Dudley Street

Dudley Street has long been Wolverhampton’s main shopping street, possibly because of its close proximity to the old market that was held in High Green, now called Queen Square. High Green included Lich Gates, and the northern end of Dudley Street, which from its junction with King Street and Woolpack Alley to Queen Square, was known as High Green, and then High Street, until the early twentieth century.

Wolverhampton had a market as early as 1179. In 1204 King John took great exception to the existence of the market without a royal charter, and on 4th February, 1258, King Henry III granted a charter for a market and fair, to the Lord of the Manor, Giles de Erdington, Dean of Wolverhampton. There would be a weekly market on Wednesdays, and an eight day annual fair that was held on the vigil of the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. A market Hall was built on the eastern side of high Green in 1532, on the site of the old medieval market cross.

In medieval times the northern part of Dudley Street (previously High Street) was in the manor of the Prebend of Hatherton, and included a horse mill, close to the corner of Woolpack Alley.

Much of Wolverhampton was owned by the Leveson family who made a fortune from the wool trade. In 1609, a detailed survey of Sir Walter Leveson’s Wolverhampton estates, provides us with a comprehensive list of his tenants, his property, and his land. At this time the Swan Inn stood on the site of Lloyds Bank, and a little further down near the junction of King Street was a large house, rented by Elizabeth Pershouse, which had a big garden at the back. Nearby were large houses, also with big gardens that were rented by John Wightwick, John Key, and Richard Shenton. Another large house, which stood roughly where Marks & Spencer's shop is today, belonged to Thomas Molineux. Leveson’s tenants on the western side of the street included Henry Smythe, and also Richard Brett and Hugh Sambrooke, who lived in cottages that were opposite the main entrance to the Old Hall, the Leveson’s home.


Part of Isaac Taylor’s map of 1750.

Isaac Taylor’s map of 1750, clearly shows the large gardens that were behind some of  the grand houses in the street, and also the Charity School that stood at the north western end of the street, along with the old market hall that stood in High Green.

The Charity School was built in about 1710 for the education of the town's poor people. In 1716 the school master was paid £26 per year, the school mistress received £12 per year, and the school governess received £7-10s-0d per year.

The school and market hall were purchased by the Town Commissioners in 1779 under the provisions of the first Improvement Act of 1777, and soon demolished.

The grand houses were eventually replaced by shops and businesses, possibly because of the nearby market, and passing trade. Dudley Street was one of the main routes to the south. In 1770 Pearson & Evans were producing coffee mills in the street, and a few years later Thomas Gibbons and John Marshall opened Wolverhampton's first bank there.

Two coaching Inns, the Angel and the Swan stood at the northern end of the street, looking into High Green. The Swan, which stood on the site now occupied by Lloyds Bank, had a large yard at the back where Wolverhampton’s first theatre was built in the 1770s. It was about 80ft. long and 36ft. wide, and could seat around 600 people.

The 1802 Wolverhampton Rate Book gives us an insight into the varied businesses that were based in Dudley Street in April 1801, when the book was compiled. They included:

Name Profession Street number   Name Profession Street number
Thomas Robbins butcher 1   Edward Jennings victualler 29
Richard Ryley shopkeeper 2   John Grosvenor factor 30
William Spilsbury victualler 3   Robert Reeves locksmith 33
Thomas Adams breeches maker 5   Thomas Gibbon factor 36
Charles Sitchell currier 6   William Chreese lawyer 37
Philip Deakin druggist & grocer 7   John Fox victualler 38
William Forester liquor merchant 9/10   Messrs. Chreese lawyers 41
John Richards brazier 11   ? Endor wool comber 43
William Clark locksmith 12   John Peace victualler 44/45
Joseph Taylor shopkeeper 14   William Morris musical instrument maker 46
Mary Clarke rawhide maker 15   Elizabeth Barney victualler 47/48
John Davenhill grocer 16   Dorothy Tooth grocer 49
Peter Highfield wig maker 17   Thomas Evans dealer in textiles 50
Mary Culwick rawhide maker 21   Andrew Mitchell victualler 51
Henry Wood candle maker & grocer 22   William Tompson grocer 52
Sarah Pauton bailiff 23   William Tompson watchmaker 55
Thomas Povey butcher 24   Joseph Timmins shoe maker 56
John Smith grocer 25   James Winne cooper 57/58
James Edwards breeches maker 26   John Kaye candle maker & grocer 59
William Gibbons victualler 27   Thomas Bateman wig maker 60
A look at Pigot & Company's 1828 Directory of Staffordshire reveals the diversity of businesses in the street at the time.

There were four bakers, three boot and shoe makers, three butchers, two cheesemongers, a brazier, a bookseller and stationer, a fishmonger and fruiterer, seven grocers, an ironmonger, a jeweller and silversmith, two drapers, an Irish linen importer, two milliners, a saddler, two straw hat makers, five tailors, two candle makers, six public houses, and a wine and spirit merchant.

Coaches ran to many destinations from the coaching inns, including the Swan, the Angel Inn, the Peacock, and the Crown and Cushion.

Carriers ran to many local towns from the Pack Horse Inn, the Angel Inn, and the Old King's Head.


