On The Heath

It was a strange location, for our first station.

Does anyone recall Old Heath town before the upheaval of the 1950’s  its   industrial heritage still intact, with its many Victorian terraces and courts, and the  three Churches offering solace to the working class folk that lived there.

Wednesfield Heath blossomed thanks to coal mining and with the opening of the Wyrley and Essington Canal to allow coal to be transported from the area to Cannock.

As the centuries past the area grew and spawned neighbouring Park Village Springfields and Fallings Park.

 

Aerial Heath Town circa 1970's
Aerial Heath Town circa 1970’s

 

By the time Wednesfield became part of Wolverhampton in 1966, Heath town was being completely transformed with a mass of new housing, most notably its distinctive tower blocks.
And its behind these three Tower blocks that we find  a little hidden secret that firmly belongs to my journal – Lost Wolverhampton

If we go back in time to a few weeks before Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837, this area of land across Wednesfield Heath was mainly undeveloped. But from this moment on, it would grow rapidly, encouraged by the early development for Steam locomotion, and successful opening of the Grand Junction Railway, which ran on the Liverpool and Manchester line. ( from Birmingham to Newton Junction )

I believe when  the site of the railway station was being decided on  vested interest in the canals caused opposition in Wolverhampton so  this  first and what became known as the Old line running through Heath Town and Park Village was built to bypass the town, its  early Wolverhampton station being at Wednesfield Heath…

Lithograph 1840 Advertising Star & Garter
Lithograph 1840 Advertising Star & Garter

So to take advantage of this situation , on  the arrival of the The Grand Junction Railway in 1837,  – Mr John Gough owner of the Star and Garter, in Wolverhampton town centre who didn’t want to miss out on this new form of travel erected a large hotel  adjoining the station at Wednesfield Heath, the tenancy of which he gave to Paul Law, his tenant at the Star.

Paul Law then  established a service of buses between his hotel in Cock Street and the new one at the Heath.

This, one of many old inns had quite a large share of the coaching business well provided for in Wolverhampton at that time.

Railway Street, Heath Town early 1900's
Railway Street, Heath Town early 1900’s

Of course with the railway came the street. This picture, taken in 1903 shows the Lorain tram traveling back to town from Wednesfield, about to pass the Bank on the corner of Railway Street. The Star public house is opposite, on the corner of Cross Street. The Railway Hotel was situated adjacent to the station entrance, with access from a large drive at the end of the street.

Unfortunately some 30 years before this photograph was taken passenger trade ceased from Railway Street when other stations opened in centre of town, but it remained open for goods and parcels until 1965.

Notice from the London gazette dates 1921
Notice from the London gazette dates 1921

Obviously with passenger trade ceasing to arrive at Heath Town the need for accommodation also ceased, and we see by this notice published in the London Gazette in 1921. The Railway Hotel has become private accommodation and is known as “Heathfield House”.

Now besides Mr George Bates listed above who later became, Alderman Bates,  Mayor of Wolverhampton during War. Before his Mayoral duties commenced, alongside his wife, he ran a Bible Class from the Wesleyan Chapel, on the corner of Wolverhampton road and Dean Street.

A Mr Easthope, a draper had part of the old House at one time   and a Mr Hogan a former Headmaster of Springfield Road school was there for a while.

Heathfield house circa 1970
Heathfield house circa 1970

 

This is  a photograph of the once Railway hotel – Heathfield House taken after the major 1950’s and 60’s development at Heath Town.

At this time according to Kellys 1965 Directory it was the home to 19 flats.

If you notice you can see the solitary brick gate post in both pictures.

Childrens Play area 2012
Childrens Play area 2012

 

You see in 2012 the old house as gone and been replaced by a childrens park and play area.

( Talk about unspoilt by progress.) It depends on your point of view!

