Walsall Wood: Religious life

A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17, Offlow Hundred (Part). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.

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A P Baggs. G C Baugh. C R J Currie. Johnson D A, 'Walsall Wood: Religious life', in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17, Offlow Hundred (Part), (London, 1976) pp. 281-283. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol17/pp281-283 [accessed 22 May 2024].

A P Baggs. G C Baugh. C R J Currie. Johnson D A. "Walsall Wood: Religious life", in A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17, Offlow Hundred (Part), (London, 1976) 281-283. British History Online, accessed May 22, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol17/pp281-283.

Baggs, A P. Baugh, G C. Currie, C R J. Johnson D A. "Walsall Wood: Religious life", A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17, Offlow Hundred (Part), (London, 1976). 281-283. British History Online. Web. 22 May 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/staffs/vol17/pp281-283.

In this section


The church of ST. JOHN, Walsall Wood, originated in a mission established by the earlier 1820s. Services were at first held in cottages, but in 1825 the vicar of St. Matthew's was licensed to hold them in a schoolroom. (fn. 1) In 1836 1½ a. on the north side of the present High Street was acquired from Lord Bradford as the site for the church, which was consecrated in 1837. (fn. 2) The living was endowed with £500 raised by subscription and augmented by £20 yearly out of Walsall vicarage. (fn. 3) In 1845 a new parish of St. John was formed out of St. Matthew's parish. (fn. 4) The living, at first a perpetual curacy and from 1868 a vicarage, has remained in the gift of the vicar of St. Matthew's. (fn. 5) The minister's house originally lay west of the church on the site of the present St. John's Close. (fn. 6) It was replaced by a new house north of the church in 1967 and demolished in 1968. (fn. 7)

Several missions have been opened from St. John's. A mission centre was established at Clayhanger c. 1872. (fn. 8) The mission church of Holy Trinity there was opened in 1879; designed by D. Shenton Hill of Birmingham, it is a brick building with rendered walls and has a bell in a bellcot. (fn. 9) Christ Church, High Heath, was opened c. 1886 and is built of rendered brick in a mixed Gothic and Renaissance style; it was closed in 1973. (fn. 10) St. Mark's, School Street, Shelfield, was opened in 1895 and closed in 1964. It was replaced in 1965 by a new mission church of St. Mark in Green Lane, with a house near by for an assistant curate. (fn. 11)

The church of St. John was designed by a Mr. Highway of Walsall (probably Isaac Highway) in a plain Gothic style. (fn. 12) It originally consisted of a nave and west tower in blue brick; of that building only the tower and west wall of the nave remain. A south aisle of red brick and a sanctuary were added in 1886, and a north aisle designed by H. E. Lavender of Walsall was built to match in 1895; there is a vestry at the end of each aisle. (fn. 13) The rebuilt nave has an arcade of five bays with cast-iron piers and foliage capitals. The original graveyard was c. ½ a. in extent; under the inclosure award of 1876 4 a. in what is now Brookland Road was assigned to the parish as a burial ground for all denominations in Walsall Wood. (fn. 14)


A mass-centre was opened from St. Patrick's, Walsall, in 1891 in the clubroom of the Four Crosses inn at Shelfield. (fn. 15) A school-chapel dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul was opened in 1893 on the corner of Mill Road and Broad Lane on a site given by Peter Aspinall of the Four Crosses; designed by S. Loxton of Walsall and Cannock, it is of brick. A parish, which at first included Aldridge, was formed in 1909; a resident priest was appointed and occupied a house adjoining the church. The Franciscans took over the parish in 1924. They left in 1966, and Shelfield passed back into the care of the archdiocese of Birmingham. In 1932 the church of St. Francis was opened on the opposite side of Mill Road to the earlier buildings, part of the cost being met by a gift of £3,000 from R. Holden. In 1974 the former chapel and house were being used respectively as a parish hall and a social club. The Roman Catholic population of St. Francis's parish in 1974 was 1,025.


A barn at Shelfield Lodge and the clubroom at the Horse and Jockey inn at Walsall Wood were registered in 1813 for unspecified dissenting worship. (fn. 16) About the early 1820s Benjamin Wheeley and other Wesleyan Methodists from Walsall began to hold a school on Sunday mornings in a barn at Walsall Wood, with a service in the afternoon. (fn. 17) By 1851 the congregation at the afternoon services averaged 25, but there was still no proper chapel. (fn. 18) There was a chapel in Walsall Road to the south-west of the canal bridge by 1882, and probably by 1878; it is a Gothic building of brick. It was replaced c. 1902 by a chapel further north on the opposite side of the road; it had been closed by 1959 and was subsequently demolished. The earlier chapel became a Sunday school and since 1946 has been occupied by W. Hawkins & Son, organ-builders. (fn. 19)

By 1851 Wesleyans were meeting in temporary premises at Shelfield, and on Census Sunday that year there was an evening congregation of 25. (fn. 20) In 1864 a chapel was built on the corner of Lichfield and Spring Roads; (fn. 21) it is a Gothic building of brick with a cement façade. It was replaced in 1906-7 by a chapel built to the south. (fn. 22) Designed by T. W. Sanders of Walsall, (fn. 23) it is of brick and has an ornamental façade with stone dressings. The earlier chapel became a hall.