Dudley Street, as seen from High Green in 1835. From a painting by Robert Noyes.
In 1835, an omnibus service began operating from the Fountain Inn in New Street, Birmingham to the Pack Horse Inn in Dudley Street, run by Mr. John Doughty. In September of the following year, the Midlands Omnibus Company opened an office in Dudley Street, from where services ran to High Street in Birmingham. By 1838 the company ran four direct journeys daily, and two via Walsall, from the Crown & Cushion, in Dudley Street. By 1847 the number of journeys from the Crown & Cushion to Birmingham had increased to seven daily, the journey taking 95 minutes. The coach went via Bilston, and West Bromwich. Another coach ran twice daily from the pub to Walsall via Willenhall, and yet another coach ran on the same route from the Red Cow, in Dudley Street, three times daily.

Another service to Birmingham also started in 1836, run by the Birmingham Omnibus Conveyance Company. Two journeys were made daily from the Castle Inn in Dudley Street. By 1838 omnibuses were also running to Ironbridge, Shifnal, Wednesbury, and Willenhall.
 
The following is a list of the businesses in Dudley Street and High Street, taken from the 1851 edition of William White’s ‘History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Staffordshire’.
Bakers & Flour Dealers James Bradshaw & Sons, Edward Burton, and George Jenson
Bookseller & Stationer Alfred Jolly Caldicott
Boot & shoemakers William Carlow, and Joseph Finlow
Butchers Richard Boulton, James Ford, Thomas Gilpin, Susannah Newey, and 
Thomas Skitt & Company
Cheesemonger George Hill and Sons
Chemists & Druggists Joseph Ford, Alexander Gow, William Hobbins, Frederick Langman, and
William Lowe
Clothes Shop John Langman
Coffee & Malt Mill Maker George Jenson
Confectioners George Jenson, Samuel Meek, and John Owen
Corn Miller & Dealer James Bradshaw & Sons of the Albion Mill
Currier & Leather Cutter William Carlow
Draper Frederick Andrews
Gardener & Seedsman James Bradshaw & Sons
Gas Fitter Henry Banks
Grocers & Tea Dealers Henry Anslow, James Bradshaw & Sons, George Dodson & Company,
George Hand, George Hardwick, George Hill & Sons, Frank Jackson, and
William Henry Weaver
Haberdasher John Parry
Hatters D. L. Davis & Company, George Devereux, and George Hardwick
Hinge Maker W. W. Andrews
Horse & Gig Hirers Thomas Brookes, and John Icke
Hop Merchant James Bradshaw & Sons
Hosiers & Lace Sellers Isaac Bingham, Mrs. Bunch, William Cooley, Thomas Edwards, Gittos and Beddows, George Lancaster, John Parry, and John & Joseph Wheeler
Inns & Taverns The Lord Russell, the Old Kings Head, and the Red Cow
Insurance Agent Thomas Shaw
Iron & Steel Merchant Joseph Underhill
Iron Brazier Joseph Charles
Ironmongers William Ward Andrew, Henry Banks, and Joseph Charles
Linen & Woollen Drapers Thomas R. & Frederick Andrews, Isaac Bingham, Gittos & Beddows,
Thomas Edwards, Thomas Shaw, Shoolbred & Company, Christopher Smith,
John Underhill, and John & Joseph Wheeler
Lock Maker Joseph Duce & Son
Merchant & Factor Joseph Underhill& Son
Pawnbroker James Langman
Saddlers John Barnett, and Henry Glaze
Tailors Thomas Lloyd Shaw, and John Langman & Son
Wine & Spirit Merchants George Hardwick, John Harris, Alexander Patterson, and Alfred Peters
Dudley Street featured in the celebrations in 1866 when Queen Victoria unveiled the statue in Queen Square. There were many gas-lit illuminations including an eight feet high star and V.R. on the front of G. and W. Underhill's ironmongers shop, a large illuminated shield above Masters, wine and spirit merchants shop, a succession of stars above James Tolefree's linen drapers shop, and a large crown across the front of Henry Banks' ironmongers, and Frank Walker's drapers shop, at numbers 10 and 11.
 
Two drawings by J. R. Veal, from his book Old Houses in Wolverhampton and the Neighbourhood, published in 1889. The image on the right shows Alexander Gow's chemist shop at 5 Dudley Street (then High Street), and Phoenix tobacconists next door, with King Street on the right.


The shops above, on the left. Courtesy of Eardley Lewis.

Another view of the shops.

Also from the Eardley Lewis collection.

 
John Fullwood's version of J. R. Veal's drawing that's above on the right.  

An advert from 1884.


A photograph of the shops above. Courtesy of Eardley Lewis.


An advert from 1884.

 

Two adverts from 1884.

 
Two adverts from 1884.


An advert from 1884.


An advert from 1884.


An advert from 1884.

A cold wintry day in the late nineteenth century.

From the Eardley Lewis collection.

 

Two adverts from 1884.

 

Two adverts from 1884.


An advert from 1884.


An advert from 1884.


Dudley Street in about 1900. By Alan Eaton.


An advert from 1861.


An advert from 1861.


An advert from 1884.


An advert from 1884.


An advert from 1884.

A view from the 1920s.

From the Eardley Lewis Collection.

Another view from the 1920s.

Also from the Eardley Lewis Collection.


 

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