Post 120 - Colourful Characters Of Pipers Row

Colourful Characters Of Pipers Row

Kathy Thomas holds the reigns down Lichfield Street. Circa 1930s.
Kathy Thomas holds the reigns down Lichfield Street. Circa 1930s.

Kathy Thomas guides one of her fathers prized ponies back down Lichfield Street to the “Barley Mow” in the 1930’s.


Now one of the main aims of “Lost Wolverhampton” is to research and record the social history of the town. and when we study the streets and yards, and the remarkable characters of old who frequented them, we are left to marvel at how resilient, yet still kind and good-humoured, were these people, even during the stark times between the wars.

I am often though, helped in my search for stories of interest by people who stumble on our site and who never tire of offering us fascinating stories. photographs etc.. one such grand old lady , was Kathy Thomas.

She vividly remembers local characters of 80 and more years ago, and most of her memories revolve around Pipers Row and her childhood spent living at the “Barley Mow”.


So lets set the scene and see hear Kathys story accompanied by relevant illustrations of PIPERS ROW between the wars.


Lot 3 - Tomkys Yard, Pipers Row pictured in 1925.
Lot 3 – Tomkys Yard, Pipers Row pictured in 1925.

Its the 10th of June 1925 and at the Victoria Hotel a large property sale is taking place which include may shops and businesses in Walsall Street and Pipers Row.

Lot 3 as shown on the photograph below, was a plot of Freehold Building Land known as “Tomkys Yard” fronting Piper’s Row containing an area of 700 yards, or thereabouts.


On the left the small block that housed the Rope and Twine shop and the “Old Bush”
On the left the small block that housed the Rope and Twine shop and the “Old Bush”.

The yard in question contained a two-storey workshop belonging to Messrs Wright and Pedley, and the remainder of the yard was left to a Mr J. Clarke.

The boundary wall it was said, fronting Pipers Row is let to the Wolverhampton and District Billposting Company, and the owner on the adjoining property on the northern side “The Old Bush Inn”, is entitled to a right of way as shown on the plan.

Now In Pipers’ Row at this time, there were at least three more public houses and one private Hotel, the “Clarence Hotel,” on the corner of Queen Street; and it was one of these beer houses, “The Barley Mow” a certain Kathy Thomas spent her youth in the days between the wars.


Albert Thomas pictured in the yard at the “Barley Mow”, in Pipers Row.
Albert Thomas pictured in the yard at the “Barley Mow”, in Pipers Row.

In the early 1900’s, Albert Thomas second eldest of William and Francis Thomas, wholesale fish merchants married the daughter of a prominent Coseley Publican, David Millard which is probably the reason Albert also took up the profession later, himself in Wolverhampton. , holding Licence’s at, ‘The Cottage Spring,” North Street, and later at the ‘Barley Mow’ in Pipers Row.

But Albert’s main interest centred on his love of horses. and he received many cups and prizes over the years, pursuing this interest, and went on to show the Champions he bred at meetings all over the British Isles.

The picture above was taken by the local paper in the yard at the “Barley Mow”. in Pipers Row, were he was the Licensee in the 1920’s-30’s Kathy Thomas, Alberts youngest daughter was born at her fathers first licensed house the “Cottage Spring” in North Street, and she recalls being pushed in a pram, by her elder sister Lilian to their new home in Pipers Row when her family moved to the Barley Mow in 1924.


The Barley Mow in Pipers Row 1950.
The Barley Mow in Pipers Row 1950.

Kathy now takes us on a walk down memory lane as she recalls her early life in Pipers Row in the days between the wars.


The first Chinaman I ever saw lived there at that time. He was an old man always dressed in the black traditional garb of the chinese, with a pig-tail and a little black hat. We called him Chinck. He did laundry at the back of what they called a “Cook Shop” – the first type of restaurant.

They used to display large joints of Beef,Pork, and Lamb Roasts in the window. There were two of these cookshops, the other one “Shepherds Dining Rooms’ was next door but one to the “Barley Mow”.

Then close by there was “Gilberts” leather goods shop, and shoe repairer, a small hairdressers, and Broatch’s a fishing tackle dealer, I remember the awful smell of the boxfuls of ‘maggotts he sold to the fishermen!. and this was next door to a grocers.

John Devey had a cycle manufacturers opposite the Barley Mow and next door was Gibbons undertakers yard were the cars and horses were kept .

I remember the lads from the funeral parlour playing a trick on me one day, by shutting me in a room which contained a coffin, I was so mad, I forgot to be frightened .

Then there was an Herbalist next door to the Barley Mow were a lady lived with two daughters , the daughters always served in the shop, you only heard the mother in the back room. I only ever saw her twice. and both times she had a mask covering her face. A consequence of some kind of affliction, for which, in those days there was no cure – despite this disability, she was a very nice person.

On the other side of the ‘Barley Mow’ was a furniture dealers owned by Jane Lambert who took care of her aged mother for many years. She was middle aged when her mother died.
Jane kept had an African grey parrot which talked quite a lot and was very tame. Very late in life Jane married a much younger man who didn’t treat her very well.

The next shop was a watch repairs again owned by a lady, she was widowed, with two crazy sons whom she kept under strict control.

There were a few more houses, a pub and shops before Bilston Street. The best remembered of these was the “Rope Shop’, they had three lovely daughters that went with me to St Peter’s School.


Late 1930's - Alexander Sloan & co house furnishers, stands on the former Tomkys Yard.
Late 1930’s – Alexander Sloan & co house furnishers, stands on the former Tomkys Yard.

At the top of the Row was another two public houses the “Old Bush” and on the top corner adjoining Walsall Street was “The Staffordshire Knot”, which was eventually taken down and a new store – Sloans, built on the site.

