Seventy years on from Horsefair
Looking down from the tower of St Peter’s Church in the late 1960s, we see again that “Times are a Changing”.
In the foreground, we see there are now two extensive car-parks where the Majestic Retail Market and Patch once stood.
On the left is the Civic Hall opened in 1938 as our new social and cultural centre.
On its left the extension 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 would appear like this…
North Street from the “Mitre Hotel” to the “Molineux Hotel”
Lets turn back the Clock!
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 Molineux Grounds close by, It came alive at 6.00, 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 North 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 fruiterers. and George Lawley, boot dealer, is next door to the Lichgate entrance to the old “Bluecoat School”, soon to become the Education Offices.
To the right of the entrance were 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 into Chapel Yard and Paternoster row.
The last three shops before Giffard House and the Catholic Presbytery, and church, (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, others will disappear altogether.
The only building which will remain until the 1950s will be the Education Offices (Bluecoat School) and of course, its ornate Lichgate.
The submitted Plan from the Public Works Committee 1924
As you can see from the plan the piece of ground between Corporation Street and Mitre Fold became the site for the new Public or Civic Hall.
Red Lion Street and Mitre Fold provided the ground for the purpose-built Telephone Exchange which you saw on the earlier picture being extended into North Street .
Gardens fronting Red Lion Street were chosen as the site for Police Dwellings as they were in close proximity to the Police Station.
The submitted Plan comes to fruition
An aerial view from 1936 Awaiting the arrival of the Public Hall
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 personnel working at the Police and Fire Brigade headquarters, which were situated 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 are finishing, and Wolverhampton’s open market is again at its glorious best.
But all is not as it seems there was a strange sense of unease among the traders at that time.
The covered Market on the right was over 100 years old and in urgent need of repair and the market patch itself some 70 odd years old, didn’t meet up with the strict public health requirements of the day.
So it was not surprising that as with the wish of the 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.