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Reminder of Sedgley's dark past

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 27, 2014

By Dan Shaw

Edwardian postcard of Sedgley Bull Ring

Edwardian postcard of Sedgley Bull Ring

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YOU may not recognise this Black Country scene, it has altered so much in the 100 years or so since this picture was taken, but the church spire may give you a clue.

It is the Bull Ring in Sedgley and this old postcard comes to us from Arthur Gunter of Merry Hill, Wolverhampton.

The postcard was produced by the Bilston firm of John Price and Sons in the early 1900s. It shows an open-top tram in front of Egginton's pharmacy, as it was then, and the Courthouse.

The street layout has been greatly altered over the years, most notably in the late 1920s when a traffic island was first installed.

The name alludes to the original purpose of the site – a place where the cruel sport of bull baiting took place.

Since medieval times bulls would be tethered to a stake and then set upon by dogs. The size of the bull ring was determined by the length of rope that tied the bull to the central stake.

The sport was outlawed in 1835 and the following description of bull baiting elsewhere in the Black Country was first published in November 1833:

"At Rowley Regis wake a two-year old bull was worried in the most brutal manner. Either on the Monday or Tuesday one of this bull's horns was broken off, and the following day the other shared the same fate, and a portion of tongue was also torn out of his mouth by one of the dogs. On the Thursday he was again dragged to the stake and worried for hours, the whole of his head and face being mangled and covered with blood, in a manner too shocking to describe. Two iron horns had been also riveted on the broken stumps, and the bellowing and groans of the wretched beast, while undergoing this barbarous operation, are said to have been truly appalling."

It seems the bull's torture went on for several days.

Looking at the tranquil scene in this Edwardian postcard, or today's busy roundabout, gives little indication of the bloodshed that once took place at this site, the only reminder that survives is in the name.

There were bull rings at Coseley, Lower Gornal and Darlaston and the term survives in road names in Halesowen and Willenhall.

Have you any historic pictures of the Black Country to share? Please contact dshaw@blackcountrybugle.co.uk or write in to our editorial address.

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