Reynolds’ Restaurant, a well remembered and respected eating house

Many people have happy memories of their visits to Reynolds’ Restaurant, the popular eating house and meeting place in Queen Square. Before it closed it must have been one of the oldest catering establishments in the area.

The business was founded in 1723 by Thomas Turnpenny who purchased the shop and turned it into a bakery. In 1751 the tenant, Edward Penn, a baker, purchased the shop and business for £460.

After his purchase, Edward ran the business for just over eleven years, until his death in 1762.

His only daughter Elizabeth was just nineteen years old at the time. She quickly married Thomas Whittingham, and they secured the bakery in trust for their children.

They had one son, John, who unsuccessfully ran the business, and was declared bankrupt in 1808. In 1809 he moved to Liverpool, where he became a grocer.

The Whittingham family must have been in financial difficulties for some time, because in 1793, Richard Wilkes, who lived at Bescot, had a £300 mortgage on the property for 1,000 years at a minimal rent.

An advert from the early 1880s.

The restaurant in about 1900.

When John Whittingham left for Liverpool, Richard Wilkes took control of the property.

He died before the year was out, and bequeathed the property to his son Martin, who in turn bequeathed it to his nephews, Paul and Martin.

They successfully ran the business as P & M Wilkes, Confectioners.

An advert from 1902.

The most important civic function in the area during 1866 took place almost outside the front door of the shop. On 30th November Queen Victoria arrived at the Low Level Station and processed through the town to Queen Square, were she unveiled the statue of Prince Albert.

When the ceremony ended, the royal party returned to the station where lunch was provided in three dining rooms that were built for the occasion by Lovatt, the local builder. The food was provided by P & M Wilkes.

Martin Wilkes outlived his brother, and in 1875 sold the business to William Benjamin Reynolds for £3,250.

Reynolds, who opened the restaurant above the shop, was an innovator. In 1881 he opened a ladies’ toilet for his customers, the first of its kind in the town.

Sadly one of his inventions cost him his life. He died in 1899 of a seizure while working on an ice cream making machine at the rear of the premises.

An advert from 1948.

A view from just before the First World War.

He left the business to his son, Harry Cleveland Reynolds, who sadly died in 1902.

It then passed-on to his son, Harry Cleveland Reynolds junior, who was an engineer.

He decided to continue with his chosen profession and founded an engineering company, H. C. Reynolds Limited.

The restaurant in the 1920s.

An advert from 1964.

Reynolds’ business in Queen Square continued to be successful.

For many years the head chef was Mr. Chapman. When he left in March 1911 his role was taken over by Mr. Wall who had been an apprentice there. He remained as head chef until the business closed.

It was clearly a happy place, because several other members of staff worked there for many years. One of the dining rooms became known as ‘Miss Barratt’s’ after long-serving Florence Ada Barratt, who joined the staff in 1907.

Another long serving member of staff was Harry Small the delivery boy, who started in 1905 delivering confectionary on a hand cart. Sadly he died in 1956.

In 1927 George Luce, a well known baker, and Reynolds shareholder, took charge, and the business went from strength to strength.

He greatly improved the interior of the premises, while maintaining the original exterior.

Under his management the restaurant gained a high reputation as one of the best places to eat.

Its beautiful interior and caring staff made it all the more attractive to the general public.

George Luce ran the business until his death in 1963 when it was taken over by his daughter and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. F. Tonks.

Mrs Tonks was extremely familiar with the business, having worked there since 1932.

The shop in the early 1970s. Courtesy of David Clare.

Their daughter Lysbeth had already been working at the restaurant for some time, and their son Peter began to train in catering management before joining the business.

Sadly it came to an end all too soon. The restaurant closed in 1966, and in August of that year a ‘To Let’ sign appeared in the window.

Within a short while the shop was taken over by the Bedding Discount Centre, and later the Wolverhampton Tourist Information Centre.

Queen Square in 2001 when the building was occupied by Wolverhampton Tourist Information Centre.

Reynolds also had two shops in Worcester Street, one on the corner of Cleveland Street. The company also had shops at 335 and 353 Bushbury Lane.

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