It’s here – Debenhams opened its doors in Wolverhampton’s Mander Centre today, with popular ex-Wolves player and artist, Jody Craddock, cutting the ribbon. Will the coming of the respected chain stimulate further retail growth in Wolverhampton? This remains to be seen, but hopes are high that Debenhams will prove to be a powerful cog in the Wolverhampton regeneration machine.
Debenhams is a 93,000 square foot new build construction on the Mander Centre’s south side, replacing the former TJ Hughes, Tesco and various small stores situated on the lower ramps out to St John’s Street and Bell Street – this 1960s concrete building demolished prior to the new three floor building taking shape.
The store comes with a Loaf & Bloom deli kitchen and its own branch of Costa Coffee.
Opening hours are set to be 09:00 – 17:30 weekdays, with 09:00 – 18:00 on Saturdays and 10:30 – 16:30 on Sundays.
Further regeneration is taking place on Bell Street opposite the new store, with old buildings – a former casino and Kwik Save amongst others, being demolished to make way (initially) for a car park, before this prime city centre land is marketed for something more prestigious as part of the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Southside regeneration scheme.
One of the oldest buildings in Wolverhampton centre and certainly one of the most iconic, is to reopen as a coffee shop as revealed by proprietor Charlie Causer.
19 Victoria Street has an interesting history, having survived Wolverhampton’s two great fires in 1590 and 1696 and has seen a multitude of businesses come and go. The building commonly referred to as the Lindy-Lou or the Copper Kettle was constructed in the late 1500s – shortly before the Gunpowder plot (and the hanging of some of Guy Fawkes’s co-plotters in High Green, today’s Queen Square), Shakespeare, the union of England and Scotland and with either Elizabeth I or James I on the throne. At this time, Victoria Street was called Tunwall Street and would be called Cock Street before arriving at its current name during the lifecycle of the building.
The building is one of only two remaining timber framed buildings in Wolverhampton along with the rear section of the Lych Gate Tavern. 19 Victoria Street stands on stone foundations which are now partially obscured as Victoria Street has risen over the years. The earliest records show that the building was owned by Sir Walter Leveson (1609) and was a pub, the Hand Inn, ran by a Mr Worthington. The building has more recently been a bakers, a tea shop, the Lindy Lou baby / toy shop, a welfare advice centre, clothes shop and Wulfrun Books, a book and collectables store.
The coffee shop, to be known once again as the Lindy Lou’s, promises to give a new lease of life to this much loved historic building and with careful internal renovation works recently completed, business owner Mr Causer is currently planning an opening date for Wolverhampton’s newest independent business.
Read more about 19 Victoria Street on the Wolverhampton History Website here.
Food festivals and street food events are big business at present. The chance to browse and sample culinary delights from some of the UK’s best street food producers is often too good to resist. Birmingham’s Digbeth Dining Club and the Village Coffee, Bakery & Kitchen spin-off, Codsall Village Dining Club, proves the success of these events.
This weekend is a first for Wolverhampton in a full-on food and drink festival in a designated area of the city centre that hasn’t been used for much other than car parking since, well, the closure of the old market and the construction of the Civic Centre. The event wasn’t open for the public to walk in – tickets were required, though these were free – they still had to be requested in advance, lending that air of exclusivity to proceedings. The first day, Saturday 8 July, was a roaring success, with some retailers admitting surprise at the large amount of customers in attendance.
Amongst the many street food retailers were favourites Slow N Low, Baked In Brick, Canoodle, Handmade Pizza and Nyam Nyam, with Hail to the Ale, Slater’s and The Grain Store providing liquid refreshment.
All signs point to future festivals in a similar location as the city reinvents itself as a top location for food and drink with attractions such as Wolves in Wolves and Queen Square music festivals drawing in people from further afield.
And there’s still today to visit if you missed yesterday!
..Alright, not quite. I don’t mean to be too misleading with the headline, but with the array of new bars and restaurants opening in Wolverhampton to add to our quite substantial existing selection, it might as well be for those who can afford it.
Let’s take a look at what is and what might be..
The Island House
A former pub turned gourmet fish & chip restaurant, bar and grill, the Island House pub on Stafford Road, Oxley, wasn’t doing too well in its later years, closing in 2007. The building started its life as a house, with conversion to a pub, The Croft, in 1937. Purchased by Andrew Calleja who formerly ran the award winning Newbridge Fryer, The Island House has been open as a takeaway for a few months, finally opening as a fully functioning bar and restaurant this week.
Early reviews are excellent and with a menu including pan fried seabass and spiced battered cod cheeks (not to mention a selection of burgers), we’re confident that The Island House will prove a long-term success.
