With the end of the Second World War almost in sight, Wolverhampton Council looked forward to a bright future, which included a new and very different town centre. In 1943 the Wolverhampton Reconstruction Committee began planning a radical redevelopment of the town including all aspects of its social, economic, and physical structure. The committee looked at housing, transport, markets, a new central library, a new civic centre, recreation facilities, a new cemetery and crematorium, and general redevelopment. The hope was to sort out some of the town’s acute problems including inadequate housing, traffic congestion, run-down central areas, and the lack of playing fields, parks, and permanent allotments.

The members of the Reconstruction Committee were as follows:

Councillor H. A. White (Chairman), Councillor T. W. Phillipson (the Mayor)
Aldermen:  A. Davies, Sir Charles Mander, Bart., and R. E. Probert
Councillors:  Mrs. A. A. Braybrook, Mr. A. Byrne Quinn, Mr. W. H. Farmer,
Mr. A. G. Goodman, Mr. J. H. Hale, Mr. C. W. Hill, Mrs. R. F. Ilsley, Mr. J. E. Jordan,
Mr. W. Lawley, and Mrs. M. Mackay.

The committee was assisted by a sub-committee under the chairmanship of the Mayor, and also by the Borough Engineer Mr. W. Mervyn Law who submitted many reports, and Mr. J. Brock Allon the Town Clerk. A comprehensive social and industrial survey was undertaken, in co-operation with Birmingham University as part of a fact finding exercise.

The town also co-operated with the adjoining authorities of Tettenhall, Cannock, Wednesfield, Willenhall and part of Seisdon in the formation of a Wolverhampton and District Joint Planning Committee.

From a report produced by the Reconstruction Committee.


It could be seen that the most urgent and pressing post war problem would be the provision of houses. In the inter-war years, 16,210 houses were built in the town, which amounted to forty percent of the total housing stock. This included 8,978 council houses. During the same period, 4,342 slum and sub-standard properties had been demolished under clearance schemes. No building work had been carried out for several years, and it was estimated that a minimum of 6,700 houses would be needed as soon as possible. The aim was to build 1,000 houses a year, which would depend upon the availability of material and labour, and the construction methods employed.

The Oxbarn Estate, a pre-war development.

The houses were to be built following the guidelines and plans in the 1944 Housing Manual, published jointly by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Works, and would include some temporary pre-fabricated bungalows, four hundred of which had already been allocated to the town. Two areas had been chosen for new housing estates, one on the Willenhall Road where around 700 houses were to be built, and another at Bushbury which would consist of 1,400 homes. Plans included the construction of roads and sewers, the provision of community buildings and schools, and the provision of adequate playing fields in close proximity to the houses. The retention of natural features on the sites were an essential part of the design.

Another pre-war development, the Low Hill Estate.

At the time, negotiations were in progress for the acquisition of eighty five acres of rough land between Willenhall Road and Deans Road for a third housing estate.


Wolverhampton’s industrial development depended upon ease of access to and from the town, for people, raw materials and finished products. In the 1940s there were ten major roads radiating from the town centre, two railway stations and good depots, a network of canals leading to the main ports, and a Municipal Airport. Shortly before the outbreak of war, the Ministry of Transport proposed a scheme for the building of a bypass to connect Birmingham New Road with the A41, which could be extended to join Stafford Road via Wobaston Road. This would have diverted a considerable amount of through traffic, but could have done little to relieve the congestion in the town centre.

The increase in road traffic between 1922 and 1938. The figures show the average daily tonnage which is proportional to the thickness of the black lines. From a report produced by the Reconstruction Committee.

The Reconstruction Committee felt that the ideal solution would be the building of a central ring road running from Penn Road in the south, along School Street and Waterloo Road as far as Bath Road, then across to Stafford Street and up Fryer Street to Victoria Square for the bus station. The road would then go along Pipers Row, and across to Cleveland Street, from where it joined the Penn Road and School Street junction.

