Lost Buildings of Wolverhampton


Shops at the southern end of Worcester Street
By Bev Parker

The southern part of Worcester Street changed dramatically in May 2006 when the old run-down, derelict shops were demolished. Over the years, Worcester Street’s fortunes have declined. It was once a thriving shopping area with a large number of popular shops selling a wide range of commodities.


The derelict shops in 2001.

There has been a slow, steady, decline in trade in the area since the late 1980s, mainly due to changes in people’s shopping habits. Over the years, Worcester Street, particularly the southern section, has become an area which people hardly ever visit, they just pass through on their way to and from the City centre. This feeling of isolation has been acute since the closing of the shops, and their subsequent demolition. It should end with the completion of the youth zone project which replaces the shops.


The area in the early 1900s.

It is an area that had no grand buildings, the most spectacular being the Scala Cinema. As a result it wasn’t popular with photographers and so comparatively few photos seem to have been taken. Although the shops had little architectural merit, they once provided a great service to the local community, and many of them will be fondly remembered for years to come.

The area grew-up as a mixture of factories and shops. As the factories closed, they were replaced by more shops, so that by the time the Picturedrome (later the Scala) opened at the end of 1913, all of the factories had gone.

One of the factories was Highmoor Cycles on the corner of Church Street and Worcester Street, sometimes listed as being in Worcester Street, and other times in Church Street.

From an 1897 trade directory:

The Highmoor Cycle Co., manufacturers of high-grade cycles, in Church Street.

One of the most prosperous of the recently-established concerns in connection with the cycle manufacturing industry in  Wolverhampton, is that known as " The Highmoor Cycle Co.," whose works, now in course of large extension, are situated in Church Street. This business has rapidly assumed an important position in the trade, a result that establishes convincing proof of the first-class character of the cycles produced. In the works now being erected, employment will be afforded for nearly 100 hands, and it is evident that the Company intend to spare no expense in the equipment of the same to ensure the very best manufacturing facilities. The gentlemen at the head of affairs are Mr. S. T. Thomas and Mr. I. Elliott, and up to now they have every reason to be proud of the success that has attended their able and enterprising administration. The Highmoor cycles for ladies and gentlemen combine all the latest improvements, and are absolutely unsurpassed for speed, strength, light running, and uniformly high-class workmanship and finish. This Company aim to place only the most reliable " mounts " on the market, and to this fact they undoubtedly owe their rapidly widening connection. Repairs are speedily executed, and all the latest pattern component parts are supplied at lowest prices. There is no doubt that the " Highmoor " machines will continue to advance in popularity amongst all riders who value quality before cheapness, hence we can safely predict a large expansion of trade for a business so ably and enterprisingly conducted.

Across the road at number 50 Worcester Street stood A. W. Paddey’s cooperage, and nearby was a garage and workshop belonging to Emile Medinger, designer and builder of the Medinger car. Early wirelesses were built and sold by the Radio Electric Company at numbers 33 and 34, just round the corner from Temple Street.

On the corner of Worcester Street and Temple Street was Alfred J. Gilmore's hat and hosiery shop. The following is a description from an 1897 business review:

One of the most popular Hat and Hosiery establishments in Wolverhampton is that owned by Mr. Alfred J. Gilmore, situate on the corner of Worcester Street and Temple Street (see illustration), and who has also a capital branch shop at 74 Bilston Street.
 


Gilmore's shop on the corner of Worcester Street and Temple Street.

  This business is carried on in a most smart and energetic manner, and the proprietor is not only fully alive to the requirements of the public, but, moreover, anticipates them with consummate skill, which at once stamps this as one of the smartest, best, and cheapest houses in the town for hats and hosiery of every description.

Mr. Gilmore has justly earned the name of "the people's hatter and hosier;" his "Star", "Crescent", and "Cross" speciality having had a tremendous sale, and thousands of which are now worn.

Mr. Gilmore selects his stock with discretion and care from the best sources, in a manner which at once proves his intimate knowledge of the business. Large stock is always maintained, while an inspection of them is well worth making. The business is bound to continue to be a popular and progressive one.

