During the Victorian era, Britain had grown into a prosperous, world-leading country, particularly benefiting the wealthier members of society. After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, most people assumed that things would continue as before, which they certainly did for several years, but change would eventually follow.

In the early part of the century, there were a number of new developments in Dudley which were beneficial to the town. On the 1st July, 1903 Dudley Education Committee, for the county borough of Dudley, was formed to replace the School Board. The committee, consisting of 21 members met on the 2nd Monday in each month at the Education Offices, in St. James’s Road and oversaw the council and voluntary schools, the School of Arts & Crafts, in St. James's Road, and the Technical Schools in Stafford Street & St. James's Road. In the same year, Dudley Cemetery in Stourbridge Road, opened. The cemetery was officially opened by the mayor, John Hughes, on the 30th September, 1903. He was assisted by members of the council and members of the local clergy.

A second Court of Quarter Sessions was granted in 1908. Meetings were held at the Sessions Court in Priory Street. The new Central Library opened in 1909 along with the geology museum in the old library building, which housed Dudley’s fine fossil collection that was claimed to be one of the best collections in the country.

The Upper Standard School in Blower’s Green Road, opened in 1904. After several name changes it became the Sir Gilbert Claughton School in 1957. The school closed in 1990 and was used as offices by the council, then called the Claughton Centre. After being empty for several years, the building was badly damaged after an arson attack and is now due to be converted into 30 flats.


The Teacher Training College opened in 1909. It later became Dudley College of Education, and in the 1990s was part of Wolverhampton Polytechnic. The buildings were demolished some years ago and the site is now occupied by a private housing estate. From an old postcard.


Another view of the Teacher Training College, also from an old postcard.

Dudley Girls High School opened on the 8th December, 1910 in Priory Road, and was also known as Dudley High School. After closure in 1995, the building was demolished in early 1996 to make way for a car park. The site is now occupied by Dudley College of Technology.

Dudley was well served by the local tram network. Trams ran through Princes End and Toll End to Wednesbury, through Dudley Port, Great Bridge, and West Bromwich to Handsworth, through Upper Gornal and Sedgley to Wolverhampton, through Round Oak and Brierley Hill to Stourbridge, through Netherton to Cradley Heath, and through Pensnett and Kingswinford to Brettell Lane, Stourbridge.


A tram in the Market Place. From an old postcard.


A view from the Market Place, looking into Castle Street in the early 1900s. From an old posrcard.


Another view of Castle Street from the Market Place with New Street off to the left and Fisher Street off to the right. From an old postcard.

A view of the Market Place from the early 1900s. Opposite is Thomas William Tanfield's premises where he did letterpress printing and sold stationery and books. He was also secretary to the Dudley & District Benefit Building Society and had an office there. Next door is Hyman Cohen's tailors shop, and two doors away is Lester's Wine Shop, followed by the Fountain Dining Rooms.

Another view of the Market Place, also from the early 1900s, and from across the road. The large sign on the left, in the shape of a tea pot is outside the shop at number 206, run by the Maypole Dairy Company Limited, advertising their tea at 1s.6d. per packet. From an old postcard.


The Market Place in June 1911, decorated for the coronation of George V. From an old postcard.

A view of the fountain in the Market Place, looking towards High Street.

On the left is the Dudley Arms Hotel, once one of the most important meeting places in the town centre.

From an old postcard.


The Market Place on a busy day in the early years of the 20th century. Next to the Palethorpe's sign is a hanging electric light, one of the first electric street lights in the town. From an old postcard.


An empty Market Place in the late 1800s. From an old postcard.


A final view of the Market Place at the beginning of the century. Across the road is Josiah Lloyd's drapery store, and to the right is the once well-known Palethorpe's shop with its large sign. The successful sausage-making business was founded in 1852 by Henry Palethorpe. From an old postcard.


Looking up High Street towards 'top church'. From an old postcard.


Looking down High Street to the Market Place with Wolverhampton Street on the left. From an old postcard.


The top of High Street around the turn of the century. On the left, with the glass front, is a draper's shop belonging to F. W. Cook Limited, founded by Samuel Cook in the early 19th century. He was a radical reformer who kept a close eye on the town acts carried out by the commissioners. Over the years he objected to many proposal that he thought were unreasonable and got many of them overturned. On the corner of Vicar Street, by the church is the Birmingham and District Bank. From an old postcard.
         
Schools listed in
Kelly's 1912 Worcestershire Directory.
  Schools in the Borough of Dudley.
         

A view up High Street with the decorations for George V's coronation on 22nd June 1911. From an old postcard.

Dudley's fine old post office at 200A Wolverhampton Street, on the corner of Priory Street. It was built in 1909 to replace an earlier building that was much smaller. The building was Grade II listed in 1976.
 
Businesses in 1912. From Kelly's 1912 Worcestershire Directory:
   
A to G   H to Q   R to Y
         

Looking up Castle Hill with the Opera House on the right and the Station Hotel on the left. The original Station Hotel was built in 1898, and replaced with the building above in 1910. This in turn was demolished in 1936 and replaced with the existing building. From an old postcard.

An unrecognisable scene today; the view along Fisher Street, looking towards Castle Street. Fisher Street was widened in the 1930s and later became one of the main routes into and out of Dudley bus station, which was first built in 1952. From an old postcard.


Wolverhampton Street at the beginning of the century. From an old postcard.

In the late 19th century and the early 20th century, the population continued to steadily increase. The population of the Municipal Borough was as follows:
 

1881 - 46,252      1891 -  45724      1901 - 48,733     1911 - 51,079

Electricity was provided by the Corporation's power station in Stourbridge Road, Springsmire, and gas came from the Dudley Gas Company's site in Spring Gardens. Water was supplied by the Staffordshire Waterworks Company, that had reservoirs at Shaver's End and Scott's Green.

The turn of the twentieth century saw the dawn of the welfare state, but only in a modest way. In 1909 the first old age pensions were paid to people over the age of 70. They were entitled to five shillings a week. Two years later the 1911 National Insurance Act was passed to provide sickness and unemployment benefit for people. The scheme was compulsory for all wage earners between the ages of sixteen and seventy. They had to contribute four pence a week to the scheme, which was supplemented by an additional three pence from the employer, and two pence from the state. In return, workers received free medical attention and medicine, and were paid 10 shillings a week for the first 13 weeks, and 5 shillings a week for the next 13 weeks. Unemployment benefit consisted of seven shillings a week, beginning after the first week of unemployment, and lasting for fifteen weeks in any single year. It was paid at labour exchanges, which first appeared in 1910.


High Street in the early 1920s.


   
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