Fidlers On The Roof

St John's Church 1977
St John’s Church 1977

I first aquired this photo some 20yrs ago I nicknamed it   “Fidler on the Roof” but the Fidler in question here and the gentleman this story is about was not the Russian Jew  played by “Topol”. in the musical of that name.

It was F.W. Fidler & Son gilders and general decorators of Hordern Road Wolverhampton.

They were just one of the  contractors setting about in the summer of 1977 on a  complete restoration of the porch of St John’s Church, Snow Hill,  which will include  a Royal Crest carved in stone to commemorate the queens Silver Jubilee.

But recently I have discovered F.W. wasn’t the only Fidler that was in harmony with events around  Church Street and St John’s over the years.

Harold Fidler established in Church Street 1932
Harold Fidler established in Church Street 1932

The beginning

Harold Fidlers father Eugene, had a decorating and plumbing business at 333 Hordern Road.( His brother, William, had set up a decorating business on the opposite side of the road on the corner of Gatis Street)

Eugene died when Harold was 15 and his business ceased . Harold Fidler started an apprenticeship at the Church street premises shown here working for the then proprietor Benjamin Guest. In 1916, When Harold was just 18 years of age he was conscripted in the army He served as a tank drive in France, and was one of the few to survive that terrible conflict.of the 1914-18 war.

On demob he continued and completed  his six year apprenticeship. He then worked as a craftsman carpenter and joiner for Benjamin Guest. A few years later Benjamin Guest retired and gave the business to his manager Mr Fletcher Harold eventually bought the business of Mr Fletcher and later just after the second World War he was joined by his sons.Alan and Graham.

Harold one time told his sons when he started work there (in about 1914) that Benjamin Guest lived in the house and used a room for his office and that on the left side of the house was an orchard. Also he said that a workman used to come in early to light the fire and get up steam for the steam engine which powered the joinery workshop. The form of transport then was a horse and cart and the other vehicles were handcarts.

He mentioned going with another workman to do a job in the Tettenhall area and that they took a handcart, with the materials and tools on, up Old Hill and they had to push on the spokes to get it up the steep Hill.

A recollection of life and times around St St John’s in the 1950’s with grateful thanks to H. Graham Fidler.

Harold Fidlers name can be seen painted on to the gable of Benjamin Guests  old house which was still standing today in 2013
Harold Fidlers name can be seen painted on to the gable of Benjamin Guests old house which was still standing today in 2013

On the left of the picture is a glimpse of the sign above  the window of the Singer sewing machine shop, on the corner of Church Street and Worcester Street.

By the telegraph pole is the offices of the national Union of Sheet metal Workers & Braziers.

Carrying on up towards the church  is the property owned by Mr Harold Fidler and used for Offices, Joinery workshop, stores and yard for his building business.

This property consisted of; first  a pair of large double gates then next a single story building with a gable on to Church street, this was the workmens tea room. Alongside  is a driveway with gates which were set back out of view. Next to the driveway is a three storey house which was converted for use as offices (Notice the name on the gable which is today in 2013 obscured by a three storey building) . The joinery works etc.. were to the rear of the site.

On the left hand side of Church Street beyond the Fidler site were three storey houses and at the top was the factory where Windridges made there famous coach-built prams.

This section has has now been demolished and replaced by a large office block.

Going up Church Street on the right hand side the first property is Hancox’s, who sold timber etc..
Next is the Tiger Inn an Ansells house of great historic interest.

Adjoining  the Tiger was a three storey (former house) used by a stationery supplier, The Equipment Company.
Beyond that was Paradise Street a very narrow dingy street and about a far away from paradise as one could imagine.

On the far corner of Paradise Street can be seen the sign of Quality Motors who had a shop there selling the then popular motor scooters.
Quality motors had their car showrooms on the corner of Wocester Street and School Street.

After a few more houses came the works of Tonks Brass founders. There was an old employee there always known as papa Price. If ever you wanted some thing cast in brass, a chat with him would see him climbing up a ladder to peer into one of the rows of dirty black pidgeon holes were he kept the wooden patterns; he had no system of filing the patterns but he would come down with a suitable one.

On the left side of the street can be seen an Austin 7, Morris and Ford Cars. On the right side parked outside his yard is Hancox’s handcart. Next to this is Harold Fidler’s Standard Vanguard and behind that the Fidler lorry of the time.

 Finally In the background is St John’s Church were Harold Fidler was churchwarden for many years.

Mr Charles Hayward with millionaire industrialist John Sangster at the wheel of an Ariel car. "The Ariel was my baby", he said. Although the body was built by Mr Hayward a sidecar manufacturer in the 1920's.
Mr Charles Hayward with millionaire industrialist John Sangster at the wheel of an Ariel car. “The Ariel was my baby”, he said. Although the body was built by Mr Hayward a sidecar manufacturer in the 1920’s.

The church in the centre of John’s Square originally had Georgian houses all around it. Charles Hayward was a choirboy at the church in the early 1900’s and started in business in the area with a small cycle shop. He later became chairman of the Firth Cleveland Group.He was very generous to his native town and financed many schemes including most of the cost of replacing most of the stonework of St John’s Church.

His son Jack (later Sir Jack) Hayward carry’s on with his good works the Molineux Stadium for example.

Back to Harold Fidler who died (aged 62) in 1961 and Allan and Graham continued with the business which they expanded .

The rear view of H.Fidlers run down property T and the reason we have this waste ground come car-park seen here in 2013
The rear view of H.Fidlers run down property T and the reason we have this waste ground come car-park seen here in 2013

Today the  name on the side gable is now obscured by a three storey building built by Harold Fidler as an investment property. The ground floor of this incorporated two large passages for the lorries to pass to the works and stores at the rear.

The   passages  though today now form the IN and OUT of the public carpark which occupies the whole of the Fidler site and incorporates also the land occupied by shops that once fronted Worcester Street and temple Street.

In 1967 Harold Fidlers sons  sold the business to Horton’s Estates and a larger site was bought at Monmore Green for the business.

Horton’s Estates were keen to aquire the site as they already owned most of the block and showed drawings of a shopping centre which they planned to build there. However shortly after Hortons gained the site Manders commenced building the Mander Center based on their former factory site and adjacent properties which they had aquired Hortons realised they could not compete with Manders who had a town center site and so Hortons’s site became a car park

The scene today in 2013
The scene today in 2013

The right hand side of the street is now all occupied by British Telecom.

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