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47 comments

  1. I was born in Leslie Rd in 1947 and can remember Heath Town Station at the top of the road opposite the Scout Hut in what my gran used to call Station Lane (Station Rd). If you walked up towards Heath Town from Leslie Rd and across the bridge into Deans Rd you were able to get to the disused colliery and what my Grandad called The Seven Fishing Pools. This was largely forbidden territory to us girls, but we used to get up there with the bikes and dogs when we could. Heath Town was largely terraced houses between Deans Rd and Woden Rd where my Great Gran lived. I can just about remember the factory entrance opposite the huge green painted gents urinal, and the factory wall which went practically the length of Woden Rd. My uncle used to work there for a while. They started to demolish the houses in the 60s – Wolverhampton College of Art had their pottery annexe in one of the schools for a while. My memory of the Star and Garter was that it was opposite Beatties, about halfway down the hill – can’t remember the name of the road but it may have been Victoria St. Everything got destroyed in the 60s in an attempt to copy Coventry City centre – pure vandalism as so much glorious Victorian stuff(Queens and Central Arcades) were wrecked.

    1. Message for M.Green, I have enjoyed reading the description of Heath Town and what it was like, the fishing pools, the factory, everything. I am researching The Travellers Rest which was in this area. I don’t suppose you remember anything about it do you? Tracing Gt Gt Grandad who ran this public house.

      1. I remember the old Traveller’s Rest, I remember it was on the corner of Woden Road, there were two or so steps to get in front door. Only went there to play darts, it wasn’t my local. The new Travellers is attached to the church on the Wednesfield Road has been for years. Not sure why it closed. Can’t help with your Great Great Grandad I hope you find what you are looking for. Good luck!

    2. Hi

      I used to go to cubs at the scout hut and used to visit the signalbox at Wednesfield Heath to see the Pines Express after school at Holy Trinity CofE

      1. Hello Robert Welcome. On my way down from visiting my grandparents graves in Holy Trinity Churchyard I must have walked past your house many times, calling with my friend at his aunts Doris Bratton at No.125. There were Whitehouses at No. 54 in those days.

  2. Thank you for the favourable comments . I am so pleased you found my story of Heath Town interesting. Yes the Majestic Star & Garter was in Victoria Street.

    1. I am really pleased I came across your information on The Heath, I am researching The Travellers Rest Inn, Deans Heath Road, where my Grandad Bertie Springthorpe was born in 1901. His parents Edward and Rose ran this pub and I am desperately trying to find anyone who knew the area. He actually married in 1926 and moved to Sedgley, I am hoping to find a photograph or an idea of what the street was like, or when it was demolished. Can you help me please?? Helen

    2. Hello Billy
      I am wondering if you can help me please. Does your knowledge of the area cover The Travellers Rest Inn on Deans Heath Road? My Gt Gt Grandad Edward Springthorpe lived there, and my Grandad Bertie was born there in 1901 and lived there until 1926 when he married and moved to Gospel End. I am just wondering when it was demolished, or even if there were ever any photos of that road/area.

  3. Hello Helen glad you found the story interesting. Now you mention, Deans Heath Road . I personally have nevr come across a street/road with that name Deans Road yes, and Old Heath Road are still there today on route from Wednesfield Road to Willenhall Road I doubt though wether either contained a public house called the Travellers Rest.
    It could be you are referring to The travellers Rest, Wolverhampton Road, Heath Town, just a few doors away from Woden Road..

    1. Helen if you log in to our forum on People and Places / Time Gentlemen Please . You should see I have posted your query with a picture of The Public House in question.

  4. Hello Billy,

    Love your very interesting website. I came across it whilst looking for another piece of local history!

    I was born in Woden Road in 1939, not far from Evans pump factory – the one referred to by M Green. I can confirm that The Traveller’s Rest pub has now been correctly identified. I think Helen was perhaps confusing it with the Jolly Collier.

    I have many memories of residing in the area, where my family lived until 1951. If you are interested, I could send you a few pages to be honest.

    We lived rather more towards Park Village than Heath Town, which (sad to relate) somehow gave us an air of superiority. Grove Street, for example, was a no-go area for us, with a reputation as a den of vice. But I have no idea why!

