AND EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY

OUR PAST IS ALL AROUND US

It has been said many times Heritage is not just something on display in museums or town archives.

Here in Wolverhampton everything that surrounds us in our everyday lives, every street, supermarket, football ground, university and park, even the land your house is built on Is a reminder of something else that was there in the past.

 

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Even this modern entrance to the Mander Centre from Victoria Street holds many clues to the history of our town and is people. These modern buildings seen here today in 2014, were built directely on the site of our 16th century Grammar School.

 

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On the  Map showing Wolverhampton by Isaac Taylor in 1750, is a lithograph of the front of (the) School. The school in question is the free School founded by Stephen Jenyns, born here, and   Lord Mayor of London  in 1509.

This is the  Free Grammar School (seen here in Johns lane), pictured here about 1871.

It was said it had one of the finest classical facades in town, but that didn’t stop it being ruthlessly demolished in 1964 during the building of  the Mander Centre.it  was erected in the early years of George I’s reign. It consisted of a central school room or hall flanked by projecting wings which provided a house for the headmaster and one for his assistant, the usher.

 

These old school premises were made redundant in April 1875, and the grammar school moved to its present quarters on the Compton Road. Then in 1879  Messrs John Steen & Company established their Press in the vacant school buildings.  At the end of the last war Still occupied the main hall but both the two wing buildings were being used by the retail trade.

 

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The retailer trading here on the left of Steens seen here in 1960 was a greengrocer Don Lewis

 

Don Lewis, made a name for himself during the war as a Sergeant Major, in the Eighth Army (The Desert Rats).

When he was demobbed he went into the insurance business, he came into the Wholesale Market around 1949-50, as a salesman for Samuel Hyde Potato merchant.

Although Dons knowledge of the retail trade was practically nil, he was a likable sort of man with an eye for business. He noticed at that time when fruit was becoming more plentiful from abroad and rationing was coming to an end, the main players in the fruit and veg  trade were either in the retail market, or on the patch outside and as these pitches were at a premium with no chance of acquiring one he began to look elsewhere.

He was looking for a good prominent town centre position and he found it, in, what was once the Bursaar’s house adjoining the Old Grammar School in St John Street an ideal spot just below the entrance to the Central Arcade,  It was at that time called “Vegseeds”.

By 1956 this shop was probably the busiest and most profitable fruiterer’s in Wolverhampton, away from the market, employing a manager and many serving staff of mainly young girls.

 

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Circa 1964 and the bulldozers move in to St John’s Street.

During the 1960’s and 70’s the Mander Centre came about, which caused the demolition  of all of St John’s Street – with the exception of the old “Copper Kettle”, later “Lindy Lou”) seen here on the left corner in its old white garb.

Unfortunately for our heritage this demolition didn’t spare  the Old Grammar School.

But Don Lewis was full of enthusiasm of this new project and when the time came for the shop to close in St John’s Street. he moved his business just 200yds into a shop recently vacated by Rosenshines, in the old Central Arcade,  this was 1963.  as a temporary measure until the centre was completed.

An ideal Pitch came available in the partly finished new centre on the ground floor next door to Marsh & Baxters (Now Smiths’) with Farmers Fold entrance in between them.

This shop became  a goldmine, and for the next 10 years it was arguably the busiest fruit and veg shop in Wolverhampton and including part timers on a Saturday it employed 21 staff, Don treated his staff very well and they worked their hearts out for him.

But as with everything in life, things cannot last and through one thing and another  Don decided to leave the centre, eventually opening up a new out of town enterprise  at Merry Hill, Wolverhampton.

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9 comments

  1. These photo`s of St John St are exactly as I remember it. What a load of short sighted people worked in the planning office in the 60s! Mind you, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but what is that building there now? Colditz? a pillbox? it looks so out of place! Time to stop moaning Miff, I must have a pilgrimage back `ome before it all changes again.

  2. I remember going to my aunt and uncles pub which stood to the right of the lindy lou shop. It was called the New Hotel. Have not heard or found any info on this pub. I remember Don Everalls booking office being at the back in bell street. I am 58 now and have loveiy memories of days in wolverhampton back then. I lived in chapel ash in a little street called stephenson street. lived there with my grand parents in a two up two down. Cannot find any info on that either. But, what fab memories!

  3. Thank you for getting in touch Beverley – I have many fond memories of the New Hotel in Victoria Street.
    I have placed a picture of it on the Forum, under (Time Gentlemen Please) in people and places
    Please check it out and join the forum and tell us more about your early life and your Aunt and Uncle and Grandparents .
    We also have a Facebook Group, if you are on facebook I will add you as a friend

    1. Hi Billy. Thank you so much for picture of New Hotel! Will let my cousins who lived there know to take a look. My aunt and uncle were Peggy and Jack clemson who kept the pub. Later kept the Red Lion on bilston road, then Waggon and Horses on cannock rd till late 70’s. My grandparents were Tommy and Georgina Woolfall who lived in chapel ash. My grandad had a window cleaning round and did all chapel ash. Story has it he was nicknamed the king of chapel ash! He did fall from the top of Bank’s Brewery Building while cleaning. We later moved to warstones in Penn when i was 6 and my brother 4. My dad was Billy Woolfall who lived in Warstones until 7 years ago.

      1. Thank you for getting back Beverley – This post went into my spam box thats why I am late in answering it.
        The names and the dates you mention, will give us something to add to our archives.
        I also worked for Banks’s brewery although not until the mid 1980’s, Possibly the Clarendon were I was manager would have been on Tommy Woolfalls round in his days .
        It would have been a more sedate and picturesque Chapel Ash then than it is today.
        Again lovely to here from you.

  4. Hi Billy,

    Thanks for a really great web site and comments. Barry Hodgson of the W’ton Civic
    and Historical Society together with the campaign group 38 Degrees are trying to save
    the church, (Grade 11 listed) from it’s destruction through lack of maintenance.

    St. Luke’s ids the Church, home of the original Wolves Football Team. Could you
    advise members of the Howl to sing the 38 degrees petition to stop the rot. We can’t
    let this happen, can we or it will be Lost Wolverhampton

    Mark

  5. In 1966 I worked part time on Saturday for Don Lewis. All that has been said here is correct.
    He did employ mainly young girls and very strong and enthuastic young male tray changers.
    We used to go to the markets early and the produce would come back in the Managers Kombi. He was Brilliant with the staff..even letting them take home a few pears for their Mum.
    Needless to say he got Rich quick and one of our late laturday jobs was to wash his Mercedes.
    The Laneway entrance to the Mander Centre had a Sandwich shop where Don treated the boys who went to the market with him to a bacon and egg sandwich for morning tea. He also had a son but who was no match for the savvy business nature of Don.

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