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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 Street.

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 stationer’s manager.

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 Technical School.

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 wires.

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 face.

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 customers.

Between Dowsons and the next shop was a narrow passage-way leading to Victoria Street.

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 elsewhere..

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 “E Rutland”.

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 lower photograph

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 two.

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 clock.

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 outside indicated.

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 Club.

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 Department.

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 concert.

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.

Conclusion

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 “Cave Dwelling”).

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