    Kind Regards, Phil

  5. Hi Phil, nice to hear from you. I can understand what you mean regarding Heath Town and Park Village the houses were poor in the likes of Alma Street, Inkerman street etc but the people in the 40’s and 50’s I knew who lived in both areas were the salt of the earth.
    You were born the same year as my wife maiden name Marcia Halhead from Swinford Road, off Prosser Street,she went to Woden Road school as I imagine you did.
    I and I’m sure many others would like to share your memories of the area on our forum or on our parallel group “Lost Wolverhampton” on facebook If you have any difficulty send me your e-mail
    best Wishes, Billy

    1. Hello Billy,

      A personal comment this time. Sadly, a family bereavement has intervened – my sister, who had been in Telford hospital for several weeks.

      I have written some memories of Heath Town & Park Village and will edit them in due course. My sister does get a mention as she was a member of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel youth club in Heath Town. and was married at the chapel in 1958. The club produced some notable Christmas pantomimes in the early 1950s, probably not well remembered today. She also appears in 2 photographs on page 123 of Ned Williams’ More Black Country Chapels. As Ned notes, that particular chapel was infrequently photographed.

      About 1951 my parents declared themselves homeless. Their rented accommodation was bequeathed to a married son who was living with his in-laws, so about a year later we had to leave at rather short notice. Splitting up the family was the quickest way to move up the Council housing waiting list – on which my parents had been careless enough not to have registered – and it took several months. We moved to Moathouse Estate in Wednesfield but kept up contacts in Heath Town & Park Village for some time thereafter.

      Have you seen photos of the interior of the Culwell works of James Evans in its heyday? They were published in the souvenir booklet for the 1902 Industrial Exhibition held in the West Park. If you haven’t seen them and you are interested, I could perhaps scan them into this comment box?

      I do not recall your wife’s name, though of course I was a pupil at Woden Road Infants and Junior school. I may have started a bit late, at the age of 5 in September 1944, because I had some catching-up to do, eventually becoming the youngest in my year. One of our class photos appeared in the Black Country Bugle.

      I think Swinford Road had semi-detached houses? A sure sign of affluence! Does your wife remember the Blood family, whom I think lived in Stratton Street, maybe Prosser Street? They were a large (and notorious) family and Mrs Blood seemed to be permanently pregnant. I once embarrassed my mother in Bray’s Park Village butcher’s shop, when I asked her why Mrs Blood’s tummy was so big. I was told to keep quiet!

      Kind regards, Phil

  6. I was born in Railway Street 1946 and whent to Woden Road then
    to Springfield Road schools.The Railway pub was the local just across
    the street(Ansells beer)Around the corner in Fredrick Street was the Culwell
    factory,Heathfield House was once the hotel which served Wolverhamptons
    first railway station.At this time i used to help in the gardens there when i came
    from school and at weekends,John Bates was the son of George Bates an ex Mayor
    of Wolverhampton,John grew some local produce and also kept chickens he had
    a small shop in the main drive.There were other familys living in Heathfield House
    around this time a Mr Brown i think he was a clergyman,and also Mr Porter i recall.

    1. This discussion is facinating. I have never lived in Wolverhampton, but both of my parents and most of my relatives came from this area.

      The Bates brothers were clearly shrewd in the way they built their business from scratch. Their sister Susannah married William D Easthope (mentioned earlier), and they are my grandparents. I understand that as a child he lived at 147 Railway Street, and then started work in the Culwell works. However at some point he started working for his brother-in-laws at the shops, and eventually took over the one at 16a Victoria Street in Wolverhampton, and also the one in Heath Town. A pencil from that era can be seen ast Wolverhampson Arts and Museum Service:

      http://blackcountryhistory.org/collections/getrecord/WAGMU_M338_1/

      He died in 1938, but the business was continued until after the war by other family members. They left Heathfield House to “move to the country” in Blackhalve Lane some time after the birth of my father Gordon Easthope in 1927.

