Former Tividale Sewage works 1- where there’s muck….

The former Tividale sewage works area off John’s Lane has a long and murky history, almost as filthy as the solids that once passed through it. This page looks at some of the developments that occurred up to its eventual demise and offloading in around 1988.

It was for many years the immediate southern neighbour to the former rattlechain brickworks pit (rattlechain lagoon), and over time had some changes made to the site layout.

The picture above is from 1950 and shows the now water and phosphorus contaminated former clay pit (rattlechain lagoon). Note that it is one single pool and not the current subdivided two lagoon setup. Waste was being dumped into this one single pool by Albright and Wilson, the division of the pool by causeway path occurred around 1961 with the raising of the water levels- to cover the increasing level of phosphorus waste and to ensure that it did not catch fire.

John’s Lane runs along the top of the shot, and just out of shot, this lane would later be diverted in the 1970’s.

Settling tanks and filter beds are clearly visible on the land now encompassing Callaghan and Wilson Drives.

There appear to be some outhouse buildings near to John’s Lane and 6 main “crap circle” formations. These were an engineers cottage and an office and engine house.

For modern day reference, here is an overlay map of where these tanks would have been located on the current two streets.

Just two years after these pictures, a planning application to Staffordshire county council sought permission for the construction of new filter beds.

This was numbered 1082. A plan of the proposals is shown below.

It is perhaps better to look at this plan side on showing John’s Lane on the left and the lagoon boundary at the top.

The application was submitted by The Upper stour valley main sewerage board, then located in Cradley Heath.

The application was recommended for approval

The following notice appeared in The Warley News Telephone. At this point in time the area had few houses in the vicinity and so was unlikely to receive any objections regarding smells- Oldbury produced enough of its own at this point in history!

A file note in the application gives an interesting insight into the infrastructure in Tividale at the time.

This claims that there were 3620 houses, with a population of 11,800 people. A surface mineral working area of 80 acres and an industrial area of 175 acres.

The application was approved on 1st October 1952.


This image from 1955 shows the changes to the site following the application.

This image from 1961 shows the site as it stood 6 years later.

W01941 Approved with conditions (outline) 27/06/68 Construction of sludge drying beds

Sidney Sheldon, the dodgy brickworks owner who did little with the site to make bricks, had sold part of the land next to the Sewage works to The Upper Main Drainage Authority so that they could use the land for “sludge drying purposes” by 27th June 1968 when this permission was granted.

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It is clear that a deal between Warley Borough Council and Sheldon was at this point in the offing when the Drainage Authority entered the fray. The council recommended  a seven year period of the dumping of excrement on this land.

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A letter from Arthur Wright of The Upper Main Drainage Authority to the town clerk of the council once again evidences how the Chelmarsh conman was always at the centre of obtaining the best price for land which he had absolutely no intention of using for brickmaking purposes- as granted in application 216.

Sheldon was approached by the authority in February 1967, yet it was obviously known to him that the council were also intent of buying the land also. Was he just trying to hold out to get  the best price?

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In the application referred to, Wright appears oblivious to the multiple applications previously submitted, which is difficult to believe given the authorities presence in the area for some years. Sheldon would have course known all about previous granted applications- granted under false purposes.

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The form B submitted shows the lucky recipient of the cash sale for allowing human waste to be dumped.

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It is extremely doubtful that condition 3 regards “reinstatement of the land” was carried out, except that is covering it over with foundry sand.

In 1971 another planning application was approved by Warley Borough council numbered W4352. Construction of sludge tank, humus tank and dewatering machinery house.

The application details that the storage sludge tank measured 30ft in diameter, the humus tanks 20ft square.

The observations note that the site is adjacent to a recent housing development and warns about the prospect of flies. It also ominously predicts the eventual “abandonment” of the works.

The development was approved on 24th February 1971.

This is how the site looked in 1971 and it appears from this picture that these structures were under construction.

It should be noted that the approved sludge drying beds in application W01941 lie outside the area of the current Wilson Drive on land abandoned by subsequent so called “reclamation”. That is another story of how money followed muck as well as houses built on shit land.

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2006 Barratt Homes building their houses on the former sewage works.