Comments on pictures in the book "Stourbridge - Living
Memories" by Dorothy Nicolle.
Front Cover. Stourbridge High Street. 1931
Starting at the bottom left hand corner: A lady who, judging by her dress
might well be my mother - I have pictures of her similarly dressed. She is
approaching the shop front of Messrs. Mark & Moody, booksellers, whose shop
is just out of the picture, and passing that of “BOOTS. GEO SMITH SHOES”.
Passing this lady is a man wearing what appears to be a postman’s helmet of
that time. This is likely as he is heading for the Post Office. Over his
head is the unmistakable sign of the “Mac-Fisheries”
After a rather down-market pub then comes Douglas’s the up-market
jewellers and opticians. Their sign carries a vast pair of spectacles with
eyes behind the lenses, but no head. This was a puzzle to an eight-year old.
The sign for “Waltham Watches” can be seen above these premises.
Next, with a darker stone facing, comes the Post Office. Above its
entrance a small sign can just e discerned - “Public Telephone”.
Between the Post Office and the “Waggon and Horses” (Sign indicating
“Banks’ Ales”) is an alley known as “Theatre Row”. It once led to the
Alexandra Theatre which in 1931 has disappeared, giving way to the “Central
Theatre”, a picture house, the frontage of which had been brought on to the
High Street, and which can be seen with the word “Theatre” on its portico.
At some time in the late 30’s the “Central” ,which had been privately owned,
became part of the “Odeon” chain of cinemas. The Manager of the “Central” at
that time was a Mr. Bray, who had two sons, Clifford and Alan. The family
lived in Hagley Road in one of a row of fine houses next to Rollins’ sweet
shop. Clifford was a paraplegic, and Alan was a contemporary of mine and in
the same class at school.
Alan was very useful as he had free access to the cinema, and was able to
take his friends in with him.
The landlord of the “Waggon and Horses” next to the Post Office was a
certain Mr. Reynolds, whose son, Reggie, was with me in “Pecker’s Class” at
Hill Street school in 1932-3. I envied him his cricketing skill.
After the “Central” came Stringers’ Furniture Store. This was THE place
to buy your furniture. I still have one of their sideboards, made of solid
wood, and the drawers still slide beautifully after seventy years. Their
premises jutted out into the road where the latter narrowed. On the corner
which jutted out was “Stringers’ Clock” which can be seen in the picture,
immobilised at ten-past-three. The narrow part of the High Street led on to
Hagley Road. More detailed photographs of this upper part occur elsewhere.
At the bottom right is seen one of the splendid street lamps for which
Stourbridge was renowned, complete with its attached waste-paper basket. The
Stourbridge Corporation had its own Gasworks, so it had gas street-lighting.
At that time too, the Gas Department had a very competent Engineer, one
Charles H. Webb. He made sure that the Gas Dept’s public face, seen in its
lighting, was “the best in the land”. By the thirties, the old “leerie”
lamplighter had almost disappeared, each lamp having its own clockwork
switch mechanism. Lamplighters were still employed, but to ensure that the
clocks were kept wound, pilot lights lit, broken lanterns repaired, mantles
replaced and the lamps kept painted. All lamps in the town were painted with
aluminium paint.. This had the advantage of being quick drying and cheap.
Moreover, it looked bright and sparkling.
This was all supervised by the Gas Dept’s “Outdoor Inspector”, one John
Perks who drove around in a Model T. Ford van.
Some time in the 30’s, obviously after 1931, the street-lighting was
augmented by the provision of high pressure gas lamps suspended at about
first-floor level. It was the proud boast of the Stourbridge Gas Dept, that
it was possible to read a newspaper out-doors at night in Stourbridge High
The Morris saloon by the lamp (UY 6397) is parked outside “Lawleys” who
specialised in the sale of porcelain, glass and crockery. Many a boring time
was spent holding Mother’s hand whilst she admired the window displays.
Next to Lawleys is “Southern Bros.” - gents’ outfitters - whose sign
board is just discernible In the later 30’s they were displaced by
“Dunham’s”. and the shop front modernised. From Dunhams one bought King
Edward’s School blazers.
Then comes the premises of “J. Thos. Ford & Co” - printers and
stationers. I spent a good deal of time in this shop as my father bought
from Ford’s all the stationery for his multifarious secretarial activities.
It will be noticed that over the shop hangs a sign advertising Swan Ink, and
outside is an assortment of poster boards. As Fords printed most of the
official notices for the district, they had the privilege of showing most of
them at their shop front.
