Old School on brink of

Black Country Bugle - - GAIL MIDDLETON - By JOHN WORKMAN

IT is a sad fact that once an old build­ing has seen its best years and be­gins to creak a lit­tle at the seams, it is far more eco­nom­i­cal to close it down and de­mol­ish it rather than spend money on us­ing stick­ing plas­ter and a lit­tle T.L.C.

The Black Coun­try is un­for­tu­nately los­ing its long stand­ing char­ac­ter with the de­struc­tion of so many old build­ings, but there are peo­ple ready to fight for the cause to try and save these un­will­ing vic­tims de­spite hav­ing the odds stacked against them.

Barry Hodg­son, Blue Plaques Sec­re­tary with the Wolver­hamp­ton Civic & His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety, is a long term be­liever in try­ing to save build­ings that add char­ac­ter to an area and a firm op­po­nent of sani­tis­ing neigh­bour­hoods in the way of progress. Here is what he has to say about the most re­cent lo­cally Grade II build­ing that is un­der threat:

“Old School stands on the Dudley Road in Blak­en­hall where it has served a use­ful pur­pose, once as a school and lat­terly as the head­quar­ters of the Blak­en­hall Ac­tion Com­mu­nity Fo­rum, for 145 years. My own or­gan­i­sa­tion, the Wolver­hamp­ton Civic & His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety meet at the Old School on a reg­u­lar ba­sis and have done for many years, as have 30 or so other groups. Ef­fec­tive from Novem­ber 2 all the groups con­cerned have been given 28 days to quit the premises and we would like to try and re­verse the de­ci­sion.”


Un­der the 1870 Ed­u­ca­tion Act, the Wolver­hamp­ton School Board com­mis­sioned the con­struc­tion of six schools and the Dudley Road School was the sec­ond board school in Wolver­hamp­ton, open­ing in 1873. This is why the build­ing plays such an im­por­tant part in Wolver­hamp­ton’s ed­u­ca­tional his­tory. Wolver­hamp­ton was one of the first bor­oughs to adopt the pro­vi­sions of the 1870 Ed­u­ca­tion Act with the town coun­cil be­ing par­tic­u­larly con­cerned that ed­u­ca­tional stan­dards in Eng­land were fall­ing be­hind their com­mer­cial com­peti­tors of the time, Ger­many and the USA. The Dudley Road Boys’ School be­came Dudley Road Se­nior Mixed School in 1931, with many of the new stu­dents com­ing from Dudley Road, All Saints’ and St Luke’s schools. The Se­nior Mixed School closed in 1938 and the Dudley Road Girls’ School opened at the same time.

The whole site was fi­nally closed as an educ­tional fa­cil­ity in 1986 and re­opened as a com­mu­nity cen­tre run by Wolver­hamp­ton MBC in 1990. The Old School was lo­cally listed in 2001 and has since been un­der the man­age­ment of the BACF.


The build­ing has more or less re­tained its Vic­to­rian fea­tures, al­though work car­ried out in the 1880s re­moved an an­nexe at the front which was re­placed with a new up­per storey added to the left wing to match the orig­i­nal right wing.


A blue plaque was erected on the school wall in 2000 to com­mem­o­rate one of the school’s most fa­mous sons, Ernest F. G. Cox. Born in 1883 Ernest Frank Guelph Cox was ed­u­cated at the Old School be­tween 1890 and 1897 and be­came an elec­tri­cal and me­chan­i­cal engi­neer and iron­i­cally a marine sal­vage ex­pert, de­spite his roots be­ing firmly planted in land­locked Wolver­hamp­ton. Be­tween 1924 and 1931 his Cox and Danks Ship­break­ing Co. suc­cess­fully raised 35 ships of the Ger­man fleet that had been scut­tled at Gut­ter Sound, Scapa Flow, in 1919. He even­tu­ally sold his busi­ness to the Al­loa Ship­break­ing Com­pany. Ernest died in 1959 aged 76. It is there­fore a fact, scratch the sur­face of any old build­ing and its his­tory will come to the fore and that is why Barry Hodg­son is so ve­he­mently op­posed to the clo­sure of the Old School:

“Lo­cal his­to­rian Billy Howe,” Barry told us, “has long ar­gued that too many old build­ings have al­ready been de­mol­ished in the town. In this case it is the only surv­ing ex­am­ple of a Wolver­hamp­ton Board School.” Barry has promised to keep Bu­gle read­ers up to date with de­vel­op­ments, but in the mean­time he urges peo­ple to voice their opin­ion.

Dudley Road School build­ings Novem­ber 1st 2018. (Below) The Old School in 1885

Dudley Road schools

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