Wolverhampton High Level Station

The station was designed by the Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway Company's architect Edward Banks. The site, which originally consisted of small industrial buildings, houses, and part of the canal, was purchased on 29th September, 1847. The tender for construction of the station was placed on 9th March, 1849. The Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway Company (known as the S & B) began using the station on 1st December, 1851. On 1st July, 1852, the London & North Western Railway began to run passenger trains into the station, over the Stour Valley Line between Wolverhampton and Birmingham.

Two buildings were initially built, the station itself, and a grand entrance building with a booking hall, and board room, at Five Ways. The two buildings were at either end of a drive, 220 yards long. The entrance building still survives, and is now known as the Queen’s Building. It was Grade 2 Listed on 3rd February 1977, and originally had four arches. The inner two were for carriages, and the outer two for pedestrians. The offices and boardroom were above the entrance, and at each side was a row of shops. The building opened on 1st October, 1849.

The canal originally ran where the railway station now stands. In order to build the station the canal had to be diverted, which included the building of a new section from Corn Hill to Broad Street, through a cutting, and through a long tunnel under the railway station drive. Work on the railway station came to a standstill while the new canal was built.

When the station opened,  it wasn’t complete, the refreshment room still had to be built. The handsome white brick building, originally called Wolverhampton General station, was renamed Queen Street Station in September 1853, because the entrance building faced Queen Street. After the opening of Low Level Station in 1854 it became known as High Level Station.

From the Wolverhampton Chronicle, 5th December, 1849. Courtesy of Richard Maund.
From the article opposite, it seems that an accident occurred during the construction of a bridge over the newly diverted canal. The bridge, which carried the road to the station entrance, is now part of Wolverhampton canal tunnel.
This newspaper advert from 31st March, 1852 lists the times of Sunday trains travelling between Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton  General Station (later known as Wolverhampton High Level Station).
From the Wolverhampton Chronicle, 31st March, 1852. Courtesy of Richard Maund.

From the Wolverhampton Chronicle, 9th June, 1852. Courtesy of Richard Maund.

High Level Station was to be jointly owned and operated by the S&B and the London & North Western Railway Company, which used the Stour Valley Line from Birmingham to Bushbury, where it joined the company's main line to the north, known as the Grand Junction Railway.

The S&B however, joined the Great Western Railway and from then-on S&B trains ran into Wolverhampton Low Level Station.

Queen Street Station was officially renamed High Level Station on 1st June 1885. When the Shrewsbury and Birmingham Railway joined the Great Western Railway on 1st September, 1854, the Great Western used the offices in the entrance building as its goods department office, the goods depot being Mill Street Goods Depot on Corn Hill.

This continued until 1st March 1859 when the Great Western sold its half share in the station buildings to the London & North Western Railway. The Midland Railway began to use the station from 1st September, 1867.

From the Wolverhampton Chronicle, 30th June, 1852. Courtesy of Richard Maund.

The High Level Station in January 1965, one year before demolition.

The station in the early 1960s.

The London & North Western Railway had the most extensive coverage in the country, with a mainline stretching from London Euston to Carlisle, then on to Glasgow and Edinburgh over the Caledonian Railway. There were lines to Manchester, Holyhead and much of North Wales, Leeds, Peterborough, Oxford, Cambridge, and joint lines to Swansea, Nottingham, Hereford, Blackpool and Fleetwood, and Sellafield.

In the early 1960s diesel multiple units were beginning to take-over from steam. On the right is an ex-GWR Collett 57xx 0-6-0 pannier tank in charge of a goods train.

A fine view from the early 1960s before demolition began.

The station soon became a victim of its own success because the facilities were inadequate for the large numbers of passengers. In the 1870s around 120 passenger trains and 50 goods trains called there daily. In 1876 the total number of passengers using the station was 936,026. Things got so bad that the town council complained about the lack of facilities.

The main problems were a shared booking office and refreshment room, lack of waiting rooms on the up platform, low and narrow platforms, and a dismal subway which connected the platforms. The subway was so bad that it encouraged people to cross on the lines. Several were killed in the process.

The London & North Western drew up plans for the station's improvement which were included in a Bill in 1876. This was successfully opposed by the Great Western because the new buildings would have been built across the public's approach road to the Low Level Station. The plans for improvement were further delayed by the building of Railway Drive in 1883, which involved the lengthening of the canal tunnel, to allow the new road to cross over the canal.

The enlargement to the station finally took place in 1884, and included the tunnel under the station which gives public access to the Low Level Station, and the arcade known as The Colonnades. It seems that some work on the project had begun by 1880 because some of the girders in the structure carry that date.

In 1923 the London & North Western Railway became part of the LMS (London, Midland & Scottish Railway), and in 1948 when the railways were nationalised, it came under the control of British Railways.

Another view from the early 1960s.

In the late 1950s work on a modernisation plan began, which involved the electrification of the West Coast Main Line, and the Stour Valley Line through Wolverhampton. As part of the scheme the High Level Station was completely rebuilt. The overall roof was removed in January and February 1965, and the station buildings were demolished in January 1966. The new railway station open on 6th March, 1967 with the inauguration of the electrified service.

Two views from January 1965 as work progresses on the demolition of the overhead canopy.

A view from February 1965, taken from the temporary wooden footbridge.

Another view from February 1965 looking at the back of the station.

A final view from February 1965, taken from the temporary wooden footbridge.

A wintry scene, possibly in November 1965 when snow blanketed the whole area.

Another view taken on the same day from the temporary wooden footbridge.

Work on electrification continues with the removal of the old signal gantry.

I would like to thank Richard Maund for his help with this section.


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