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The Central Arcade and Snow Hill

The Central Arcade.

In the Central Arcade at the top, was Suzanne’s Ladies Outdressers, which later became Knights seeds. They sold much the same thing as Bakers but were much smaller. Opposite Knights, on the other corner of the arcade was the nicest and poshest shirt sellers in Wolverhampton. My mother used to buy me a shirt from there every two years, a real dressy thing it was. It was only a small shop with two windows on one side and a door on the corner. The biggest shop in the arcade was Rosensteins. She was a Jew and would not let anybody behind the counter handle the money. She sold clothes, cushion covers and curtains. She used to wear black and had a big apron with a big pocket where she kept the money. She wouldn’t let any of the shop assistants handle the money, she would walk the shop and give the change to customers herself. 
She owned the bottom end of the arcade, all but one shop on the corner which sold stationary and pens and pencils. On the other side was a big shoe shop, a sweet shop and in the centre were two curvatures, where bands used to play on the balcony upstairs. The balcony was in a half circle and a band would play there on a Saturday, when I was a kid. Unfortunately it gradually died out. On that corner was a pub with a narrow staircase leading to a café upstairs. It was one of the biggest cafés in town. 

The Central Arcade after the fire which destroyed it.

Further up was a toy shop with 4 big windows, another place sold corsets and there was a health food shop which sold uncommon sweets and things like that. The arcade went down to St. John’s Lane, which led to Victoria Street. On the left-hand side of St. John’s Lane was Mander Brothers paint storage building.

Going from the Central Arcade to Snow Hill; first there was a big yard where Knights stored all of their seed and potatoes in sheds. There was a wallpaper shop on the corner and the Hen and Chickens pub. The Hen and Chickens was an old fashioned coaching house and was there for years. It was a long, single storey building and it was where the trams and buses used to stop. It went pretty early on and was well looked after, and used by Wolverhampton people.

Looking up Snow Hill. On the left is the shop belonging to P.K. Paddey who sold ales and stout, and in the centre is the Agricultural Hall. Courtesy of Eardley Lewis.
The shops went all the way up Snow Hill. There was an old fashioned music shop called Lings. They sold sheet music. Across the road was Paddey’s the Irish outdoor people. It was an off licence and sold beer and booze, which was on the floor in barrels and bottles. Next was a sweet shop and then Tweedies, the sporting shop which sold tennis and cricket things and then Billinghams garage, which came up to the corner of Market Street. Billinghams took all that corner, and sold cars and did repairs.

Next to Paddey’s was Hughes and Holmes, where we used to get the majority of the engineering tools, like drills, taps etc. The next shop on the corner sold ladies dresses, towels, tea towels. I ought to know the name as I went there many times for towels, tea towels and cloths.

On the corner of Snow Hill was the Agricultural Hall that was there before the Gaumont. It had semi-hard seats, some with hard plush on them and the others were wooden seats or benches. It was a reasonable, posh place and was very nice for the time, The rough picture places were the Pavillion, the Olympia in Thornley Street and the Globe in Horseley Fields.

Return to Victoria Street Return to the beginning Proceed to Horseley Fields