seeing so many buildings that were "formerly" something,
it now comes as a refreshing change to see something that is still
very much in business as it always was, Wolverhamptons justly
famous Grand Theatre.
in 1884, this is one of the Midlands premier theatres where
you can catch a wide range of shows from West End productions to
Postman Pat! Over the years, stars including Bob Hope, Laurel &
Hardy, Marlene Dietrich and Charlie Chaplin have performed here
but few people realise that this was also once a major venue for
political speeches. Indeed, it was here that David Lloyd George
made his famous "homes fit for heroes" speech in 1918.
former Post Office on
the left has a blue plaque recalling Sir Rowland Hill, inventor
of the Penny Post. Although Hill was born in Kidderminster he lived
for some years in Compton, on Wolverhamptons western fringes.
the end of the street, Princes Square is still one of the busiest
junctions in the City Centre, despite the construction of the Ring
Road. We know that traffic has long been a problem in Wolverhampton,
as this was the first junction in England ever to be equipped with
traffic lights! Introduced as an experiment in 1927, they were evidently
deemed as a success as they became a permanent feature the following
this junction is Wolverhampton Art Gallery, home to a highly regarded permanent
collection, and also housing a constantly changing variety of temporary
exhibitions. The Art Gallery was opened in 1884 by Lord Wrottesley
using a gold key made especially for the occasion by - of course!
- Chubb & Sons. Its worth crossing to the opposite side
of the road to see the frieze along the top of the building.
case were feeling tired at this point, there are some rather
welcoming benches in the nearby gardens which give a view of Saint
Peters Church, splendidly sited on the highest point
in the city centre. Christians have worshipped here for more than
a thousand years, the first Church having been founded by Princess
Wulfruna. Amazingly, from 1479 until 1846, the Deanery of Saint
Peters was joined with that of Windsor, making this a "Royal
Peculiar", a status that Westminster Abbey has to this day!
the churchyard are the remains of a Saxon Preaching Cross (which is probably itself a Roman
pillar from the vanished Roman City of Wroxeter, 25 miles away).
Around the corner is a statue of Lady Wulfruna herself, a gift from
the Express & Star in 1974, to commemorate the newspapers
the rather ugly modern Civic Centre we come to one of those gems hidden away by
modern buildings and roads which make exploring cities like this
such a pleasure. Giffard House was
built in the eighteenth century as a priests Residence and
"Public Mass House". This is in fact the oldest Post-Reformation
Roman Catholic Church in the whole of England. Adjoining it at the
rear is the Roman Catholic Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, built in 1825-7.
One of the main advocates of Catholic emancipation, Bishop John
Milner, lived in Gifford House until his death in 1826 and is buried
in the church.
fans will be familiar with Wolverhampton Civic Hall, down the street to the left,
as this is a venue for many of Wolverhamptons high profile
musical events and conferences. Perhaps few of its clients realise,
though, that it is based on the design of the Stockholm Concert
former Town Hall, now housing the Citys Magistrates
Courts, stands further along the street. Opened in 1871, it remained
the headquarters of the Borough Council until the opening of the
Civic Centre in 1979. A statue of the first
Mayor of Wolverhampton, George Thorneycroft, stands in the
foyer. A blue plaque in the outside recalls Emma
Sproson "Red Emma",
who in 1921 became Wolverhamptons first female councillor.
of the streets and alleyways hereabout bear the name "Fold",
"Blossoms Fold" being one example. This recalls
the importance of the wool trade in the area in the Middle Ages,
when sheep were rounded up into "folds" before shearing.
Street, a new direct route out to the town to Chapel Ash and the
Holyhead Road was established by the Wolverhamptons Town Commissioners
as a more direct route of to Chapel Ash and the Holyhead Road. The
land for this was purchased from Lord Darlington, hence the name.
the opposite side of Darlington Street is one of Wolverhamptons
icons: Beatties Store. James Beattie established his first
drapers shop here in the 19th century. It was extremely successful
and the business duly grew into a department store. Most of the
present Beatties dates from a rebuilding in 1929.
a letter placed in the internal post here some years ago by a member
of staff eventually arrived on the correct desk on the floor below
three months later
.having been to Beijing and back!
Beatties, its worth taking a glimpse down Victoria Street
to a highly visible link with Wolverhamptons mediaeval past,
number 19, often known to locals as the Lindy Lou building. Dating from the seventeenth century
(despite the "1300" on the façade), this half timbered
building has variously been a merchants house, tea room, babywear
shop and is now a Welfare Rights Centre! With all the changes that
have happened around it in the last 300 years, if buildings could
talk, this would have more stories to tell than most.!
here, we turn left to return to the starting point at Queen Square.
However, theres far more to see in Wolverhampton, so its
worth doing another walk at some future date and remember that in
the most mundane sounding of places, theres always an interesting
story to tell!