Occasionally, in the shop, a “Mr. Ford” would be seen for a brief
instant, but it was usually managed by a Mr. Parker who sat on a high stool
at a “Marley & Scrooge “ desk with a large ledger in front to him doing what
I was told was “book-keeping”. I was once put to some embarrassment after
getting this mixed up with “book-making”. I may have been right of course!
Parker was a man with white hair, a wing collar, black suit with striped
trousers, and glasses on the end of his nose - the very model of a modern
Doing most of the work, which included a deal of running about from one
store-cupboard to another, was the general factotum whose mane was Perkins.
He was smaller than Parker, wore a brown suit, had wavy brown hair and wore
round tortoise-shall framed glasses.
I never minded having to hang around whilst Father did his business at
Fords - it included most of the gossip of the town. There was always
something interesting on show. A large rack contained sheets of blotting
paper. This came in almost every imaginable colour - there were eight
different shades of green! I was once given a small sample pad of this
blotting paper in all its glorious rainbow colours - I wish I had kept it.
It was in Fords that I learnt all about foolscap and quarto, lever-arch
files, carbon and copy paper, Royal Sovereign H.B. pencils and:
“They come as a boon and a blessing to men
The Picklock, the Owl and the Waverley Pen.”
On up the street. Next to Fords was Hepworths, Gents’ Outfitters, outside
which is parked a canvas-topped version of the Austin Seven, the saloon
version of which was my first car. Then, with the two white lamps hanging
outside, is the “Maypole”. The main attraction here was provided by the vast
chunks of butter, margarine and lard which adorned the shop window. The
customer’s requirements having been ascertained, a smaller chunk was removed
from the block and battered into a decent rectangular shape using “butter
pats”, and on into grease-proof paper suitably inscribed "Maypole” in green
ink. The energy put into ‘patting’ these odd half-pounds of grease seemed to
me to be somewhat in excess of what was strictly necessary. It was probably
exaggerated by the shop assistants to demonstrate their skill to admiring
house-wives - and their fascinated children. In my early days, before I
discovered that most things were illogical, I was given to wonder about any
possible connection between the Maypole shop and the thing we used to prance
around in the Infants’ school on May-day.
After the Maypole, looking south was an assortment of shops. The only one
identifiable in the picture is the Singer Sewing Machine Shop, identified by
the large hanging “S”. Other pictures may show these in greater detail.
Directly ahead in the distance is the tower over the Public Library and
At the Town Clock (Page 15).
The picture on page 15 shows a somewhat limited view of the confluence,
at the Town Clock, of no less than six ways.
In the centre, behind the clock tower, Market Street leaves the High
Street. Between the two traffic lights, along the wall which is blank apart
from an indecipherable notice, is a narrow alley known as New Street. Half
left in the photograph past “H.Shirt” is the upper part of the High Street,
directly left is Coventry Street, and behind the photographer, Lower High
Street and Enville Street. In the twenties, all traffic at this major
junction was controlled by a solitary policemen who stood about where the
figure on the left of the photograph is shown. In the days of the trams must
have had to do a little dodging about .
In the mid-thirties, traffic lights were installed at this junction. This
was a very complicated system for those days and was considered to be the
most complex in the country.
Left in the picture is the premises of H. Shirt, baker, confectioner and
Café owner. I can just remember the original “H.Shirt” and his wife, but was
more acquainted with his son, Charles, his wife, and their son and daughter,
Ron and Olive.
Immediately in front of Shirts, appearing to emerge from the top of a
Ford van, is a Stourbridge curiosity. This is a “Sewer Lamp”. This is shown
in more detail in the picture on Page 21. It will be noted in other pictures
that the ordinary street lamps had a square-section lantern whilst the
“Sewer Lamp” had a round section globe and a more elaborate lamp-post. These
lamps, unlike the ordinary ones, burnt continually and had a small mantle.
We were told that the supply to these lamps emanated from the sewage system
- sludge digestion produced methane. Whether or not the supply was augmented
with town gas I never discovered. There were only a few of them, one outside
the library, one in Worcester Street. As well as the one at the Town Clock.
Next to the sewer lamp is a high pole which had once served to carry tram
The town clock was a truly magnificent edifice, in cast iron, painted
green with gold lining. The “Clock” itself was not, in fact, a clock as it
consisted only of two faces and the tower. The mechanism was inside the
Market Hall, the hands being driven by rods which can be seen joining the
tower to the first floor of the hall.
The lamp to the right of the clock is one of those which replaced the
square-lanterned lamps and which were equally decorative.