In the early years of the twentieth century the shops included:

East Side:    
number name  
23 A. H. Cole  newsagent and tobacconist
24a Nelson & English   butcher
25 H. Tilley  greengrocer
27 F. Winwood  draper
27 A. Mills  confectioner
40 C. E. Gaunt hairdresser
41 C. & H. Hallmark fishmonger
 
West Side:    
number name  
43 Gibbons newsagent
44 J. Tandy greengrocer
53 J. Perkins confectioner
54 H. G. Roberts pork butcher
61 Southan Brothers tailor
64 Miss Fox dressmaker
In 1912 Emile Medinger, one of Sunbeam's racing drivers, who won the Coupe de L’Auto that year, decided to produce cycle cars and acquired a premises in this part of Worcester Street. He designed a two-stroke engine for the car which developed 16hp. and also a four-stroke, four cylinder engine.

He occupied his Worcester Street premises until the summer of 1913 when he moved to Teddington, Middlesex. It is likely that his premises was on the side of the yard where the Picturedrome Cinema was built later that year. This may have influenced his decision to leave Wolverhampton.


Emile Medinger and his wife seated in one of his cyclecars outside his Worcester Street premises. In front is one of his two cylinder, two-stroke engines. Courtesy of  Peter Walford.
The Picturedrome Cinema was built on the site of a large yard, in 1913, by Wolverhampton Picturedromes Limited, run by F. Evans and G. Lewis. It opened on Monday 22nd December with a film called 'Dancing Lessons on Film.' It seated 942 people in the auditorium and 248 on the balcony. After the First World War it was purchased by Edgar Hounsell, proprietor of the Midland Amusements Company and renamed 'The Scala' with Mr. Hornblow as manager.

In 1920 the cinema was sold again, this time to Midlands Entertainments Limited, and in the mid 1920s became part of Associated Provincial Picture Houses who also owned the Queens Cinema and the Agricultural Hall. In 1925 the cinema was refurbished, and reopened on 28th September, 1925 with a showing of 'Winning Through' and 'The Mirage'.

The Scala had a successful life, serving the local population in the Graiseley and Penn Fields area until the late 1940s and early 1950s when visitor numbers fell. It closed in December 1956 and was converted to a Bingo Hall. The ground floor became shops.

Wrestling bouts were held there in the 1960s when it became a dance hall and a popular venue for fans of rock 'n' roll music. Some of the area's earliest groups including Tommy Burton's Combo, Dixie Dean's Combo, Clive Lee & Phantoms, and the original Black Diamonds regularly played there along with some of the national stars including Billy Fury, Nelson Keen and Vince Eagar.

The dance hall continued to operate for many years, and became a night club, but in 1999 the building lost its roof tiles which were stolen. A group of workmen appeared, seemingly to repair the roof. They removed all of the tiles and made off with them. The building then suffered from water damage, as rain poured-in. Anything inside that was valuable also soon disappeared, and the building began to decay. It was finally demolished along with the surrounding shops in 2006, but the facade was saved with the intention of incorporating it in a new hotel development on the site, which never happened, In October 2011 the decision was taken to demolish the facade, which soon disappeared.

In July 1922 the Radio Electric Company opened for business at numbers 33 and 34 on the eastern side of the street.

The Radio Electric Company was founded by George Jones, Secretary of the Wireless Society who had the call sign 2WB. He had previously worked at Mr. Speke's model, toys, and book shop in King Street.

When he started the business he relinquished his secretarial duties due to pressure of work. Within six months the business had moved to a shop in St. John's Street.

The company built cheap crystal sets, which most people could afford. One of their popular models sold for seven shillings and six pence.


A Radio Electric Company crystal set.

In the mid 1930s the shops included:
East Side:    
number name  
23 and 24 The Spot draper
25 H. V. Jones electrical engineer
25a Valeting Service Company cleaners
27 F. Robinson furniture dealer
27a C. Hooper greengrocer
29a C. Harper poultry dealer
30 W. Phillips ironmonger
30a T. Porter butcher
31a A. Harris & Cresswell printers
32 G. F. Dawson antique dealer
33 W. Harry confectioner
34 W. Hart cobbler
38 S. R. Hicks greengrocer
40 R. Wright general dealer
 
West Side:    
number name  
45 City Stores general dealer
46 N. H. Dunn grocer
47 H. Fellows chemist
49 Scala cinema
49 W. A. Loveday dancing teacher
53 E. E. Joyce newsagent
55a J. W. Lewis tailor
56 Stantons baker
57 R. C. Hall butcher
57 R. H. Robshaw confectioner
60 K. & S. Pratt Limited grocer
62 G. T. Parsons confectioner
63 P. Kirner jeweller
64 Pratt (Wolverhampton) Limited confectioner
 
