Walsall Town Centre in Pictures – Twenty Years On

September 1, 2017 in Architecture, Photography, Walsall, WLHC by Stuart Williams

Words and pictures by Stuart Williams

Senior Archives/Conservation Assistant

11516W Walsall Market, High St and Overstrand Restaurant, 1 Sept 1997

11516W Walsall Market, High St and Overstrand Restaurant, 1 Sept 1997

On 1st September 1997, an opportunity arose for me to photograph a number of locations around Walsall town centre, with the aim of creating an historical record of what at least a portion of the town looked like at the time, for the benefit of future generations.  A few weeks ago, I was reminded of these pictures while undertaking some photo research in Walsall Local History Centre’s archives, and realised that it was almost twenty years since I had taken them. How time flies!

In those days, as the Centre’s official photographer (amongst other things) I was using black-and-white silver-based  film for permanence – the aim was for these pictures to last for centuries.  This was developed by me in-house, then printed on real, silver-based photographic paper. The number of pictures taken had to be modest by today’s standards, due to cost and time taken. But the survey would nonetheless become an important record, a kind of visual time capsule, preserved in the town archives. For the times, they are always a-changing.

Fast-forward two decades

In today’s digital world, of course, the cost, at least in terms of materials, of undertaking a photographic survey has dropped like a stone (no film, no darkroom, and digital storage of images plus the option of archival pigment ink printing), although much more time would be taken to do such a survey now, simply because we can do it for far less and could therefore make a more comprehensive record. But, as in 1997 there’s still the documentation, listing, storage and making available to do as well. Not to mention putting the images online if required.

Having said that, it’s not quite so simple to do a survey now in one other way, as the structure of work at Walsall Local History Centre has changed in recent years, and today, due to budget limitations, there is currently no photographic survey work being undertaken. Hopefully that will change in future, as history is marching swiftly on.

Ch-ch-changes

In any case, when I came across this two decade old set of my own historic photographs in the archives (I’ve worked for the Centre since 1986), I immediately thought of marking the 20th anniversary of that 1997 survey, by scanning in (and improving, in subtle ways, with modern technology unavailable back then) a selection of twenty images (one symbolising each year) which each, in some way, represents change in Walsall since they were first taken, and publishing them on this blog for the interest of local people, at the same time helping highlight the large and fascinating photographic collection which is held for posterity at Walsall Local History Centre.

The town twenty years after

To complement this I have today, in my own time, walked around the town in much the same way as I did exactly twenty years ago to the day, to try and record, now digitally, the same (or as close as I could get) locations as those twenty original pictures, and to see how much, or in some cases how little, things have changed.

In doing this, I also hope to encourage fellow photographers to go out and photograph their local places for posterity, so that both places and people may not be forgotten.

But for now, may I present here those selected black-and-white images of exactly twenty years ago, in juxtaposition with the pictures I have taken today, 1st September, 2017.  I hope you find them as interesting as it has been for me to take them all, past and present, and so many more.

To view these images below larger, simply click on each one

 

11472W Sister Dora's Statue outside Sister Dora Buildings on The Bridge, 1 Sept 1997

11472W Sister Dora’s Statue outside Sister Dora Buildings on The Bridge, 1 Sept 1997

 

Former location of the Sister Dora Statue and Walsall Hippo, just beyond these stalls, The Bridge, 1 Sept 2017

Former location of the Sister Dora Statue and Walsall Hippo, just beyond these stalls, The Bridge, 1 Sept 2017

 

11476W The Bridge, showing part of Walsall Market and Lloyds Bank, 1 Sept 1997

11476W The Bridge, showing part of Walsall Market and Lloyds Bank, 1 Sept 1997

 

New location of the Sister Dora Statue since 2000 (the Walsall Hippo is outside Walsall Library), The Bridge, 1 Sept 2017

New location of the Sister Dora Statue since 2000 (the Walsall Hippo is outside Walsall Library), The Bridge, 1 Sept 2017

 