Gali Kitchen at The Hooded Ram
Under construction at the former Rothwells / Indi Bar in Princes Square, the very prominent crossroads in the centre of Wolverhampton’s Lichfield Street is the Gali Kitchen at The Hooded Ram. This is a city centre project that certainly gets the mouth watering – Hooded Ram are an Isle of Man brewery specialising in cask ale. Their selection includes Black Pearl Oyster Stout, Amber Ram Best Bitter, Little King Louis IPA and a large selection of seasonal beers / specials such as Green Hop Ram (an ale made using fresh or ‘green’ hops during hop picking season instead of the usual dry hops), Smokey Pete Smoked Porter (a smoked beer), Mint Chocolate Stout and Abattoir Blues (a barleywine).
The food promises instant salivation – Galī means alley or narrow street in Punjabi, the Gali Kitchen will bring Indian street food to Wolverhampton’s dining out scene. We can’t wait!
Queen Street was the location of Wolverhampton’s first public health dispensary – the first hospital in the city. This opened on 10th July, 1821, at 46 Queen Street and was constructed to cater for the needs of the poor who could not afford to pay for treatment. At 22 Queen Street, we’ll soon (subject to licensing) have Wolverhampton’s newest micropub, named The Dispensary in recognition of this important part of Wolverhampton’s history. Planned by Ron Reynolds, known locally for bringing a good selection of cask ale to The Horse & Jockey pub in Woodcross, The Dispensary will be a small pub (definition of micropub here) next door to Nandos, with seating for 30 people (more upstairs for functions / meetings).
Plans give a good idea of the layout (here), with both cask and craft dispense on the bar. The pub will have a history of Wolverhampton theme, and promises to add further depth to the city centre’s pub scene.
Currently at the planning stage, the owner of Newbridge Brewery, James McCann, has submitted plans for a micropub on Newhampton Road West in the corner building previously occupied by New Style Windows. The micropub, if approved, will provide a local outlet for Newbridge ales in the Newbridge area of the city.
Mr McCann has stated that the pub will be fashioned in a similar manner to that of Hail to the Ale micropub in Claregate, the three times (current) Wolverhampton CAMRA city pub of the year. The plans are, however, facing opposition, as reported in the Express & Star.
More can be read about this exciting venture can be read in the supporting statement here.
With the well publicised return of The Claregate as part of Marstons’s Generous George chain (with pizza oven and smoke house, opening Monday 10th April) and hot on the heels of recent renovations to Hogshead and the Royal London and the opening of Slaters, The Bohemian and Burger Priest, these new venues will give Wulfrunians and visitors alike plenty of food and drink options.
All Wolverhampton is in need of is a craft beer outlet supplying beers from the likes of Cloudwater, Verdant, Magic Rock, Harbour and Siren Craft to bring us into the big league.. what are your thoughts?
Up until maybe ten years ago, if you wanted to visit a pub other than a regular serving, for example, cask ale, you’d have to chance it. Armed with the latest edition of the CAMRA Good Beer Guide, you could visit what reads as the ideal pub – but, despite the guide being very good, the information might already be out of date leaving you with a lack of choice or even a closed venue. We’ve got it good today. There are a plethora of phone apps out there that will not only give you details about a venue, but will give you up to date ratings and beer scores. You can see, in close to real time, what people are drinking (and whether it is any good!).
WhatPub.com is a great resource for information on pubs – whether they serve cask ale, whether they are family friendly, have a beer garden, serve food – even as far as whether pub games are available or if the pub is dog friendly. WhatPub.com perfectly compliments the Good Beer Guide and if you’re a CAMRA member and know what you’re doing, you can update WhatPub.com with both beer scores and up to date information on the venue. This system works well, but CAMRA always needs more people willing to submit up to date information – so if you’re a CAMRA member, sign in, take a glance and where you can, provide an update. WhatPub.com is browser based and works well on the majority of phones and tablets we’ve tried it on.
A pick of the bunch app is Untappd. This allows you to rate a beer (this also includes cider and mead), adding a photo, comment and location. When enough people use the app (they generally do), the search function comes into its own. For example, you can find a beer within a certain radius – ideal if you know a beer is out there, want to try it, but don’t know where to find it. You can search for nearby beers or venues, to see what people are drinking and what rating they give to those drinks, in your local area. Of course, the application stores data so you’ll know if you’ve had a certain drink before and whether or not you liked it. We’ve also found Untappd useful in that a beer can be rated on the spot at the time & then scored on WhatPub.com afterwards.
