Wholesale Destruction

After leaving school in 1952 I found employment with H.Goodhall Ltd, in the Wholesale Market in Wolverhampton as a groundsman and porter. I would say the first three years working here in the market (before a break for National Service) were the best three years of my working life.

Rest In Peace
Rest In Peace

The hand bell that rang out daily at 3.00p.m. around St Peter’s Square, to herald the closure of a days trading has now been muffled for good.

And the many tradesmen and customers that had for many years gathered around at 6.00 a.m. outside these once majestic wrought iron gates of Wolverhamptons old fruit and vegetable wholesale market have long since departed after paying their last respects.

All that’s remaining is this brief unique view of the Catholic Church of St Peter and St Paul and Giffard House, framed by the last remaining arch, which adds an extra poignancy to a deeply moving scene at the end of the life of this Edwardian built masterpiece R.I.P.

North Street - its final indignity was Wholesale Destruction.
North Street – its final indignity was Wholesale Destruction.

The eye catching Wholesale Market, of which I recall with great affection, was erected in 1902, on a site now occupied by the Civic Centre, Wulfruna Street, in an area formerly known as Horse Fair.

The last picture show
The last picture show

Seventy years later in the early 1970’s the market building itself was still in quite good condition, but unfortunately its design and layout, didn’t meet with the demand for modern day distributing. Its existing facilities couldn’t cope with the quick handling, of the huge transports, and this caused terrible congestion, around Wulfruna Street during busy periods.

This, plus the lack of storage and garage space, for use by the merchants etc, added further handicaps to smooth organisation, and it was with much regret a new site had to be found away from St Peters Square.

1963 in like a Lion and out like a lamb
1963 in like a Lion and out like a lamb

For those of us who worked in the Wholesale Market during the first two months of 1963 there was no need for threats of being sent to Siberia, it was colder in here. It snowed heavily just after Christmas and then for weeks a glazed frost piled on the agony.

It was the worst freeze up since 1947, two things that always spring to mind was the tea freezing in cups when left a while unattended, and the price of the few vegetables produced leaping in price each day. The ground became so hard one local farmer Wallace Cartright from Wombourne resorted to using a pneumatic drill to dig parsnips!

This is a shot of the market interior in summer of 1963. The market appears very quiet now at the end of the day’s trading.

It mainly features the large trading area allotted to H. Goodall Ltd fruit & veg merchants. One of Goodhalls fleet of vehicles is seen fully laden, about to leave with goods for delivery to Newport Shropshire. The gentleman with arms folded was Tom Price, the General manager of H.Goodall; seen here chatting to Jack Thomas, a local greengrocer from Park Village.

Vegetables in their blood
Vegetables in their blood

A group of market veterans force a smile even though they are being uprooted from the ornate aisles of the Wulfruna street headquarters, where they have spent most of their working life.

They are from left to right: Sam Leason, George Henson, George Talbot, Horace Horton, Bert Weaver, Tom Adey, Steve Thomas, Edgar Finney, and Arthur Green. Looking back with hindsight perhaps, a tear or two would not have gone amiss.

Gone but not forgotten
Gone but not forgotten

In the local press on 22nd November 1973 it said… By Monday next the Edwardian shell of Wolverhampton wholesale market will be strangely quiet, because the trade will have moved two miles away to Hickman Avenue. The bustle and the banter of the fruit and veg trade, will now be echoing around new £500,000 premises at Monmore Green.

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  1. Dear June and Terry

    Thank you for getting in touch and showing an interest in my site.I hope I’m right in thinking you are the June and Terry Mathews whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing since my market days from the 1950’s.

    I am indeed the John Howe mentioned. by yourself former Market porter and later licencee of the Clarendon,Chapel Ash. I hadn’t realised you attended Red Cross Street School and noting the date we may possibly have been in the same year.

    I do hope you and Terry are both keeping well and I would love to hear from you again soon.

      1. Hello Stephen Welcome.
        I seem to recall there was a Colin Payton that managed the flower dept for Francis Nicholls in the new Market in the late 1970’s I can imagine him having lots of friends me included Ask him if he remembers Big John?

