions for the origin of the name Darlaston. It is possible that it refers to the 'Place of the Greywater'. The coal shale would, undoubtedly, have given the water its colour.

Darlaston was originally part of the parish of Sedgley. By the late 18th century trades such as gunlock maker and stirrup maker could be found here, as well as miners. Then in the 19th century Darlaston became a centre for the coal and iron industry. At the heart of the Black Country, it has played its part in the economic development of Great Britain. The Darlaston Steel & Iron Com- pany at its peak owned 43 pudding furnaces, three blast furnaces, 63 steam engines, eight rolling mills and an internal railway system. The company was badly hit by a slump in the 1870s.

The hard lives of those who worked here demanded heroes who were larger than life, and one who fitted the bill was an innkeeper called Moses Whitehouse, nicknamed 'Rough Moey'. Born in about 1779, he must have been an awe-inspiring sight - his face pitted and scarred by smallpox and by a pit explosion, he had only one eye and one leg. His exploits, often violent, appealed to the men and women of those hard times. Though now a legend, it seems a distinct possibility that Rough Moey did indeed exist.

The George Rose Park was opened to the public in 1924, the land having been donated by Mr George Rose. The depression of the inter-war years brought unemployment to Darlaston, and it was a common sight to see men queueing in the park for the soup kitchens which were set up there to try to alleviate the worst of the distress. Bolts, nuts, screws and rivets have all been made in the area. Other industries have included drop forgings, cycles, precast concrete, tractor parts, twines and ropes, soap and candles. Also galvanised holloware and brick making. There are large and useful varieties of clay in the district for bricks, flower pots, chimneys and tiles in large quantities. One well known resident at the end of the last century was Mrs Henry Wood, the author of East Lynne. She did much to help and support the town. The setting up of a free lending library had much to do with her efforts and support.

Despite the age of the village, the parish church of St Lawrence was built only, in the early 1870s. There is in fact little to remind us now of the distant past.

The village information above is taken from The West Midlands Village Book, written by members of the West Midlands Federation of Women's Institutes and published by Countryside Books. Click on the link Countryside Books to view Countryside's range of other local titles.