Infobox UK place
country = England
region= West Midlands
metropolitan_county= West Midlands
hide_services = yes
Bilston is a town in
England's West Midlands region ( Wolverhampton). It is the south-eastern corner of the Metropolitan Borough and City of Wolverhampton. Two wards of Wolverhampton City Council cover the town: Bilston Eastand Bilston North.
Bilston was first referred to in AD 985 as "Bilsatena" when Wolverhampton was granted to Wulfrun [ [http://www.anglo-saxons.net/hwaet/?do=get&type=charter&id=860 "Charter S 860"] ] then in 996 as "Bilsetnatun" in the grant charter of St. Mary's (now St Peter's) Church in Wolverhampton. [ [http://www.anglo-saxons.net/hwaet/?do=get&id=1380&type=charter Charter S 1380"] ] [ [http://www.localhistory.scit.wlv.ac.uk/articles/wulfruna/wulfruna01.htm "Lady Wulfruna"] ] It is later mentioned in the
Domesday Bookas a village called "Billestune", being a largely rural area until the 19th century. "Bilsetnatun" can be intrepreted as meaning the settlement (ton) of the folk (saetan) of the ridge (bill).
Situated just two miles south-east of Wolverhampton, it was extensively developed for factories and
coalmining. Many houses were constructed in the Bilston area. Between 1920 and 1966, the council replaced most of the 19th century terraced houses with rented modern houses and flats on developments like Stowlawn, The Lunt and Bunker's Hill. Bilston has had a marketin the town centre for many years.
Urban DistrictCouncil was formed in 1894 under the Local Government Act 1894covering the ancient parish of Bilston. The urban district was granted a Royal Charterin 1933, becoming a municipal boroughand the First Charter Mayor was Alderman Herbert Beach. In 1966 the Borough of Bilston was abolished, with most of its territory annexed to the County Boroughof Wolverhampton (see History of West Midlands), although parts of Bradley in the east of the town were merged into Walsallborough.
Bilston Town Hall (pictured below in about 1900) is presently being refurbished. It had been derelict for more than a decade after Wolverhampton Council discontinued its use as housing offices. It is hoped that the town hall will be brought back into public use following the completion of its refurbishment. It dates back to the 19th century.
t Leonard's church
Christianworship in Bilston can be traced back to the original Chapel dating from 1090. In 1458 the chapel was replaced by St Leonard's Chantry. And a third renovated church was consecrated in 1733. The modern church dates from a rebuilding of 1826 and is thus the fourth church on the same site. [ [http://www.localhistory.scit.wlv.ac.uk/interesting/StLeonards/StLeonards.htm Brian Lockley, "St Leonard's Church Bilston, a Brief History"] ] The church has a stunningly modern appearance being whitewashed inside and out, giving it a very neat and clean appearance compared to most English churches. In this respect it resembles many American and German churches and some of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is also unusual in having a chamfered square tower, giving it an octagonal appearance, in being surmounted with a cupola, a golden globe with weather vaneand a fenced viewing platform. These are all extremely unusual features rarely found in English churches.Fact|date=August 2008
Few towns were more dramatically transformed during the
Industrial Revolutionas Bilston was. In 1800, it was still a largely rural area dependent on farming. By 1900, it was a busy town with numerous factories and coal mines, as well as a large number of houses that had been built to house the workers and their families.
The industry remained prolific during the
interwaryears, but much of the housing was now sub-standard, and during the 1920s and 1930s many of the older houses were cleared and replaced by new council houses that featured so many modern conveniences that were previously unknown to their occupants. Many of these houses were built on new housing estates previously occupied by coalfields or farmland, though some were built on the sites of older houses.
The council housing revolution in Bilston continued after the
Second World Warand for some time after the area became part of Wolverhamptonin 1966.
By the end of the 1970s, almost all of the sub-standard housing in Bilston had been cleared, but the area was in the early stages of an industrial decline which put hundreds of local people out of work and saw unemployment reach its highest levels in living memory. Things have improved over the last 20 years with more businesses in the service sector setting up around Bilston, but unemployment is still higher than the local average.
Other exciting modern day projects in Bilston include the
Black Country Route(opened in phases between 1986 and 1995), that gave Bilston quick road links to important towns such as Dudleyand Walsall, and the opening of the Midland Metro tramline in 1999, which gives a speedy public transportlink to Wolverhamptonand Birmingham.
On June 6th 1862, Bilston was the birthplace of the poet
Sir Henry Newbolt. John Wilkinson (industrialist), "king of the ironmasters", built a blast furnace in Bilston in 1748. He lived and died in Bradley, West Midlands. His body was returned to his home town of Clifton in Cumberland. Hugh Walters (author)lived all his life in Bilston. [ [http://www.localhistory.scit.wlv.ac.uk/BCMC/pages1/walters/walters.htm Hugh Walters ] ]
From 1850 to 1972 there was a railway station in Bilston town centre, but passenger services were then withdrawn and the line via Bilston (from Wolverhampton Low Level to Birmingham Snow Hill) had been almost completely abandoned within a decade. The final stub of the railway, connecting a town centre scrapyard with the
South Staffordshire Lineat Wednesbury, closed in 1992, only to be re-opened seven years later as the first phase of the Midland Metro tramline between Wolverhampton and Birmingham.
There was also a further railway station within the town: Bilston West on the
Another significant development in the Bilston area was the A463
Black Country Route. With more and more cars on the road, the roads around Bilston town centre became increasingly congested as the twentieth century progressed. It became so severe that, by the late 1960s, the government had drawn up plans for a new motorwaybypassing Bilston (and running from the A4123 near Coseleyto Junction 10 of the M6 motorwayat Walsall) which was scheduled to be completed by 1976. However, the plans collapsed and Bilston was condemned to increased congestion, for another decade at least.
The plans for a new dual carriageway were revived in the early 1980s. This time the planners had decided on a slightly different route which would run much closer to Bilston town centre. The first phase of the road (to be known as Black County Route) was completed in 1986, though initially running around half a mile east of the A4123. It was extended in 1990 to Oxford Street in Bilston town centre. This expansion resulted in a number of buildings being demolished and some roads having to be re-routed while one road (Market Street) was completely obliterated. This new road changed the face of Bilston town centre forever.
During 1995, the final phase of the Black Country Route between Bilston town centre and Junction 10 of the M6 was completed. This new road has seen a major improvement in the traffic flow around Bilston town centre.
Bilston is served by several bus routes at
Bilston bus station. It is also served by National Express West Midlandsservice 79 ( Birmingham- West Bromwich- Wednesbury- Darlaston- Bilston - Wolverhampton)
At the Bilston end of the
Black Country Routecan be seen the group of wooden statues designed by Robert Koenig and called "Steel Columns." "This sculpture was made from 15 lengths of sweet chestnutwhich stretch up to 6 metres in height. The male and female figures depicted are based on those found in old Victorian photographs of Bilston. The title ‘Steel Columns’ is a reference to Bilston’s steel making background and the connection the figures had with this history." [ [http://www.bilstonregeneration.co.uk/downloads/scupturetrail.pdf Wolverhampton Council, "Black Country Route Sculptures"] ]
Bilston has many primary schools, one being
Manor Primary School (Bilston), which used to be a secondary school and library.
Bilston (UK Parliament constituency)1918–1974
* [http://flickr.com/photos/covltwt/sets/72157603872641431/ Pictures of the exterior of St Leonard's church, Feb 2008]
* [http://www.localhistory.scit.wlv.ac.uk/interesting/StLeonards/StLeonards.htm Pictures of interior and exterior of St Leonard's church, 2002]
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