      The Mr Brown also mentioned above was George H Brown, who married Marie Bates, another sister of the Bates Brothers. He was a prominent Methodist Local Preacher and Church Organist, but not a clergyman as such. He was probably retired by the time you knew him Barry. He was originally a mining engineer, and at one time an undermanager at the Glasshoughton Colliery in Castleford, Yorkshire. He then moved with his wife to Wolverhampton and lived at Heathfield House and set up a coal merchants business with his brother-in-law George Bates from the “Heathfield Colliery Offices” in the 1920’s. He then moved into the shoe trade, having one or more shops in the area in his name, before finally working for my grandmother.

      I heard accounts from my father about assisting his cousin John in the market garden at Heathfield House, but it would not have been at the same time as you Barry, as he went to college in 1948 to study for the ministry.

      I believe that Charles Dickens stayed at Heathfield House – during the time in which it was the railway hotel

      Thank you for an excellent website, Billy.

      James Easthope

      1. Thank you for that very interesting information
        regarding John Bates family,i did not know he
        had sisters.Ido recall a brother i think Andrew
        who i met at that time.Mr Brown was a real
        gentleman raising his hat to ladies in the street
        as he returned from church.Heathfield House
        and its beautiful gardens bring back some nice
        memories from the past.

  7. Well done Barry , a most welcome addition to this wonderful piece of Heath Town history .

    Its perhaps unlikely you can fit a further small piece of the jigsaw of that foregotten area around Railway street by recalling A Wolverhampton firm of Fruit & Vegetable Wholesalers, H. Goodhall Ltd, using either the old Railway buildings or it may have been part of Culwell works as a Storage Warehouse around 1961.

    1. Hello Billy
      I do remember Goodall H situated at Wulfruna St Wolverhampton.
      The old Culwell site was used by various businesses at that time.
      When growing up in Railway St i can recall the endless Scammel
      Scarab 3 wheelers going to and fro the old Railway site at the end of the Street.
      Hope to find some more info.

  8. Hi Barry the reason I mentioned Goodhall’s, was that I worked for them at that time and remember them using an empty building down Railway Street to store empty crates and also additional space for goods I have a feeling it was on a large raised floor area, anyway thanks for that info.

  9. Hello Billy
    Love the information about Heath Town.
    I’m currently looking at a bit of family history and a specific branch of my tree is the Hinton family who seem to have lived in Heath Town for a couple of hundred years and a few still do.
    just a couple of queries that you might be able to help me with;
    Do you know if there is an actual date/year when Wednesfield Heath became Heath Town, and do you have any idea when Buggins Lane became Deans Road. I know that the second question is somewhere in the mid 1800s, but would like to pin it down a little more

    1. I can’t really specify the exact dates Brian .except for the fact that both Heath Town and Deans Road were called respectively – Wednesfield Heath and Buggins Lane as late as 1840.

  10. Hi All,
    I’m researching the family tree of the Austins/Austin family, with one particular John Austins owning 25 houses on Inkerman Street between the 1840’s and 1890’s.
    Would anyone know where I could get some images of Inkerman Street during Victorian times, or another street that may have looked similar?

    Many thanks
    Phil

  11. Welcome Phil I will place you a photograph of Inkerman Street on our forum here, and also on our Facebrook group Lost Wolverhampton as we may get some extra feedback for you on there.

    1. Hi Barry we lived in Railway street and moved when they pulled the houses down my name was Gorman. I also went to wooden road school. We lived next to the pub.

      1. Hello Teresa,yes i remember your family well the pub was the Railway.It is nice to hear
        from you,they were good times before the old town was demolished.We moved to
        Wednesfield 1962 not the same.I still see some people who lived in Railway St.
        Best wishes to you.

