do guided tours of Wolverhampton?" someone said to me incredulously
the other day. "How long do they take, five minutes?"
"No, I explained, its difficult to do much in under an
hour. Two is better."
the problem with being a tour guide in places not readily associated
in tourism. People dont take you seriously. Unless, of course,
you can convince them to come one on of these walks (I prefer that
term to "tours", which smack of herding disinterested people
around things they dont want to see; I deal with "visitors",
anywhere, Wolverhampton has a fascinating past (and an optimistic
present) and, to try and prove that to you, lets take an imaginary
"on-line" stroll around just one part of it
began as a small Saxon Settlement called "Heante Tun",
meaning the "High Enclosure". But, in the year 994 it
received a Charter from King Ethelred the Unready at the behest
of a local noblewoman, Lady Wulfruna. Subsequently, the settlement
was known as "Wulfrunas Heane Tun", which became
town remained important through the Middle Ages and as a religious
and market centre, but it was really with the coming of the Industrial
Revolution that development really began to take place. The towns
population rocketed, based on heavy industry, brewing and lock-making.
celebrate the fortieth anniversary of her accession to the throne,
HM The Queen announced that she was conferring the status of "City" upon the Borough of Wolverhampton.
wander around the City Centre begins at Queen Square. This was known as the "High Green"
until the visit of Queen Victoria to the town in 1866, to unveil
the statue of Prince Albert in the centre.
It was her first public appearance following the death of Prince
Albert five years before and surprised many people. Local people
have all sorts of stories about the statue, including that the sculptor
committed suicide as the horses legs are shown incorrectly;
none of these stories are true, though!
Old Still Inn
around the corner brings us to the amazingly intact Georgian King Street, restored in the 1980s after many years of
semi-dereliction. A lovely old pub called The Old Still Inn stands at the end. This was the childhood
home of Dame Maggie Teyte (1886-1976), a Wolverhampton girl who
became a world famous opera singer.
next stop is Queen Street, lined with several interesting buildings.
Although Snapes Tea Shop, a real Wolverhampton institution
is no longer in business, there are still several interesting buildings
for example, are the headquarters of the Express & Star, one of the most widely read provincial
newspapers in Britain. The newspaper, which pioneered new print
technology in the 1980s, was actually founded by the Scottish-American
philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to further his republican cause.
Court Royal coat of arms
along the street, the former County Court Building with its magnificent Royal coat of arms was built in 1813 as Wolverhamptons
first subscription library. The upper floor (the assembly Rooms)
was added later. The Dispensary (1828) dispensed medication to deal
with unsanitary condition in the town in the 19th century, including
the Cholera epidemics of the 1830s and 1840s which swept through
the area. The Mechanics Institute (now the Army Careers Office)
was what we would now call an Adult Education Centre and home to
the towns first free Library.
the end of Queens Street is the former Birmingham & Shrewsbury Station (now officially known
as the Queens Building). This was built in 1851 by the Birmingham
& Shrewsbury Railway Company (later LNWR, later LMS) as the
entrance to their High Level Station. After being derelict for many
years, it now houses the travel information centre and café
for the Bus Station.
off to the left is the former Chubb Building, now known as The Lighthouse Arts Centre.
South Staffordshire, especially Wolverhampton and Willenhall, have
long been associated with the lock-making industry.
1898, Chubb & Sons built this imposing red brick works to the
designs of a well-known and prestigious London architect, C. H.
M. Mileham. Today it has been converted into a cultural and media
centre called "The Lighthouse", complete with cinema,
exhibition hall and a wonderful roofed over atrium.
the 'walk' on page 2