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George and Kath Peck had many pleasant memories of the town centre, during the period between the two world wars. Today shopping is mainly confined to a relatively small area, which covers the Mander Centre and the adjacent streets. In those days there were the main shops in the town centre, as there are today, but also many others which were equally popular. Horseley Fields contained many shops as did Piper's Row. Today Worcester Street has a run-down appearance, but in those days its shops were very busy as were the ones in Chapel Ash..

George Peck.

Shopping was a very different experience from today. We are used to the hyper markets, where almost everything is under one roof, which makes shopping very easy and convenient. In those days there were lots of little shops, each selling a relatively small range of goods and so shopping was a lengthier and more personal event. When you frequented a small corner shop you got to know the shopkeeper and the assistants, which is very different from today's large stores. The shopkeeper would soon be familiar with your wants and so would often order things especially for you, so that they were in stock when you called. Life ran at a slower pace, and people spent more time in the shops.

In the 1920s and 30s there were just as many pubs in the town as today, although not confined to such a small area. Many had reputations and some were to be avoided. You could get into a lot of trouble at home if other members of the family discovered that you had been seen in some of the establishments. Pubs were not necessarily the warm friendly places that they are today. In those days you would not dream of taking other members of the family into some of the establishments. Such was their reputation.

There were a number of cinemas in the town centre at this time. Some catered for the poorer parts of the community whereas other were more salubrious. This was before television became popular and many people could still not afford a radio, so the cinema was an important form of entertainment. Many people went to the cinema frequently and seats would be provided for both the poorer people and the better off. Most children at this time went to the Saturday Matinee and so the cinema was an important part of their entertainment from an early age.

The two main theatres were the Grand and the Empire Palace which became the Hippodrome. Entertainment at the Empire Palace consisted mainly of reviews, music hall and comedians, whereas at the Grand it was plays, pantomime and the D'oyly Carte. The Grand was a touring theatre and played host to visiting professional companies and local amateur groups.

The Olympia in Thornley Street 
as it is today.

The main cinemas in the town centre were:

Agricultural Hall Snow Hill, began showing films about l913, closed in 1931.
Coliseum Dudley Road, opened in 1912.
Electric Theatre Queen Square, opened in 1910, known as the Imperial in 1915, closed in about l918.
Empire Palace Queen Square, became the Hippodrome, in 1921, and a cinema in 1931 until the Gaumont opened in 1932.
Gaumont Snow Hill, opened in 1932 replacing the Agricultural Hall.
Odeon  Skinner Street, opened in 1937.
Olympia Thornley Street.
Pavilion Castle Street.
Scala Worcester Street, opened December 1913 and was originally called the Picturedrome.
Queen's Queen Square, opened in 1914.

George and Kath's memories cover most of the city centre and so they have been divided into the following sections:


Lichfield Street
2 Queen Square
3 Victoria Street and Worcester Street
4 The Central Arcade and Snow Hill
5 Horseley Fields
6 Trams

Sadly Kath died in 2002, and George died in March 2012. Although they are now gone, their memories live on.

Return to the
corner shop
  Return to
the arcade
  Proceed to
Lichfield Street