        1. Hello stephen your dad was friends with my dad who also worked at francis nicholls walter purcell and i remember big john coming round our house

          1. Hello Elizabeth
            If my my memory serves me right wasn’t he in some sort of partnership with Brian Payton, and another couple of chaps in the late 1960’s, with their own small pitch in the wholesale market.

  2. My Father is Len Thomas who was a wholesale fruit & vegetable merchant and sold his wares on the patch behind the market.

    His Brother is Steve Thomas who is in the above picture titled “Vegetables in their blood”.

    I believe the Utility parked in the centre of the picture titled “1963 in like a Lion and out like a lamb” could be my father’s.

    Dad had a fleet of commer lorries and one is pictured in Wolverhampton on Wheels by Simon Dewey & Ned Williams, Uralia Press 1991 on page 49.
    He has a duplicate print of this picture in his draw.

    As the book says he emigrated to Australia in 1970 and the time of writing this comment, is still alive at the age of 92.

    Gary Thomas

  3. Looking through an old family album I found an unused post card of the H Goodall premises that I think must be from about 1910. Why it is included I do not know as I am not able to identify any relatives who may have worked there. Would be happy to email to you if of interest.

  4. This has brought lots of memories of going to market with my dad Billy Head (Bill) as a 8 year old lad in 1960 . Dad’s still going strong and has just celebrated his 89 th birthday.I can remember all the faces in the photo of the salesmen. We were potato merchants and market gardeners as well as having a retail market stall in Bridgnorth high street on a Saturday. We used to grow lettuce and tomatoes and sell to George Henson (waldrons) .George used to give me half a crown , 2/6 , today 12 1/2 p if I help trolley the produce . Happy days .

  5. At the time you were delivering the lettuce to the Henson’s Tony I was the veg salesman for H.Goodall, and if my memory is correct I recall having and selling many a load of Swedes from your dad ( A great fellow) at about that time.

    When I think about the price of a single swede today and the price at that time for a 56lb bag it makes me smile.

    I am so pleased to here your Dad is still with us and I hope his health is still good.

    The last time I saw him, (although I now live in Bridgnorth myself) was around 1984-5, I was running a pub for Banks’s at Upton Magna and one evening in the summer Bill :again if my memory is serving me well had flew his aeroplane to Shrewsbury to meet up with Benjy Whittle who farmed behind us to discus some business, We spent an enjoyable evening in the pub that night.

    Although we still have a lively market atmosphere today here in Bridgnorth, I do regret the loss of the Smithfield here and those wonderful markets that made Wolverhampton.the town it once was!

  6. My dad George Marsh sold potatoes in late 6o’s early 70’s on the patch behind the market he was a director of Gays Potatoes Ltd from Wombourn, I would go to the market every chance I had weekends and school holidays. Then in 1971 Gays moved into the New Market in Hichman avenue, at the age of 16 I left school to join the Gays team and on passing my driving test 1975 my 1st truck was a Leyland Terrier COA 411K. My dad then bought out Gays when thy ceased trading in 1988 and traded as George Marsh Potatoes up until 27th November 2013 was still in the market at the age of 78 but on that date was rushed into New Cross with a very short illness an passed away on 3rd December 2013. Very SAD day us family and the Market people. So then it was my tern to become a Potato Merchant and took over the business so G. Marsh goes on.

  7. Hello Paul

    I last spoke to your dad possibly a few weeks before he died he was with your mother (I assume) in the Downs .But our paths have crossed many times over the past 60years.

    He was a young chap when I first knew him, I seem to recall a stall on the old outside Market – was it his sister, Jean? . that used to buy produce of H.Goodalls were I was working at that time.

    In my mind he had two good looking sisters The elder one Pamela ?, later married Ted Corns from Wombourne ‘
    Jean the other younger one as I recall lived on the corner of the road into Trysull. Her husbands name eludes me. Although I knew him well.

