An early Guide Book

In 1884, John Steen & Company Limited published the second edition of the Wolverhampton Guide. One of the first guidebooks dedicated to the town.

The text below and some of the illustrations are from the book, which includes a brief history, details about religious institutions, local industries and general information.

Copies now are quite scarce.

Part of Steen's 1884 map of Wolverhampton.

Another part of Steen's 1884 map of Wolverhampton.

The new Town Hall is situated in North Street, occupying the same spot on which the Red Lion Hotel stood for many years, a famous posting house in its day, and remembered by many of the old inhabitants for its connection with the mail and other coaches, running between Shrewsbury and London, the principal of which made this hotel the place of call on their daily route to the metropolis.

The Town Hall has been built from the designs of Mr. E. Bates, Manchester, architect, by Mr. P. Horsman, of Wolverhampton. The style of architecture of the facade is Italian, with a Mansard roof. The building contains, on the ground floor, the entrance hall and vestibule, sessions and magistrates' courts, and various offices in connection therewith; also council chamber and municipal offices; waterworks and poor rate offices. The second floor contains committee rooms, mayor's parlour, and recorder's rooms. In the basement are prisoners' cells, and in the courtyard at the rear, and extending to Red Lion Street, are the Health Office and barracks and offices for the police, together with fire engine house. The total cost of the buildings was about £19,000.

The Town Hall.

From an old postcard.

The Corporation Baths are situated in Bath Road, out of Waterloo Road South, and are very complete with plunge and private baths. Friday is the day reserved for ladies to use the swimming bath. The terms are most moderate. And at a short distance, between the Park and Darlington Street, are Turkish Baths, established by private enterprise.

The Municipal Baths in Bath Road that opened on the 4th November, 1909.

The Exchange was erected in the year 1851, at a cost of £15,000, raised by shares. The position, on the west side of St. Peter's church, is an unfortunate one, as it sadly interferes with the effect of that beautiful building. It was first intended simply as a Corn Exchange, where farmers and millers could congregate on market days, without being exposed to the inclemency of the weather, to which they had been subject from time immemorial in their weekly gatherings opposite to the shop of Messrs. Steen and Company, in Queen Square.

The Exchange.

The building was erected from the design of Mr. Robinson, architect, and had originally a large glass cupola, which, however, having given undeniable signs of depression, was eventually removed.

The room is 120 feet long by 50 feet wide, and a capacious gallery has been added. The two portraits which adorn the wall are those of the first mayor, the late. G. B. Thorneycroft, Esq., and the late T. W. Giffard, Esq., the popular "Squire" of Chillington. Both were painted by public subscription.

The light for showing samples of wheat not being considered sufficient by the farmers, and from other causes, an Agricultural Hall was built by shares, and after a long divided opinion upon the merits of the two buildings, the corn market eventually ceased altogether to be held in these rooms, which are now devoted to the iron masters' meetings, and the holding of public and religious meetings, balls, concerts, etc., for which purpose they are peculiarly adapted.

A theatrical license has been granted to the proprietor, and the necessary scenery, etc., for operatic and theatrical performances has been added.

The meetings of the South Midland Institute of Mining, Civil, and Mechanical Engineers are held in these rooms. The basement of the Exchange is used as offices and stores by ale and wine merchants, etc.

The interior of the Exchange.

The Agricultural Hall when it was a cinema. From an old postcard.

The Market Hall is a capacious building, and may be called a twin sister to the Exchange, as it was built at the same time and by the same means as its more aspiring neighbour. The weekly market was formerly held in the open market place (now Queen Square), and was long a nuisance to the inhabitants and a great trial to the health of the butchers, greengrocers, etc., who possessed its stalls. It presents a busy scene, indeed, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, especially on the evenings of the latter day, and is well worth a visit at those times, affording an interesting specimen of the market doings of the working classes on receipt of their weekly wages. The market is fitted up with every convenience, and has an abundant supply of good water, the stalls are let at very moderate rentals, and the market house is a great boon, equally to the buyer and seller.

The Town Hall and the Market Hall. From an old postcard.

The market hall and Cheapside. From an old postcard.

From an old postcard.

