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Queen Square

In Queen Square was Craddocks, a big shoe shop. It had a big ‘C’ on the front which was about 20ft from top to bottom. It was one of the two main shoe shops in the town. The other was ‘True Form’ in Dudley Street.

The Queens Cinema and Restaurant just before demolition. Courtesy of David Clare.

There was the Queens Cinema. You used to have to wait in the passage round the corner and when so many had got in you could go and wait in the foyer in the Queens itself, in the warm inside. One side was for the restaurant upstairs and the other side was for the picture house. It was full of rats. The bank was next door to it and is still there. A queue of about 4 wide and 20 long could stand inside, the others queued outside. There were about five steps at the front and there was a rail. You queued on one side of the rail for the pictures and on the other side for the restaurant. You had to queue for both the cinema and restaurant. There weren’t many seats in the restaurant. You could sit outside and look in Queen Square and have your tea and cakes on the balcony. There were three or four round tables and seats, and in the summer you could sit there and watch the people in Queen Square. They used to have Van Damm playing in the cinema, everybody used to go to see Van Damm. It was a new thing to bring people to the cinema and you’d have about 15 minutes of that.

On the corner of Queen Square and Dudley Street was Culwells, the big stationers and the Lyons tea shop, before the Shakespeare pub. The Shakespeare sticks out a bit and the building is finished in black and white. It had a bad reputation, lots of prostitutes went there as they did in the Posada in Lichfield Street. At the top of Victoria Street was the Queens Arcade. Heinz, the biggest tobacconists in the town was there, upstairs and downstairs. They used to do gentlemens hairdressing and shaving. Upstairs was all cigarettes and cigars, the biggest tobacconist in the town. It was right on the corner and there was a gents and ladies outfitters on the other corner. There were various shops in the entrance and a big circle with a branch off it. In there was the biggest second hand booksellers in Wolverhampton. They had four big windows which used to face an opening in which there were some steps which led into Victoria Street, next to the tobacconist.

We went to the Empire Palace. It was 4 pence upstairs and you used to have to wait in Cheapside to go in.

The back was the cheapest place, upstairs, opposite the market entrance. When you got in, it was all wooden seats, just plain wood; hard wood. The people at the back had their feet on the same thing as you were sitting on, so when you came out you had to look at yourself as you’d either got orange juice or pips on your back, or spit if you were by someone who kept spitting. We could only afford 4 pence and so that was where we had to go. That was the cheapest, what we called ‘The Gods’, but if you went in the Grand Theatre at the top it was 9 pence. 
The Hippodrome, which used to be the Empire Palace. Bakers Seeds is on the left. Courtesy of Eardley Lewis.

At the Empire were reviews and comics. My mum used to like to see Gerty Guitar. They were entertaining shows. There used to be impersonators impersonating other singers and there was an orchestra. If they thought that they weren’t very good and the audience didn’t like them, a big hook would be used to pull them off the stage. The stage wasn’t as big as the one at the Grand. Later on they had films there. Frankenstein was one of the first they had. There was all variety at the Empire, but at the Grand Theatre it was a proper play or musical comedy. You used to have select music at the Grand, you know, musical comedy like Peter Pan and the D’Oyly Carte.

Bakers was next door on the corner of North Street. They sold flowers, seeds and garden implements. Their nursery was in Codsall and that’s where they started the Russell lupins, which made their name. Everyone went on a Sunday to see the Russell lupins at the nursery. It made Baker’s name, they never looked back after that. The shop was a spacious place inside, with a long counter all the way around and in the back area were garden implements, mowers, spades, forks and potato seeds in bags.

In North Street was the Tiger Inn and the Town Hall pub. There was also a big pub on the corner of Cheapside, where all of the prostitutes used to go. The police also used to use it because the Police Station was nearby in Red Lion Street. It was a notorious place.

I remember the Electric Theatre in Queen Square. It was a small door to enter. I never went into it. I used to go to the Pavilion picture house which was in Tower Street. It became part of the steel stockholders and now it’s part of the Express & Star. We used to go there to the Pavilion, it was a ha’penny to go in, and when you came out you used to have either an apple or an orange and a comic as you left. In those days you only had 20 or 21 shillings a week to live on and most people had 10 kids.

Return to Lichfield Street Return to the beginning Proceed to Victoria Street