Memories of Stafford Street

Memories of Stafford Street

Memories of Stafford Street

The Navvies

The area around Stafford Street was the town's Irish quarter, quite a number if Irish people lived here. There were also the navvies, most of which were Irish. Any hard physical work that had to be done on the roads, railways or canals was done by the navvies. These nomads travelled from place to place, wherever there was work. They worked extremely hard and played equally hard. The lodging houses in this part of the town catered for them and were notorious. When George was a child there were still a lot of navvies visiting the town and doing all of the hard work on the towns roads.

There were some carryings-on down Stafford Street. The Hibernian pub was here and that was for the Catholics and the Irish. The other Catholic pub around the back was the Dan O'Connell, by St. Patrick's church. On St. Patrick's day you had to wear blue if you were a Protestant and green if you were Catholic. They used to set about you, they were tough people, they used to hit you with props and walking sticks, all sorts of things, all day. Terrible it was as kids. The rest of the time they were great.

St. Patrick's Church, just before demolition. The church was built in 1867 from the designs of E. W. Pugin. The building behind the church is St. Patrick's School.
Being the Irish quarter, rough and ready people, there were the big lodging houses. In Stafford Street there were four of the biggest lodging houses in Wolverhampton. There was Aston's Lodging House, facing our school, St Mary's.

There was also the Broom Girl, just off Stafford Street, in Charles Street, which was a real dive. Aston's was bad enough but the Broom Girl was worse. I don't know how much they paid there, but at Aston's it was 4d a night.

You could have your night's sleep and a piece of bread and butter, and a cup of tea, when you got up in the morning.

Ninety percent of the Irish used to live there, and that's what they did, they just used to come, they'd work and spend their money, on a Friday and a Saturday, sitting around the park or anywhere they could find, drinking their money away. They would buy bottles of beer. There was no bottled beer then, but you could have a bottle filled and they would take five or six of them, and sit around the town or the park, anywhere they could, drinking their beer.

They would come here if there was work, if the streets were being done, if there was something being renovated, and they would do some navvying. They were good, hard, heavy workers. There was nothing that was too much trouble with a pick and shovel. They were outstanding. They were on the railways, the roads and things like that, very laborious jobs.

They used to work in just their trousers, throw their things off and they could really move some stuff. They would move from one place to another, where the work was.

Each town would be developing and they would be there. They would go back to Walsall, Willenhall, Wednesbury and come back to Wolverhampton.

If Wolverhampton decided that it was going to do something, put some gas somewhere, they would be there to dig the holes. That's what they did, from place to place around the midlands.

Charles Street.

You would get to know some of them, saying "Paddy, where you bin" and they would reply "Oh I went to Scotland last time". They went all over the place, they would get a lift and go. At some of the lodging houses, relatives of the owner would also get involved. Aston's in Stafford Street had got some relatives who kept a shop just above, called Rudge's. They used to bake rice pudding and make tarts and things like that for the people staying at the lodging house. The rice pudding would be so thick that it was handleable. You could buy a ha'penny or penny slice, which was about 2" by 3". It was wrapped in newspaper and the Irish navvies used to buy it. The tart was made with milk and water, it was white and dead hard, but they used to buy it as they had no cooking facilities

Return to Pawn Broking Return to the Beginning Proceed to the Night Soil Men