11414W The Bridge, looking towards St Paul's St and Bridge St, 1 Sept 1997

11414W The Bridge, looking towards St Paul’s St and Bridge St, 1 Sept 1997

 

Dais and 'Source of Ingenuity' fountain (unveiled 2001, now disused), The Bridge, 1 Sept 2017

Dais and ‘Source of Ingenuity’ fountain (unveiled 2001, now disused), The Bridge, 1 Sept 2017

 

11512W Digbeth looking towards Walsall Market, High St and St Matthew's Church, 1 Sept 1997

11512W Digbeth looking towards Walsall Market, High St and St Matthew’s Church, 1 Sept 1997

 

Digbeth and current new developments, looking towards Walsall Market etc, 1 Sept 2017

Digbeth and current new developments, looking towards Walsall Market etc, 1 Sept 2017

 

11516W Walsall Market, High St and Overstrand Restaurant, 1 Sept 1997

11516W Walsall Market, High St and Overstrand Restaurant, 1 Sept 1997

 

Former location of Walsall Market, High St, the Overstrand Restaurant off the Old Square was demolished several years ago, 1 Sept 2017

Former location of Walsall Market, High St, the Overstrand Restaurant off the Old Square was demolished several years ago, 1 Sept 2017

 

11425W The old Walsall St Paul's Bus Station, St Paul's St, 1 September 1997

11425W The old Walsall St Paul’s Bus Station, St Paul’s St, 1 September 1997

 

Main section of the new St Paul's Bus Station (completed 2000), 1 Sept 2017

Main section of the new St Paul’s Bus Station (completed 2000), 1 Sept 2017

 

11551W Park St looking towards The Bridge, 1 Sept 1997

11551W Park St looking towards The Bridge, 1 Sept 1997

 

Park St looking towards The Bridge, 1 Sept 2017

Park St looking towards The Bridge, 1 Sept 2017

 

11545W WH Smith, and Butler's Passage, Park St, 1 Sept 1997

11545W WH Smith, and Butler’s Passage, Park St, 1 Sept 1997

 

WH Smith and the refurbished Butler's Passage, Park St, 1 Sept 2017

WH Smith and the refurbished Butler’s Passage, Park St, 1 Sept 2017

 

11399W Bradford Place, Cenotaph, bus stands, Science & Art Institute and Saddlers Centre, 1 Sept 1997

11399W Bradford Place, Cenotaph, bus stands, Science & Art Institute and Saddlers Centre, 1 Sept 1997

 

Bradford Place, Cenotaph, new bus stands, Science & Art Institute, Walsall Market Nombelisk monument and Saddlers Centre, 1 Sept 2017

Bradford Place, Cenotaph, new bus stands, Science & Art Institute, Walsall Market Nombelisk monument and Saddlers Centre, 1 Sept 2017

 

11403W Bradford St (looking towards The Bridge) and Belsize House, birthplace of Jerome K. Jerome, 1 Sept 1997

11403W Bradford St (looking towards The Bridge) and Belsize House, birthplace of Jerome K. Jerome, 1 Sept 1997

 

Bradford St (looking towards The Bridge) and Belsize House, birthplace of Jerome K Jerome, 1 Sept 2017

Bradford St (looking towards The Bridge) and Belsize House, birthplace of Jerome K Jerome, 1 Sept 2017

 

11389W Central Library, Museum and Art Gallery, Lichfield St, 1 Sept 1997

11389W Central Library, Museum and Art Gallery, Lichfield St, 1 Sept 1997

 

Walsall Central Library, Lichfield St, with new entrance and added glass atrium, Lichfield St, 1 Sept 2017

Walsall Central Library, Lichfield St, with new entrance and added glass atrium, Lichfield St, 1 Sept 2017

 

11591W Former Nurses Home and Outpatients, now part of The Heritage flats, Wednesbury Rd, 1 Sept 1997

11591W Former Nurses Home and Outpatients, now part of The Heritage flats, Wednesbury Rd, 1 Sept 1997

 

Former Nurses Home and Outpatients, now part of The Heritage flats, Wednesbury Rd, 1 Sept 2017

