A learned man once said –
“It is all too easy in the name of progress to destroy the best along with the worst, and lament afterwards.”
This Church arch featured recently as a “Picture from the Past” in our local newspaper, the Express & Star. Apparently this Gothic arch and the remains of a church wall were; when pictured in 1963, lying derelict on a site designated for a new building project in Finchfield Road known as ‘The Orchard’.
According to Canon John Brierley rector of Wolverhampton at that time arches such as these have been sold throughout the years as St Peter’s Church has been renovated.
So this article got me thinking; I just wonder what small fragments of these historic treasures lie tucked away as garden walls and ornaments around our City today, brought about by those with a lack of foresight who decided to improve the old town in the last quarter of the 20th century.
Thank God we still have our oldest church and in my opinion; the nicest in the county. St Peter’s Collegiate Church which has been part of of Wolverhampton since 1425 and lies in the heart of our city. Built on the site of the original minster church and was later rebuilt by Lady Wulfruna.
Today this picturesque church, its gardens and fountain are a much loved part of our city and create a calming contrast to the hustle and bustle of the shops and businesses which surround it.
The Lost Churches of Wolverhampton
Over the course of the next few weeks, I would like to give you a study of local Church buildings, and their environment that once brought character and life to our city centre.
Perhaps knowing the fate of these many Victorian Churches made redundant and lost in the 1950’s and 60’s, may serve to stimulate a more enlightened interest in the preservation of those that survive.
Lights from around the Five Ways and Waterloo Road in particular, coupled with an October mist lend an air of mystery to this late-night picture taken from inside Christ Church, which was being demolished in 1975.
Christ Church, at the bottom of Waterloo Road was erected mainly through the exertions of the then rector of St Peter’s, the Venerable Archdeacon Iles, and was formed in 1887 into a vicarage.
The extensive building of the Great Western Locomotive works had caused the necessity of a church to be needed here, at the five ways.
Five ways at lower Stafford Road showing the site of ‘Christ Church’ made redundant in the 1960’s. This road junction was the hub of the local community living close to their places of employment in this once heavy industrial zone.
The principle employer being the Great Western locomotive works that straddled the road at Dunstall Hill, others of course adjoining the Birmingham Canal were Wolverhampton Gas Company, and The Electic Construction Company built on a triangular site nestling beneath Oxley Bank, Stafford Road and Bushbury Lane.
The EEC produced heavy electrical machinery electric motors and generating equipment it closed in 1985. The Wolverhampton Science Park covers this site and and an area once used by the gasworks.
The view just after the first World War from five ways looking towards Dunstall. Dominating the skyline are the chimneys of the Great Western railway works on Dunstall Hill.
Brunel’s old bridge is seen in the centre, this will be demolished in the 30’s; as were many others in town to allow for the double decked trolleybus operation. This being a railway-workers enclave it’s not surprising that the public house names in the area reflected this.
There was a ‘Great Western Inn’ on the corner of Moseley Street, a cul-de-sac, on the right in the picture. Then next door to the Pawnbrokers shop on the extreme left, was the ‘Locomotive Inn’.
The ‘Gold Flake’ cigarette advert was on Gough’s tobacconists on the corner of Dunstall Street, and even well established then and right up into the 1960’s, just a couple of doors away from the Great Western, was ‘Albino’s’, a local cycle dealer (Remember his quaint footpath petrol pumps?)
The five ways today is practically unrecogniseable, the culture has changed the shops have gone, now there is only small industrial units. There are now just four ways; the North Road, one of the principal routes into the town centre is now a cul-de-sac, and tower blocks now supply accommodation for the occupants of the former lost Victorian terraces that once dominated this area.
Today a Mosque stands on the site of the former Christ Church. Regarding this new house of worship; I believe all has not been lost, we still have a fine building, albeit with a different form of enlightenment.
The East came along in time to save all going West, so to speak.