Smethwick: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 52°29′34″N 1°58′06″W / 52.492854°N 1.968226°W / 52.492854; -1.968226

Smethwick is located in West Midlands

 Smethwick shown within the West Midlands
OS grid reference SP0287
Metropolitan borough Sandwell
Metropolitan county West Midlands
Region West Midlands
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district B66
Dialling code 0121
Police West Midlands
Fire West Midlands
Ambulance West Midlands
EU Parliament West Midlands
UK Parliament Warley
List of places: UK • England • West Midlands

Smethwick (pronounced /ˈsmɛðɨk/) is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Sandwell, in the West Midlands of England. It is situated on the edge of the city of Birmingham, within the historic boundaries of Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire.


Geography and administration

Originally the area was an Urban District and from 1894 a Municipal Borough in the county of Staffordshire. In 1907 it became a County Borough. In 1966, Smethwick was merged with the boroughs of Oldbury and Rowley Regis to form the new County Borough of Warley. This in turn was merged with West Bromwich in 1974 to form the Metropolitan Borough of Sandwell.

Smethwick had always had strong economic links to Birmingham (even after its independence of county control following the creation of Smethwick County Borough in 1907), although like most areas and towns of the West Midlands has a strong sense of its own identity. The Warley County Borough was placed entirely in Worcestershire on its creation, but Smethwick has also been in Warwickshire and Staffordshire, and since 1974 has formed part of the West Midlands county. The former boundary of Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Staffordshire could be found in Three Shires Oak Road, in Bearwood.


Street nameplate on Rutland Road, Smethwick in April 2007, showing painted out "County Borough" lettering.

Smethwick has previously been suggested to mean 'smiths' place of work' however a more recent interpretation has suggested the name means "The settlement on the smooth land". Smethwick was recorded in the Domesday book as Smedeuuich. Until the end of the 18th century it was an outlying hamlet of the south Staffordshire village of Harborne.

The oldest building in Smethwick is The Old Church which stands on the corner of Church Road and The Uplands. This was consecrated in 1732 as a Chapel of Ease in the parish of St Peter, Harborne, Birmingham. The building was originally known as "Parkes' Chapel" in honour of Mistress Dorothy Parkes who bequeathed the money for the church and also for a local school. The chapel was later known as "The Old Chapel", and public house next to it is still called this. In the church there are several fine memorials, including one to Dorothy Parkes.

From the 18th century, three generations of the Birmingham Canal Navigations Main Line were built through Smethwick, carrying coal and goods between the nearby Black Country and Birmingham.

  • James Brindley built the first canal, the Old Line, over the Smethwick Summit in 1769
  • his summit level was lowered and improved by John Smeaton in 1790
  • Thomas Telford built a parallel, more direct route, in deeper cuttings and without locks, the New Line, in 1829.

The Grade I listed Galton Bridge spans the New Line canal and railway. When built in 1829 by Telford, it was the longest single-span bridge in the world. Its name commemorates Samuel Galton, a local landowner and industrialist. It is identical to Telford's bridge at Holt Fleet over the River Severn built in 1828 and opened in 1830.

Matthew Boulton and James Watt opened their Soho Foundry in the North of Smethwick (not to be confused with the Soho Manufactory in nearby Soho) in the late 18th century. In 1802, William Murdoch illuminated the foundry with gas lighting of his own invention. The foundry was later home to weighing scale makers W & T Avery Ltd..

The world's oldest working engine, made by Boulton and Watt, the Smethwick Engine, originally stood near Bridge Street, Smethwick. It is now at Thinktank, the new science museum in Birmingham.

The public library by Yeoville Thomason

The public library in the High Street was originally built as the Public Hall in 1866-7 and is designed by Yeoville Thomason.[1]

Other former industry included railway rolling stock manufacture, at the Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company factory; screws and other fastenings from Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds (GKN), engines from Tangye, tubing from Evered's, steel pen nibs from British Pens and various products from Chance Brothers' glassworks, including lighthouse lenses and the glazing for the Crystal Palace (the London works, in North Smethwick, manufactured its metalwork). Phillips Cycles, once one of the largest bicycle manufacturers in the world was based in Bridge Street, Smethwick. Nearby, in Downing Street, is the famous bicycle saddle maker, Brooks Saddles.

