WOLVERHAMPTON A TALE OF TWO CITIES
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 8, I was talking about the Plan of Public Works, but if you missed it, follow this link:
A Wulfrunian pilgrimage to a Civic Centre , standing today on “The long gone but not Forgotten Land”
In the background from left to right you see the Education offices or the Clinic, today out in front stands the mobile T.B. X-ray unit a regular visitor to the town in these smoggy times
Then we have the bit of spare parking space at the rear of Paternoster Row, then across the way to St Peter and St Paul’s Chapel adjoining Giffard house.
Across North Street on the old patch, the stall holders have the awnings up, the customers have all warm hats and coats on, this tells you the its cold and wet, and late in season, and without a plastic carrier bag in sight everyone carrying regular shopping bags, the age and makes of the vehicles in front of the church wall gives us the approximate date of 1959.
When you arrive at the top of the patch, which fronts the church, on the right is a row of flower Sellers with their colourful array of seasonal blooms . The two Bedford vans parked alongside the pavement of the Church belong to two of these traders, who themselves and relatives have as well these stall’s, many other pitches from which they sell flowers around the town.
But for the covered Market seen on the left and the market patch itself the end was it had already been decided they were to be re-allocated to a new site on Brickkiln Patch, and the wish of the past Town Council for a central all accommodating Civic Centre. was about to gain momentum.
How did this story unfold?
The seeds were sown at the end of the last War to cultivate
A Wolverhampton of the future
Which included The proposed Wolverhampton Civic Centre
From the minutes of the Wolverhampton Reconstruction Committee.
During the initial plans it was decided St Peter’s Square was the most appropriate situation for the establishment of a Civic Centre, particularly as its the traditional centre of the area.
In this connection it was interesting to report that many of the letters to the “Express and Star,” on the subject of “The Reconstruction of Wolverhampton”, advocated the removal of the Market Hall and Market Patch and land laid out as ornamental gardens or as a ceremonial approach to the new civic buildings.
(Not many from existing Wolverhampton market traders I would say.)
Several letters also referred to the desirability of providing a Civic Centre and all such letters assumed the development of such a centre on the site now recommended.
looking at the designs submitted I believe the majority of old Wulfrunians looked forward to this new beginning.
But as all those same Wulfrunians know by heart today first you get The Promise Then the Reality
The Promise and the Reality
Picture One: This interesting photograph from the mid 1940’s gives us a fascinating glimpse of the town centre as it might have been.
(1) A newly laid out North street runs from left to right across the top of the Proposed Centre
(2) The mother church now faces west with a pleasant open space and laid out gardens in front of a new modern town hall and the existing Civic hall.
(3) Note the gardens that are attractively laid out where the markets used to be. I think I could have lived with that.
Picture Two: The market patch laid out as a temporary car-park in the 1960’s
(1) looking at this cluttered but not unpleasant view taken from the steps of St Peters after the Retail Market Hall had been removed.one may have been lulled into a false sense of well being, perhaps this is it, there has been a change of heart.
I believe, most people would have settled for keeping this open space and fine view from the church of the existing Town and Civic Halls
Picture Three: The Civic centre was well under way in the mid 70’s
(1) Ten years later the bulldozers were waiting, engines running and shortly afterwards work began on the new Civic Centre and its seen here in 1977 shortly before completion.
Picture Four: The New Civic Centre. A decent building in the wrong place. and what a price we had to pay for it.
This is the £8 million project which was much berated by the towns ratepayers .
It brought about the loss of both the Victorian retail Market hall and the Edwardian Wholesale Market across the road from it.
I am sure most people would agree today, it would have been much more of a benefit to Wolverhampton, if the Civic Centre had been built on Brickkiln croft and our market left were it was intended to be.
This patriotic market trader has taken advantage of the open markets final day of trading to create an imaginative and eye -catching display that perhaps attracted a number of extra customers.
The Union Jacks and the royal banners displaying the crown and that famous portrait of Her majesty have perhaps been packed away in the cupboard since the coronation seven years earlier, but now they have been taken out to mark another, rather sadder occasion.
The stars and stripes of the USA share a colourful spot in front of the stall, though the sign telling us Its the “Last Day” the reason for the flags being there, is obscured by the lady buying the fruit and vegetables. Tony Southall, the trader offers a good choice of fresh produce he has something to suit most tastes extra large oranges only 3d each whilst best bananas were just 1/2d a pound – that’s around six new pence in todays money, he has some fine looking cauliflowers and the potatoes a notice tells us ‘eat like jerseys’ at 6d a pound.
Notice, though, the lack of vegetables such as peppers, Spanish broccoli, and sweet potatoes that we take for granted today.
Once upon a time it was just gardens, – then in 1853 – up sprung a new Victorian Market – 120 yrs later it was a Car Park.
Today its the site of Wolverhamptons New Civic Centre.
But the ghosts of the past still haunt the patch here on the western front for those with eyes to see!
They are the wraiths of the early old time market traders, great characters, hard working , they had their own ethics, their own code of morals and behaviour, most, generous to a fault and perhaps a few not like those of the respectable world which surrounded them.
I see them today in my mind as I sleepwalk once again along those old forgotten cobbled walkways..
Len Cookson, George Latham, Bill Goodhead, Jackie Goodhead, Eddie Taylor, Ada Caley, Doug Caley , Ada Caddick, Lizzie Hodgkiss, Edna Newell, Fanny Habberley Jimmy and Rose Nuttall, Mrs Lewis, Billy, Ronnie, Jimmy and Cissie Southall, Tony their son, Emmie Green, Charlie, Mick, etc.. Ricca Chebbs, Joe Marsh and family, Sammy Lewis ,Horace Hall, Tommy Coyne, George Birch, Ginger Haynes, Tommy, Nellie, Dennis and June Brookes..
I miss them all and the life and times we spent together around Old North Street.