Sunday, 3 June 2012



Smethwick is rumoured to take its name from 'Smith's Workplace' or place where the Smith's live and work. In the Domesday book it was recorded as 'Smedeuuich'. The other possible true meaning of the name from Anglo Saxon origins would indicate "the village on the plain" the word "smethe" meaning smooth and "wic" meaning village.

Smethwick was orginally an Anglo Saxon settlement, and a hamlet in the parish of Harborne. At the time this would have fallen under the county of Staffordshire. There is however a history of metalworking dating back to the 16th century. Records in the Domesday book show the manor of Lichfield being occupied by the bishops and after 1546 the Paget family. Until the end of the 19th century Smethwick must have been quite small. A historian describing its history up to this period referred to the "insignificant hamlet" of Smethwick. Even by 1800 the population was of a mere 1000 inhabitants.

Life was about to change. In 1769 James Brindley brought the canals to Smethwick. Coal from Wednesbury to Birmingham passed through Smethwick and heavy traffic made this an important canal route. Smethwick was rapidly expanding and the arrival of the railways in 1852 put Smethwick firmly on the map. The presence of the canal encouraged Boulton and Watt to build the Soho Foundry on the banks of the canal.

The Soho foundry was just a mile outside Smethwick's boundry but the significant contribution it made to Smethwick is without dispute. Steam engines from the Soho Foundry were exported all over the world. The Birmingham Railway Carriage and Wagon Company operated from Smethwick and Chance's made glass for the famous Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851. Smethwick is well known as having been a world leader in the production of brass, guns and brass as well as engines. The population in Smethwick rose from just over a thousand people in 1801 to over 50,000 by 1901.

Some important firms that were to make Smethwick famous are Tangyes ( 1862 ), Evered & Co. ( 1866 ), The Birmingham Railway Carriage & Wagon Co. ( 1864 ), Henry Mitchell ( 1866 ), and William Butler ( 1866 ) who later founded Mitchells & Butlers Ltd which became part of the Bass Charington Group.

Smethwick became a County Borough on 1st April 1907, then merged with the Borough of Warley in 1966, finally to come under the new Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council in 1974.

During the manufacturing decline of the 60's and 70's Smethwick suffered badly with closures of almost all of the main well known names in industry. Smethwick had to adjust to this change and housing and new facilities were built to replace the industrial wasteland that factory closures had left behind.

Smethwick is now part of the Metropolitan Borough of Sandwell. Parts of Smethwick are still under development but changes can be seen with the shopping centre, leisure centres and parks which provide fishing lakes and recreational activities.

The Sandwell Council Website can be found at

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