The Ruskin Pottery Studio, named in honour of the artist John Ruskin, was in Oldbury Road. Many English churches have stained glass windows made by Hardman Studios in Lightwoods House, or, before that, by the Camm family.

Former Prime Minister John Major's parents married at Holy Trinity Church in Smethwick while they were on tour with a music hall variety act.

In 1966, Smethwick ceased to be a single County Borough and was absorbed into the new County Borough of Warley, geographically although not administratively in Worcestershire.

In the 1960s, a large council estate in the west of Smethwick was built. It was officially known as "Galton Village" but as all of the homes were concrete blocks the estate was known locally as the 'concrete jungle'. The estate quickly became unpopular and was redeveloped in the early 1990s with modern low-rise housing. There is another housing estate called the Windmill Lane Estate, located near Cape Hill.

There is a collection of red brick turn-of-20th Century terrace, 1930’s Semi-detached and new built modern housing. Not to mention a number of high rise blocks of flats. Other estates and areas include Black Patch, Cape Hill, Uplands, Albion Estate, Bearwood, Londonderry and Rood End.


The town has often enjoyed a somewhat turbulent political history. Smethwick was created as a separate parliamentary constituency in 1918, having previously been part of the Handsworth constituency. At that year's general election, Christabel Pankhurst, standing as a Women's Party candidate, narrowly failed to become Britain's first woman MP, being defeated by Labour by 775 votes in a straight fight.

Labour held the seat until 1931, from 1926 the MP being Sir Oswald Mosley, future founder of the British Union of Fascists. Mosley resigned the Labour whip in March 1931 but continued to represent the constituency until it was taken by the Conservatives at that year's general election.

Labour won in the UK general election, 1945 on 26 July. However, the victorious MP, Alfred Dobbs, was killed in a car crash the very next day. He is the shortest-serving Member of Parliament (MP) in British history, if one discounts a few cases of people being elected posthumously. In the resulting by-election, Patrick Gordon Walker won for Labour.

In the 1964 general election, Gordon Walker, who was Shadow Foreign Secretary, was defeated in controversial circumstances in the constituency by Conservative candidate Peter Griffiths. Smethwick had been a focus of immigration from the Commonwealth in the economic and industrial growth of the years following World War II and Griffiths ran a campaign critical of the government's policy. There were rumours that his supporters had covertly circulated the slogan If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Liberal or Labour. Hardly had the heat of the election subsided when, on February 12, 1965, U.S. black activist Malcolm X visited the region just nine days before his assassination. He fuelled further controversy when he told the press:

I have come here because I am disturbed by reports that coloured people in Smethwick are being treated badly. I have heard they are being treated as the Jews under Hitler. I would not wait for the fascist element in Smethwick to erect gas ovens.

Malcolm X's visit to Smethwick had been organised by a BBC News journalist with a view to X having a debate with Peter Griffiths outside the Smethwick council house. Griffiths declined at late notice and so an interview with X was conducted on the streets of Smethwick. This was to be X's last TV interview before his assassination nine days later. It was never aired.

Labour candidate, actor Andrew Faulds, defeated Griffiths in the 1966 general election and was MP for the constituency until his retirement at the 1997 general election. (The constituency was renamed Warley East in 1974.)


The old Toll House

Smethwick is served by trains on both the "Jewellery Line" and the West Coast Main Line. The Jewellery Line links Birmingham Snow Hill station with Worcester, Stratford-upon-Avon and Leamington Spa. The West Coast Main Line links Birmingham New Street railway station, Coventry and Wolverhampton, with onward connections.

The station on the West Coast Main Line is called Smethwick Rolfe Street. This station serves local trains from Wolverhampton and Birmingham New Street. The former Smethwick West Station on the old Stour Valley line was replaced by a new facility opened at the same time as the Jewellery Line, serving both routes, which is called Smethwick Galton Bridge. This station serves a limited service to London, regular trains to Birmingham International Airport, Wolverhampton and further north. It also serves trains to Stourbridge, Kidderminster, Worcester, Dorridge and Stratford Upon Avon. Not to mention it has regular services to all three of Birmingham central stations.

