In the nineteenth century the area around Stafford Street became Wolverhampton’s ‘Irish Quarter’. Immigrants from Ireland began to move into the area in the early 1840s, attracted by cheap housing and a plentiful supply of work in the local industries.


The area in the 1860s.

From 1845 until 1849 times were hard in Ireland because of the potato famine, which caused mass starvation and disease, and led to around one million deaths. Many people emigrated, some coming to Wolverhampton, particularly from County Galway, Roscommon and Mayo. They were very poor and so the area of cheap housing around Stafford Street was very attractive, especially because of the large number of jobs on the doorstep in the expanding iron and steel industries.

By 1871 there were over 2,000 people in the local Irish community, many living in squalid conditions around small unpaved alleyways containing stagnant ditches filled with sewage.

The dirty water in the ditches led to the spread of cholera and typhus. The area gained a bad reputation and became known as Caribee Island after Carribee Street, which later became Westbury Street.

Wolverhampton took advantage of the Artisans’ Dwelling Act of 1875 which empowered local authorities to pull down slums and build decent accommodation for working class families.

Land was acquired at Springfield for that purpose. The Act was implemented in 1881, when the old slums were demolished and the area was quickly redeveloped.

St. Patrick’s Church

The church was built to serve the poorer members of the large local Irish Catholic community, many of whom were too embarrassed to attend the elegant SS Mary & John's Church on Snow Hill, or SS Peter & Paul in North Street.                                                                              

In 1865 plans were made to build a Catholic church in the Stafford Road area and land was acquired on the corner of Littles Lane and Westbury Street, which cost a mere £80. The parish of St Patrick was founded and the foundation stone of St Patrick's Church was laid on Thursday 14th June 1866 by Bishop Ullathorne. Within five months, £800 had been raised towards the total building cost of £2,700.

St. Patrick's Church, around the time of closure.

The church, which could seat 500 people was designed by Edward Welby Pugin, son of the famous A. W. N. Pugin. The building was designed in plain Gothic style without any elaborate or highly ornamental features.

On Wednesday 22nd May, 1867 the church officially opened with a mass held by Bishop Ullathorne. Admission to the opening ceremony was by ticket only. Tickets cost five shillings for reserved seats and two shillings and sixpence for unreserved seats. The proceeds went to the building fund.

From the 1892 edition of the Wolverhampton Red Book.

The first parish priest was the Rev. Walter Hall, who oversaw the building of the church and served the parish until 1893. He was succeeded by the Rev. James Darmody who had been assisting him since 1885. In 1948 the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Rev. J. Masterson dedicated the Compton pipe organ in memory of those who lost their lives in the two World Wars. The church also served the local Polish community and held a weekly Sunday mass for them. Behind the church was St. Patrick’s School which had opened in 1849 and later included a secondary school for girls.

From the 1930 edition of the Wolverhampton Red Book.

St. Patrick's Church during demolition. Courtesy of David Parsons.

From 1964 Father Anthony Allport took over, at what would be a difficult time for the church. It was built in an area that would soon be demolished to make way for part of the new ring road. A site was found at Heath Town for a replacement church which opened in 1972. The old church was soon demolished.

The partly demolished church. Courtesy of David Parsons.

An interior view, looking towards the front entrance.


Courtesy of David Parsons.

The remains of the alter.

Courtesy of David Parsons.

The rear wall.

Courtesy of David Parsons.

A view from Littles Lane. Courtesy of David Parsons.

A final view of the church, seen from beneath Broad Street canal bridge. Courtesy of David Parsons.

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