  12. Hi from Australia. My name is Andrew Halhead. I stumbled upon your blog when searching my Grandfathers name, Arnold Sidney Halhead (Geoff) and have spent the last few hours mesmerised by the level of detail and knowledge you have of Wolverhampton. I have fond memories from back when I was a boy and pop was still around, he would tell me stories about his time growing up there (and the mischief he would get into) and reading through your blog has brought a lot of those memories to the forefront of my mind. Then as I was reading further, I read that you’re married to my Great Aunty Marcia-(I almost fainted) who I have not met, but my sister Cassie/Cass and Aunty Kim, I believe spent some time with you both back in 2001-2002. Anyways, I will be eagerly awaiting your posts from now on :). Such a small funny world we live in. Best wishes from Australia,
    Andrew Halhead

  13. Hello Andrew,
    Nice to hear from you- Yes. I am married to Marcia, Arnolds youngest sister, who incidentally was born on the same day as Arnold 28 April ten years later, he always reckoned she was his birthday present.

    Unfortunately I never met Arnold he left for Australia a few years before Marci and I met.

    Have you been in touch with Ian Halhead, Arnolds brother, who lives in Perth?

    We really enjoyed the company of Kimmy and Cassie when they came over they really livened up our sleepy town of Bridgnorth. Its now lovely to see how well they have done for themselves since they went home.
    We have a forum on Lost Wolverhampton and also a Facebook group of the same name please join
    and perhaps we can keep in touch that way.

    Give our best wishes to Grandmother, Cassie and Kimmy and your dad who I think I met when he came over a few years ago.
    Billy

    1. Hello Billy,
      Just found your website. I new your wife, Marcia Halhead as we were at Woden Road school at the same time. In fact, I have a photograph of a girls dance group taken with our teacher, Miss Jenkins. Phil Barnard was also in the same year. I was born in 1939 in Frederick Street, Heath Town and later lived on Wednesfield Road. Your blog has brought back many memories of my childhood.
      Thank you,
      Betty Tonks (nee Lawrence)

  14. James, Easthope, I am the great granddaughter of George Bates so I presume we must be distant relatives. Like you , my family do not live in Wolverhampton but all their relatives did.. I remember tales of how my great grandparents were once the mayor and mayoress of Wolverhampton. My other great grandparents were Joseph and Elizabeth Clarke, who also served as mayors back in 1923. Most of the furniture in my parents house, once stood in the great heathfield house. Regarding Mr George Brown, my last memory was visiting him when I was about five years old, just before he died. My grandfather was George Bates junior and he lived in Alsager Cheshire practising as a GP having qualified from Cambridge university. My father,George Joseph Bates, still lives in Alsager.

    1. Good to hear from you Sara. Yes we are distantly related, with Andrew Bates (died 1903 aged 56) and Susanna Bates (died 1923 aged 74) being my great grandparents, and your great great grandparents! I can remember my grandmother talking about your grandfather (her nephew) George, together with his siblings John (the horticulturalist) and Andrew who I believe was a Methodist Minister/College lecturer. My grandmother did tell me quite a lot about her childhood (she was born in 1888 as the youngest in the Bates family), some of which I have recorded, and it does give some very interesting insights into the day to day life at that time. I live in Westfield – a village in East Sussex.

      1. Hi James, lovely to hear back from you. You are right about George Bates three sons. One was a clergyman, one a horticulturist and my grandfather was the doctor. My grandfather married Alice Vera Clarke from Wolverhampton, and it was her parents who were mayor and mayoress in 1923. To be honest, I do not know a great deal about my great grandfathers history (George Bates) except that he was in the shoe business with his brother and was mayor in 1940. My father does not talk about him much although my mother has letters from him which I must have a read of. I know my grandfather kept in touch with George Brown as I did meet him, as I said. My father does talk about his visits as a child to Heathfield House and how sad he was when it was demolished. It would be very interesting to hear your grandmothers recollections and maybe learn a bit more about my ancestory. Until I read your previous blog, my father and myself did not know that George Bates even had sisters! Look forward to hearing from you again. My husband , children and I live in a little village called Holmes Chapel in Cheshire.

      2. Hi James, lovely to hear from you. You are right about John, Andrew and George. George was the youngest and married Alice Vera Clarke also from Wolverhampton. It was her parents that were also mayors back in 1923. It would be interesting to hear your grandmothers memoirs as my father does not know a great deal about George Bates senior and did not realise he had sisters as well as a brother! I live in Holmes Chapel, a small village in Cheshire.