On the left of the Market Hall entrance was Alcock’s radio shop. They had
for long had a music shop in lower High Street, next to the Grammar School,
but extended business to the shop shown, to sell, amongst other things,
“Bush” radios which can be seen advertised on a banner next to the clock
On the opposite corner of the Market Hall building, with its sun blind
lowered, is the grocery shop of “Moyle and Adams”, who moved into
Stourbridge in the 30’s thereby extending their Lye business.
At the foot of the clock tower can be seen the Post Box with its sign
with an arrow pointing in the direction of the Post Office.
Pages 30 & 31 - High Street looking North.
This excellent picture shows, first, on the left side, the Singer Sewing
Machine shop with, in its window, a sample of “what you can do if you own a
Singer”. Next are two shops, both of which were “Dowsons” - bakers,
confectioners and café owners. The two shops were joined internally. In late
morning, in one of the windows could sometimes be seen a saddle of beef on a
large chafing dish. This was supervised by Mr. Dowson who stood in white
overalls, wielding a carving knife and fork, ready to carve slices for
Between Dowsons and the next shop was a narrow passage-way leading to
The name of the next shop cannot be recalled or deciphered. I am
reasonably certain that it was an outfitters.
Then, with the poultry hanging out over the street, comes the
establishment of Walter Perry, poulterer and fishmonger. Then, with two
white-globed lamps hanging outside, came the Maypole, referred to
On the right of the picture is the Post Office where my wife worked as a
clerk in the late 30’s and during the war. Next to it is a small pub,
distinguished by its decorative ground glass windows.
Next is Douglas’s, jewellers and watchmakers, referred-to elsewhere, then
yet another pub.
Further down on the right hand side, just after the window cleaners’
ladders is “Mark and Moody” - booksellers. Their shop front had Byzantine
arches and can thereby be easily recognised.
In the far distance are buildings beyond the Town Clock.
Reference to trams in the caption to this picture needs checking. We
moved to Stourbridge in 1926 and lived in the town, a stone’s throw from
where the picture was taken. There were no trams in High Street in our time.
The tram lines may earlier have been asphalted over until they could be
lifted - possibly in 1930.
Pages36 & 37. Upper High Street.
This picture is taken from the edge of the pavement outside Blackburn’s
the butcher’s on the corner of High Street and Court Street. The latter was
a short pedestrians-only alley leading from High Street to New Road. At its
New Road end was the Police Court - hence the name. Next to Blackburn’s was
the “International Stores” which was within small-boy running distance of
our home. It was a useful source of supply for grocery requirements over and
above the weekly grocery order which came from Moyle & Adams. I recall being
asked to “pop down to the International for “Half a pound of best Danish
butter please”. Later this store became “George Mason’s".
Next to it was a branch of the National Provincial Bank - later becoming
the “National” part of Natwest.
Amongst the next shops on the left was a small gents’ outfitters named
“Hall’s” This was fascinating at night as across the doorway was a beam of
light which, if broken, would result in the shop window lights being
automatically switched on
A little further down can be seen, protruding on to the pavement, the
corner window of Woolworth’s, but before that is the Royal Exchange pub and
a passage-way which provided a goods entrance for Woolworth's and the pub
and access to the rear of the Police Station in New Road.
On the right of the picture is the junction of Foster Street and High
Street, marked on the side shown by “Bordeaux House, one of the finest and
most elaborate “Off Licences” in the country. This traded under the name of
Next to Bordeaux House was the furniture store of “H.P. Jones”. “H.P.”
was one of the local worthies, possibly a Town Councillor. He was known for
selling a great deal of furniture on Hire Purchase. His initials being “H.P.”
he was therefore known as “Hire-Purchase Jones”.
Another permanent feature of Foster Street corner was the number of lay-abouts
hanging round. Several of these can be seen in the picture. On Saturday
nights it attracted a greater following since, as it was very near the Bus
Station, the evening newspapers arrived there first with the football
results. Loud cries of “’Spatch or Mail!” “Argus”, “Star” (The Wolverhampton
“Express and Star”) “Final” “All the results” etc. rent the evening air.
Further down the right hand side, after H.P.J’s were Ashfords’ Dairy and
Braziers’ the chemists. Braziers’ was run by Mr. Brazier himself. He was a
smallish balding man who always dressed in tweeds with a bow tie. His
assistant, named Chance was a taller man in a neat suit. On a shelf high
above the shop window were large bottles containing water in various colours
and behind the counter were old-fashioned drawers and bottles with their
contents labelled in abbreviated form or in Latin. The medicine you required
was carefully wrapped in white paper and sealed with red sealing wax melted
over a small gas burner at the end of the counter.