The above photograph I have placed shows a view from Bilston Street in the late 1930’s. As a coal merchants cart turns into the row alongside “The Blue Ball” on the left and the large newly built furnisher store on its right. The waste ground was the site of the former Staffordshire Knot which had recently been demolished.


A Summer day in the “Bony Park” (St Georges).
A Summer day in the “Bony Park” (St Georges).


Across the road, in Bilston Street was of course St Georges Church and the “Bony Park”.

Heading back now down Pipers Row on the west side from the “Blue Ball, I remember a row of small shops to Tower Street.

Then a Furniture Manufacturer’s. and Iron Mongers and then close to W.H.Smith and Sons on the corner of Castle Street was a famous “Lady of the Night” who with her daughter my father had to bar from the pub.

The Barley Mow was always busy and during the early part of the War always packed with lads from the Forces, we played music and had lots of fun and laughter.


All I can add to that is “Kathy” Thanks for the Memories”.

Facebook Comments


  1. When I was a lad, (I’m now in my mid 50s), I distinctly remember a relative jokingly quoting, “Nice girls don’t go, to Pipers Row” & as a result gained the impression that it had a bit of a ‘red light’ reputation. Is this fair, or just an example of local snobbery?

  2. Hi Steve Welcome
    The whole area around Horseley Fields and Walsall Street always had an unsavoury reputation but quite a bit was exaggerated; and the rest unfounded.
    Thats my opinion anyway.
    Join our Facebook Group Steve.

  3. William Gilpin had a forge in Pipers Row late 18th century before marrying a farmers daughter and moving to Wedges Mills Cannock where he founded the famous Gilpins Edge Tool factory later moving to Churchbridge. He was raised at the Red Cow Pub in Darlington St Wolverhampton where he first practiced his art.

  4. Hello Tony Welcome on board. You say the late 18th century, meaning I suppose late 1700’s.
    The only Gilpin I can find at that time was Aston Gilpin a publican in Horsefair.
    Thomas Gilpin was a butcher in Dudley Street in 1818, were incidentley was also the “Red Cow” not Darlington Street as this street wasn’t cut until 1821.
    I hope this helps Tony.

  5. There are many mentions of the Barley Mow in the newspaper archives of the Wolverhampton Chronicle between 1830-60. It must have been a very old establishment even in 1832. I notice that in the advert of 1832 that it is also “know by the sign of” as many were unable to read.

    March 1832, old established public house, known by the name or sign of the Barley Mow, Piper’s Row…

    March 1843…Barley Mow, Piper’s Row…G Page begs to inform his friends and the public that he has fitted a comfortable and convenient Smoke Room, where a London morning paper may be seen daily at 12 o’clock..N.B. best foreign wines, spirits and cigars: splendid pale ale.

    March 1844..Barley Mow to be let, present proprietor leaving for other engagements..

    But the argument that I have had for many years, and with many people including the wife, is the pronunciation!

    Is it Mow as in “cow” or Mow as to “mow” the grass?

    I am definitely with the COW

    Regards Peter

  6. Hello Peter nice of you to get in touch. You are certainly right in your assumption on the longevity of the Barley Mow, in Pipers Row. I would imagine there had been a licensed house of that name for well over two hundred years on its demise. It was certainly well established in 1793 when a murder most foul was committed at the Barley Mow. See (Our past is all around us).

  7. What a delightful find. My grandfather was born in Wolverhampton in 1871, and at one time (1849) his parents lived on Piper’s Row. My wife and I had chance to walk down the street in the late 1970s. The stories and photos you provide help make a better connection to my grandfather who I never know; he died in an industrial accident in Delaware, USA, in 1909.

  8. mr and mrs owen local landlord kept the barley mow, their daughter MEGAN MARRIED GEORGE PINCHER in 1961 i was his best man at ST GEORGES


  10. Hello Bea – Welcome to “Lost Wolverhampton” I have memories and stories of all the locations you mention Please keep in touch.
    We also have a face book group “Lost Wolverhampton” join us if you are able, you will find it quite rewarding
    Best Wishes Billy.

  11. Hello
    I was raised in Wolverhampton (Warwick St and Walsall Street) and have been thinking about that area a lot lately. Please confirm that there was a shop in Pipers Row called The Polar Bear. As I remember it was a sweet shop next to a furniture shop. I left Wolverhampton in 1961 and have lived in Wales for the last 34 years.

    1. Hello Sadie- Welcome to lost Wolverhampton. Yes you are correct there was a confectioner with the “Polar Bear” name next door to “Sloanes” Furnishers in Pipers Row in the 1950’s. There were also Confectioners with the same title on Snow Hill a couple of doors from the Gaumont Picture House and also one in Broad Street, almost opposite the “Vine Public House.

      1. Ahh so not a false memory then. Thank you for letting me join this site. Brings back memories. Of the once ‘posh’ houses in St James Square. I went to Walsall Street school, which backed onto the square. There was a little boy lived in the square named Alan Felton. This would be in the late 40’s. I wonder if he is still about. I don’t remember much about Pipers Row though I must have walked it hundreds of times.

  12. hello billy iwas born in Granville street my grand mother worked at the back bar of the Victoria hotel on berry street and I can a bike shop on pipers row on the corner with horslyfields I think it was called davis also on pipers row there was an old fish and chip shop we used to call there when the pubs shut at 10-00

  13. Hello Billy I’m interested in the Lovatt family of Wolverhampton.
    Married St Peters
    William was a Factor 1841 Bond Street St Johns Square
    Provision Merchant in Pipers Row which was intersting to hear mention of the row
    Hardware merchant Sidney Street
    Graisley Place ?
    very interesting Lost Wolverhampton

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