Wolverhampton's Locally Listed Buildings

Express & Star Building

Queen Street

ListingBuilt as head offices for the Express and Star in the 1930s at a time when Malcolm Graham, son of Thomas Graham who founded the Evening Star in 1880 (merged with the Evening Express in 1884), was "working tirelessly to drag the Express and Star into the age of modern newspapers, gradually bringing in new production machinery, speeding up printing times and producing a cleaner and more attractive newspaper" (Express and Star supplement 1999 ).

The Express and Star building consists of two wings on either side of a stone projecting central bay. Central bay includes a rounded arch rising through three storeys with a high level sculpture of Mercury. The east wing, also built with stone, is a four‑storey six bay building with glazed shopfront and channelled ashlar above with a projecting stone string course between floors two and three. The late 20th century west wing is not part of the locally listed building.

A plaque commemorates R. J. Emerson, art teacher and sculptor who sculpted Mercury in 1932. The sculpture adds to the variety of public sculptures found on several of Wolverhampton's buildings, possibly as a result of the influence of the Art College in Wulfruna Street.

The building is a fine example of architecture of the period with landmark quality and a notable public sculpture.

Literature:   Peter Rhodes, The Loaded Hour: a History of the Express and Star, S.P.A. Ltd., 1992.  pp.88 to 89

Comment:   The date of the building is 1934.  The architect was Marcus Brown of Wolverhampton.  The building is faced in a reconstituted Hollington stone called "Vinculum", produced by another local firm, Tarmac.  The building contract, for £14,000, was given to yet another local firm, Wilson Lovatt. 

R. J. Emerson was a great friend of the proprietors of the Express and Star, the Graham family, and, for many years, actually had his studio in the building.  The figure of Mercury used the son of a local doctor as the model; and was cast in Vinculum stone from Emerson's model. 

The listing refers to the building's "landmark quality".  Peter Rhodes records the recollection of the then proprietor, Malcolm Graham, that the new building had a subtle effect on those who worked in it and those who visited it to insert adverts.  "In the old days people simply came into the front office, handed in their adverts and went away again.  When the new building was finished, they came in, removed their hats and handed in their adverts.  That was the effect it had on people.  Curious ...."

The new building replaced some Georgian houses at the front and a mish-mash of bits and pieces at the back.  The loss of this part of an otherwise pretty complete Georgian streetscape was unfortunate but at least the replacement was a decent effort.  It is likely that the mirror image of the part to the left of the central tower was intended to be built on the other side.  Luckily for the Georgian houses which survive on that side, this never happened, despite the Star's rapid expansion in the 1930s.