By the 1860s railways had become the most successful carriers of goods traffic, and a wide network had come into existence. Most of the railways carrying the freight generated by the mines and factories of the industrial revolution belonged to a few big companies. One of these was the Midland Railway Company, whose network was concentrated in the east and north midlands, but it also had a line through Birmingham to Gloucester, and there were some Midland rails in the Black Country.
The Midland Railway was the principal carrier of goods between the west and east midlands, but the route was inconvenient and involved running trains over other companies’ lines, so by 1870 the idea of making a railway to connect the Midland’s Black Country network at Walsall to their main line at Water Orton was mooted.
An independent company was formed, the Wolverhampton, Walsall and Midland Junction Railway Company, a route was surveyed, and a Bill was presented to Parliament to authorise the line. This caused consternation in Sutton as the chosen route passed through Sutton Park. The strong feeling in the town was that the Park was the pride of Sutton, and should not be despoiled by a railway, symbol of sordid industry. Alternative routes were proposed but these also passed through the park via the Longmoor valley, and so the town authorities, the Warden and Society, were urged to oppose the Bill in the House of Lords.
The Warden and Society promised to oppose the Bill, but in the event no action was taken, and the Bill was passed. Suttonians felt betrayed, particularly as it soon transpired that the majority of the members of the Warden and Society were either shareholders in the WWandMJR or were working for the company as solicitors or bankers.
The Midland Railway took over the WW and MJR and the line through the park was opened in 1879. But the perfidy of the corporation in breaking their promise to oppose the railway, apparently to serve their private interests, was strongly resented. In 1885, when the Government gave the town a new Charter, few regretted the passing of the old Warden and Society. (Based on research by David Bramham)