Former Nurses Home and Outpatients, now part of The Heritage flats, Wednesbury Rd, 1 Sept 2017

 

11461W Walsall Arboretum Lodge, Lichfield Rd/Broadway North, 1 Sept 1997

11461W Walsall Arboretum Lodge, advertising Walsall Illuminations, Lichfield Rd/Broadway North, 1 Sept 1997

 

Walsall Arboretum Lodge (extensively refurbished arboretum but no more Illuminations), Lichfield Rd/Broadway North, 1 Sept 2017

Walsall Arboretum Lodge (extensively refurbished arboretum but no more Illuminations), Lichfield Rd/Broadway North, 1 Sept 2017

 

11580W Shannons Mill and Sainsbury's Car Park, George St, 1 Sep 1997

11580W Shannons Mill and Sainsbury’s Car Park, George St, 1 Sep 1997

 

Shannons Mill burned down some years ago, Sainsbury's was replaced by a new ASDA, this is the back of ASDA and adjacent units, 1 Sept 2017

Shannons Mill burned down some years ago, Sainsbury’s was replaced by a new ASDA, this is the back of ASDA and adjacent units, 1 Sept 2017

 

 

11533W Walsall Station and Boak factory, Station St, from station side entrance corridor, 1 Sept 1997

11533W Walsall Station and Boak factory, Station St, from station side entrance corridor, 1 Sept 1997

 

Walsall Station and Station St from Platform 2, BOAK burned down some years ago, previous view obscured by new window frames, 1 Sept 2017

Walsall Station and Station St from Platform 2, BOAK burned down some years ago, previous view obscured by new window frames, 1 Sept 2017

 

11432W Walsall College of Arts & Technology, St Paul's St, 1 Sept 1997

11432W Walsall College of Arts & Technology, St Paul’s St, 1 Sept 1997

 

Walsall College moved to Littleton St West some years ago, a Tesco Extra superstore and associated buildings like this replaced it, 1 Sept 2017

Walsall College moved to Littleton St West some years ago, a Tesco Extra superstore and associated buildings like this replaced it, 1 Sept 2017

 

11398W The Imperial Bingo Hall (previously theatre) in Darwall St, being converted to a Wetherspoon's pub, 1 Sept 1997

11398W The Imperial Bingo Hall (previously theatre) in Darwall St, being converted to a Wetherspoon’s pub, 1 Sept 1997

 

Wetherspoon's Imperial pub in Darwall St closed in 2016, 1 Sept 2017

Wetherspoon’s Imperial pub in Darwall St closed in 2016, 1 Sept 2017

 

11377W The Black Swan and Upper Bridge St from Leicester St, 1 Sept 1997

11377W The Black Swan and Upper Bridge St from Leicester St, 1 Sept 1997

 

The Black Swan changed hands several times as a nigh club before closing, the Walsall history obelisk text was written by Stuart Williams, 1 Sept 2017

The Black Swan changed hands several times as a nigh club before closing, the Walsall history obelisk text was written by Stuart Williams, 1 Sept 2017

 

11338W The new Woolworths building, Town End Bank/Park St, 1 Sept 1997

11338W The new Woolworths building, Town End Bank/Park St, 1 Sept 1997

 

Poundland eventually took over the Woolworths building in Park St, following the collapse of Woolworths in 2008, 1 Sept 2017

Poundland eventually took over the Woolworths building in Park St, following the collapse of Woolworths in 2008, 1 Sept 2017

 

11340W Building in progress:  Walsall's New Art Gallery, Town Wharf, 1 Sep 1997

11340W Building in progress: Walsall’s New Art Gallery, Town Wharf, 1 Sep 1997

 

The New Art Gallery Walsall commenced construction in 1995 and was opened formally by the Queen in 2000. Redevelopment in the Town Wharf area, and in Walsall generally, continues, 1 Sept 2017 - 1

The New Art Gallery Walsall commenced construction in 1995 and was opened formally by the Queen in 2000. Redevelopment in the Town Wharf area, and in Walsall generally, continues, 1 Sept 2017 – 1