The Free Library in Garrick Street, was opened to the public on the 30th of September, 1869. The news room is well supplied with London and provincial papers, and the library room with illustrated newspapers, and a number of popular, literary, and scientific periodicals and magazines. The news room is open daily, from 9 am. until 10 pm. Library hours are from 10 am. until 9 pm. On Fridays no books are issued, but the reading rooms are open as on other days. Attendance of readers, daily, about 1,000.

The lending library contains upwards of 21,000 volumes, and more than 44,000 applications were entered from borrowers, of all trades and professions, in the year 1883. The reference library (available to any person over 14 years of age, on filling up a form, supplied by the Librarian) contains upwards of 3,800 volumes. The "Times" and "Wolverhampton Chronicle" are filed in the reference library. The rules of the institution, and catalogues of the books, may be seen at the library. Recently a commodious Lecture Hall, calculated to seat 650 persons, has been added to the Free Library; and in this free lectures are delivered every Saturday evening during the winter. Many science and language classes are held in connection with the library, and altogether, it is a centre of considerable intellectual life in the town. The whole is under the management of a Committee appointed by the Town Council.

The Free Library in Garrick Street.

The Town Library in Waterloo Road South, was formerly located in Queen Street, in the building now occupied by the County Court. The present commodious and elegant rooms were built from a design of the late Mr. Banks, architect, in the year 1857. The library is, we believe, the oldest institution in the town, except the Blue Coat Charity School, being founded so long ago as 1794. It possesses about 14,000 volumes, of every description of literature. Most of the new books of repute are received as soon as published, and all the leading periodicals are taken. An excellent reading room is attached. Subscription, 24s. per annum. Open from 10 to 5.

The Town Library in Waterloo Road.

The Cattle Market in Cleveland Road, is a very capacious and convenient erection for the weekly sale of horses and cattle and is, we believe, one of the largest and best attended of any in the kingdom. The number of cattle sold here is prodigious, the average weekly sale being as follows: horses and ponies, 220; beasts, 550; sheep and lambs, 3,000; pigs, 1,500; and calves, 900 weekly for three months in the year.

The Municipal Abattoir, covering a little over one and a half acres and costing just over £72,000, opened on part of the cattle market in 1929.
The Theatre Royal occupies a position not far from the Agricultural Hall, on Cleveland Road. The present building was erected in 1844. The proprietorship is now converted into a Joint Stock Company Limited. Many good companies from London from time to time come down, and really good performances may be witnessed here. We should mention that Mr. Sothern (better known as Lord Dundreary) made his first appearance on the stage here. The theatre originally was at the top of the Swan Hotel yard, in Queen Square, and was built in 1779. It was in this theatre, we believe, that the celebrated tragedian John Kemble made his debut, in the character of "Theodosius," and here, too, his not less celebrated sister, Mrs. Siddons, frequently performed. The former was educated at Sedgley Park (Roman Catholic) Seminary, about two miles from Wolverhampton. Farren, too, the eminent comedian, also made his debut on the boards of this theatre, which is now pulled down, and the space occupied by carriage houses, at the back of Lloyds Bank in Queen Square.

The Theatre Royal.

The Art Gallery was first announced to the council in the autumn of 1882 by the Mayor, Alderman John Jones, who stated that a Townsman, who desired his name to remain unknown, was willing to place the sum of £5,000 in the hands of himself, Sir Rupert Kettle, and the Rector, as trustees, to erect an Art Gallery for the town, providing the Corporation would assign land for the purpose. This met with a unanimous response from the Council. After much deliberation and discussion, the trustees selected the plans of Mr. J. A. Chatwin, architect, of Birmingham. From these the present building was erected in 1883-84.

The building is in the Palladian style. Omitting the basement, it consists of two storeys, one pierced with curved-headed windows with plate glass, and the other, containing the picture gallery, lighted by sky-lights so as to throw down the light upon the pictures. This upper storey necessarily has un-pierced walls for the pictures to hang upon, but its otherwise blank aspect outside is most creditably relieved by the insertion of some sculptured panels executed by Mr. Carter, from the firm of Messrs. Boulton of Cheltenham, sculptors, and representing Sculpture and Painting, on the right and left hand of the handsome portico in Lichfield Street, and various Sciences on the long panel facing St. Peter's Close.