A little further still was “Canadines” who sold soft furnishings, window
blinds etc. and where my Aunt Vera worked for a time.
On pages 32 & 33 is seen a view of almost the same part of high
street as is shown on pages 36 & 37. But almost 20 years later. It will be
noted that ‘Hire-Purchase Jones’ furniture shop has been replaced with a
rather brash “Smarts”.
The Royal Exchange pub is identifiable on the left, as is the Woolworths
logo beyond it. Above Woolworths, jutting over the street, is one of the
brackets which once held one of the excellent high pressure gas lamps. By
1950 the ubiquitous concrete electric lamp had taken over - one can be seen
over the “No Parking” notice on the left hand side.
After Woolworths came a branch of the Midland Bank (114, High Street),
then Boots the Chemists and eventually Timothy White’s although in the 30’s,
that frontage was occupied by Godfrey’s who sold plants and garden
requirements. Next came the entrance to the “Kings Hall” cinema, later
reduced to the “Kings” as on the visible notice.
At some time, the next shop was Page & Bloomer, Ironmongers and then the
Singer Sewing Machine shop as listed above.
On the right hand side can be seen the “Johnson’s Dyers” banner, below
which can just be made out the “O” of the Odeon Cinema which, by this time,
had replaced the “Central”
Pages38 & 39
These show the top end of the High Street at various times.
Top Left shows Bordeaux House, but with Barclay’s Bank on the opposite
corner of Foster Street. At one time on this corner was a a blue pillar box
for air mail. On the left hand side can be seen the name boards for
Blackburns’, butchers and the International Stores.
Lower left shows the modernised shop front of Wimbush’s agent. This was
managed by a Mr. Pearson who lived at Kinver. Once again, living a stone’s
throw away in New Road, we were often sent out to “Wimbush’s” to buy four
jam tarts for three-pence-ha’penny or for custard tarts at three-halfpence
each. The next shop, obscured by Wimbush’s delivery van, was Wrigley’s
greengrocery shop where potatoes were weighed out on a vast pair of scales
and sold at seven pounds for sixpence. Mr. Wrigley was a somewhat lugubrious
elderly man with an “Old Bill” moustache. Beyond Wrigley’s was the Millinery
establishment run by the Misses Hatchkiss (Doris and her sister) whose
father was, at the time, Editor of the “County Express”
The upper photograph on page39, taken much later, shows, on the left, the
end of the Barclays’ Bank building past which was a small opening, leading
to a small café in which was held my own ill-fated wedding reception. Then
comes yet another gents’ outfitters (White) , above and next to which was
the office of the Brierley Hill and District Building Society. The next shop
cannot be identified, but on the corner of St. John’s Road is a branch of
Halfords. They had moved from Lower High Street some time in the 30’s.
The large block marked “E.Ward” was the premises of Mrs. E. Ward,
Corsetiere. As a teen-age boy, it was not done to be seen showing much
interest in the window dressing of these premises. To do so would earn the
censure of one’s parents, indicating as it did that one was on the road to
perdition, as well as the ridicule of one’s peers. After Wards, Church
Street, formerly Windmill Hill, led off to the left, this being seen in the
The lower photograph on page 39 shows, on the left, the “British
Restaurant” where one could, during the war, obtain a rudimentary but
adequate meal for a shilling or so. Before the war it had been a showroom
for the Stour Valley Motor Co. who had an Austin agency. By 1950, St. John’s
Road had been cut through to provide a by-pass for the narrow High Street.
Next comes the premises of Mrs. Ward as mentioned above, Church Street,
the Library and Technical College and Hagley Road. New Road, where we lived
was sharp right opposite the Library.
On the right hand side of the lower photograph can be seen the premises
of the Stourbridge, Lye and district Building Society, then the arch over
Walker’s stationery and newspaper shop from which various comics could be
bought if Father was in a good mood, and yet another pub, this time selling
Bents Ales. Mr. Walker, who owned the stationery shop, at one time published
the “Stour Gazette”, a local newspaper which aimed to compete with the
“County Express” but never reached that target. It failed after a year or
Pages 40 & 41
Top left shows the Library and Technical College in all its glory, with
the clock tower, the face of which could be seen from our back garden and to
which we were directed from time to time to check the accuracy of the house
It will be noted that the high pressure gas lamp is still there in the
1931 photograph, suspended from what was once a tram pole. In the lower 1955
picture, it has been supplanted by the concrete electric lamp.
