This turn-of-the-century view of Queen Street, Wolverhampton shows
a typical Victorian scene of hansom cabs, family shops and passers-by
in top hats, flat caps and ground-length skirts. And rising above
it all, the spire of Queen Street Congregational Church, a landmark
for generations until it was demolished in 1971.
Keith Cattell, church secretary at the time it was knocked down,
recalls the building he loved:
"The first church on the site was built in 1813 on a garden plot
at the corner of Queen Street and Market Street.
"By the early 1860s, the church had outgrown itself and George
Bidlake, Wolverhampton's leading architect, was asked to design
a much grander building in a "Free Italian" style, the foundation
stone being laid in June 1864. The church was demolished in 1971
long after its honey-coloured sandstone had blackened with age.
Internally, it was surprisingly large, bright and colourful, but
it was also memorable for its incidental features.
"Built before modern intercom systems existed, it had a naval-type
speaking tube connecting the entrance lobby to the pulpit to inform
the minister of the arrival of bridal or funeral parties or even
mayoral processions; nine mayors of Wolverhampton were members of
the church at various times.
"Built into the basement of the steeple was a soup kitchen with
direct access into Queen Street and containing a boiler large enough
to hold a whole sheep.
"In 1939, the church's large basement was heavily reinforced with
steelwork and thick blast walls to provide an emergency air raid
shelter for about 500 people, fortunately never required.
"Religious discipline in the early 19th century was rigorous;
one church member was expelled because she had been seen entering
that offshoot of Satan's realm - the local theatre.
A family of eight suffered the same fate because they had held
a family dance in their own home!
"The site of the church is now occupied by the local Jobcentre.
Just after it was built, a rumour circulated that it was haunted;
maybe the indignant spirit of one of the thousands of deceased church
members, or perhaps some poor chap who never found a job and still
came to read the job notices even after his demise!"
As we were saying . . . In the year of the first powered flight
a prescient Express & Star new year editorial predicted: "Then
there is the development of locomotion.
"The motor car is still to be made available even for the middle
class and dirigible balloons represent only the chrysalis stage
of the flying machine.
"They have taught us much however in regard to aerial navigation.
"These are only some of the subjects with which men of genius
"Others may be feeling their way along paths entirely of their
"It may be a dull time for poetry and literature, but the rising
generation is on the tiptoe of expectancy for revelation of the
triumphs of laboratory and workshop.
"Something should come this year."
Buffalo Bill robbed - and the valet did it: In June Colonel
"Buffalo Bill" Cody was sensationally robbed of his jewels when
he brought his Wild West Show to Dudley.
Despite the theft of the valuables, including a pen with diamonds
presented by King Edward VII, the show, which featured 800 people
and 500 horses went on to play before 20,000 people at Dunstall
Park, Wolverhampton, the next day.
Within days Cody's valet William Prizey was arrested in Kensington
and the jewels worth 350 and he was brought back to Dudley where
magistrates jailed him for six months for theft.
Homes not fit for heroes: Dudley borough medical officer
Dr J H Wilkinson reported several fresh cases of typhoid stemming
from two pubs where a soldier sent home from the Boer War had been
drinking with friends. The Express & Star advised in January
that for safety people should refrain from the custom of drinking
from the same cup with returning heroes. In a separate report housing
problems in Wolverhampton were detailed. More than 1,000 houses
were slums on all sides of the town with 51 reported to be unsanitary.
In the slums people lived at 384 to the acre.
Locksmiths strike over: January 7 - At meetings in Willenhall
and Wolverhampton locksmiths, who had been on strike for 11 weeks,
agreed to return to work on January 12. The agreement with the masters
involves the creation of a wages board with an independent chairman
to consider the strikers' demand for a 10 per cent increase in pay.
The Express & Star said the strike was conducted in "a fair
and honourable manner".
Bradley boiler explodes: January 20 - A boiler explosion
in the No 2 mill at Tupper & Co's Batman's Hill ironworks at
Bradley killed mill manager James Warren and engine driver Harry
Southall instantly. Another 13 were injured with furnaceman Richard
Cooper and roller Edward Holloway died in hospital. Thousands of
people trekked to Bradley to view the devastation and a collection
was made in the street for the families of the bereaved.
Local boys make good: February 14 - England beat Ireland
4-0 in a football international at Wolverhampton's Molineux Grounds
watched by a crowd of 12,000. The winning team featured Wolverhampton
Wanderers' goalkeeper Baddeley and first division leaders West Bromwich
Albion's left half Hadley.
Wednesbury murder: February 17 - A child murder at Wednesbury.
Tube welder Richard Cartwright was arrested for the murder of his
16-month-old daughter Mary at their Elwell Street home. Cartwright's
wife returned home after being sent out to buy a half pint of beer
to find the girl's throat had been cut.
Leno jokes with Mayor: April 3 - Comedian Dan Leno visited
Dudley to lay one of the foundation stones for the new 6,000 2,000-seat
Empire Palace of the Varieties in Hall Street. After the Mayor,
Councillor John Hughes, laid the first stone he joked: "If I lay
mine crooked after that down comes the show." His stone contained
a bottle with a copy of the day's Express & Star inside and
a coin thrown in by Leno.
Council's tram switch: May 20 - Wolverhampton Town Council
voted 28-17 after three days of lengthy debate not to go ahead with
the experimental Lorain electric traction system for trams in the
town and instead go for the upright posts and overhead wires system
in use in neighbouring towns. On September 12 in a private session
the council reversed the decision.
'Horrible murder': August 15 - A horrible murder was reported
at Bankfield Road, Bilston, where James Cartwright , aged 32, attacked
his common-law wife Mary Ann Pumphrey forcing her to run out of
the house naked. Cartwright, who was said to have shown earlier
signs of insanity then smashed in the heads of their three children
with a gunstock. He fought police like a maniac before being arrested
and charged. Cartwright was detained at the king's pleasure.
Mystery horse maiming: November 4 - The Express & Star
reported a mysterious case of horse maiming at Four Ashes. A letter
to the editor claimed it was the work of a secret gang who threatened
to strike at horses in Wolverhampton, Bilston and Tettenhall and warned
people to mind their horses and taunted the police. Just two weeks
before, vicar's son and solicitor Ernest Edjali, aged 28, had been
convicted of killing a horse at Great Wyrley on August 17. A series
of attacks on horses occurred in the area before and after the trial
and a campaign started protesting Edjali's innocence. A 2,000 name
petition was sent to the Home Secretary.