Queen Square and Lich Gates were once known as High Green, often called the Market Place. It was renamed after Queen Victoria's visit in 1866 when the statue of Prince Albert was unveiled.

Lich Gates contained some interesting old buildings that were replaced with Barclays Bank, which was built in two parts. The rear part, built in 1876, replaced a fine Georgian building with shop fronts and some interesting looking windows in the roof. In 1881 the other buildings disappeared when Lichfield Street was straightened and widened and Barclays bank was extended to the newly widened street. As a result the eastern side of Lich Gates was shortened by roughly six metres.


How Lich Gates may have looked in the mid 19th century. The Russian cannon in the foreground was captured at Sebastopol during the Crimean War. It stood in High Green until 1866 when it was moved to Snow Hill to make way for the statue of Prince Albert.

In the early 1850s the buildings on the eastern side of Lich Gates were as follows:

Nearest to St. Peter’s Church was a large Georgian building, used as a paper warehouse by John B. Nicklin & Company, paper merchants.

Next door was Sweetman's shop, followed by James Onions shop. He was a hosier, glover, laceman, silk dyer and clothes cleaner.

At the end of the street was a fine, possibly seventeenth century building, occupied by John Cholditch, a wine and spirit merchant.


The view across High Green in the mid 1850s, which must be one of the earliest photos taken in the town centre.

Another view taken between 1866 and 1881 with a row of cabs in the foreground, waiting for passengers.

By this time the shops were as follows:

A shop belonging to W. Thomas, Paris House, a telegraph station, Onions shop and Cholditch's.

John Cholditch's wine and brandy business, founded in 1802, was known locally as Cholditch's. His premises had been previously occupied by T. Bevan, who sold brandy.

John Cholditch was in partnership with J. Barter until the 3rd October, 1844 when the partnership was dissolved.

John Cholditch was a churchwarden, who became councillor for the High Green Ward in 1848. He owned the business premises and lived in Somerford cottage, Coven.


From Melville & Company's 1851 Wolverhampton Directory.

 
Cholditch's shop.


The view from what is now Lich Gates looking towards Dudley Street with the narrow Lichfield Street going off to the left. Based on Robert Noyes painting from 1835.
On the opposite corner of Lich gates and Queen Square was another equally well known wine and spirits merchant, George Cope, whose business survived until the mid 1950s. It traded for nearly 140 years and was known as Copes Wine Lodge.

The fine Georgian house may have been built by William Pershouse, who owned property in the area. He was a local man, but little is known about him. A Mrs Pershouse still occupied one of the buildings for sometime. This listed in the Rate Book of 1777.

George Cope's fine building carries the initials ‘W.P.’ (in reverse) and the date 1726 which are both displayed on the rainwater head in Lich Gates. It was built as an elegant frontage to the old timber-framed building at the back. In about 1755 the building was extended along Lich Gates to add another elegant facade to the half-timbered building. A blocked doorway can clearly be seen in the brickwork in Lich Gates, it was possibly the site of the handsome porch that is shown in some editions of Bridgen's Wolverhampton Directory.

In February 1727 the building was leased by John Fowler, Mercer and Sampson Nocke, who had a lease for 21 years. During that time, Joseph Perkins had a shop in the block with a wine cellar below.

By 1781, the main portion of the building was owned by John Crutchley, an upholsterer and auctioneer, then in 1788 it was owned by John Likley (or Lickly) who sold wine and spirits.

In 1818 the property was purchased by George Cope, a wine and spirits merchant. It became known as Copes Wine Lodge.


An early view of George Cope's premises from 1821 to 1840 when the cast iron column with the gas lantern stood in High Green. From The Book of Wolverhampton by Frank Mason.

In 1851 George Cope is listed as a wine and spirit merchant in Wolverhampton Market place, with a shop in Church Street, Bilston. He lived at The Lodge, Tettenhall Wood.

In Kelly's 1912 Directory the business is listed as George Cope & Son, wine & spirit merchants, 44 Queen Square.

In the 1908 Wolverhampton Red Book it is listed as T. B. Cope, wine and spirit merchant, Queen Square.

Thomas Berwick Cope was George Cope's son who also lived at The Lodge.

The 1881 census lists Thomas B. Cope, aged 40, his wife Mary A. Cope, aged 39 and George B. Cope, aged 10. They had 3 servants, two were housemaids and one was a cook.

Next to the half-timbered building behind the Georgian frontage was a small courtyard that was accessed by a narrow alleyway called Bird in Hand Yard. At the back were two pubs, the Bird in Hand and the Golden Ball. In 1851 a consortium of 10 local men, entered into an agreement with the Borough Council for the improvement of this part of town. As a result the Bird in Hand Yard was widened and straightened and carried through to Cheapside to become Exchange Street.


From Harrrison, Harrod & Company's Directory and Gazetteer, 1861.

In the course of the work, the Golden Ball and the Bird in Hand were demolished and the building now known as St. Peter's House was built on the site. It was purchased by George Cope in April 1852. He seems to have used the cellars and ground floor for this business and let other parts to the London and North Western Railway Company and the Athenaeum Assurance Company. In 1854 he leased the whole of the building to Norris's Patent Chair Company.

By 1919 a butcher's shop had been established in the northern half of the building, the other half being used as a wine merchant's shop. The whole of the Exchange Street ground floor frontage was changed into shop fronts. Wolverhampton Council acquired the premises in 1920 and used the upper floor as offices, then in 1974 the property was transferred to St. Peter's Church in exchange for the site of the old St. Peter's Schools, needed for the Polytechnic. It is now used as a church centre and a cafe.

The building in the north eastern corner of the site, known as The Old Bank Chambers, which has been occupied by Thornes Solicitors for many, many years, was built in the late 18th century and was also acquired by George Cope and used for part of his business.


Cope's Wine Lodge in about 1940.

In 1954 a Mr. and Mrs. Hemmings bought the courtyard and built a small, single storey shop there, which became famous for the sale of crockery. The shop remained there until the late 1970s when the council acquired and renovated the half-timbered building.

Cope's Wine Lodge closed in 1955 and the buildings fronting Queen Square became Queen Square Carpets on the corner of Exchange Street, J. W. Wassall's shoe shop; and Joan's fashion shop on the corner of Lich Gates. When Joan's fashion shop closed, the old Copes Wine Lodge became a branch of the South Staffordshire Building Society, then a branch of Nationwide Building Society. At the moment (early 2021) the shop is empty.


Return to
the menu