Bilston Road to Lower Walsall Street

This section of the canal used to be the commercial heartland of old Wolverhampton. There were many basins and wharves along the western side of the canal where all kinds of goods and raw materials were loaded and unloaded. When the canal opened most of the roads in the area were dirt tracks and so were very unsuitable for the transportation of heavy items. The canal changed all that and Wolverhampton's industry and commerce began to thrive as a result.

Kelly's Directory for 1850 lists John Inshaw's steam packets that ran twice daily to and from Bilston Road Bridge, Wolverhampton, to Broad Street Bridge in Birmingham. Inshaw invented and built twin screw steam-powered boats for the service.

Commercial Road which runs parallel to the canal in-between Bilston Road and Walsall Street appeared in about 1850 and allowed better access to the wharves and the industries that grew-up alongside the canal. Before the building of Commercial Road the wharves were accessed via Navigation Street.


An advert from 1902.

There were a number of businesses in Bilston Road that relied upon the canal to transport their goods or raw materials. There were many coal wharves, and canal boats laden with coal were a common sight until the 1950s. In 1851 Harry Leek transported coal via Bilston Bridge Wharf, and in 1902 the Wulfruna Coal Company were using the same wharf. In the 1930s they acquired a second site, Minerva wharf off Horseley Fields.

In the 1920s W. T. Webberley & Company, coal merchants, had premises in Bilston Road as did George & Matthews Limited.

Other Coal merchants included Fanshaw and Pinson in Commercial Road who where also general carriers and operated from Union Wharf and basin, just to the north of Bilston Road.

In the late 1890s Union Wharf was used by W. Shepherd:
From the Illustrated Towns of England Business Review of Wolverhampton, 1897.

W. Shepherd, Coal Merchant and Brick Manufacturer, Union Wharf, Bilston Road, and Phoenix Brick Works, Dudley Road; and Elm Farm Brick Works, Dudley Road, and Green Lanes.

About thirty years ago Mr. W. Shepherd commenced in business as a coal merchant at Union Wharf, Bilston Road, corner of Commercial Road, and he has ever since occupied a high, honourable, and influential position in the commercial life of Wolverhampton. Having made his coal business one of the largest in the town, he, three years ago, started brick manufacturing at Elm Farm Brick Works, Dudley Road and Green Lanes, and about 12 months back he opened the Phoenix Brick Works, in Dudley Road.

Mr. Shepherd has long been engaged in extensive building operations in various parts of the town, having erected 500 or more houses. He has certainly done much to improve the dwellings of the working classes. This is by no means the extent of commercial speculation which Mr. Shepherd has on hand for with characteristic enterprise he has embarked in cycle manufacturing in the town, but of this business we shall write fully in a separate article. It will be seen from what we have already indicated that Mr, Shepherd is a notable figure in Wolverhampton business circles, hence the prominence accorded his doings in these pages.

Every facility is possessed at Union Wharf in the way of horses and carts to ensure the speedy delivery of all orders to any part of the town or district. The two brick works are large and equipped with the most modern machinery plant. The bricks produced are unsurpassed for durability; and best terms are offered for any quantity. Mr. Shepherd gives both businesses close personal attention, and employs many hands. For the past 15 years he has most ably represented St. Matthew's Ward on the Town Council of Wolverhampton, and whilst directing his energies to the welfare of this particular ward, he has ever shown a desire to advance the interests of the town as a whole.

To the north of Union Wharf  stood Waterloo Wharf and basin, and to the north of that was Commercial Wharf, earlier known as the Grand Junction Canal Company Wharf and Corporation Wharf. In White's 1851 Staffordshire Directory, the Grand Junction Canal Company is listed as operating from London Wharf, Commercial Road. Their agent at the time was J. B. Palk. The Grand Junction Wharf was used by B. Pugh coal, brick and tile merchant.

Waterloo Wharf was used by John Gough Noake:

From the Illustrated Towns of England Business Review of Wolverhampton, 1897.

John Gough Noake, Builders' Merchant, Lath Cleaver and Horticultural Sundriesman, 48 and 49 Darlington Street, Salop Street, Albany Road, Horsman Street, and Waterloo Wharf, Commercial Road.       Telegrams: John Gough Noake, Wolverhampton. Telephone No. 7226.

One of the largest and most important business concerns in the town of Wolverhampton is that conducted by Mr. John Gough Noake, builders' merchant, lath cleaver, horticultural sundriesman etc. This concern was founded in 1850, and its progress has been of the most solid and substantial character; a result only commensurate with the great ability and well-directed enterprise displayed in its management.

Before enumerating the many classes of goods and materials dealt in, we will give some idea of the premises occupied. At 48 and 49 Darlington Street the premises consist of extensive stores, warehouse accommodation, showrooms, offices and yard, and the frontage is both imposing and attractive in appearance. The branch depots at Salop Street, Albany Road and Horsman Street are large and convenient for all purposes, and there is an extensive wharf at Commercial Road with excellent canal communication.