To the north of Smethwick High Street on Brasshouse Lane is The Hawthorns again on the "Jewellery Line" and also on the Midland Metro, this station is located next to the West Bromwich Albion Football Club. This station serves a limited service to London, as well as local trains to Stourbridge,Kidderminster, Worcester, Birmingham, Dorridge and Stratford Upon Avon. The Midland Metro serves parts of Birmingham and Wolverhampton via West Bromwich, Wednesbury and Bilston.

Smethwick is well served by buses, and has one bus station located in Bearwood. Bearwood Bus Station serves a limited number of long distance coaches and The Hagley Road Bus Corridor from Birmingham to Halesowen, Stourbridge and Merry Hill. The No. 11 Birmingham Outer Circle runs through Bearwood Road as does the 126 to Dudley and Wolverhampton. Most buses go to, or through Birmingham, Dudley, West Bromwich and Oldbury, not to mention the other places served.


See: Districts of Smethwick

Places of worship

  • The Old Church, The Uplands
  • Guru Nanak Gurdwara, High Street
  • Church Of God Of Prophecy, Regent Street
  • St Gregorys R C Church, Three Shires Oak Road
  • Raglan Road Christian Church, Raglan Road
  • West Smethwick Congregational Church, Mallin Street
  • St Matthew With St Chad C Of E Church, St Mathews Road
  • St Hildas, Abbey Road
  • Holy Trinity Church, South Road & High Street
  • The Apostolic Church, Broomfield
  • Warley Woods Methodist Church, Abbey Road
  • St Philips R C Church, Messenger Road
  • Smethwick Elim Pentecostal Church, Woodland Drive
  • Rounds Green Methodist Church, Abbey Road
  • Bearwood Baptist Church, Bearwood Road
  • The Akril Memorial Church, The Uplands
  • Gurdwara Nanaksar, Waterloo Road


  • Holly Lodge High School, Holly Lane, West Smethwick the best school
  • Shireland Collegiate Academy, Waterloo Road, Cape Hill
  • Abbey Junior and Infants (Two sites), Abbey Road, Bearwood
  • Albion Junior School, Brasshouse Lane
  • Annie Lennard Infant School, The Oval, Thimblemill
  • Bearwood Primary School, Bearwood Road, Bearwood
  • Brasshouse Infant School, Brasshouse Lane
  • Cape Hill Primary School, Cape Hill
  • Crocketts Primary School, Coopers Lane, Cape Hill
  • Devonshire Primary School, Auckland Road, Uplands
  • George Betts Primary School, Wood End Avenue
  • Ruskin House Pupil Ref. Unit, Holly Lane, West Smethwick
  • Shireland Hall Infant and Junior School, Edith Road, Cape Hill
  • St Gregory's Roman Catholic Primary School, Park Road
  • St Mathews Church of England School, Windmill Lane
  • St Phillips Catholic Primary, Messenger Road
  • Uplands Manor Primary School, Addenbrooke Road, Uplands
  • Victoria Park Primary School, Ballot Street
  • Smethwick College (Part of Sandwell Colleges), Crocketts Lane

Notable residents

See also


  1. ^ The Buildings of England: Worcestershire, Nikolaus Pevsner, 1968 Penguin. p81

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

SMETHWICK, a municipal and county borough in the Handsworth parliamentary division of Staffordshire, England, 3 m. W. of Birmingham on the Great Western and the London & North Western railways. Pop. (1891) 36,106; (1901) 54,539. There are large glass, chemical and machine works; nuts and bolts are made, and lighthouse fittings are a specialty. Adjoining Smethwick on the E. is the district of Soho, famous as the scene of the engineering experiments of James Watt during his partnership with Matthew Boulton (c. 1770). The town of Smethwick is a modern growth about an ancient village, the name of which appears in Domesday. The borough, incorporated in 1899 (county borough, 1907), is under a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. Area, 1929 acres.

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