A quick look at Untappd data tells us that, in the last month, 51 beers were checked in at the Lych Gate Tavern in Wolverhampton centre, 48 at Hail to the Ale in Claregate, 75 at Slater’s in Wolverhampton, 23 at The Crown in Codsall and 41 at The Great Western. Of course, this data can be taken in many ways and in no way represents the amount of people visiting each pub but does possibly shed some light on places that tech savvy beer hunters are visiting.
So, there’s no reason to drink poor beer or visit a pub that doesn’t serve your needs again – and more reason for pubs to up their game..
Things aren’t all that bad in Wolverhampton and surrounding villages. We might still be struggling with a lack of shops in the city centre, but the government tells us today that they are focusing on the ‘Midlands engine’ (£12 million for Midlands Connect and the transport infrastructure for example), construction and refurbishment is ongoing throughout the city, independent businesses are thriving and people are setting up and maintaining some wonderful events that simply didn’t exist just a few years ago.
Two such events are Tettenhall’s #MakeItorBakeIt street market (which took place on 25th September) and Codsall Beer Festival (30th September and 1st October). Both events were conceived in recent years by individual with an idea, both raise money for charity and have flourished with the help of volunteers and good attendance by local people.
We attended both events for a look at how they are doing. We also took a look at Cupcake Lane cafe’s second birthday celebration, which saw a steam engine return to the former Tettenhall Railway Station.
In a couple of days, the West Wulf blog will be one year old. The idea & formation of West Wulf is five years old. Time flies! What started as a means of providing a media outlet for AFC Wulfrunians, the west Wolverhampton football club, has developed into a Wolverhampton & South Staffordshire news, events and ideas portal. We’ve reported on numerous events such as the rise of the award winning Hail to the Ale micropub in Claregate and Britain’s Best Small Community Market 2016, Make It or Bake It in Tettenhall. We’ve charted the activities of independent businesses such as Wild Bytes Cafe in Wolverhampton. We’ve provided news on the many construction projects in Wolverhampton and had a hand in gaining the west Wolverhampton Artists’ Quarter the recognition it deserves as well as highlighting the ever improving pub selection in the area. Our most popular reports have been the two sets of ‘twenty five reasons to be cheerful‘, which proves that Wulfrunians love their city and constantly seek it’s good points.
Most recently we’ve created the ‘Wolverhampton Paths & Pubs‘ group on Facebook, enabling like minded people to come together for country walking and in support of our pubs – something that also has a tie in with the new ‘Love Your Local‘ Facebook page – designed to encourage people to value, use and where needed, protect their local pubs.
We wouldn’t be here without you, people of Wolverhampton, South Staffordshire and beyond – our readers. As we begin the third month of 2016, we thought we’d lick a finger, put it in the air and see which way the wind is blowing in Wolverhampton at the moment..
Bite sized news for March 2016
There are some exciting times ahead. Work has begun on the extension and refurbishment of Wolverhampton Railway Station’s car park – raising the capacity from 450 to more than 800 long stay spaces. This will pave the way for the eventual extension of the Midland Metro and rebuild of Wolverhampton Railway Station. The entrance to the car park will also be relocated to Mill Street / Corn Hill. More information, particularly about the extension of the Midland Metro can be found here in a Proof of Evidence.
i10 is filling up. There is already a branch of Superdrug operating at Victoria Square, with a new Hungry Horse pub / restaurant, The Sunbeam, under construction. In February, it was announced that national chain Kaspa’s Desserts would be the next tenant, taking over two units within i10 – Wolverhampton will be its 31st UK branch.
Just a stroll away, City of Wolverhampton Council have announced that the Canal & River Trust has acquired the former Crane Foundry on Bailey Street, Horseley Fields for purposes of regeneration – a boost to the council’s Canalside Quarter plans.
A couple of pub openings now – Slater’s Wolverhampton opened last weekend and is proving a hit, in what must be the perfect location – right on Queen Square opposite the Prince Albert statue. In Codsall on Tuesday 22nd March, The Crown – now a Joule’s pub, will open its doors following an extensive refurbishment. Just over a week later in Wolverhampton city centre, the previously mentioned Hungry Horse restaurant, The Sunbeam, will open – scheduled for Wednesday 30th March.
Wolverhampton’s Mander Centre, although a little devoid of shops at the moment, promises to be a top shopping destination by the end of 2017. Have a look at what’s going on here.
Finally, local & national press (here & here) have reported on a Wolverhampton beggar who reportedly takes home up to £500 a day. Yes, takes home. This beggar has a house and is, if reports are correct, rich – earning only £12,000 less than Prime Minister David Cameron does annually. When you pause to consider that the average salary in Wolverhampton is only £20,000 compared to the UK average of £26,500, you will understand why some kind hearted Wulfrunians as well as genuine homeless people are a little angry.
That’s all for now! Keep reading and thank you for your support.