The Bull Ring has been the hub of the village for at least 300 years with principal routes leading to the Manor boundary in all directions. As passenger transport progressed from horse drawn to ‘horse powered’ vehicles, the stage coach gave way to the horse drawn tram, quickly followed by the steam tram, electric tram and trolleybus. All these passed through the village centre mirroring the rapid industrialisation of the Black Country. However the name echoes a cruel and barbaric activity from even earlier.
Bull baiting, with dogs, was once a popular ‘sport’ throughout England. The main variation seems to have been the length of rope between the animal's horns and the iron ring of the bull stake. This marked out the size of the ring. Eventually the spectacle was banned in an Act of 1835, but many events took place after this date. The local villages of Lower Gornal and Coseley had rings as did Darlaston and Birmingham.
Arguably one of the best photographs of Sedgley during the Victorian era shows another animal performing in the Bull Ring (under slightly less cruel circumstances), when a 'dancing bear' was captured on film.
The roundabout or traffic island, a French ‘invention’ using the Arc de Triomphe in 1907, became widespread in this country in the 1920s. The Bull Ring's gas lamps, surrounded by cobbles, were probably converted to the new layout in the late 1920s. However the continental free for all at such junctions only stopped in 1966 when ‘give way to the right’ became mandatory thus solving the problem of ‘locking’. In 1967 the trolley bus era ended and with it the removal of the overhead power system that had dominated the area for forty years. An opportunity to rearrange the central flower bed in 1972 saw the return of cobbles as a feature of the new retaining wall. The island has overlooked an ever changing variety of pedestrian crossings, safety railings and lighting columns and since December 2000 it has housed a CCTV camera watching the daily traffic chaos, but also making a safer environment for everyone.
The first photograph, circa 1966, is the 'classic' view looking down the High Street from the direction of Wolverhampton. Often recorded in newspapers and magazines as a typical mid-C20th Black Country shopping scene with the trolley bus, a feature of the Wolverhampton to Dudley route until March 1967, coming round the island from Dudley.
Next, again circa 1966, another 'classic' view down Dudley Street from the direction of Dudley. The Clifton was still showing films - 'The Naked Prey', and next door a branch of the George Mason grocery chain was in business.
The post Christmas snow fall in December 2000 picks out the Red Lion - the Bull Ring's and Sedgley's C18th coaching inn.
Finally a repeat of the first photograph - this time in November 2000. All Saints Church and the Court House hold centre stage, although the lack of cars is not a true reflection of the Bull Ring's weekday chaos. This was Sunday's traffic!