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130-year-old hall still going strong

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: June 13, 2014

  • (Above) The Drill Hall circa 1900. (Below) Richardson Hall complete with brand new commemorative plaques, June 2014

  • Picture courtesy of Betty and Terry Richards. Ladies Keep Fit Class in Richardson Hall circa 1960

  • Above and left, the new stone plaques now completely legible

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IN this ever changing world of bland, modern edifices and incongruity, the village of Wordsley, standing on the very frontier of the Black Country, has several buildings within its parish that have survived the passing of more than a century, and as well as fulfilling a useful purpose in the local community, they have also enabled Wordsley to retain that all important ingredient, character.

On June 5, 1884, one hundred and thirty years ago, Captain W G Webb laid the foundation stone at the Drill Hall in Wordsley which became the headquarters for D Company of the 1st Volunteer South Staffordshire Regiment. It was at a time when the British Army was involved in conflicts right across the globe as the country sought to expand its empire. The South Staffordshire Regiment was formed in 1881 and volunteers who attended the Drill Hall all those years ago may have seen action in Egypt in 1885 as part of the unsuccessful siege of Khartoum.

In 1905 the D Coy HQ moved to Brierley Hill, and in 1907 William Haden Richardson of Glasgow purchased the old Drill Hall and after it had been updated he presented it to the village in memory of his sister Martha Haden Richardson of Wordsley Hall who had died the previous year, and since then the Drill Hall has been known as Richardson Hall.

In the 1970s Dudley Borough Council had the hall refurbished and it is now administered by Wordsley Community Association. In recent weeks the foundation stone and an additional plaque placed at the front of the building in 1907, both of which had corroded terribly from the impact of the weather and polluted air, were removed and brand new stones have been installed, hopefully to last another 100 years.

Local resident Mary Skidmore has furnished us with some additional information about the Richardson Hall. "At the time of the building of the old Drill Hall, my mother's aunt and uncle, Agnes (nee Elwell) and Fred Warren lived at the Old Cat Inn (opposite) which was then owned by George Elwell, father of Agnes, who also owned other public houses locally including the Stweponey where his family lived.

"The plot of land where the Drill Hall was built had previously been the garden of the Old Cat Inn, and Agnes and Fred who had a little boy were asked if the child could lay some coins in the footings, which he duly did, probably some fine Victorian pennies. There will be a short re-dedication service of the replacement commemoration stones at the front of the Richardson Hall on Saturday June 14."

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