The Roman Catholic Church shown on Page 41 was next door but one to us,
on the corner of Union Street.. It was a magnificent building with an
admirable steeple from which the Angelus was rung at regular intervals. My
family being staunch protestants, never entered it, and the reason for the
Angelus was never explained to us.
Pages 42 & 43
The caption for the large photograph which makes up these pages is in
error as it refers to “Kidderminster Street 1931”.
We moved to Stourbridge in 1926. Our house is part of the square block
jutting out into the road in the distance. Our address, right from the
beginning was “7, New Road”. Only when opening this book of photographs had
I any idea that it might at one time have been called Kidderminster Street.
Checking against a map dated 1837 shows that this road was “New Road” at
that time. If at any time it was known as “Kidderminster Street”,
authentication would be required.
Four churches are shown in the picture. The one nearest the camera is the
old Wesleyan Chapel. This was superseded in 1928 by the new Chapel with the
square tower on adjoining land. Behind the wall on the extreme right is the
garden of the Manse. The old chapel was used as a meeting hall. From the
inscription on the handcart it can be inferred that the Corporation Gas
Department were busy sorting out the gas supply to the old chapel. At the
end of the new Chapel is the entrance to Hanbury Passage and the end of Park
Street. The Park Tavern on the corner of Park Street can be seen. Next up
the road was Mobberley’s Grocery Store which carried fascinating
advertisements for Mazawattee Tea and where, if you took an old jam jar, you
could have it filled with treacle out of a wooden barrel for a few coppers.
Then came a row of houses, the last of which, in rather grander style was
the Presbytery, inhabited in the 30’s by Father O’Keefe - so the notice
After the R.C. Church came Union Street, and then a square Georgian
house, occupied by the brothers Will and John Waugh, bespoke tailors to the
clergy, nobility and gentry and anyone else who could afford them. When they
retired and moved out, the house became the premises of the Conservative
Then came the United Methodist Chapel, the gable end of which can be seen
protruding into the road in the middle of the picture. This chapel was soon
to be closed down and became the maintenance Depôt of the Corporation Gas
At the limit of the picture there protrudes even further the block which
contained “7, New Road” occupied by the Green family from 1926 - 1942.
On page 44 the top photograph is again captioned as “Kidderminster
Street”, which needs justification, and is an enlargement of the picture on
the previous pages. It gives a clearer indication of the Park Tavern (Home
Brewed Ales), and the activities of the Gas Dept. Notice the Midland Red
Timetable on the wall of the Park Tavern..
The portico front door of “7,New Road” can be clearly seen.
Page 18. Market Street.
The photograph on Page 16 is of the end of Market Street showing the town
hall followed by the block forming the Market Hall and one or two fronting
shops. Note the pair of street lamps in glorious Stourbridge aluminium paint
before the Town Hall entrance. On the extreme right of the photograph are
signs indicating the “Elm Farm Dairy” and “Battersby Hats”. The latter was
undoubtedly outside the tailoring premises of “G. Osborne & Sons” where one
obtained bespoke gents’ tailoring. It was to the elder G. Osborne that two
of my aunts were apprenticed at one time. The business was run latterly by
Billy and George, his two sons, whom P. G. Wodehouse may have taken as
models for Gussie Fink-Nottle and Bertie Wooster.
In the lantern of the street lamp on the right there can be clearly seen
the two mantles and the clock mechanism.
The town hall was a grand Victorian edifice and which housed many a
On the extreme left of the picture is part of the “Market Hall Vaults”,
which evidently supplied “Special Ales” although one suspects that they were
no more “special” than at any other pub in the town. The street to the left,
known as “Smithfield”, led to the Fire Station, the Public Conveniences - as
indicated by the notice on the street lamp, and to the Old Edwardian Club.
The name “Smithfield” is consistent with there being the Cattle Market at
this site in the 19th. century. The rear entrance to the Market Hall gave on
to this short street. Thence to New Street, once a principal thoroughfare
leading to “Greenfield House” and beyond.
I could pass comment on nearly all the other photographs shown, and in
fact can “feel my feet on the paths” whilst looking at them. Most of my
comments, however, would be of personal memories of little interest except
to family and contemporaries.
An exception is, perhaps, the picture on page 74 (Rock House, please, not
In the early 1930’s this house was occupied, the occupants serving teas
to visitors, either inside the house or, in fine weather, on a terrace
outside. I have actually had my tea in this “cave”
W. John Green. 01.02.04
© The Estate of William John Green, 2004