        1. Hi Sara, I do have a lot of information, but it would probably be too much and of limited general interest for this forum. Perhaps you could email me at [email protected] and we can continue the conversation off line.

          1. Hello Sara and everyone. This is James’ cousin! I posted a photographed copy of a Mayoral gratitude book of George Bates to Alsager a couple of years ago but never heard back so I presumed the family had left. This fantastic book is now in Wolverhampton Archives. I don’t know why Mom had it but I know she did quite a few of the Mayoress’ rolls when Auntie Emmie was ill. Lovely to see a good photo of Heathfield House. I had great difficulty finding one for Mom although there are ones of parts the outside in her wedding photos. Mom talked about the tennis courts and Billiard room! What a childhood! I loved Great Uncle Brown. He was always called that because of course Mom had her favourite uncle George {Bates} before Auntie Marie married George Brown. I don’t know if had been said before, but the house was given to Wolverhampton Council for the homeless who took it to bits inside and burned all the woodwork for firewood.

  15. Hello, we lived in Railway Street and left in 1962,
    as stated previously i used to help John Bates
    around the lovely gardens at Heathfield House.
    John owned a Morris 8 e series car and i can remember
    going to Wolverhampton station to fetch chicks to be
    reared for christmas.The lady who was housekeeper
    was Joyce Stokes who lived in Paul Street nearby,i did
    meet Andrew when he visited. George Bates was alive
    at this time.they were a very kind family as i recall,There
    were stables in the grounds from days gone by,the district
    nurse lived in a separate part of the house.Mr Brown was
    a resident

  16. I lived at No5 Heath Street, Heath Town until 1960 when the Council did a compulsory purchase on it and moved to Rudge Avenue (brand new Council House). I lived with my late Mom and Dad and my older brother David Walker. David went to Woden Road School and I was at Causeway Lake School. I was due to start Woden Road School but we moved. My brother went to Municipal Grammar School and I went to Eastfield School and then to Prestwood Road Girls School. I have fond memories of Heath Town. My Mom used to go into Masters shop on the Wednesfield Road every week and pay in 1d. Then when it came round to bonfire night she would go in a get a big tin full of fireworks. All neighbours would get together at the field at the back for a bonfire. I remember the Matthews who lived next used to make toffee and someone else would bring potatoes. We had a wonderful time. I remember we went on Holiday with Mom and Brother my Dad was joining us a week later. My uncle who lived above the shops on the Wednesfield Road he was going to look after our dog patch. My Dad had took him to my Uncles on the Thursday but the dog had got out. Apparently Patch had come back injured and Dad had to have the dog put to sleep before he came to join us.

    1. Would the Masters shop have been a Radio and Eletrical shop? If so Mom worked with their daughter Ada (m. Gray) in the shoe shop and they remained friends till Ada died in 2003. Moms shop was on Victoria Street- Easthopes. I’m not sure where Wolverhampton Road and Wednesfield Roads change their name!

      1. Hi Sue, Masters shop was a place you could purchase all sorts from cycles to dinky toys,it was not far from
        the Star Hotel corner of Cross Street.The area in Heath Street we knew as the brittle it was wasteland then
        and i remember a goat being tethered there.The Forge Hammer pub was at the top of Cross St,i think the
        Wednesfield Rd from Wolverhampton changes to Wolverhamptom Rd at Woden Rd continues to Rookery
        St Wednesfield.

        1. I lived at 9 Wolverhampton Road which was two door s down from Travellers Rest. Thus used to be in Wednesfield hence the name Wolverhampton Road. The boundary was the Smestow Brook which passed in a cuilvert beneth the road. Just two doors towards Wolverhamoton thiere was a rear alleyway for vehcicles adjacent to it. The road then becomes Wednesfield Road towards Wolverhampton hence the name Wednesdafield Road. The boundaries were aletered in the Victorian era. with Heath Town ceasing to be Wednesfield Heath (Hence the new name for the station there) and becoming Heath Town.

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