By the mid 1960s  the shops were as follows:
East Side:    
number name  
23 Berrymans Limited shoe shop
24 Rita  ladies’ outfitter
25 G. E. Bird (Wolverhampton) Limited watch maker
26 G. R. Griffiths television dealer
27 Parlour Café restaurant
27a F. J. A. Turner fishmonger
28 F. J. A. Turner fish and Chip shop
29 and 30 William Phillips (Tools) Limited tool merchant
30a R. G. Evans butcher
30b K & M Sandwich Shop sandwiches etc.
31b Mrs. P. M. Pritchard grocer
32 Darlington’s (Carpets) Limited carpet shop
33 W. Harry Limited  tobacconists
34 G. Hart cobbler
35 Turjon Cycle and Radio Depot cycles, radios etc.
36 Trojan Hardware Limited door furniture manufacturer
37 Wittfield Sewing Machines Limited sewing machine dealer
 
West Side:    
number name  
49 A. Keith Thompson grocer
49 Ophide & Marten Limited hairdresser suppliers
49 Ophide & Marten Limited Ophide College of Hairdressing Limited
49 A. H. Hartland hairdresser
49 Scala Ballroom dance hall
49a The Do-It-Yourself Centre paper, wallpaper etc.
50 P. Hacker turf accountant
50 Domestic Electrical Rentals Limited television rentals
50a His Casuals gents outfitters
51 Midland Hire Services Limited car hire
52 Worcester Street Post Office post office
53 Counties Libraries Limited newsagents
54 Palin’s boot and shoe shop
55 G. Greenstone Limited wallpaper and paint etc.
55 Waltons electronic components
55a Bert Williams sports outfitters
55b R. M. Fullard confectioner
56 B. Hodson betting shop
57 A. B. Donson & Son Limited ironmonger
58 T. A. Collins Limited shoe shop
60 Anglo-Continental Shoe Repairs cobbler
 
Local bakers S. J. Stanton had a branch at number 56 Worcester Street from the mid 1930s until the mid 1950s. The firm was a well known supplier of bread and cakes. Next door was A. B. Donson & Son Limited, a wonderful ironmonger's shop which stocked a vast range of tools and accessories, and would quickly get anything to order. Donsons opened their shop in 1932. It was handed down to the son of the founder, then his grandson, and remained in business until the late 1980s.

By the mid 1960s there was a wonderful variety of shops and services in this part of Worcester Street which could rival many parts of today's City centre. All of the shops offered a first-class, friendly service with a smile. County Libraries Limited stocked a wide range of newspapers and magazines, and were happy to get anything on order, be it a one-off or regular order. Greenstones carried a wide range of paints and wallpapers, as did the Do-It-Yourself Centre.

In about 1965 Waltons moved into number 55 and offered a wonderful Aladdin’s cave of electronic components, suitable for any enthusiast. There were many pieces of electronic equipment on display, some new, but mainly old; and of course government surplus and ex-W.D. equipment were commonplace in those days. There was also a fair share of “junk” equipment, either not working or incomplete, that could form the basis of a new project. Valves, transistors and general components could be purchased at good prices, as could such things as reel to reel tape and tools. The staff were always friendly and helpful, and Jack Dennes could be relied upon to make any visit a happy and enjoyable occasion.

By this time integrated circuits were starting to appear and Walton’s became one of the main stockists in the area. They were always willing to order any item that wasn’t in stock and continued to offer a first class service. They could get almost anything. I built my first television set in about 1967 and wanted a plastic front from a commercially available receiver. I had a brief word with Jack about it and one week later it had arrived and was awaiting collection.


Donsons at number 57.

I got to know the people at the shop extremely well, and sometimes helped out by repairing odd pieces of test equipment, which would later go on sale. Waltons were well known in the area and customers often travelled from all across the Black Country and parts of Shropshire. I’m sure many people will still remember their telephone number: Wolverhampton 22039.

Another successful shop was Domestic Electric Rentals (DER) at number 50 in part of the Scala building. DER was part of the Thorn Group and had a large number of branches throughout the country.


