Specks On A Dusty Road – Part Three

My Mothers family were the Worrall’s and the Stevens.

I want to share a few episodes of their life and times with you , see as they saw, and bear with them in their sorrows and happiness in Horseley Fields.

Three years after the battle of Waterloo my forebears were building boats in Walsall Road, In Wolverhampton. As far away from the coast as you can get.

Do you get the picture?

Narrow Boat

The introduction of man made waterways added a new vista to certain Midland townscapes in the latter part of the eighteenth century, and Wolverhampton was no exception.

If you notice Isaac Taylor’s Map of 1750, The area between Coal Pit Road (Horseley Field) and Manor Lane (Walsall Street) down to their junction with Willenhall Road was just green fields.

But by 1770 as the canal network snaked through Monmore Green, from Birmingham on its way to link up with the Staffs Worcester Canal at Autherly. It caused an upsurge in  industrial activity along the mile long stretch between Bilston Road and Broad Street basin.


Shipton & Company
New arrivals alongside the Birmingham Navigation.


In the Staffordshire General & Commercial Directory for 1818, it lists for the first time three local industries two of which became local legends the other nowadays concerns only  me.

  • No.1 Was the manufacturing Chemists of John Mander & Co first carried on in King Street But by 1818 removed to John Street stretching back  with a large frontage  in Victoria Street, then known as Cock Street until Queen Victoria’s visit in 1866.


  • No.2 was Charles Chubb patent lock manufacturer, 38 Horseley Field, whose brother Jeremiah, on the 10th June that same year 1818,  placed an advertisement in The Wolverhampton Chronicle asking for locksmiths for the new factory.


  • No.3 Is my concern –  The one  “Boat Builder” listed alongside six Canal Carriers in the 1818 directory was James Worrall,  Walsall Road , Horseley Field.



Staffordshire General & Commercial Directory for 1818
Staffordshire General & Commercial Directory 1818 -James Worrall, Boatbuilder – Walsall Road


James Worrall was my mothers great grandfather; born 1790 in Walsall Road Wolverhampton, died September 15th 1858, by which time  the beginning of Walsall Road had become Lower Walsall Street.

In Pigot & Company’s, Commercial Directory 1835 – he is shown as a boatbuilder,  Walsall Street; and in Kelly’s Directory  of  1850,  fifteen years later, he his still listed as a boat builder in Walsall Street, and has now been Joined by his son William Worrall in the same trade.


Shrubbery Inn - Map
A small section of a map of 1890 showing the Shrubbery Inn, and adjacent Boatyard Walsall Street.


It was just prior to 1850 when the railway viaduct seen here was built across Walsall Street, and  in Melville & Co’s. directory of 1851-  James Worrall is noted as a victualler and boat builder, at the Shrubbery Inn, Walsall Street, and his son William Worrall is noted as coal merchant and boat builder, at the same address.


A few years later William Worrall retired. He left the licensed trade and  lived long enough to see the Shrubbery Inn  change its name to The Viaduct  to compliment the huge structure looming over Walsall Street, brought about by the arrival of the  the Railways into town.


Thirty years later we see William Worrall’s eldest son born in 1844, William Henry Worrall, my great grandfather, is noted on the British census – dated 1881, as residing at Court 2, Ward Street, Wolverhampton.  He is married to Julia May Wood, daughter of John Wood, an Ironworks manager from Bilston, my  grandmother Julia Worrall, ten months old at the time was one of their eventual five children.


By the end of the last war canal transport was on a steady decline and the many wharfs  and basins were disused, filled in, and built over.


Lower Walsall Street 1940s
Lower Walsall Street in the 1940s

Off to the right the  local greengrocers on the corner of Corser Street advertises the alternative to tinned Salmon, Skippers. (The posh name for Sardines).

To the left of the three shops the gentleman is passing a wall situated on the east side of  the Great Western Railway tunnel that passed under Walsall Street, then under Horseley Fields, the canal, emerging at the Low Level Station.

The two policemen with their bicycles on the left of the bridge stand on what was once, the openings from Walsall Street into  Wood Street and  Cannon Street,  whilst beyond the Viaduct, and the canal bridge and  Commercial Road was the entrances to Shrubbery Street and the former memorable, Shrubbery Iron Works, seen here now In 1942, occupied by various local works.


Lower Walsall Street 2014
Same view of Lower Walsall Street in 2014.


2014 this same view of Lower Walsall Street, again; looking up from the junction with Horseley Fields,is still recognisable today mainly because of the old Stour Valley line railway Viaduct, which carries the mainline from the High Level Station to all points south bound.

Today nearly the entire length left hand side of the street going well back toward Bilston Road, which once contained the many canal wharves and basins  are now covered by The British Oxygen Company Works.

This brief historic survey of  Horseley Fields , with a few episodes from the life of my Mothers forebear’s continues.

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  1. Thanks Emm, Glad to see you back, and as you say with your family, I believe many older established Wulfrunians have connections either with the canals or railways.

  2. One of my favorite painters is J.M.W. Turner and I would recommend anyone with an interest both in canals and the canal system should seek out one of his paintings. The painting is called “Dudley, Worcestershire” and is a view of Dudley Port in 1835, obviously not Wolverhampton but painted in the heyday of canals and the contrast between the Church and the Castle on the skyline and the smoking factories with the iron and steel industry that developed in the area with several barges with the a patient horse is typical of Turner’s artistry. A search on the internet for ‘Turner’s Dudley, Worcestershire’ will show the painting.

    1. Thank You John.
      Please join our forum if you haven’t already done so, Introduce yourself, and lets see what other threads of interest we can share with you.

  3. I totally agree with you on the subject of J M W Turner, I have many engravings of his works ,unfortunateley they are all scenes from abroad.
    My favourite engraving though is one by Sir William Quiller Orchardson This engraving shows Napoleon on board HMS Bellerophon bound for St Helena, where he remained in exile until his death in 1821. The deposed Emperor stands on the deck, isolated from the group of [‘naval’ out] officers on the left, who watch him with curiosity as he looks out to sea, contemplating his fate.

  4. Hi Billy
    just found your posts as I’m starting to trace my family tree . My paternal granfather’s family was made up of Cheadle and Wall families. My great, great grandfather , Thomas Cheadle and his son, also Thomas were both boatmen and lived in both Corser Street and Lower Horsley Fields, other sons were listed as working at the Ironworks. According to family folklore the first Thomas, who apparently liked a drink & a bet, fell from a horse outside Newcross Hospital after betting that he could ride any horse! Apparently the location didn’t do him any good ….he died from his injuries.Really great post throughly enjoyed it.

  5. Hi Billy
    I noticed that my 3rd great-grandfather, John Gahagan and his wife Julia also lived Court 2 Ward Street in 1881 very close to your great grandfather, William Henry Worrall in 1881.

  6. Hi Billy I was born in Hallows House, Lea road on 14 11 1941, my parents lived at 26 Birch street a builders yard my father was a carpenter. I have been trying to find photos from that era without luck , I have no memories of that time ,my earliest memories are of London in 1945 and somebody shouting ‘it’s over’. Would love to hear from anybody.

  7. Hi Terry I can’t seem to find a Chappel’s listed as builders in the directories I have. But I have seen quite a few photos of Birch Street circa 60’s and 70’s on The facebook group Wolverhampton in Old Photographs. Check that out Also join our facebook group Lost Wolverhampton there is a possibility of some help on there.

  8. My father, Bill Bates, was the Saw Doctor at Hickman’s Saw Mill, here from 1945 -1958. If anyone has any photos, or recollections, that might be of interest, please get in touch. Thanks.
    Bruce Bates

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