Over the course of around fifteen years, Wolverhampton has changed – not quite unrecognisably, but on a scale that no doubt makes planners of similar sized large towns and small cities look on with a certain amount of envy. It’s not all been highs, with some independent start ups and high street fixtures falling by the way side, but those with enough scope and foresight to survive the increasing digitisation of the consumer world are ploughing on. Today, the much anticipated Wolverhampton Westside project has received the green light as £50 million worth of funding has been secured. Alongside the canalside quarter project at Horseley Fields and the redevelopment of the railway station, a lot is happening all at once. Let’s look at this and more in more detail.
If ever there was a catalyst for the south / western edge of Wolverhampton city centre, then this is it. With funding now secured, development work on the ambitious project can begin. Westside will consist of a multiplex cinema, bowling alley, restaurants and even a mini-golf course; the development will see the creation of a modern entertainment quarter on the land in Market Square between Salop Street and Peel Street.
Work here will no doubt prove to be a catalyst for renovation and the improvement of business corridors between here, the main shopping areas of the revitalised Mander Centre and the Wulfrun Centre and on towards the transport interchange – it should also be of benefit to Chapel Ash and Graiseley, bringing people through these areas to access what should prove to be a destination area within the ring road and providing more than enough reason for people from these areas and further afield to visit the city centre on a regular basis. A glance at the entertainment on offer at Bentley Bridge and the crowds there should hint at the potential Westside has for Wolverhampton centre – providing access and parking is sensibly planned.
Add to this the recent construction and success of the new market at nearby Snow Hill and there are more than enough reasons to head towards the south side of the city centre.
Interchange and Lichfield Street
There has been ongoing construction of one kind or another in this area for the past few years. i10 houses the Sunbeam pub and restaurant, with offices above and a branch of Superdrug on the walk towards the railway station. It’s not all rosy here however, as both Kaspa’s Desserts and Wok&Go have come and gone in the blink of an eye – maybe they were a little too early, as with redevelopment of the railway station, this thoroughfare will be increasingly used. Another reason to see increased footfall in this area is the forthcoming i9 development. Construction is due to start at the Railway Street site, currently home to a car park in front of the Prince Albert pub, and is expected to provide 50,000 square feet of prime office space in the city centre. i9 is due to be completed next year and it is hoped it will draw in a major business for use as a main or regional headquarters.
The railway station looks promising. Work is ongoing on phase 1, with the former police station knocked down, and metalwork currently going up, which will see use in Autumn of this year when complete. Phase 2 will then see the existing station knocked down and replaced by 2020, with the Midland Metro extension coming into use shortly afterwards.
A vision for this area also sees an artists mock up of an office tower at Corn Hill, something that would certainly put Wolverhampton on the map.
Nearby on Lichfield Street, the wonderful Art Deco building that houses the Moon Under Water and former O’Neills pub, is to be renovated and put to use as a Wetherspoons hotel and national museum. JD Wetherspoon are investing in the region of £7 million on the project which will drastically improve the outlook of this busy street, opposite Wolverhampton’s fabled Grand Theatre. Alongside thriving businesses such as the Hungry Bistro, The Bohemian and Zuri Coffee, Lichfield Street will continue to be a place to visit for years to come.
Just a short distance from the railway station at Horseley Fields is the proposed Wolverhampton Canalside Quarter development. This former industrial area alongside the Birmingham Main Line Canal has lain partially derelict for several years. It is hoped that around 600 new homes can be created in this area, within walking distance of the city centre in pleasant waterside surroundings – this will also improve the gateway to the city centre by rail, as trains from Birmingham bridge the canal at Horseley Fields Junction.
To the north east of Horseley Fields lies Heath Town – currently undergoing development work of its own, with 350 new homes expected to be constructed following the recent demolition of the shopping precinct and blocks at Chervil Rise.
New play areas are to be constructed and Wolverhampton Homes are looking at potential future improvements to high rise blocks in the area. As well as this, near Springfield and the old Low Level Railway Station, a new Aldi is nearing completion.
It has been known for some time, should Wolverhampton Wanderers establish themselves as a top flight club, expansion would be necessary at Molineux to increase both match-day capacity and facilities in the area.