These enrichments, and the granite pillars of the Lichfield Street front, were the additional gift of the tasteful donor. When the new School of Art, now in course of erection, is completed, the whole will have the beauty which arises from symmetry and proportion; though we ourselves are not alone in thinking that a classical building is altogether out of place in such immediate juxtaposition to the old Gothic Collegiate Church, and the Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Bank, and the Poor Law Offices, which, if not Gothic, have no classic character whatever. The corner facing Queen's Square is tame, and the sky-lights, with their ventilators, appearing above the balustrade and roof running at right angles to the Lichfield Street gable, instead of dying into it, are unpleasing.

From an old postcard.

Entering through the Lichfield Street portico, we find that it consists of three floors; the basement containing curator's apartments, cloak room, heating apparatus, and one long handsome room which could be devoted on occasions to sculpture or the like; the ground floor containing office and cloak room to right and left of the entrance into the handsome Hall with its staircase of easy gradient. Out of the Hall we enter, on the left hand, into a fine room overlooking St. Peter's Close, and proceeding through the smaller north room, come into a similar fine room, though lighted from the two ends, and so back again into the entrance Hall. This floor is intended for the Art Museum.

Going upstairs we find a similar arrangement of four rooms round a square entering one into the other, all of them beautifully lighted from the top and designed for the reception of pictures, some few of which have already been presented to the town by various donors. The whole, when dedicated to the public, will be the property of the Corporation, and in charge of the Free Library Committee. Sufficient praise cannot well be given to our townsman (whom we are permitted to name as Mr. Philip Horsman), for his spirited liberality in thus seeking to raise the art-tone of his fellow-townsmen; which we trust will be met by a response on their parts which will lift many of our commonplace manufactures into the category of artistic ware; besides producing from time to time artists (like E. Bird, R.A., a native of this town) who may achieve, an English reputation.

The Drill Hall

The Drill Hall is the headquarters of the 3rd Volunteer Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment, which is one of the largest in the kingdom, numbering, on the 31st October 1883: 1,190 efficients, and a total of 1,195.

Until recently, and for the last fifteen years, the Battalion has been commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Commandant John N. Bagnall, of The Moss, Shenstone. The present Commandant is Lieutenant Colonel Foster Gough, assisted by Lieutenant Colonel George Singleton Tudor. The Adjutant is Major W. Blake Burke. For a number of years the headquarters of the Battalion has been at the Agricultural Hall, but from various causes it was found necessary to make an attempt to obtain headquarters belonging solely to the Battalion, and adapted to the requirements of the present time, and a suitable site has been purchased, with a frontage to Stafford Street, Thornley Street, and Whitmore Street; and if the public support the movement sufficiently, a Drill Hall and necessary offices will soon be erected on that site.

The Battalion consists of twelve companies, six of which belong to Wolverhampton, one to Tettenhall, and the other five are from Tipton, Bilston, Sedgley, Willenhall, and Darlaston.

The Drill Hall on the corner of Thornley Street, and Whitmore Street. From an old newspaper cutting.

Local Newspapers

The Wolverhampton Chronicle, which is the oldest established paper in Staffordshire, having been first issued in 1789, is published weekly, on Wednesday; the Midland Counties' Express, which was originated in 1861, is published at the same office, in Market Street, on Saturday morning. Both these papers have very large and influential circulations in the district. The Evening Express was started upon the foundation of these two weeklies in 1874, and rapidly attained a position amongst the Daily Press of the country through the excellence of its news supplies. The Evening Star, daily, price one halfpenny, has the largest circulation of any Liberal paper in the Midlands, and contains the fullest, the latest, and most reliable home, foreign, local, and sporting intelligence.

The Midland Counties' Guardian, published every Saturday morning, contains the local, district, and general news of the week. Office, Horseley Fields. The Midland Evening News (24 columns), daily, one halfpenny, with which is published The Midland Weekly News (48 columns) on Saturday, 1d. A special late edition of the daily paper on Tuesday evening is also published, for the agricultural and other readers, containing all the latest market news. The above are published by "The Midland Press Limited;" offices, 33 Queen Street, Wolverhampton. Capital £30,000 in 30,000 shares. This Company was formed under circumstances of a very special and interesting character.

