The original centre of Willenhall village was at the junction of London Road (then called Weeping Lane) and St. James Lane (then named Newton Lane). It is said that the old spelling of Willenhall was “Wilihale” meaning “willow corner”. The land was given by Earl Leofric to St. Mary’s monastery. In 1279 the main tenant of the Priory was the Willenhall family, who were the principle tenants until the fifteenth century.
After the Dissolution of the Monasteries the land reverted to the Crown and was granted to Sir Richard Lee who sold it to John Hales and it continued in the Hales family until the eighteenth century.
St. James Lane was named after an early chapel dedicated to St. James which stood about 300 metres to the north of St. James Lane in the vicinity of Dunmore Avenue. The site of the chapel was later part of Chapel Farm. The farm was demolished to create the Chace National Service Hostel in 1941 as temporary housing for war workers from around the country. This later served as temporary housing for people seeking permanent homes in the city. The area has now been redeveloped as a modern residential estate.
The Folly Lane Club is the remains of an old coaching Inn called the Seven Stars on the old turnpike road to London. The inn became the Seven Stars Farm and later gave its name to the Seven Stars Industrial Estate to the north.
There were three main houses in the historic village. The manor house of the Willenhall family was known as Manor Farm or Willenhall Hall. It stood on the present Remembrance Road approximately opposite the Haggard Centre. Willenhall House was built in 1831 with four acres of land near to Willenhall Lane and The Chase was built in 1897 by Dr Charles Webb Iliffe, a Coventry MP and County Coroner. It later became the Chase Hotel.
The Willenhall district historically included Toll Bar End. The original toll gate stood at the junction of London Road and Brandon Lane, outside the city boundary. In 1837 the charge was one penny per horse and six pence for a vehicle.
The district was largely agricultural until the Second World War but there was a brickworks and many people were employed at the nearby Binley Colliery to the north.
The major housing development of Willenhall took place beginning in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The Willenhall Wood Estate, consisting of over 1000 houses, was the first estate in the city built on the Radburn layout, pioneered in the USA in the 1930s. With this layout houses were built facing greens and footpaths, with roads and garages at the rear. It won a national design award in 1960.
The Church of St. John the Divine was built in 1955 – 1957 to the design of Sir Basil Spence. Similar Churches were built in Wood End (St. Chad’s) and Tile Hill (St. Oswold’s).