Recently, club Managing Director Laurie Dalrymple has made an announcement at a Fans’ Parliament that the first stand at Molineux to be redeveloped would be the Steve Bull stand. Currently the oldest stand within the stadium, it was completed in 1979 as the John Ireland Stand (remember those red seats?) and should everything go to plan, development will start following the 2019 / 20 season. Phase 2 would see redevelopment of the Jack Hayward Stand, known to supporters as the South Bank. Once completed, the capacity at Molineux should be around 45 – 46,000, though a further development of the Billy Wright Stand cannot be ruled out in the future.
Dalrymple has stated that Wolves are working with City of Wolverhampton Council and the University of Wolverhampton to improve the area as a whole – this could include efforts to make the area around Molineux a destination area of its own. With independent redevelopment of the Leaping Wolf pub on Waterloo Road complete, these are the beginnings of exciting times for the Molineux area, both on and off the pitch.
We leave you with possibly our favourite video of a potential future Wolverhampton – this whets the appetite..
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.
Wolverhampton has something of a thriving art and craft scene, as evidenced by the west of Wolverhampton Artist’s Quarter, the amount of galleries in a relatively small area and the obvious local talent on display at the likes of Tettenhall’s Make It or Bake It street market. One such artist is Wolverhampton’s Rebbeca Haddock of Rebecca Lea Artwork & Illustration. We caught up with her for a question and answer session and a look at some of her work..
West Wulf – Tell us about you & your background..
Rebecca Haddock – Hi everyone, I have lived in Wolverhampton for most of my life, having only moved away for 3 years when I went to university. I studied for three years and gained a degree in forensic science, somewhat different to art or illustration! Despite this I have always had a love for art and can’t seem to find anything more enjoyable than sitting down with a few pens and some paper. I have spent several years working in an office environment which has been fun but is not something I have a passion for!
WW – Are you from an artistic family?
RH – We are a somewhat creative family with most of us enjoying art and crafts! My sister makes beautiful handmade cards and canvasses and my mum has a hand knitted baby clothing business that is doing really well! And I think it’s safe to say we are all working on nurturing my young nephews artistic flare!
WW – What inspired your interest in drawing, or less specifically, art in general – and do you have a favourite artist?
RH – I do not remember what first inspired me to draw, I’ve just always loved it for as long as I can remember. My parents encouraged me to do what I loved which gave me a push if I ever got slightly off track…Sitting still was always a bit difficult for me, unless I had a pencil and paper! A lot of artists and movements have inspired me over the years. A big one being Salvador Dali and the way in which he made the surreal seem so realistic! I do sometimes think that most other artists have their own distinctive style by now but I enjoy so many different styles that I haven’t found just one that beats the rest!
WW – Have you experienced any setbacks or has it been plain sailing so far?
RH – There are so many setbacks that can happen when setting up a small business from scratch, the biggest of which I find to be time. Having enough time whilst working a full time job can be quite testing, especially when it’s been a tough day at work. But the key to it is that it is what I love to do and hours can pass by whilst I’m drawing before I even realise!
WW – Do you see a positive future in Wolverhampton for artists?
RH – I definitely do see a positive future for artists in the city. I seem to see more and more independent businesses appearing nowadays which is fantastic for the city and it’s artists! Plus with international communities of artists so accessible with social media artists can get their work seen across the entire world!
WW – Tell us about your favourite creation..
RH – Now where to begin, I have so many! I absolutely love my latest wolf creations however one of my all time favourites has to be one of the simplest… the simplicity and bright colours of the picture below never fails to make me smile. Plus it took a long time to finish all those dots!
WW – As far as your business goes – where do you see your future if everything goes to plan?
RH – If everything goes to plan I see a future doing something that I love for a living. I have a little bit of love for photography too (prints of which will be on sale soon too so watch this space!) and would love to be able to travel in order to get the best inspiration for my art work and take the most breathtaking photographs!
WW – Finally – you’ve got unlimited money to spend and 48 hours to do it – what do you do?
RH – That is quite a short time, I would love to be able to spend the money going all around the world to experience art in every other culture, take amazing photographs, and let it all influence my future artwork. However 48 hours would be a bit of a push so I would experience as many places and events as I could and of course buy all of the art supplies I could possibly dream of to keep me going for a while!
