TODAY Blackpole Road is an area covered in housing, running parallel with the Railway line that leaves Shrub Hill station and passes through the long tunnel near Brickfields Park.

The term Blackpole in many parts of Britain refers to an area of pools, filled with peaty water. This would give the water its black colouring.

However the soil in this area is not peaty. We know the area outside of Worcester was quite wooded, so these pools may have sat in the shade of trees or filled with leaf litter creating dark pools of water.


Blackpole Road running from the bottom left of the photograph

Blackpole Road running from the bottom left of the photograph


The road was originally a small lane heading out of the city. A couple of small cottages and farms ran along this road, including Weavers Farm. Most of Weavers Farm land disappeared below the housing estates, car dealerships and the 1980s Blackpole pub.

The railways arrived in Worcester in the 1850s, and it was normal for houses to appear near them.

By the start of the 20th century at least 15 new houses are recorded being built near to the Brickfields railway bridge.

These were occupied by railway workers, along with an assortment of occupations including market gardeners.

The ‘Great Shell Scandal’ at the start of the Great War, led to a number of munitions factories being constructed across Britain. The locations had to be remote and with good transport links.

In 1916, farmland near the railway and canal was chosen off Blackpole Lane and the Kings Norton Metal Company was given the order to begin work on Cartridge Factory No.3.

Work on these factory buildings was extremely quick and some of these buildings still stand today on the industrial estate.

In May 1917, the workforce was more than 80 per cent female.


Helen Harding dressed as a munitions worker in 1916

Helen Harding dressed as a munitions worker in 1916


Production began with around three million cartridges being made every week. By the end of the war 2,462 women worked in the factory out of a total of 3,235 employees. They were now producing nine million cartridges a week! 

After the war Cadbury bought the factory and converted it for their use.

The canal network allowed Cadbury to move the ingredients they required along the canal from Bourneville.

Cadbury were committed to employee welfare and built a small estate of bungalows nearby. These also included a cricket pitch, pavilion and a modern canteen building.

By the 1930s more houses were being built, as the city slums were cleared around Copenhagen Street and Quay Street. The Blackpole Road was filling up with these new houses. However farmland was still common across the area as the Second World War broke out in September 1939.

The Cadbury factory reverted back to war use and became Royal Ordnance Factory No.20. In the month of April 1943, 12.8 million 303 tracer rounds and 1.9 million 9mm rounds were produced at the Blackpole factory.


The Archdales factory in Worcester

The Archdales factory in Worcester


Nearby several engineering works also appeared. One of the most famous, also connected with war work, was Archdales Engineering, who had contracts with British Small Arms, Kinloch & Co and the Royal Arsenal.

Further housing appeared because of these new industries.

With these important factories and railway sidings, a halt for the workers was constructed and a series of Home Guard defences set up to protect them.

The railway bridge near Brickfields became a strong point with trenches dug in the gardens on the corner of Blackpole road and Brickfields. An anti-tank gun and barricades would prevent German vehicles from turning into the Blackpole area. Sadly by the 1970s most of these companies began to decline, leaving the council to begin looking at rejuvenating and repurposing the area.

From that moment on, after a series of projects, housing estates appeared where cottages once stood, industrial units made use of the munitions works and in more recent years the Blackpole and Elgar Retail Parks were built where Archdales and Wards once stood. The lane was changed forever.