Bilston, a market-town and a township in Wolverhampton parish, Staffordshire. In Domesday Book it is called Billestune, and at different periods has borne the names of "Bylstune," "Bylston," "Bilson," and "Bilston." The town is within Wolverhampton borough, 2½ miles SE of Wolverhampton town, 2¼ NW of Wednesbury, and 139 from London. It has two stations on the G.W.R., one at Pipes Meadow in the centre of the town, and the other at Coseley Street, on the West Midland branch, to the west of the town. The L. & N.W.R. has a station at Ettingshall Road, about a mile SW. Area of the town and township, 1867 acres; population, 23,453. The place was at one time a royal manor of little note. It continued till a modern period to possess only a few private houses, and it burst into importance and rapidly increased as a centre of the hardware trade. The town occupies an elevated position, and extends for over a mile. Cholera attacked 8568 of the inhabitants, and carried off 742 in 1832, and 723 in 1849, and so roused attention to sanitary measures as to occasion much improvement. The town-hall is a good building in the Italian style, erected in 1872; it contains the offices of the local board, and also a large free library and reading-room. The cemetery is situated about a mile from the town, was opened in 1855 at a cost of about £5000. It comprises upwards of 9 acres, and has one mortuary chapel of blue brick, stone facings, and a small spire, and is under the control of the local board. There are a temperance hall and a police station. Baths and wash-houses were built in 1853 at a cost of £2700. A new market-hall was opened in 1892 and is lighted with electric light. Bilston contains three ecclesiastical parishes in the diocese of Lichfield; St Leonard, of remote antiquity, but its legal constitution of disputed date, St Mary the Virgin, and St Luke. Populations respectively, 7862, 3891, and 4054. The living of St Leonard is a vicarage; net value, £750. St Leonard's Church, at the north-western extremity of the town, originally very ancient, was rebuilt in 1827 and restored in 1883; is a large Grecian edifice with low tower, and contains a splendid altar-piece. The living of St Mary the Virgin is a vicarage; gross value, £250 with residence. Patron, the Bishop of Lichfield. St Mary's Church, in Oxford Street, was built in 1830, and is in the Perpendicular style, with a fine tower. The living of St Luke is a vicarage; net value, £300 with residence. St Luke's Church, in Market Street, was built in 1852, is in the Early English style, with a tower and spire. There is also a Mission church in Wolverhampton Street, belonging to St Leonard's parish, and a church at Bradley, a suburb of Bilston and a separate ecclesiastical parish. There are chapels for Roman Catholics, Baptists, Congregationalists, Wesleyans, New Connexion Methodists, and Primitive Methodists. The town is governed by the Bilston Township Commissioners. It has a head post office, market-hall, two banks, and two weekly newspapers, and is a seat of petty sessions. Markets are held on Mondays and Saturdays. Great trade is carried on in coal, iron, and stone from the neighbourhood; metal-casting in all its branches, and the manufacture of japanned and fancy goods in vast variety are highly prominent; and brass-working, bell-making, mailing, and ropemaking also are carried on. The hardware articles produced are too numerous to be mentioned, but include trays, waiters, iron buckets, hurdles, safes, keys, buckles, locks, bridle-bits, screws, chains, boilers, and weighing-machines.
The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.
|Poor Law union||Wolverhampton|
Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.
The Cemetery, opened in 1855, at a total cost of about £5,000, about 1 mile from the town, on the Wolverhampton road, comprises upwards of 11 acres, containing a mortuary chapel of blue brick with stone facings and a small spire.
The register of baptisms and marriages for St. Leonard dates from the year 1684; burials, 1716. Owing to litigation as to the ecclesiastical status of Bilston, marriages were intermitted in the parish church between 1754 and 1841.
The separate register for St. Mary's dates from the year 1848; the register from 1830 up to 1848 is kept at the parish church, St. Leonard's.
The register of St. Luke's dates from the year 1849.
