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Penkridge is a market town and ancient parish in Staffordshire, England with a population of 7,836 (Census 2001). Many locals refer to it as a village, although it has a long history as an ecclesiastical and commercial centre. Its main distinction in the Middle Ages was as the site of an important collegiate church, which still dominates the skyline. It has continued to prosper mainly because of its favourable location on regional transport links.
Penkridge lies on the A449 and is mid-way between junctions 12 and 13 of the M6 motorway. It is served by National Express long-distance coaches, and also by local buses provided by Arriva. It has a railway station on the West Coast Main Line, and can also be accessed by the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.
Penkridge’s local market has been revived and is held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The substantial tower of the Grade I listed Church of St. Michael and All Angels on the western edge of town, parts of which date back to the early thirteenth century, is visible even to passing road and rail travelers. A smaller Methodist church is located on the main A449 route through the town, and there are numerous buildings dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Penkridge has its own historicstocks and cells still to be seen in the town centre.
Penkridge in the 20th and 21st centuries has remained a small market town while evolving into a residential centre, but its ties to the land were weakened and those to the landed gentry broken. Residential development began even in Victorian times, with the middle-class villas of the St. Michael’s Road area, close to the railway. The main Stafford-Wolverhampton road was greatly improved between the wars, reshaping both Penkridge and Gailey, paving the way for the great boom in private cars and suburbanization after World War II.
Penkridge owed much to its transport links, which steadily improved. The main Stafford-Wolverhampton route, now the A449 road was turnpiked under an Act of 1760. Bull Bridge, carrying the road over the Penk, was rebuilt in 1796 and widened in 1822. The improved road attracted more traffic: by 1818 there were stops by coaches on the London – Manchester, Birmingham – Manchester and Birmingham – Liverpool routes. The Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, opened in 1772, running straight through the parish and the township from north to south, with wharves at Spread Eagle (later called Gailey) and at Penkridge. In 1837, the Grand Junction Railway was opened. It cut through Penkridge on its west side, where Penkridge station was built, and was carried over the River Penk by the largePenkridge Viaduct. It began with two trains daily in each direction, to Stafford and Wolverhampton.