Wolverhampton's Listed Buildings
Wolverhampton's Locally Listed Buildings

West Park

Part Two

The Clock Tower:

The clock tower has recently been restored and the cast iron upper part nicely painted. 

The clock was given by Councillor John Ross in 1883. 

He was a Scot by origin, which probably explains why the finials on the clock are in the form of thistles.  

The Pavilion north of the Lake:

Unofficially known as the Duck Shelter.  It stands on the side of the lake, which contains a large and varied collection of waterfowl.

It makes a fascinating feature - in what one might call the Carpenter's Decorated style - with echoes of dovecotes and railway platform canopies.

The Erratic Boulder:

There is another erratic in the park but this is the first and biggest.  Its presence typifies Victorian enthusiasm for geology, curiosities and educating the working classes.

The metal plaque on it reads:  "Block of Felsite, carried during the glacial epoch from Arenic, Merionethshire.  Found in Oak St. Wolverhampton in 1881".

In the garden of Wightwick Manor there is a whole array of local erratics, further testifying to Victorian interest in geology.

The North Lodge.    

The South Lodge.

The Builder, in its issue of 11th June 1881, notes the opening of the park by the Mayor on Whit Monday 1881 and that the 50 acres of land was leased from the Duke of Cleveland for £300 per annum for 42 years then at £350 for the following 21 years, with an option to purchase for £20,000 at the end of the lease.  [This option was taken up].  It also notes that R. H. Vertegens, of Chad Valley Nurseries, Birmingham, won the competition for the best design and got a prize of £50.  

They then describe the two lodges which are "built of pressed red bricks, from the Adderley Park Company, at Birmingham, with stone dressings from the Darley Dale quarries, Derbyshire, the style being Old English with partially timbered gables.  They contain, on the ground floor, two living rooms (each having a window overlooking the entrance gates), kitchen and scullery; and upstairs there are two good rooms.  Behind each lodge there is a small yard containing the necessary outhouses, and the coping wall of the wall enclosing the yard is broken and embattled to be in keeping with the lodge.  The whole of the structural works have been carried out under the supervision and from the designs of Mr. G. Eastlake Thomas, C.E., the borough engineer.  Messrs. Bradney & Co have been the contractors for the lodge, shelters, &c; Messrs. P. Horsman & Co. the contractors for the masonry work of the boundary fence; and Messrs. Bayliss, Jones & Bayliss have constructed the iron palisades and ornamental gates".

The South Shelter.    

The Chalet.

This was originally the Refreshment Pavilion and was opened in 1901.  Later it was known as the Chalet.  It had not been used as tea rooms since about 1990 but it was used as a facility by visiting school groups and others.  In 2002 work started to restore it as a tea room and educational centre.  The new tea rooms opened in May 2005, providing not just ice cream and pop, but tea, coffee, cakes and snacks.  The front room retains many of the original tiles and those that were missing have been copied and replaced.  The result is the best tiled room in the city.  There is also another room at the back with a terrace and fenced garden and lawn. The terrace under the portico at the front gives views of the bandstand and lake.

High on the wall inside the front room is this plaque, which commemorates the opening of the building.  It reads:  "County Borough of Wolverhampton / Refreshment Pavilion West Park - Erected 1901 / Alderman Stephen Craddock JP / Chairman of the Parks and Baths Committee / J. W. Bradley. C.E. Architect / R. Speake & Sons. Builders."  It seems to be made out of japanned and gilded tinplate and was, presumably, made by a local firm.  If all that it is right it is a very interesting example of local japanned ware.  According to contemporary editions of the Wolverhampton Red Book the "tea chalet" cost £750.

Alderman Stephen Craddock was a long serving member of the council and owned Craddock Bros. Ltd., who claimed to be the largest boot manufacturer in the Midlands.

Statue of Charles Villiers:

The inscription on the front says: "Charles Pelham Villiers, PC, MP, Born 3rd January 1802, died 16th January 1898, aged 92 years".   The inscription on the back says: "This statue was erected by public subscription in recognition of the eminent services rendered by Mr.Villiers to his country, especially in connection with the repeal of the corn laws. 

He represented the Parliamentary Borough of Wolverhampton in the House of Commons from 1835 until the division of the Borough in 1885, when he was returned for the South Division, which he represented until his death." 

This statue originally littered up the roadway in the city centre outside the central library.  It was moved to allow for road improvements.  The story is that when the local sculptor, Sir Charles Wheeler, was asked where it should be moved to, he said: "To West Park - preferably behind a large bush". 

More prosaically, Noszlopy and Waterhouse say "His donation of a bandstand to the park in 1882 may have influenced the decision to move the statue there in 1931".  They also say the statue is of marble and that he is in the pose of a public speaker, with his notes in his hand; and that his cloak is draped over a pillar behind him.  This, they say, is reminiscent of Matthew Noble's statue of Robert Peel in Parliament Square, which was executed in 1876.  They say that this gives the work associations with the classical world and its political values. 

Villiers' term in Parliament remains the national record for long service there;  but there is also a story that in all the time he represented Wolverhampton, he never visited the place. He did not turn up to the opening of West Park - but sent the bandstand instead.  

Others say that he only absented himself for the last 20 years of his career. His popularity seems to have been based on his support for the repeal of the Corn Laws. 

This drawing of him (left) seems to show him in his younger days.

 Walls, gates and railings

The main south gate.  The gates, piers and walls are modest and rather restrained for the time - perhaps the style is Financially Prudent, rather that Civic Ostentation.  All the railings were originally made by the local firm of Bayliss Jones and Bayliss, who were often called on to do bigger, more elaborate and imposing work than this.  But there are sections with other names on them, some of which may mark the removal of the originals to hold one of the big shows which have occasionally used the park.