Walsall is a large industrial town located north-west of Birmingham, England. The town forms part of the West Midlands conurbation and is sometimes described as part of the Black Country.
The name Walsall is believed to refer to the Celts and originate from the words "Walh halh", meaning "valley of the Celtic speakers". Walsall is first referenced as 'Walesho' in 1002.
A village of 2,000 people in the 16th century, Walsall was transformed into a town of over 86,000 in approximately 200 years by the Industrial Revolution. During this time the town manufactured diverse products including saddles, chains, buckles and plated ware, while limestone quarrying and coal mining also proved lucrative.
The town is the traditional home of the English saddle manufacture industry and manufactures the Queen's handbags, giving it an internationally renowned leather trade. Other industries include iron and brass founding, small hardware, plastics, electronics, chemicals and aircraft parts, and the town's history of industry has earned it the nickname "the town of a hundred trades".
Walsall's location in Central England and its proximity to the M6 have boosted its investment appeal, and the town underwent modernisation in the 1970s with construction of a new town centre. It is currently undergoing a new era of urban regeneration, with many brownfields being replaced with modern houses, apartments and offices and further plans to redevelop St Matthew's Quarters, the Old Square Shopping Centre and the 800 year-old Historic Market.
Attractions include art galleries such as the New Art Gallery Walsall and the Discovery Gallery, and local landmark Barr Beacon, reportedly the highest point on its latitude west of Russia's Ural Mountains.
Another draw is the Illuminations, an annual event since 1951 where up to sixty thousand bulbs light up Walsall Arboretum. However, despite attracting audiences of up to 250,000, the Illuminations will not be taking place in 2009, 2010 and 2011.