Introduction by Bev Parker

Engineering today is perceived as unfashionable, but not so long ago things were very different. Engineering was popular and we had large numbers of engineers and many enthusiasts, whose main hobby was engineering in one form or another. People used to build pieces of electronic equipment at home that varied from television sets, radios and hi-fi, to amateur radio transmitters and receivers, computers and things to do with the car. Accordingly there were many magazines to buy and each town had at least one shop that specialised in electronic components and test gear. All kinds of components were readily available and the variety of items that could be built was almost endless.

Unfortunately most of these shops have gone, because today there is little demand for such parts and it is now difficult to buy many items that were readily available in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Wolverhampton had its fair share of such shops, the main ones being Walton’s, Ling’s Radio, and Fenwicks.

Walton’s Wireless Stores at 203 Staveley Road first appears in the Wolverhampton Red Books in the mid 1930s and appears to be the company’s original premises. The shop was still there in 1951 but by 1958 had moved to 48 Stafford Street and by 1961 had moved again to 15 Church Street.

I well remember the Church Street premises, a large Victorian shop that contained an Aladdin’s cave, suitable for any enthusiast. There were many pieces of electronic equipment on display, some new, but mainly old; and of course government surplus and ex-W.D. equipment were commonplace in those days. There was also a fair share of “junk” equipment, either not working or incomplete, that could form the basis of a new project. Valves, transistors and general components could be purchased at good prices, as could such things as reel to reel tape and tools. The staff were always friendly and helpful, and Jack Dennes could be relied upon to make any visit a happy and enjoyable occasion.

An advert from "Practical Wireless" August 1967.

In about 1965 the shop moved to its final location at 55 Worcester Street. By this time integrated circuits were starting to appear and Walton’s became one of the main stockists in the area. They were always willing to order any item that wasn’t in stock and continued to offer a first class service. They could get almost anything. I built my first television set in about 1967 and wanted a plastic front from a commercially available receiver. I had a brief word with Jack about it and one week later it had arrived and was awaiting collection.

I got to know the people at the shop extremely well, and sometimes helped out by repairing odd pieces of test equipment, which would later go on sale. Waltons were well known in the area and customers often travelled from all across the Black Country and parts of Shropshire. I’m sure many people will still remember their telephone number: Wolverhampton 22039.

Another popular electronics shop was Ling’s Radio. The earliest reference I can find is in the 1958 Wolverhampton Red Book when Ling’s Television could be found at 153 Bilston Street. By the early 1960s Ling’s Radio occupied a small shop next to the synagogue in Fryer Street, and when this was demolished in around 1965 to make way for the existing car park, the business moved to Snow Hill, where it remained until closure in the mid 1980s. The shop was much smaller than Waltons and Geoff Ling was always ready for a chat, especially if the subject was fishing, his main hobby. It could be difficult to get away, especially if you were in a hurry.

Neville J. Haycox's memories of Waltons

Neville J. Haycox has many memories of Waltons in the late 1940s. After leaving Codsall Secondary Modern school on 22nd July, 1946 at the aged of fourteen, he went to work for Jack Dennes senior who was setting up his business as an electrical company in Codsall village, after leaving the Boulton Paul Aircraft Company, where he worked as an electrical draughtsman during the war.

Neville's family were great friends of Mr. and Mrs. Dennes and their son Jackie, which is possibly why he was offered a job. He was told that Mr. Dennes had at one time been bankrupt and could not use his own name and therefore used the name "Waltons Wireless Store" which was a business he may have taken over.

While he worked at Waltons they completed a number of house and business rewiring jobs in the Codsall area, working from a wooden shed in Jack's front garden. At the time there was a  shortage of 15 amp socket boxes, so Jack designed his own and they manufactured enough to complete work where others had failed.

On the left is Neville Haycox, with Jackie Dennes on the right. Courtesy of Neville Haycox.
Mr. Dennes branched off into bidding for ex-government surplus stock which was off-loaded into what was then just a town house in Staveley Road, with a counter set up in the front room.

Neville stayed with the company for about six months, dismantling government surplus electrical and wireless equipment for components.

During that time he only remembers two or three customers coming in to buy a few resisters, so he decided to move-on and became an apprentice with a local aircraft firm.

Building radios in the 1960’s. Written by Frank Batkin

During the early 1960’s I developed an interest in radio. However with me still being at school and money being tight, I was forced to shop around for the bits and pieces needed to build a wireless set.  I was really quite lucky here in Wolverhampton as there were several places that I could obtain the various bits and pieces needed. Wire, crystals, coils etc. could be brought from Geo Davies’s shop in Bradmore, which involved a good walk from home on a Saturday morning. It is perhaps a sign of the times that the shop is still in business but now also sells computer peripherals too. Transistors could be obtained from Walton’s wireless, which was then situated in Church Street, Wolverhampton, now the location of Telecom house. In those days transistors were expensive at 7 shillings and sixpence each (around 45p in today’s money). The transistors came in 3 types, red, green and blue depending on their usage.  Much ex-army surplus stuff such as headphones could be obtained from various junk shops along the Dudley road.  Also on Snow hill was Ling’s radio although you had to know exactly what you wanted or Mr. Ling would not sell it to you. He was a very clever engineer who smoked like a chimney and sadly I believe this caused his early death. Valves could be tested at Fenwicks in Pitt Street, although you had to be well heeled to buy much in the way of radio bits here.

One of the small envelopes used by Geoff Ling for components.

The empty shop in Fryer Street where Ling's Radio used to be. Courtesy of David Clare.

And so it was that a Saturday would be spent in a circuit of shops starting in Church Street and ending on the Dudley Road.

Waltons wireless was always a good place to get bits, it was run by Jacky Dennes whose family owned the shop.

At some point in the early 60’s they moved to a site on Worcester Street.

Jack retired in the 1970’s or 80’s and retired to East Anglia. He was quite a character with a typical Black Country wit.  On one occasion I wanted several yards of wire and he told me that they had gone metric. He watched me wracking my brains to work out the amount in Metres and when I asked how much it was he told me it was 3d a foot.

He had an answer phone that informed you in a very broad accent that as he wasn’t in, he was out. If I recall, the message went on to say he had gone “wum fer his Tay”. The shop carried on after he left but closed down after a while. The shop is now due for demolition as part of the new urban village project for the city. Today no one would entertain the idea of building their own wireless. The price of chips and transistors has made it uneconomical to so do. But there was nothing like the feeling that came from hearing voices and music from out of the ether on a home made radio.

Waltons shop in Worcester Street prior to demolition.

Return to the
previous page