Ebenezer Primitive Methodist chapel in Lichfield Road towards the northern end of Walsall Wood was built in 1863. (fn. 24) In 1891 a new chapel, of red brick in a baroque style, was built on the same site. (fn. 25) The adjacent school is dated 1908. A Primitive Methodist chapel was built at High Heath on the corner of Mob Lane (now Coronation Road) and Broad Lane (now Broad Way) in 1893. (fn. 26) It is of red brick with blue-brick dressings. A Primitive Methodist chapel was built in Four Crosses Road, Shelfield, in 1906. (fn. 27) Now Shelfield Centenary Methodist church, it is a brick building with applied halftimbering.

The Church of the Latter-day Saints registered a building near the Horse and Jockey in 1855; they had ceased to use it by 1876. (fn. 28) There was a chapel of unknown denomination at the west end of Beech Tree Road between at least 1878 and 1883. (fn. 29)

The Christian Brethren registered the Gospel Hall in Clayhanger Road in 1927 and the House of Prayer in Coppice Road in 1934. (fn. 30)


  • 1. Sunday-sch. centenary leaflet, 1880 (framed copy in St. John's vestry); Lich. Dioc. Regy., B/A/1/29, p. 89.
  • 2. Lich. Dioc. Regy., B/A/2(i)/K, pp. 549-51, 556-60; Staffs. Advertiser, 26 Aug. 1837.
  • 3. Lich. Dioc. Regy., B/A/2(i)/K, pp. 553-4; /L, p. 1.
  • 4. Lond. Gaz. 12 Aug. 1845, pp. 2422-3.
  • 5. Lich. Dioc. Regy., B/A/1/30, p. 96; Lich. Dioc. Ch. Cal. (1869), 104; Lich. Dioc. Dir. (1972).
  • 6. W.S.L., S. MS. 417/Walsall, no. 3040.
  • 7. Ex inf. the vicar (1972); Evening Mail, 28 Nov. 1968.
  • 8. Lich. Dioc. Ch. Cal. (1873), 183; Nat. Soc. files, Walsall Wood, 29 Oct. 1878, describing the mission as 'a cottage service'.
  • 9. Sunday-sch. centenary leaflet, 1880.
  • 10. Lich. Dioc. Yr. Bk. (1886), 22; Lich. Dioc. Ch. Cal. (1887), 113; Walsall Observer, 11 May 1973.
  • 11. Lich. Dioc. Regy., B/A/1/35, p. 400; ex inf. the vicar (1972).
  • 12. Staffs. Advertiser, 26 Aug. 1837; plate facing p. 81 above. For Isaac Highway see Pigot, Nat. Com. Dir. (1841), Staffs. p. 82.
  • 13. Lich. Dioc. Mag. 1886, 101; 1895, 189; Pevsner, Staffs. 297 (which, however, confuses N. and S. aisles).
  • 14. Lich. Dioc. Regy., B/A/2(i)/K, p. 553; /S, pp. 566, 573-7; /W, p. 599; S.R.O., Q/RDc 106; S.R.O., D. 1287/ 18/30/business corresp. 1866, J. Potter to Lord Bradford, 25 Sept. 1866.
  • 15. This para. is based on Cath. Dir. of Archdioc. of Birm. (1965), 197; Staffs. Advertiser (S. Staffs. edn.), 22 Apr. 1893; tablet to members of the Aspinall family, formerly in the school-church and now in St. Francis R.C. Primary Sch., Shelfield; inf. from the parish priest (1974).
  • 16. S.H.C. 4th ser. iii. 30.
  • 17. D. E. Parry, Notes on Bloxwich and Bloxwich Methodism (copy in W.C.L.).
  • 18. H.O. 129/380/4/1.
  • 19. O.S. Map 6", Staffs. LVII. SE. (1887 edn., surv. 1882); O.S. Map 1/2,500, Staffs. LVII. 16 (1919 edn.); G.R.O., Worship Reg. no. 4272 (registration of 1854, replaced 1898 by no. 36723, cancelled Oct. 1959); ibid. no. 38907 (registration of 1902, cancelled July 1959); Nat. Soc. files, Walsall Wood, letter from vicar 29 Oct. 1878; Evening Mail, 11 June 1970.
  • 20. H.O. 129/380/4/1. The building was listed as not used exclusively for worship.
  • 21. Date on the building.
  • 22. Staffs. Advertiser, 29 Dec. 1906, p. 6; 28 Dec. 1907, p. 7; Date of 1906 on the church.
  • 23. Inscription on memorial stone laid by him.
  • 24. Inscription on a stone from the first chapel reset in the south boundary wall.
  • 25. Date on the church.
  • 26. Date on the church. It was registered in Dec. 1893: Worship Reg. no. 34166.
  • 27. Date on the church. It was registered in June 1907: Worship Reg. no. 42490.
  • 28. Worship Reg. no. 6942 (cancelled 1876 on certificate of supt. registrar).
  • 29. Nat. Soc. files, Walsall Wood, letter from vicar 29 Oct. 1878; O.S. Map 1/2,500, Staffs. LVII. 16 (1884 edn., surv. 1883).
  • 30. Worship Reg. nos. 50707, 55041.