Darlaston (St. Lawrence)
DARLASTON (St. Lawrence), a parish, in the union of Walsall, S. division of the hundred of Offlow and of the county of Stafford, 1 mile (N. W. by W.) from Wednesbury; containing 8244 inhabitants. This place is situated in the heart of a mining and manufacturing district, and comprises 901a. 32p. of arable and meadow land, of level surface, with a calcareous soil; the ground under tillage producing good crops of grain, particularly wheat. From the extensive mining operations carried on, the scenery presents few pleasing features. The mines include several strata of coal: the Ten-yard or Thick coal is found on the south-west side, and gradually crops out at the top as it approaches about the centre of the parish; all the different measures lying below, are found and worked throughout the remaining part. There are also the whole of the measures of ironstone known as the New Mines; the Balls and Blue Flatts are particularly fine, and on this account the iron made in the district is of a remarkably strong body. Under about a third of the parish, on the north side, is an excellent bed of freestone, of 25 yards' thickness, now wrought, but not so extensively as formerly, and suitable for the inside work of houses; and on the south-west, at Moxley, is a vein of red sand and loam, from 20 to 30 yards thick, used for building and other purposes, and at the various iron-works throughout the district for making the bottoms of heating-furnaces.
The manufactures are numerous, comprising a great variety of hardware goods, principally gun-locks, screws of every description, latches, bolts, coach-springs, and saddlery articles, all of the most superior quality, and made largely for the London trade. The iron and steel works of Messrs. Bills and Mills are celebrated for the production, besides other wares, of rolled iron, in an immense variety of shapes to suit the various purposes of manufacturers, and also for the production of the beautifully scrolled or figured iron from which gentlemen's sporting guns are made; their own smelting-works prepare the pig-iron. The iron-works and foundry of Messrs. Addenbrooke and Company are very considerable; and Messrs. Richardson and Company have a large establishment, called the Soho works, for the manufacture of gas-tubes, on a new principle, which is secured by a patent. The Birmingham canal passes on the north side of the parish to Walsall, &c.; and the Liverpool and Birmingham railway also runs through it at the east end. The town is lighted with gas from the extensive works at West Bromwich, about four miles distant. It is chiefly inhabited by persons engaged in the mines and other works carried on in the immediate neighbourhood; the artisans are distinguished for their cleverness, and iron appears to be as ductile in their hands as clay is in the potter's.
The living is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £3. 11. 5½., and in the gift of the Trustees of the Rev. C. Simeon. The tithes have been commuted for £250; there is a rectory-house, with 18 acres of glebe. The church is a plain brick building, erected in 1806, upon the site of a very ancient stone edifice; the tower of the old church still remains, surmounted by a tall and graceful spire. The ecclesiastical district of St. George, which comprises more than one-third of the whole parish, was constituted in October, 1844, under the act of 6th and 7th Victoria, cap. 37; the benefice is in the patronage of the Crown and the Bishop of Lichfield, alternately. In 1845 another district, named Moxley, was formed out of Darlaston, Bilston, and Wednesbury, and the living of this is in the same patronage. There are four places of worship for Wesleyans, of which three were built by subscription, and one by Mr. John Wilkes, a native and resident; and the Independents, Primitive Methodists, and Ranters, have places of worship also. A national school, a British and foreign school, and a parochial school, have been established; and in connexion with the church and the various meeting-houses are Sunday schools, containing 1700 children.
The pit banks are in numerous places strewn with pieces of pine and fern, from six inches to three and four feet long, petrified, and flattened by pressure, but with the indentations of the branches and stems well preserved. In a freestone-quarry was discovered in November, 1843, a fossil-tree imbedded in the solid rock, 50 feet below the surface, and lying horizontally, with ten yards of rock beneath it; the trunk was as thick as the body of a man, and from it sprang three arms or branches. This rare and interesting petrifaction drew vast numbers of visiters to the spot, for whose accommodation convenient stairs were made for descent to the quarry. At Radley Gutter is a mineral spring. Darlaston was one of the earliest places in which Mr. Wesley propounded the religious principles of his sect; and on one occasion, when he was hunted from Walsall, an inhabitant of the town preserved his life by a stratagem from the violence of the mob.