Black Country Bugle
Historic canal cottage saved from devastation
MANY people passing through Walsall canal basin or taking in a coffee at the restaurants there will be familiar with this scene of an old cottage which has been turned into an eaterie, but was once known as Wharfingers Cottage.
For many years in the late 1970s and 1980s it was left derelict and stripped of much of its internal doors and walls. Indeed, I photographed the inside during this period and it had been left to decay but still had some of the original furnishings in it, such as the wooden store room and metal on the windows – these pictures of mine have never been shown till now.
In those days before the Art Gallery and the other modernisations the canal was just a hole with water in it behind some billboards and that was how it remained for many years.
This represented a sad time for the Walsall Town Arm of the canal which was closed to navigation due in part to the discovery of what can only be described as underground geological conditions, probably subsidence brought about by mining.
Some time in the mid to late 1980s Walsall Council attempted to redevelop this area known as Town Wharf.
The arm had to be drained, filled in and rebuilt upon, but this development was halted when limestone caverns were found close to the canal. This led to plans being cancelled and acts of vandalism as well as fly tipping causing a blight on the area of such historic and old buildings.
Over the years calls came for the area to be regenerated and eventually things changed for the better. One would never think of the damage and degeneration which used to be where the canal basin now is, just by looking at it.
The name Wharfinger comes from the person who was in control of the wharf and in the last century when Walsall canal basin was receiving cargoes from narrow boats he would occupy the cottage and oversee supplies which would be brought into the town on the canals. Its proximity to the railway station would also seem to indicate that fragile goods would be exchanged from boat to rail reasonably easily.
Other similar cottages around the country are more than 200 years old and there are examples in London and elsewhere of such buildings used for inland waterways.
The cottage was repaired and turned into a functional building with a mezzanine and upper floor, but then was accidentally demolished, lying dormant for around five years before it was turned into a functional restaurant. The more recent photograph shows how it has changed.