Church of England
Mission church of St. Michael, Wolverhampton Street
St. Leonard, Church Street (parish church)
The church, originally an edifice of considerable antiquity, is mentioned in letters patent granted in 1445 for a chantry in Bilston to be dedicated to St. Leonard; this chantry was not, however, actually founded till 1458 (36 Henry VI.), when several residents granted large tracts of land for its support, and amongst these 20 acres called. "Le Prieste Fields," now Priestfield. In 1536 an Act was passed for the dissolution of all religious houses whose income was under £200 yearly, in pursuance of which the King's Commissioners made the following return: -" Examined into the state of the Chantrie of St. Leonard's, called Erdington's Chantrie, Bilston; its income is very small, and the priest guilty of unlawful practices; we have therefore commanded that it be dissolved:" the church goods, ornaments and bells, one of which bore the following inscription: "I am callede ye Curfue belle, I ryngen at VIII. or more To send ye alle to bedde And wake ye up at IV." were consequently sold by the Commissioners, and years then elapsed before any provision was made for the spiritual instruction of the inhabitants, but in 1557 (4 Queen Mary) the church was re-opened, when Clement Perrye, a native of the town, was appointed curate: from that date several additions and alterations were made to the fabric, and in 1826 the church was rebuilt at a cost of £9,000: it is now a plain brick building in the Classic style, consisting of chancel and nave, western porch and a western tower of stone, surmounted by a cupola and containing a clock and 6 bells, cast in 1745: there is a painted altar-piece, now suspended near the font, representing "Our Saviour Blessing Little Children:" in 1882-3 the church was re-cased in cement, the tower rebuilt in stone and the approaches restored, at a cost of £1,777: the interior was also entirely renovated and some alterations made at a further cost of more than £2,000; the stained east window is a memorial to Edward Pugh esq. who in 1884 purchased the advowson and transferred the patronage to five trustees: a brass lectern was presented in 1877 by John Mason esq. in memory of his wife: the Rev. Richard Ames, a former incumbent, is surmised to be buried in the thickness of the tower wall: there are sittings for about 1,000 persons.
St. Luke's chapel of ease, Market Street
The church of St. Luke, in Market street, is a building of stone in the Early English style, erected in 1852 at a cost of £4,825, including the vicarage house and school, and consists of chancel with organ chamber, nave, aisles, south porch and tower on the south side with octagonal spire containing one bell: the interior of the church was thoroughly restored in 1884 at a cost of £500; a new font was given by the father of the Rev. W. Prosser M.A., vicar 1880-1911, whose family also gave the organ, and a carved oak lectern has been presented by the widow of a late incumbent: there are several memorial windows, and sittings for 450 persons.
St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford Street
The church of St. Mary the Virgin, in Oxford street, erected in 1830 by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, out of what is known as the "Million grant," is an edifice of stone, in the Perpendicular style, consisting of chancel, nave, aisles, west porch and an embattled eastern tower with pinnacles and containing a clock and one bell: the interior was redecorated and improved in 1866 and restored in 1890-1 at a cost of £1,400, and the organ enlarged in 1883 at a cost of £150: the interior was again re-decorated in 1908 at a cost of £200: there are 1,000 sittings.
Baptist Chapel, Wood Street
Strict Baptist Chapel, Broad Street
Congregational Chapel, Oxford Street
The Congregational chapel in Oxford street, founded in 1760, will seat 520 persons.
Congregational Town Mission Chapel, Chapel Street
The Congregational Mission chapel in Chapel street, erected in 1862, will seat 270 persons.
Primitive Methodist Chapel, High Street
Primitive Methodist Chapel, Salop Street
Primitive Methodist Chapel, Colds Lane
Primitive Methodist Chapel, Daisy Bank
United Methodist Chapel, Oxford Street
Wesleyan Chapel, Church Street
Directories & Gazetteers
We have transcribed the entry for Bilston from the following:
- Samuel Lewis' A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858. (Bilston)
Land and Property
A full transcript of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Staffordshire is online.
Online maps of Bilston are available from a number of sites:
- Bing (Current Ordnance Survey maps).
- Google Streetview.
- National Library of Scotland. (Old maps)
- old-maps.co.uk (Old Ordnance Survey maps to buy).
- Streetmap.co.uk (Current Ordnance Survey maps).
- A Vision of Britain through Time. (Old maps)
Newspapers and Periodicals
The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Staffordshire newspapers online: