The society was formed early in 2009 by a group of people who are keen to keep alive the spirit of the village of Bridgtown. Almost all of this team of enthusiasts are former residents keen to record the people, lifestyles and events of former years.
A Brief History of Bridgtown
The earliest information describes a mill in Walk Mill Lane and this is supposed to date back to the sixteenth century, being quite close to the old Roman Road, the Watling Street. There was also a toll-keeper’s cottage on the Walsall Road but not much besides prior to the nineteenth century. At this time the name Bridgtown was not used.
In 1859 there was Long House Farm on the Watling Street and 6 houses on the Walsall Road. Soon after that the land was developed by the Wolverhampton Building Society following the opening of the local collieries. Streets were laid out and houses were built. The Bridgtown Estate belonged to the then Lord Hatherton. Its boundaries were Watling Street, Bridge Street, Walsall Road and North Street. The land on the other side of North Street was known as the Bridgtown West Estate and belonged to a Mr. Cotterell. The name Bridgtown was almost certainly devised because of the high numbers of bridges and, indeed, it seemed to be impossible to enter Bridgtown without crossing either over or under a bridge!
The Walsall to Hednesford railway line had been constructed between 1856 and 1858, causing the level of the Walsall Road to be lowered considerably near to the junction with Bridge Street. Soon afterwards came the development of the canal system and the construction of the 13 locks between Churchbridge and Leacroft. Bridgtown had superb communication links, by road, by railway and by canal. By the time 1870 came the village was growing rapidly and was considered to be a fine example of modern planning. By 1880 people were talking about Bridgtown becoming bigger than neighbouring Cannock and residents were demanding their own railway station.
As well as the collieries came the pioneering work of men like William Gilpin and Cornelius Whitehouse, developing industries that made use of local coal supplies. So it was that Bridgtown was a thriving energetic community all through the first half of the twentieth century. Then the nature of industry began to change and planners wanted to separate housing from industry. The days of Bridgtown seemed to be numbered and the village came near to extinction in the early 1980s. But planners did not reckon on the indomitable spirit and will of the Bridgtown people. The village lives on and today regeneration continues apace!
What the Society does
- Records in detail the people, the lifestyles and the events marking the history and development of Bridgtown and the surrounding area.
- Encourages and promotes research into that history and development.
- Archives the collection of data, information, memorabilia, maps, photographic and aural records.
- Provides a forum for former residents and friends to meet and provides a regular programme of events to stimulate their interest and involvement.
- Prepares and publishes books illustrating local life in the twentieth century.
- Publishes a quarterly newsletter of information, opinions, forthcoming events, links to former residents and opportunities for all members to become involved.
- Arranges a programme of visiting speakers to support our other activities.
- Co-operates and links with other local history societies in areas of mutual interest.
Membership of the society is open to anyone interested. All members are welcome at any meetings.