Wolverhampton isn’t a miserable place. Well, we have our fair share of miserable people, but no more so than elsewhere. We’ve easily thought up 25 reasons to be cheerful that you live in Wolverhampton or are a Wulfrunian. This certainly isn’t definitive – we could have gone on and on..
- Friendly, down to earth Wulfrunians. Most of us aren’t miserable, but we are pragmatic. We also have a few famous sons & daughters
- Football, in particular Wolverhampton Wanderers – though not setting the world alight at the moment, ours is a great old club with proud traditions. We’ve also got some great non-league sides in AFC Wulfrunians, Bilston Town & so on
- Our location. We’re part Black Country, part South Staffordshire & reap the benefits of urbanism & the countryside
- i54 in Pendeford. A world class facility on the Wolverhampton / Staffordshire border
- Our past. It’s true that we were a massive manufacturing town at one time. We can hold our heads high knowing that people in Wolverhampton were so enterprising
- Our future. Things aren’t that bad. Revitalisation is taking place in the city centre & we’re witnessing the rise of some excellent independent businesses as well as big names moving in
- The Civic & Wulfrun Halls and local musicians. Regularly attracting bigger names than many larger cities do, the Halls do us proud. As do our local musicians. Birmingham & the Black Country isn’t The Home Of Metal for nothing you know..
- The Grand Theatre – a proper Victorian masterpiece, a truly classic theatre
- The Arena Theatre, the avant-garde younger cousin to the Grand, some truly cutting edge & original theatre can be seen here
- University of Wolverhampton. A world class university, it is a commendation holder from the Quality Assurance Agency – the only holder in the region as well as being a world leader in research
- Architecture. When in the city centre & beyond, look up! We have some brilliant Edwardian & Victorian buildings
- Hail to the Ale micropub in Claregate. The current holder of Wolverhampton, the West Midlands and West Midlands Region pub of the year, a great example of the micropub format
- Great restaurants. We have some great ones. Bella, Banks Bistro, Rocco, Made in Thai, Skalsa, Penn Tandoori, Indigo, Jivans, Rocco E Nero, The Hungry Bistro, Tiger Wok, Catellanis, New Spice, Bilash.. we could go on & on. We certainly won’t go hungry
- Our Anglo-Saxon roots. Most our place names derive from Old English & the Battle of Tettenhall / Wednesfield was a key victory for the allied Mercian Angles & West Saxons on the way to the formation of a unified England
- Sacre Brew, excellent craft beer brewed at a microbrewery right here in Wolverhampton. Their ‘Man on the Oss’ beer has recently been named one of the UKs best craft beers by Time Out magazine.
- The Express & Star newspaper. The biggest selling evening regional newspaper & an ever present in Wolverhampton since 1889
- Our own nature reserve – the Smestow Valley. that’s 120 acres of meadows, scrubland and woodland, a haven for nature
- Our parks. West Park in particular being a fine example of a well managed Victorian park, it opened on 6 June 1881 & provides fresh air and tranquillity to this day
- The Way – Wolverhampton’s youth zone. Not yet open, but this facility is something to look forward to for children and teenagers in the city
- Our enterprising small businesses – the Little Dessert Shop, Zuri Coffee, Wild Bytes Cafe, Cafe Metro, Broughs Brewery to name but a few. People are pushing on & Wolverhampton is becoming a hotspot for independent businesses
- We have some great schools and an excellent college – education is a priority in Wolverhampton & the next generation of Wulfrunians will have the tools needed to succeed
- Banks’s Brewery / Marstons. One of the city’s biggest employers, a key investor in Wolverhampton & landmark building
- Characters! We’ve had many down the years. Otherwise ordinary people with various quirks. The cowboy (come man of God), the Ring Road tramp (the late Jozef Stawinoga), the preacher.. which leads us to..
- ..our sense of humour. Self depreciating, down to earth – it can & does confuse people from elsewhere in the country, but we wouldn’t have it any other way
- St Peter’s Church and the Art Gallery. Both splendid buildings worthy of a visit, real jewels in Wolverhampton’s crown
What would you add? Let us know by commenting below.
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