The road would provide good access to all the major roads and the town centre. It would have an overall width of 90 feet and consist of dual carriageways 22 feet wide, each with an 8 feet wide lay-by, allowing standing traffic to pull-up outside the main carriageway. There was also a central island that would be fenced so that pedestrians could only cross the road at controlled crossings. Roundabouts were to be constructed at each junction, and frequent breaks in the central island would allow traffic to turn from one carriageway to the other.

The proposed central ring road. From a report produced by the Reconstruction Committee.
School Street, Waterloo Road, Fryer Street, Pipers Row, and Cleveland Street were all to be widened to accommodate the new road, and a new section would be built between Wadham’s Hill and Stafford Street, and between Stafford Street and Broad Street.

The Central Library would be demolished to make way for the section of the road between Pipers Row and Cleveland Street.

The main roads in and out of town were to be widened to 80 feet, and converted into dual carriageways.

The northern end of Penn Road would be re-aligned, and Worcester Street would be diverted. A new road would be built along Dunstall Hill from Five Ways to Gorsebrook Road.

One of the proposed roundabouts with a pedestrian subway. From a report produced by the Reconstruction Committee.

Central Redevelopment

A Civic Centre would be built in St. Peter’s Square with an educational precinct between the square and Stafford Street, which would include the technical college. For many years there had been a lack of suitable office accommodation for the Corporations’ administrative staff who were housed in many separate buildings throughout the town. It was felt that the building of a Civic Centre would overcome this problem once and for all.

The scheme involved a great deal of demolition, including all the buildings between St. Peter’s Square and Queen Square, and Barclays Bank. All of the buildings in North Street from the Town Hall to Queen Square were also to be demolished, as was Gifford House and St. Peter and St. Paul's Church. Cheapside and Exchange Street would disappear, and the frontages along Darlington Street, and the eastern side of Waterloo Road were to be redeveloped.

From a report produced by the Reconstruction Committee.

The Retail Market had passed its useful structural life and was in need of extensive and expensive repairs. It was felt that a suitable site for a new market would be on the eastern side of Market Street where many buildings were of poor quality. It would be near the town centre shops, the new ring road, and the bus station.

There didn’t seem to be any advantage in building a new Wholesale Market close to the Retail Market. The main requirements for the Wholesale Market were adequate road and rail access, so it was suggested that the new market should be built on land between Guy Avenue and the railway, which at the time contained extensive cold stores operated by the Ministry of Food. There were several railway sidings and enough land for the building of the market, a cattle market, and abattoirs.

The council's model of the proposed town centre development, looking across Waterloo Road. On the right is Darlington Street and the Methodist Church, in the background on the right is Queen Square and Lichfield Street. The central ring road is on the left. From a report produced by the Reconstruction Committee.

As already mentioned, the Central Library would be demolished to make way for the ring road. After careful consideration, the committee decided that a new Central Library should be built on the site of the Town Hall, in the same style as the Civic Centre.

St. Peter’s School and Institute would be demolished to make way for the educational precinct, allowing extensions to be built to the technical college, along with a school of art, a little theatre with drama and music facilities, and a county college.

The development of the new Civic Centre would happen in five stages:

1. The erection of the greater part of the administrative block, which would accommodate the Corporation staff at present located in the Town Hall, together with other staff distributed in the town centre, such as Social Welfare, the portion of the Medical Officer of Health’s staff in Exchange Street, the Weights & Measures Department, etc. This block, which is situated on the Market Patch, and on land in front of the present Education Offices, could be erected without the removal of any existing buildings, and it is recommended that it should be proceeded with at the earliest opportunity.

The completion of this portion of the main block would place at the disposal of the police, ample temporary accommodation in the existing Town Hall.

2. The demolition of the Retail Market Hall and the Wholesale Market, and their erection on alternative sites. The completion of the main Administrative Block, and the erection of new police buildings fronting a section of the proposed central ring road.

