2:30 pm

April 25, 2009

Sign Of The Times, The Writing’s On The Wall

They have re-designed the set, the Old players have left, the World I once lived in, is once more bereft.

On the corner by the Wanderer (Fox Inn) in 2008

On the corner by the Wanderer (Fox Inn) in 2008

The same Stage in 1974

The same Stage in 1974

When this picture was taken in 1974, as well as the shadow cast by the sun, from above the new subway, a shadow of doom had already been cast over the fate of North Street, it was already a cul -de -sac, the ring road saw to that! And in the next decade the Molineux ground will extend and all these buildings on this west side will disappear.

Amongst the other properties shown on the photo is the solitary building on the right the Feathers Inn. Not the original, for there had been a licensed house of that name on this site since medieval times, this one seen here and still standing today, was built around 1913.

Opposite the Feathers amongst the row of terraces was a former Pub, The Cottage Spring, de-licensed in the 1930′s it then became the residence of Charles Harrington and his family.
I would just like to bring your attention to two major players who took centre stage here in North Street for many years Jimmy O’Connor and the families of Charles and Tom Harrington.

With Molineux Street running off to the left, the flat iron shaped, shop on the corner of North Street was the Cobbler’s business of father and son, J. O’Connor’s.

Cartoon of Jimmy O'Conners May 1945

Cartoon of Jimmy O'Conners May 1945

Jimmy O’Connor Senior for many years was the cobbler for Wolverhampton Wanderer’s F.C.

The Shed 1974

The Shed 1974

Now in the 1940′s both Charles and Tom Harrington, sign writers, had their family business and work place in a large shed in Nursery Street. Tom Harrington’s family home was across the street opposite, and Charles Harrington for a time lived at No.14, next door to the shed.

During the summer months just after the War, they would have the front doors to the shed wide open, and you could easily see inside. What a sight met your eyes it was a grand picture show to rival any art gallery. The Harrington brothers, along with their sons were all prolific artists. They would be seated on large stools, brushes in hand adding vibrant colours to Inn signs of all descriptions. Castles, Dragons, Coats of Arms, Kings and Queens , past nobility and animals of all kinds could be seen including many Red Lions, and when finished freshly painted they would be hung to dry adorning the walls.

Later the completed signs would be carefully placed on their two wheeled cart, normally used for carrying their brushes and ladders, and these works of art would then be transported around town to enrich the frontages of public houses owned over the years by the different breweries.

The Cottage Spring 1974

The Cottage Spring 1974

In 1936 the Old Cottage Spring in North Street was put up for sale and Charles Harrington Senior bought it, and converted it to a private residence and he told me for years afterwards we had men walking in, thinking it was still a pub.

Charles junior took this photo of the old converted pub in 1974 shortly before it came down with the rest of the block , it shows his wife Bette on the step with his mother, his father had passed away a few years earlier.

The Sir Tatton Sykes early 1960s

The Sir Tatton Sykes early 1960s

I recall an incident regarding their cart and a certain William Butler’s public house. The pub in question was the Sir Tatton Sykes seen here on the corner of Lichfield Street and Fryer Street.

Charles Senior and Junior had arrived on the Monday to work on the lettering around the frontage. As they were to continue the work again here next day, Charles senior suggested to his son that they could leave the cart, ladders, paints and brushes overnight in Walsh Graham’s Timber yard, which was across the road on the corner of Railway Street; this was common practice for Charles when they were in that part of town.

As luck would have it, young Charles decided against this and pushed the cart and contents back to the shed in Nursery Street. Which turned out to be something he would never regret or forget, for that evening on April 4th 1949, Walsh Graham’s Timber yard could be seen on fire and lightning up the night sky as far away as Bilston.

Local sign writer does his bit for the film industry

Local sign writer does his bit for the film industry

In the summer of 1956, Charles Senior came out of retirement when his expertise was required by a film company, working on location at Wolverhampton Airport.

The film in production was “Man in the Sky” starring Jack Hawkins and Elizabeth Sellars. During shooting a scene from the film, the freight plane Hawkins (the pilot), was flying was damaged.

The Harrington’s, Charles in particular, had the contract to re-paint it with the new identification code on the wings and “Silver City” on the fuselage. Charles is pictured brush in hand, sitting on the wing of the repaired plane.

Fun at the Swancote swimming pool 1950

Fun at the Swancote swimming pool 1950

A regular treat for me at that time was a summer Sunday trip to Swancote with the lads from Harringtons Weightlifting Club.

For the most part, youths in the early 1950′s got rid of all that animal tension in a more athletic (and for onlookers sometimes silly) way, but always in good fun.

Tom Harrington’s eldest son Sid can be seen bending forward in the picture. Sid was an Olympic standard weightlifter at the time. Here he is attempting to support three of us on his shoulders. His cousin Charles was directly on Sids shoulders, next up was a fellow whose name escapes me, and up on top was yours truly (whose muscles have yet to come out of their shells). As you can see this attempt failed.

The families of Charles and Tom Harrington certainly enriched the lives of us kids growing up around the Londes. They always had time for you, and as for myself, the times I spent watching them at work and the time spent with the local Weightlifing Club started by Tom, in Nursery Street, are tucked away in my head as some of the best memories of my childhood.


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