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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.