The centre of Wolverhampton has changed almost beyond recognition since the late 19th century. Most of the old narrow streets have been widened and the adjoining buildings replaced. Much of the rebuilding happened as a result of the Artisan’s Dwelling Act of 1875, which was Passed by Disraeli's Government. The Act empowered local authorities to pull down slums and replace them with decent buildings, and to provide better accommodation for working class families.

In the early 1880s, Lichfield Street was extended to Victoria Square, near the entrance to the railway station, between what is now the Britannia Hotel and the Sunbeam pub. It originally ran from Queen Square and off to the left, along what is now Lichfield Passage, behind the Royal London Building. At that time, Stafford Street ran southwards to Canal Street (now Broad Street) before becoming Little Berry Street, that extended to Berry Street. It then became Princes Street, which joined Queen Street.

With the widening of Lichfield Street and the building of Princes Square in the early 1880s, the modern road layout was adopted and Little Berry Street and Princes Street disappeared, to be replaced by Princess Street. The part that replaced the old Princes Street was still narrow and so in 1930 the council decided to widen the road and straighten it a little so that it lined-up with Market Street.

The old road layout. From the 1842 Tithe Map.

The idea of widening the narrow part of Princess Street became a practicality in 1928 when the buildings on the western side of the road between Queen Street and King Street were to be sold at auction.

The cover of the sale catalogue.

From the sale catalogue.

From the sale catalogue.

From the sale catalogue.

The sale was held on Wednesday 9th May, 1928, but the buildings were withdrawn after the maximum amount offered was £19,000. In 1929, Wolverhampton Council purchased the buildings from the owner, Trust Houses Limited, for £18,000. The road-widening scheme could then go ahead.

An article from the Express & Star, 7th January, 1932.

Princess Street Widening Scheme for Wolverhampton Council

Licensed Premises, Offices, Shops

Last March Wolverhampton Town Council adopted a resolution by the Public Works Committee in which the widening of Princess Street was foreshadowed. In order to set back to the new frontage line defined by the Council in January, 1929, it was decided to buy for £18,000 from Trust Houses Limited, 1,048 square yards of land, with frontages to King Street, Princess Street and Queen Street.

Buildings on the land included the Talbot Hotel and the Reindeer Inn, with the licenses attached. Next Monday the Council will receive from the Public Works Committee a resolution dealing with a street improvement on that portion of the west side of Princess Street lying between King Street and Queen Street.

Subject to contracts being approved by the Town Clerk, it is proposed that land belonging to the Corporation at the rear of the improvement line be sold on terms indicated below.

Proposals Outlined

Five hundred and sixty five square yards, fronting Princess Street and King Street to be conveyed to the South Staffordshire Permanent Building Society at £15 per square yard, making a total of £8,475.

One hundred and ninety square yards fronting Princess Street, to be, conveyed to Messrs. W. Butler and Co. Ltd. at £15 per Street and King Street, having an area of 293 square yards to be thrown into the street.

A joint scheme for the development or the land providing for the erection of new licensed premises of Messrs. W. Butler and Co. Ltd., and offices and shops by the building society on those portions of the land agreed to be sold to them to be carried out by the companies, plans and elevations to be approved by the Corporation.

Borough Surveyor to carry out the necessary street works, at an estimated cost of £450. Finance Committee to borrow the money necessary to meet the net expenditure involved in carrying out the street improvement. The whole of the arrangements to be subject to the consent of the licensing justices so far as their consent is necessary.

Public Works Committee to be empowered to make such alterations and adjustments in the terms for the purchase of the licenses as are necessary following the decisions of the licensing justices.


The following article appeared in the Express & Star on the 12th January, 1932

Princess Street Improvement Scheme Adopted by Wolverhampton Council

Development of a central site associated with the proposed widening of Princess Street was discussed on Monday by Wolverhampton Town Council, who adopted the Public Works Committee's report following the purchase for £18,000 of land and buildings from Trust Houses, Ltd.

The scheme includes the sale of land to the South Staffordshire Permanent Building Society and to Messrs. W. Butler and Co. Ltd., at £15 per square yard, a total of £14,325, including £3,000 for the licenses of the Talbot Hotel and the Reindeer Inn. An area of 293 square yards is to be thrown into the street, and a development scheme of new licensed premises, shops and offices is foreshadowed. 

Proposing the adoption of the report, Alderman Myatt mentioned that the cost to the Corporation for street improvements would be roughly £4,000. Replying to Councillor Simpson, who had expressed disappointment that there was no intention of widening King Street, Alderman Myatt said the matter had been under consideration.

He mentioned a suggestion to run from Princess Street, through an improved St. John Street, into Victoria Street, but pointed out that valuable business premises prevented the committee tackling the problem.

A plan of the proposed development.

The newly widened Princess Street, shown on the 1938 OS Map.

The original offices of the South Staffordshire Permanent Building Society on the corner of King Street and Princess Street.

The demolition of the Talbot Hotel. From a magic lantern slide.

The South Staffordshire Building Society, on the corner of King Street and Princess Street in the 1960s. In 2019 it is a betting shop.

The new Talbot Hotel fronted onto Princess Street and in 2001 became Seamus O’Donnell's. In 2010 it became a betting shop.

On November 28th, 1928 one of Wolverhampton's most popular departmental stores, Thomas Edwards and Sons in Dudley Street was sold when the proprietor retired. The store included extensive drapery and furnishing departments. Included in the sale was Madame Clarke's pub and several shops in King Street that were owned by the Edwards family. The shop in Dudley Street was founded in 1843. The properties were purchased by George Whitfield.

The front of the sale catalogue.

Thomas Edwards and Sons' shops in Dudley Street.

The business was owned by Thomas Edwards and E. W. Edwards and founded by their father, Thomas Edwards, Senior. The Dudley Street premises was known as York House. The company's wide range of products included a large assortment of mantles, jackets, silks, plain and fancy drapery, etc., hosiery and gloves, furniture and furnishings, carpets, rugs, linoleums, and all other goods usually kept by leading drapers, general furnishing warehousemen, upholsterers, and cabinet makers. The company also acted as undertakers and public decorators.

A map from the sale catalogue, showing many of the local shops. The buildings included in the sale are marked in red.

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