Willenhall History Society
Shops in Willenhall
Stafford Street is one of the main thoroughfares of the town. Over the years it has not fared so well as some of the other main shopping streets in the town centre. In the 1960s the east side of the street was almost completely demolished and replaced with uninspiring concrete blocks of shops. The west side has survived better, but some of the shops have now been derelict for years.
Stafford Street is the main road out of the town centre towards the north. Nowadays there are more shops at the southern end of the street where it joins the Market Place. There are not so many old photographs of this part of town, but we can get some information from the census.
The picture below shows a typical section of the street. the buildings are not so imposing as those around the clock, but are pleasant, solidly constructed and have recently been renovated. The archway is one of several in the street leading behind the shops to yards and further commercial premises.
The other side of the street is not so pleasant to look at, though the buildings may work better as shops. These buildings were put up in the 1960s to replace the original nineteenth century buildings, which, judging by the old picture above, were not in very good condition. It is thought that Willenhall UDC intended to redevelop the whole of the town centre, but this was stopped, due to lack of interest by the new council more than anything, when Walsall Metropolitain Borough took over Willenhall in 1974. We are very fortunate that the wholesale demolition did not happen!
On the corner of Wolverhampton Street and Stafford Street is now Square Deal Carpets. This interesting old building was originally a pub the Kings Head. (it can be seen in the background of the pictures of Macmillans in Market Place)
In 1901 Samuel Harrison ran the pub.
The next few buildings seen above, are a mixture, with what is now the sandwich Shop being 18th Century.
On the left is an older picture, taken soon after Stafford Street was pedestrianised. The Plough Inn, with its corner tower, is still a pub in the left hand picture - on the right it is The Market Shop.
As you can see, by comparing with the 2009 photo above (looking in the opposite direction), Modern Travel, Bakers and Conway's have changed hands, but the buildings are much the same.
In the older view on the left is Shepherd's Hairdresser. The building is much the same, with its unusual windows, in the 2009 view on the right, and is benefitting from a lick of paint.
This block of shops is not so old and, until recently were becoming increasingly derelict. It now appears that they have gained a new lease of life.
In 1901 this site seems to have been houses as follows:
74 William Enoch - a house furnisher
75 William Hartill, a farrier and blacksmith - a famous Willenhall name.
76 Thomas Shepherd, dairyman and confectioner.
This is the same row of shops in 1968, in very good condition.
Daintys was a popular well known shop for many years, selling Raleigh and Triumph bikes. The shop next door advertises Domestic Appliances, Television and Radio with Hoover and Murphy TV Rental signs on the windows.
On the left is J. Tyler and Son, Wallpaper and Paints.
Further along Stafford Street in 1901 George Banks lived at number 69, where he ran a Draper's shop. He was also a Baptist Minister and had his wife, six sons, five daughters and his mother in law in the household.
This is T Hortin's greengrocers shop at an unknown date. The building still survives with the splendid curved Victorian window and its cast iron frame, though it is protected by shutters some of the time.
In 1901 number 16 was run by Mary Ann Hortin. Her husband, Thomas, was working as a keysmith. Their three daughters and two sons lived with them.
In 1926 to 1935 T. Hortin is listed as a furniture dealer in the Willenhall Red Book.
Later on, and until fairly recently the shop was Catherine Downes and was a greengrocer.
Now it is Tam's Tattoos - the window is still there.
The two photos above show how much Stafford Street changed in the 1960s. One whole block of old buildings has been knocked down and replaced by a rather soulless concrete and brick building. In those days modern was good and there were enormous changes in many towns - to shops, schools, houses, transport and most aspects of life.
In the new block can be seen George Mason - a grocer's shop where the staff found what you wanted behind the counter - remember them! To the left is Robertson's - I'm not sure what sort of shop that was, or the name of the chemist nearest to the camera. The line of buildings has been moved back and the pavement made a lot wider, which was an improvement.
In the second picture the next block of Stafford street still stands, with the cafe on the corner of Union Street. Most of these were also demolished later. Below is roughly the same view in 2009 and the scene further down the street and some more detailed photos.
Nowadays the buildings look much the same as when they were built, though the shops themselves have changed, but the concrete parts of the structure have not stood the test of time very well and now look more delapidated than the hundred year old buildings across the street.
There are a lot of interesting shops left in Stafford Street though, which are well worth a look.
Willenhall History Society Website 22.10.2009