DER vans and estate cars were a once familiar sight in Worcester Street, or parked round the corner in Church Street.
The Wolverhampton branch of DER was ably managed by Geoff Latham who had a sizeable staff for such a small television rental shop, including engineers: Paul Barnfield, Robert Bloor, Phil Ceney, Harry Dougal, Mick Edwards, Neville Jones, Ken Harris, Brian Maddox, and Graham Mills.

The store keeper was Vic Lawley, and Ron Britain erected TV aerials. There were also receptionists, and representatives. Like the other shops they offered a first rate service, and were well respected.

The photograph opposite shows a DER colour television based on a Thorn 2000 receiver. This British design was the first fully transistorised colour television receiver in the world.

It's hard to imagine today that such a wide variety of shops could be found at the southern end of Worcester Street, selling a fantastic range of products and services.


The east side of the street in the 1960s Courtesy of John Hughes.

Views of the shops from 2001
The view from the southern end of the site, looking towards town. In the 1950s and 1960s the building on the left was occupied by many businesses including Prestcold (Midlands) Limited, fridge manufacturers; the Scottish Legal Life Assurance Society; Ophide College of Hairdressing Limited; and A. H. Hartland, hairdresser.


Another view of the building with the derelict Do-It-Yourself Centre on the right.


A final view of the southern end of the empty shops with the old Scala Cinema on the right.


The old Scala with the nightclub and dancehall entrance on the left, and far right, with what remained of the DER shop in the centre.

Another view of the Scala. The door in the centre was the entrance to DER's shop which had the two large windows on the right.


The Scala and the derelict shops to the north.

Next door to the Scala was Genesis records shop which had earlier been occupied by a car hire firm.

Another view of Genesis Records with the old post office in the centre, and newsagents Counties Libraries Limited, on the right.


The same shops as above with what used to be Palin's cobblers on the right.

The shop in the centre was once G. Greenstone's decorating shop which sold paint and wallpaper etc.


In the centre at number 55 was Waltons' wonderful electronic components shop.


A close-up view of Waltons.


Another view of Waltons with the remaining shops on the right.


Next door to Waltons, to the right was Bert Williams' sports shop, R. M. Fullard confectionery, and B. Hodson's betting shop.
The Adult Book Shop on the left was for many years occupied by the marvellous ironmongers, A. B. Donson & Son Limited. In the centre was a shoe shop run by T. A. Collins Limited.

At number 60 was J. Harper's well known ropes, nets, twines, tarpaulin and fixings shop which moved round the corner to Temple Street. It had previously been a cobbler's shop occupied by Anglo-Continental Shoe Repairs.


A final view of the northern end of the shops.

Views of the southern end of School Street, and behind the Worcester Street shops

The view round the corner at the southern end of School Street. In the 1960s Grant's Leather Emporium was occupied by Roneo Limited, manufacturers of office machinery. On the right was Esso Kitchens who supplied kitchen equipment, and later a television repair shop. Next right was the office of Stanley M. Jones, auctioneer.

The other shops to the left. On the corner of the car park entrance was Wolverhampton School of Motoring, with advertising agents Goddard Watts Limited to the right, and Burroughs adding machines shop in the centre. In the background is the old Scala building missing its roof tiles. Roof tiles had also been stolen from some of the shops.

On the left was a car park, with Wolverhampton School of Motoring on the corner. It was later a bank, a branch of Barclays as I remember, and later an amusement arcade.

Looking into the car park behind the Worcester Street shops. The part on the left was occupied by a small petrol filling station called Auto Scooter Services, and also Quality Petrol Station.

The remaining buildings with Little Brickkiln Street on the left, Access Financial Management in the centre, and an electricity sub-station on the right.


The car park with the backs of the Worcester Street Shops behind, and the Scala on the right.


The side of the Scala showing the upstairs fire escape after the doors had been stolen.


The inside of the Scala as seen through the open fire escape door. The building had been badly water damaged after the stealing of the roof tiles. Even some of the floorboards had been taken.


Another sad sight, the other end of the Scala, also seen through the open doorway.


Part of the yard behind the Worcester Street shops that was accessible from Little Brickkiln Street.


The centre of the yard behind numbers 55b and 56 Worcester Street.


The far part of the yard behind Walton's shop. The hole in the wall of the outbuilding in the centre was made by people sleeping rough inside.

The inside of the small outbuilding as seen through the hole in the wall. It's the first time I had come across this kind of thing.

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