At each address the premises are admirably arranged, and the greatest order is observable in the arrangement of the many classes of wares; consequently, there are the best facilities existing for inspection, and all orders can be promptly executed. Mr. Noake deals in every description of building materials; including red, white and blue bricks of all kinds; coping, cornice and plinth bricks; quarries, tiles, window sills, pier caps, kiln tiles, statuary and medallions, and terracotta ware in great variety; fire bricks, burrs, and quarries, glazed bricks and tiles of all colours, Dutch tiles, Minton floor tiles, hearth tiles, fender kerbs and enamelled slate chimney pieces; ranges, grates, etc. Day's, Duckett's, Oats and Green's, Rimmer's and others waste water closets; lavatories, pump troughs, baths and flushing cisterns; Hellyers, Weaver's, Buchan's, Kenon's, Dean's, Broad's and every speciality in ventilating, intercepting and grease traps; slates and tiles of all kinds, blue and red finials, laths, cement, plaster, hair, colours, varnishes, oils, whiting, dryers, etc. Bituminous inodorous felt, fibrous plaster, centre flowers and plaster figures; chimney tops, sheet lead and roofing felts, pallisades and gates, iron wall coping, barrows, riddles, screens, brick mats, lock furniture of all kinds, timber of all kinds, flooring and matched boards, etc., and in fact every description of materials, tools, etc., required by builders and others.

Mr. Noake is sole agent for the county of Stafford for Callender's Pure Bitumen Dampcourse, which is acknowledged to be unsurpassed for resisting damp, moisture, water, pressure and temperature. It contains no coal-tar or pitch. This dampcourse has been used in many important works in the kingdom and has given the greatest satisfaction. Prices and samples can be had on application. Mr. Noake is also agent for Purimachos Fire Cement, which is known and used in all parts of the world, also a special dentists' plaster, for which he is well known amongst the principal dentists of the United Kingdom.

The Horsman Street depot is set apart for storing horticultural sundries, and here a great variety of goods may be seen, embracing the following:-

Every description of flower pots, seakale, orchid, tomato, vine and fern pots; plain and ornamental orchid pans, seed pans, orchid baskets, saucers, vases, pedestals, statuary, mignonette and window boxes, hanging baskets, hanging vases, rustic flower pots, tree stumps, rustic branch pots, wall pots, garden tiles, fountains, garden seats, garden and restaurant tables, garden arches, garden rollers, rhubarb pots, wheelbarrows, riddles, watering cans, buckets, spades, shovels, forks, etc.; also wall nails, chrysanthemum and dahlia sticks, labels, etc.; guano, bone meal, nitrate of soda, sulphate of ammonia and other fertilizers, agricultural salt, agricultural pipes, gypsum blocks, spar, tufa, virgin cork, red ashes, raffia, archangel mats, sphagnum moss, mushroom spawn, rock plants, herbacious plants, ferns, greenhouse plants, trees, cuttings, blooms, etc., and all kinds of horticultural requirements.

Also pigeon nest pans, rabbit and dog troughs, fowl and pigeon fountains, pigeon feeders, fowl saucers, etc.; umbrella stands, general glazed stoneware for all purposes; acid taps, funnels, bottles, etc.; muffles, retorts, and general stone and fire clay ware used in acid and chemical works and laboratories. Practical men are sent out for pruning, vine dressing, and general garden work to any distance.

For all the goods enumerated Mr. Noake is intimate with the chief manufacturing centres, and as he buys direct in large quantities, he is enabled to sell at lowest possible prices. His trade is very extensive, and over all details of the business he exercises a close personal supervision.


An advert from 1851.
An advert from the 1902 Wolverhampton Red Book.


From the Illustrated Towns of England Business Review, 1897.

Other businesses in Commercial Road that relied on the canal were William Walford’s joinery and saw mills, W. E. Jones, timber importers, and Parker, Rogers Limited, wholesale hardware merchants.

Eastham Wharf was used by coal merchants, Joseph Wells and Son:
From the Illustrated Towns of England Business Review of Wolverhampton, 1897.

Joseph Wells and Son, Coal, Coke and Breeze Merchants, Brake and Waggonette Proprietors, etc., Eastham Wharf, Walsall Street, and Williamson Street.

A busy trade as coal, coke and breeze merchants, is done in Wolverhampton by the firm of Messrs, Joseph Wells and Son, who during the time they have carried on business in the town have acquired an excellent reputation with their customers. One of their addresses is Eastham Wharf, Walsall Street, where they have every facilities, including canal accommodation, for their coal business. They hold a well-assorted stock of all kinds of coal from the leading collieries; also cokes, breezes, etc., while the quality of everything supplied by them represents the fullest possible value, as their many customers could testify.

Their other premises are in Williamson Street, near Penn Road, where they have an extensive retail coal depot, stables, etc. At this address they also have every convenience for carrying on the other branch of their business as coach proprietors, including charabancs, brakes, waggonettes, traps, and private omnibuses for evening parties, which are always on hire. Messrs. Wells and Son's turn-outs are well horsed, and throughout each branch of the concern a highly commendable efficiency is to be noted. The firm receive valuable support, which could not be better placed.


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