3. Occupation of new Police Buildings by the police, and subsequent demolition of the existing Town Hall, followed by the erection of the new Central Library on the front portion of the site, with provision for a car park at the rear.

The construction of the northern portion of the central ring road between Waterloo Road and Stafford Street. The demolition of existing properties at the corner of Darlington Street and Waterloo Road, and the erection of new buildings on the site for the Electricity Show Rooms.

4. The widening of Waterloo Road between Darlington Street and Wadhams Hill to form part of the central ring road. The demolition of existing property on the east side of Waterloo Road between Darlington Street and Wadhams Hill, and the erection of a new block of offices. The demolition of existing property on the north side of Darlington Street between Waterloo Road and Queen Square, and the erection of new premises comprising shops with offices above.

5. Demolition of property between Cheapside and Queen Square, the Conservative Club, Barclays Bank, and Exchange Street properties.

The committee felt that the scheme would be proof to future generations of the civic pride of their generation, and would bring a greater sense of civic responsibility to the local population.

The Civic Centre with a fountain in front. On the left is the Central Library and the Civic Hall, with St. Peter's Church on the right. From a report produced by the Reconstruction Committee.

Looking towards the Civic Centre with the Royal London Building in the foreground, and the educational precinct on the right. From a report produced by the Reconstruction Committee.

Recreational Facilities

The committee looked at existing recreational facilities, and thought that Wolverhampton suffered from a considerable deficiency for a town of its size. In order to rectify the situation, a further 455 acres of parks, playing fields, and playgrounds were required, together with a further 270 acres of school playing fields. It was realised that it was impracticable to obtain such a large area within the town, other than by a long term planning policy. Some areas were proposed, including what is now Windsor Avenue Playing Fields, and Manor Road Park at Penn, and also part of the Colton Hills, also at Penn.

The ultimate aim was to ensure that everyone had at least one park within easy walking distance, and each child had a playground in easy reach, without having to cross a main road. It was felt that the amenities in existing parks and playing fields should be improved by planting trees and shrubs to screen the backs of adjoining houses, and the provision of sand pits and paddling pools for children. The larger parks and recreational areas should have pavilions, toilets, and a better provision of seats and shelters. Improvements to East Park should include a boating lake, and an extension to Stow Heath Lane.


At the time, around 4,500 temporary allotments were in use to help with wartime food shortages. Few of these were expected to survive after the war, when the land would be used for other purposes. There were also 4,621 privately owned allotments in the town. It was hoped that after the war, a sufficient number of permanent allotments would be available to cope with the expected demand.

A New Cemetery and Crematorium

It was realised that the existing space at Jeffcock Road Cemetery would soon be used up, and so steps were taken to acquire 45½ acres of land on the side of Bushbury Hill on which to build a modern crematorium and to lay out a lawn cemetery.

A final view of the proposed development, looking across the technical college to Queen Square. From a report produced by the Reconstruction Committee.


The cost of such a bold and comprehensive scheme would be formidable, and could only be carried out with the support of the general public. The committee clearly felt that the plan would greatly benefit the local community, and improve people’s lives.


The plans were never implemented because of financial restrictions, but many of the committee’s suggestions have come to pass. The Civic Centre is built on more or less the same site as proposed by the committee. The Ring Road has many similarities with the central ring road, and the educational precinct consists of extensions to the university, and the university’s School of Creative Arts and Design. The markets have moved, as has St. Peter’s School, and the Police Station. The large post war housing schemes came to fruition, as did some of the suggestions for recreational facilities.

Luckily we still have some of the lovely buildings that would have disappeared had the plans been put into practice, including the old Town Hall, Giffard House and church, Barclays Bank, and all the old buildings on the northern side of Queen Square, and in Exchange Street and North Street.

People still talk about the impact of the Mander Centre in the 1960s and 1970s, and the important losses that resulted from it. Arguably, if the scheme had been implemented, the losses would have been far greater, and still talked about today.

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