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!
If you live in Wolverhampton or South Staffordshire and like music, chances are you’ve heard of – if not seen – Sam Draisey. Sam’s been about for a few years yet hasn’t quite reached the grand old age of thirty yet, which will come as shock on hearing new album, ‘As I Live and Breathe‘. Draisey sings with a real conviction, you feel his words come from the heart, from experience, at times from personal anger about politics, greed and the state of England. There are echoes of Frank Turner here, modern folk and protest. But this is far from just a protest album, there’s plenty of love and upbeat melody here to raise a smile – even the songs that deride modern society, apathy and negative attitude such as ‘Scarecrows‘ play along to a positive rhythm – that feeling of “hey, despite how it looks, life isn’t all bad so keep your chin up! Things will get better.”
A favourite of ours, ‘The Worst Lie Of All‘ tells a story that many from the working class will be familiar with, trying your best to get somewhere but having the world against you, of the wealthy turning a blind eye to the plight of those struggling to make ends meet and of people in power treating the rest of us as political pawns rather than thinking, feeling people.
‘Used To Be My Hero‘ bounds along at quite a pace, another familiar theme for listeners – musicians that had a powerful message and gained a fan-base but ended up middle of the road once they’d become successful – and comfortable, losing their edge and putting out music just to keep people happy and the money rolling in, never regaining that original passion. ‘I Won’t Ask Why‘ is a thoughtful ballad about unexpectedly falling in love and cherishing it now it’s here, come what may.
There’s a lot of experience behind ‘As I Live and Breathe’; as well as having several albums under his belt, Draisey is a regular live performer. if you haven’t seen him live, it really is worth tracking him down – a recent Facebook post on Sam Draisey Music tells us that he’s approaching his 1000th gig since he started out in 2005 (both solo and in bands such as The Replicas). This includes the Molineux, Codfest, various festivals and pub gigs such as the Newhampton Inn and The Crown, Codsall. Live, Sam holds an audience captive – we’re looking forward to hearing some of ‘As I Live and Breathe’ in person.
‘As I Live and Breathe’ is being released on 23 July at The Crown in Codsall, South Staffordshire. Entry is free and the gig starts at 20:30.
A quote (attributed to Arnold Schwarzenegger) tells us “The wolf on the hill is not as hungry as the wolf climbing the hill“. Wolverhampton is, metaphorically, climbing a hill as the people of our city aspire to achieve a newfound status, shrugging off the old negative associations. The people of Wolverhampton are hungry for success, hungry for a city they can be proud of. Slowly, the pieces of the jigsaw are falling into place and the latest project coming to Wolverhampton holds high hopes of increased tourism, a newly galvanised sense of pride and increased awareness of a myriad of Wolverhampton related facts – often with the added benefit of educational and fun activities. This project is Wolves In Wolves.
What is Wolves In Wolves? You may have seen ‘The Big Hoot‘ in Birmingham or Liverpool’s ‘Superlambananas‘ amongst others. This involved sculptures, decorated by local artists, placed around their respective cities with trails built for locals and tourists to follow. The designs were brilliant, striking, some with a message, others simply for fun. Wolves In Wolves is a similar – Wolverhampton’s largest public art event, that will see 30 wolf sculptures, all individually designed, placed around Wolverhampton city centre and West Park. Organised by local disability arts charity, Outside Centre in partnership with the City of Wolverhampton Council, Wolves In Wolves promises to be a huge success – and, alongside The Boho Press, West Wulf will be working on an interesting design for one of these wolf sculptures.
Positioning for the wolf sculptures is yet to be announced, but they will be in place by early July. There is still time to sponsor a wolf (here), local businesses that have given their support to Wolves In Wolves (and will undoubtedly benefit from the positive publicity both in the build up and during the event) include Enjoy Wolverhampton, Marston’s and University of Wolverhampton. Following display, the wolves will be auctioned off to raise money for charity.
Get behind Wolves In Wolves on social media by using the hashtag #WolvesInWolves2017
..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?
On Wednesday 30th November, Wolverhampton celebrates 150 years of the iconic Prince Albert statue in Queen Square. Affectionately known by locals today as the ‘Man on the ‘Oss’, the statue was sculpted by Thomas Thorneycroft and unveiled by Queen Victoria in 1866 – her first public appearance since the Prince Consort’s death five years earlier. 100,000 people lined the streets of Wolverhampton for Queen Victoria’s visit, which left a lasting impression on Wolverhampton – amongst others, High Green was renamed ‘Queen Square’ and Cock Street ‘Victoria Street’, names they retain to this day.
Last Wednesday, Wolverhampton was visited by Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester who, alongside the Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Barry Findlay, unveiled a new commemorative plaque as part of a re-dedication of the statue.
Further celebrations will take place this coming Wednesday, 30th November at 1pm, where a freedom parade will take place featuring the Freedom Units RAF Cosford, 210 Battery, West Midland Fire Brigade, West Mercia Regiment who will parade down Dudley Street replicating Queen Victoria’s parade into High Green 150 years before.
At 1.50pm, residents will be invited to raise a toast to celebrate the city and its history.
Wulfrunians are ensuring they celebrate what has become an icon of Wolverhampton. Earlier this year, the Wolverhampton branch of the Campaign for Real Ale made the 150th anniversary of the Prince Albert statue the theme of their 41st Beer Festival.
View the official PrinceAlbert150 website here.