    Was your Grandfather also named George . I recall George Marsh, he would come to the old patch with his American ex service vehicle in the early 1950’s. I would see him in the lunchtimes in the Chequer Ball having a liquid lunch , his old Labrador at his feet.

    I came in contact on many occasions later with Young George on his way back from Hickman Avenue and he would keep me posted on the state of affairs of people we both knew.

    Nowadays I see the big enclosed lorries regularly crossing the Bridge in and out Bridgnorth with the old family name and think to my self Thats one business that hasn’t been spoilt by progress.

    Does any of this make any sense to you Paul. I hope it does

    Please join our forum Paul.

  8. Hi Billy
    Yes it would have been mom at the Down with dad thy were never apart !
    Dads dad was Harry who had a stall on the market with Dad and Pam being the main helpers. Dads sisters were Ruby,jane,Barbara,Pam and Agnes it was Jane who married Ted Corns and Pam who lived on the corner of Trysull rd. she married Stan Foster who also was a friut & veg stall holder in Stourbridge in door market. As for the trucks over Bridgnorth bridge thy are mine my hsulage yard in based in the town. At the age off 21 in 1979 I left Gays to become an owner driver now i’ve got 16 artic units and 40 specialist poato trailers which are required for deliveries to most well none crisp and prossesing factoiries. Thanks for the reply Billy


  9. Its coming back to me more now Paul , The stall I remember now seemed near the top of the old Patch, with your dad and Pam.

    Yes I remember Pam and Stan on the corner of Trysull Road , I met up with Stan a few times at The August meeting at York, Doesn’t he have a son that runs a Pallet business I used to see him on the Wolverhampton bus at a time he had lost his licence.

    Agnes I recall was a stunner, more my age.

    Had I mistaken the name George for Harry or were they two different persons.
    I remember Gays Potatoes he started up on the Bratch by the side of Heath Fowlers Pitch.
    didn’t he have a nice looking daughter?.

  10. Hi Billy
    Yes your getting there, angnes was a stunner just as Pam was and beleave it or not Angnes is living back in town in a flat above the swan she moved down Devon for years. Lee was the son of Stan and Pam still has the pallet business in Fox lane in Wolverhampton. Harry had a brother named George who had the Crown Inn at Claverley he also had 4 stunning daughters . Gays Potatoes Ltd was started 1961 or 62 on Bratch lane all directors were equal share holders who were Gay and Dad along with local farmers Baker, Bolland and Inett .Gay had 2 daughters Jenny was a good better looking one.

  11. Hi Billy,
    We are researching my wife’s family. Arthur Green, last gentleman on the right was her uncle, married to Tillie. They had a shop, I believe on the Birmingham new road?.
    Arthur was one of five brothers and a sister. My wife Valerie Green was daughter to Leslie Green.
    We remember Arthur using the wholesale market before it closed to make way for the development of the wolverhampton kremlin. Indeed I used to catch the Fordhouse bus to Marston Excelsior for work before that was moved to school street.
    Any information you have on Arthur or Tillie would be appreciated

    1. Hi Kevin
      I think it must have been around 1958 at the time I came out of the forces and returned to my existing job at H. Goodhall in the Wholesale Market at that time, in Wulfruna Street.

      If I remember correctly Arthur was working for Dick Walley, a rival firm.
      He later joined the Goodall staff where he and I shared the vegetable pitch as Salesmen.

      He sold the Green veg (appropriate wasn’t it) and I sold the Root veg.
      I was only in contact with Arthur for about five years or so and during that time, I have fond memories of him.
      I believe I am correct when I say shortly after he started working alongside me he had an operation for Bowl Cancer which slowed him up considerably. As I recall he had a son, I must have met Mrs. Green because she and Arthur joined us on our yearly outings with Goodalls.
      After 1965 I only worked on occasion in the Wholesale Market in Town and Hickman Avenue, so lost contact with Arthur never knew anything about the shop etc..
      I hope this has been a little help with your research. I do have a Lost Wolverhampton Facebook Page check it out it may help you in your research.

      All the best, Billy Howe.

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