Billy's Picture Book: #8 - A New Horizon

Billy’s Picture Book: #8 – A New Horizon


My pictures and stories I hope will illustrate the many changes which have taken place in Wolverhampton at various times particularly in relation to the street scene and general landscape.

If you recall in part 7, I was talking about the Freemasons Arms, but if you missed it, follow this link:

Billy’s Picture Book #7: Changing Times

70 years on from Horsefair.

Looking down from the tower of St Peter’s Church in the summer of 1963, we see again that the “Times are a Changing”

In the foreground are now two extensive car-parks, where the Majestic Retail Market and Patch were up until 1962.

On the left is the Civic Hall opened in 1938 as our new social and cultural centre.

On its left the extensions to the Telephone Exchange is progressing well.

So, how did this transformation come about?

Well if we turn the clock back some forty years that same area from Mitre Fold to Wadhams Hill, it would appear like this:

North Street from the “Mitre Hotel” to the “Molineux Hotel”

The top of North Street pictured here – as Britain was recovering from  the “Great War” – was one of the busiest corners of the town. 

With the likes of the Markets, the Hippodrome, and the Molineux Grounds close by, it came alive at 6.00 am in the morning and was still busy at 11.00 pm at night.

Today though must be a Sunday, as there’s no trading on the Open Market, the patch is empty of stalls and produce, and the street is far too quiet for any weekday.

All needs are satisfied here

A diverse group of businesses faced the market patch at this time.

From the left,  “The Old Mitre Temperance Hotel” and “Jessups Hotel” adjoin  “Cartlidge Brothers” mangle dealers, with Fanny Atherton’s private house next door.

The two gable fronted shops belonging to “Grosvenor’s” the fruiterer’s and George Lawley the boot dealer, are next door to the Lich gate entrance to the old “Bluecoat School”, soon to become the Education Office’s.

To the right of the entrance was Astbury and Clayton bakers, and finally, Fred Paulton, who coupled running North Street Post Office with his stationary and tobacconists business.

Continuing down the street, the Mitre Yard at the side of the Post Office is offering good stabling and cycles stored, and working in the yard at the back of the post office at this time are Fellows & Fellows press tool makers.

The Georgian building  with the popular sauce and milk ads was T. Clark drapers, and between the drapers and the wall displaying the advert for “Brasso” metal polish is the small entrance leading in to Chapel Yard into Paternoster row.

The last three shops before Giffard House and the Catholic Presbytery, hidden from view at that time, were G. H.  Kidson Ltd, grocers, Cartright’s, tobacconist, and finally, J. Reed hairdresser and umbrella maker.

On the far right the Victorian terrace just in view, was at the side of the Molineux Hotel in Molineux Fold.

On the move again

In less than a decade from the time depicted here, a scheme will shortly be presented to the Town Council, for town improvements.

The scheme will include, the removal of all these businesses, which front this west side of North Street, some will move to other premises close by, the others will disappear altogether.

The only building which will remain until the 1950’s, will be the Education Offices (Bluecoat School) and of course the ornate Lich gate.

The Plan

The submitted Plan from the Public Works Committee 1924

As you can see from the plan that the piece of ground between Corporation Street and Mitre Fold became the site for the new Civic Hall.

Red Lion Street and Mitre Fold provided the ground for the purpose built Telephone Exchange which was later extended in to North Street in the 1970’s.

Gardens fronting Red Lion Street were chosen as the site for Police Dwellings being in close proximity to the Police Station.

The submitted Plan comes to fruition.

On this aerial view from 1936

Red Lion Street, in the  days, before the ring road approached the junction with Waterloo Road was much longer than the cul -de- sac it is now, it then ran into Wadhams Hill.

Pictured here in 1936 we see the  houses running along Red Lion Street that were built to house families of the personal at   the Police and Fire Brigade headquarters close by at the rear of the Town Hall.

They were typical two story council built houses similar to the ones being erected at this time at Low Hill, and Deansfield Road.

Behind the end block of four on the right stands the re-furbished Education Offices and Clinic (Former Bluecoat school).

On the right of the block of houses, and running up the side of the now widened, Mitre Fold is the new Telephone Exchange.

 The old exchange fronting North Street is amongst the properties about to be demolished in order to build The Civic Hall.

Finally in 1938 We have the  arrival of the New Civic Hall

(1) The land is now being cleared for the erection of the Civic Hall

(2) The Mayor leads the parade from the Town Hall for the opening Ceremony

(3) Arthur Arrowsmith’s drawing of the new Civic Hall. circa 1950.

(4) 1950 and the rest of the Georgian, and Tudor Buildings have been removed to see a splendid refurbished Lich Gate with its new insignia.

“The Education Offices”.

The 1950’s  food rationing and fruit allocation is finishing. Wolverhampton open market is again at its glorious best.

But all was not as it seemed there was a strange sense of unease  among the the traders. The covered Market on the right was over 100 years old and in urgent need of repairs and the market patch itself some 70 odd years old.

So it was not surprising that as with the wish of the past Town Council for a central all accommodating Civic Centre. There was talk of big changes in the air, and for the old markets a new Horizon was about to unfold.

Next Week … The ghosts of the past still haunt the land there on the western front.

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