Historians have spoken of the irreplaceable loss to the region’s heritage after fire destroyed a Grade II listed Edwardian factory.
Only the shell of the former Boak leather works in Walsall remained after flames tore through the six-storey building overnight on Monday.
The intense heat saw parts of the structure, including its water tower, collapse on the junction of Bridgman Street and Station Street.
While investigations continue into the cause of the fire, the area was counting the cost of yet another blaze as several historic buildings in the town have fallen prey to flames in recent years.
The latest building to be destroyed comes less than a year after the Victorian home of saddle makers Jabez Cliff was engulfed by fire.
The Lower Forster Street building was reduced to rubble in August last year after a suspected arson or vagrants lighting fires, despite the efforts of more then 60 fire fighters.
The building, known as the Globe Works, had been home of the famous Cliff-Barnsby saddlery brand since 1906 and had previously been the base of saddle makers JA Barnsby & Sons.
A stone’s throw from newly-developed apartments and the new Walsall College on Littleton Street East, the former factory had been derelict since 2009, when the firm moved to more modern premises.
The St Matthew’s Quarter of Walsall also suffered a heritage blow in 2007 when Shannon’s Mill in George Street, was targeted by arsonists.
Formerly a leather tanners, the building was gutted by a blaze which, at the time, was described by West Midlands Fire Service as the biggest it had tackled in 25 years.
It was believed the flames engulfed the building in part because of tanning oils that had seeped into wooden beams during its years of industry.
David Mills, assistant curator at the Walsall Leather Museum, said it was a sad day for the town as structural engineers assessed what remained of the Boak building.
He said: “It made me sick to my stomach to see it. You can see daylight through the structure and it seems to be leaning forward.
“It was an incredibly handsome building and there was a plan at one point in time to turn it into flats, but I don’t know what happened with that.
“It was part of the Walsall skyline that could be seen as people come into Walsall on the train.
“It was a cog in the local leather industry and produced leather to be consumed in the town. It ran for so long, over three quarters of a century. Now it will probably have to come down.”
Mr Mills said all of the buildings could have been saved from fires if they had been regenerated and turned into new homes in the same manner as the town’s historic Smith’s Flour Mill on Wolverhampton Street.
Dating from the 1860s, the former Mill was transformed into waterside apartments in 2006.
“It (the Boak factory) could have been a wonderful building in terms of homes in the same way as the old Flour Mill is.
“At a time when we’re desperately short of housing it seems like nonsense not to utilise these lovely buildings
“It could have been really handsome and served as a real icon, now it’s gone it’s sickening.
“It’s a terrible day, it really is. This town is probably 1,000 years old and deserves better than it gets sometimes.
“This is vandalism of a dreadful kind.”