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A Fox Of A Different Colour

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The Old Fox’s Lament

Remember St Paul’s,  On that  old  road to Penn.
And  those little shops that stood opposite; then.
Now a long time gone; cause, they needed the ground.
But that  cunning Old Fox managed to stay around.
Well they’ve trapped the Old Fox in his final disguise.
Now this sly lone survivor awaits his demise.

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Today the headlines on the front page of the Express and Star.

The landmark Fox hotel in Wolverhampton is to be knocked down and replaced by a Hilton in a £15 million redevelopment it was revealed today. Work will start on the 130-room hotel next spring after the Fox has been demolished.

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Worcester Street – Penn Road Junction 1950s

The ‘Free’ car park sign points up Pool Street were in Church Lane car parking is available. The sign itself is on the forecourt of the Fox Hotel.

So what do we know of sly Reynards abode, throughout the years it stood on the old Worcester Road.

To my knowledge, there have been Inn’s called the Fox in Wolverhampton for over 200 years.

Of the two remaining since the last war, The bottom Fox, now the Wanderer which still stands in North Street was built on the site of a former Fox Inn, mentioned in the ‘Blood money’ incident in 1813.

I am not sure when the top Fox appeared on the junction of Little Brickkiln Street and the Worcester Road, but what I do know is that In 1868. Charles Colonel Smith Had his Fox Brewery on that site. Which brings us to the name we associate most with this house, Banks’s.

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George Thompson , Victoria and Dudley Breweries of Dudley, New Livery.

Now, in around 1890 the Wolverhampton & Dudley Brewery was formed with the joining forces of of H & J Banks with two other brewing concerns C.C.Smith of Fox Brewery Wolverhampton, established in 1868 on the junction of Worcester Street and Little Brickkiln Street. and George Thompson , Victoria and Dudley Breweries of Dudley who had been in business for fifty years or more.

Now, as we prepare to lose another familiar gate post sign from our cherished past (remember the other Banks’ Pub, Elephant and Castle). Here are just a few reminders of the old fox in its Bank’s Colours.

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The Fox of the 1930s

This is the Fox most older Wulfrunians will recall with a little sadness. It replaced the original Inn around 1930, and stood proud opposite St Paul’s Terrace.

This Inn stood on the junction of little Brickkiln Street and Penn Road for 34 years and  the building was demolished  to make way for the new Ring Road.

The construction of the underpass, and the new approach road to Darlington Street loomed like a dark shadow over the Fox in 1963, threatening it’s very existence. However, the sale of beer through the licensed house trade was at its peak at that time, so Banks’s weren’t going to let this valuable site go.

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The Fox in a shed circa 1964

So as with one or two other Bank’s pubs in town which at that time were going under the hammer. The brewery erected this temporary hut to keep the license open. But this makeshift pub which was only 40ft long and had lost most of its charm for its former patrons.

Ben Wilkes who had held the licence there for the past 10years was quoted as saying; “I have lost quite a lot of regular’s, you get 60 to 70 people in now and its quite a crush!”  Today he would think himself most fortunate.

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The new Fox Hotel built on the lines of its close neighbour the New Inn.

Unlike its old companion Saint Paul’s Church, The Fox survived,  and has lived to see its Town become a City. I believe these existing premises were sold by the Brewery in the eighties, who perhaps couldn’t see the value in it anymore as just a licensed house.

So finally, it looks like after 150 years the name on the wall is to be taken off. I hope just a few will lament, this further small loss in the name of progress.

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A better site for the New Hotel?

Epilogue

Is on the top of St Pauls Underpass, slap bang alongside one of the busiest traffic intersections in the city, the best spot we can find for a nine story high prestege hotel?

I personally don’t think it is and feel there is a much better site available across on the eastern side of the city close to what will be our new Railway Terminal and re-vamped Bus Station.

At present standing on the spot I have in mind is the old now derelict Steam Mill, in recent years used by Miller’s. For many years it has faced Albion Wharf, of late, a new development itself alongside the Birmingham Canal.

I have even thought of the perfect name for the New Hotel  “The CORN HILTON”.

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  3 comments for “A Fox Of A Different Colour

  1. December 22, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Thank you – I was looking for a picture of this end of Worcester street in the middle of last century.

    I remember very well the little parade of shops in the second block (centre of your photo) on the right hand side of Worcester street. There was a cobbler called Hart, there was Wilf Harry’s sweets and tobacco; next was a dress shop of some kind, and then, slightly set back if I remember correctly, was a Spar grocer. Next a way round to where some of the shop owners parked their cars. Was the shop on the first corner a Singer Sewing machine shop? and there was a boat hire shop also called Double Pennant cruisers. Almost opposite of course was the Scala, and I think a post office, and a little wool shop run by the two Miss Jewers. Quite a little community. My mum grew up just round the corner in Bishop Street (long gone of course). I knew St Paul’s had gone – but sorry nonetheless.

    Thanks for the photos. Kind regards.

  2. December 22, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Yes Maggie,
    The shop on the corner of Church Street at the time you relate to, was indeed Whitfields Sewing Machines Ltd.
    I also recall Harts the cobblers and Jewers the Drapers `and the many other shops and businesses in those two blocks both sides of Worcester Street. Nothing much left today except waste ground and a propped up Scala facade, Sad isn’t it!.

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