- Walsall Worthies
The Bus Stops Here: St. Paulís Bus Station
Walsall Corporation operated its first bus service on 23
May 1915. The initial route ran from Walsall to Hednesford via Cannock, but
this was just the beginning of an extensive network that, built up over many
years, was to link the towns and villages of Walsall Metropolitan Borough
into an effective system of public transport.
On 1st January 1904, Walsall Corporation had taken over the running of all
tramway routes in the Borough from the South Staffordshire Tramways (Lessee)
Company Limited, which operated within the urban Black Country.
After World War One all municipal transport operations increasingly realised
the great flexibility of and economic advantages of buses compared to trams.
On 1st April 1928, the first tramway replacement by bus took place, and on
3rd September 1933, Walsall Corporation ceased to operate tramcars,
replacing them with electric trolley buses on the Bloxwich route and the
joint Walsall to Wolverhampton service.
By 1934 Walsall Corporation ran 97 motor buses and 19 trolley buses. Bus
terminals included Wolverhampton (trolley buses), Cannock and Hednesford, as
well as Pleck via Pleck Road, situated on Townend Bank. For Wednesbury,
Darlaston via Pleck. West Bromwich, Caldmore and Palfrey circular Walstead
Road routes, the terminus was located in Bradford Place, as it is today.
Bloxwich and Leamore trolley bus routes terminated on The Bridge, running
via Townend Bank and Park Street. Bus terminals for Brownhills, Sutton
Coldfield, Lichfield, Birmingham Road, Paddock circular, Bloxwich and
Blakenall, Cannock, Chasetown, Chase Terrace, Burntwood, Hednesford via
Pelsall, Norton Canes and Heath Hayes were situated in Darwall Street or
With Birchills Bus Depot approximately one and a half miles distance
from Walsall town centre, the Transport Manager became aware of dead
non-profit mileage with buses operating morning and evening rush hour
services. In 1933, surplus land in Darwall Street between the Post Office
and the Central Fire Station was rented to park twelve buses. Drivers and
conductors travelled on the Bloxwich route to book off duty and deposit
takings. This was a well-planned exercise by the management, stressing the
need for economy during the 1930s depression years.
Despite the uncertain employment situation at this time, the Government of
the day helped relieve unemployment by supporting new council housing
estates within the borough, leading to expansion of new and extended bus
routes. This required more buses so the Council and Transport Committee
agreed to build a central Bus Station.
Fortunately, the old Blue Coat School in St. Paul's Street was moving to
new, modern premises recently built in Springhill Road. The old school site
was chosen for the new St. Paulís Bus Station. On 5 February 1935 the
Transport and Town Planning Committee met to consider plans for the layout
of the Bus Station. It was also decided that the Corporation Transport
offices situated between the Imperial Cinema in Darwall Street and the
Midland Bank on The Bridge would be closed, with the new offices
incorporated within the new Bus Station.
The Bus Station lengths were to run from North to South. In addition, the
erection of a garage was proposed over the Bus Station, and it was suggested
that Walsall-bound trolley buses be diverted via the Wisemore from Stafford
Street to The Bridge then depart via Park Street. However, these latter two
options never materialised.
The new Corporation Transport Offices built adjacent to the Priory Hotel
were substantial and luxurious, with a canopy on the frontage, a clock on
the roof, modern toilets and an Inspectors Department. There was also a
Parcel Office at ground level. Situated above were the General Manager and
Assistant Manager's offices, plus the Wages and Financial departments
responsible for all transport employees. These offices cost £16,378 plus
£365 for the canopy.
Birchills Depot continued to deal with Conductor's ticket supplies and
paying in of takings after daily schedules. Buses began to use the loading
bays even before the new Transport Offices were occupied in July 1935, and
prior to the official opening on 23 September 1937.
All buses entered the new Bus Station via Hatherton Road, which was a dual
carriageway, with surplus buses parking along its length to St. Paul's
Street. Buses then departed onto The Bridge then via Lower Bridge Street for
their destinations. In 1950 some properties in lower Stafford Street, by the
junction into Wisemore, were demolished to enable Bloxwich and Leamore
trolley buses to divert, via St. Paul's Street, to terminate via a circle
opposite St. Paul's Church and then use a surplus northerly-facing loading
This magnificent new Bus Station continued to serve the town for many years,
with occasional modifications to the layout and construction of the bus
shelters, and eventually, with the changing of ownership of bus services to
other operators, Walsall lost its own Corporation Transport system, but that
is another story.
Today, the once smart 1930s Corporation Transport Offices building stands
still, dilapidated and only partly used, awaiting a new life, perhaps in a
totally different mode of operation. The old Bus Station itself was swept
away in the early 21st century by a futuristic new St. Paulís Bus Station
officially opened on 2nd August 2001, under the auspices of CENTRO, which
today manages much of the public transport infrastructure in the West
Midlands. This striking and controversial new building, sheltering many
buses and passengers alike under one roof, has received both approbation and
opprobrium, but one thing is certain. St. Paulís Bus Station remains as
important a hub of public transport for the modern Walsall Metropolitan
Borough as its predecessor was all those years ago.
This article is based on ĎWalsall Corporation Transport Ė St. Paulís Bus
Stationí by Jack Haddock.