On the 23rd February, 1884, it was found that The Wolverhampton Chronicle, The Midland Counties Express, and The Evening Express; three papers which, though nominally independent in politics, had for some years been recognised as supporting moderate Conservative views, had been unexpectedly sold in February to "The Midland News Association, Limited," under whose auspices newspapers devoted to the political interests of the Radical Party have been published in various parts of the country, and it was resolved that a Company should be formed for the purpose of publishing a Daily Evening, and such other papers as might be decided upon, to supply the place of those which had been so abruptly severed from their old associations.

The Chairman is The Right Hon. the Earl of Dartmouth, the Vice Chairman is Alfred Hickman, Esq. and the Secretary and General Manager is Mr. J. Ridd Hayman, 33 Queen Street. The papers circulate not only in Wolverhampton and the immediate districts, but throughout a great part of Staffordshire, East Worcestershire, Shropshire and Warwickshire. The prospectus of the Company, describing the politics of the new paper, states "they will be conducted in" accordance with those sound, moderate, Conservative " principles which are every day finding more and more favour with thoughtful men and women of all classes," and especially with those whose interest in the stability of our institutions, and the security of property of every kind, constitutes them the natural readers and supporters of a moderate Conservative press, and who form, more than any others, those to whom advertisers can usefully appeal.

The Staffordshire Advertiser is published on Saturdays, price 3d. Wolverhampton Agents, Messrs. John Steen and Company, Printers and Stationers, Queen Square, where advertisements are received.

Public Transport

The London and North Western Railway Station and Offices, with those of the Midland Railway, are situated at the bottom of Lichfield Street. The Great Western Railway has its extensive station and offices not far from the bottom of Canal Street, about 200 yards from the London and North Western. By these lines, easy access is had to all parts of Great Britain. The express trains convey passengers to the Metropolis in about 3½ hours.

An omnibus runs from Queen Square, Wolverhampton, to Penn, and vice versa, five times a day.

Omnibuses also ply to both Railway Stations from the Star and Garter Hotel, and the Peacock Hotel. Tram lines are laid to Tettenhall, Bilston, and Willenhall, and the trams run usually every quarter of an hour; also to Sedgley, though the service is not so frequent.

Cabs and cab stands

Cabs in Queen Square. Cab stands were a common sight in the 19th century. Although a popular form of transport, cabs were only used by the wealthier members of society. Most ordinary people could not afford to use them.

It is scarcely twenty years since an ineffectual attempt was made to establish a cab stand in Queen Square. A single cab was put on by an adventurous cab proprietor, and after a few weeks' trial was withdrawn from want of adequate support. Now, there are no less than twelve cab stands, as will be seen from the following list. The charges, as regulated by the municipal authorities, are as follows:

If hired by distance - For any number of persons the carriage will accommodate, not exceeding 1 mile: 1 shilling
For every additional half mile, or portion thereof: sixpence
If kept waiting for fifteen minutes at anyone place: sixpence
If hired by time - for any time not exceeding thirty minutes: 1 shilling
For every additional quarter of an hour, or portion thereof: sixpence

Hackney Cab stands:

Queen Square - 8 in the centre
Snow Hill - 6 between Cleveland Street and Bell Street
Dudley Road - 3 opposite the garden of Ablow House
Waterloo Road - 5 on the west side of the south end
Tettenhall Road - 4 at the junction of that road with the Compton Road
Penn Road - 3 on the western side of the Penn Road, between Ablow Street and Lear Lane
Cleveland Road - 3 at the junction of that road with Bilston Street, and 5 near the Agricultural Hall
Walsall Road - 2 at the junction of that road with Walsall Street
Horseley Fields - 3 adjoining the footpath opposite St. James's Church
Piper’s Row - 3 opposite the wall of the Little Swan Inn
North Road - 2 near the Red Lane
Chapel Ash - 2 at the junction of that road with Salop Street and Darlington Street

Adverts From 1884

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