19 August 2023
I have been through Wolverhampton on countless occasions over the past six decades or more. But I had only over passed through Wolverhampton on trains until this week, when I visited the city for the first time. It was a short stop, visiting some churches, finding a former synagogue, and in very short space of time that afternoon looking for some of the historical sites.
Naturally, while I was in Wolverhampton, I had to visit Lichfield Street – not just because of the name of the street, but because this is most interesting street in the city, with its fine legacy of Victorian architecture.
Lichfield Street runs from the Britannia Hotel at one end to Saint Peter’s Collegiate Church and Gardens at the other. Although many of the buildings on Lichfield Street were demolished in the early 20th century, it is still lined with many great Victorian buildings, including Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, beautiful banks buildings, and the old post office, designed by Sir Henry Tanner and with one of Wolverhampton’s biggest displays of terracotta.
The Grand Theatre was designed by the theatre architect Charles J Phipps in the Renaissance style. When it opened in 1894, it was the only purpose-built theatre in Wolverhampton: the others were more music halls than theatres. It was bought by Wolverhampton Council in 1970 and put in the hands of a trust. It closed in 1980, but it reopened in 1983, was refurbished in 1999 and is now a Grade II* listed building.
There are many interesting pubs along Lichfield Street, including the Posada Pub, the Goose and, just off Lichfield Street, the Lych Gate Tavern.
On the recommendation of Steve Teratsia on the Facebook group Staffordshire Past and Present, I visited the Posada, an old, Victorian pub at 48 Lichfield Street.
The Posada probably takes its name not from the mediaeval village in the Province of Nuoro on the Italian island of Sardinia, but from a Spanish word that means ‘inn.’ It was built in 1886 and thankfully much of its original interior fixtures and fittings are in still in place.
Nos 34-50 Lichfield Street form a group of Listed II buildings. This row of offices with shops on the ground floor dated from the rebuilding of Lichfield Street after the 1880s clearance. Wolverhampton was then an expanding industrial town and in need of offices for industrial and commercial companies and also for solicitors, accountants and similar professions.
The Posada was built around 1885 on the site of its predecessor, the Noah’s Ark, and it seems to have been incorporated into the building from the beginning, which is interesting. This is a three-storey terrace of six shops and offices, and the Posada is described in detail in Pevsner Architectural Guides: Birmingham and the Black Country, by Andy Foster, Nikolaus Pevsner and Alexandra Wedgwood (Yale University Press, 2022).
The Posada still has its original front with small-paned bowed window between recessed entrances with half-glazed doors, tile decoration and name panels. Inside, the Posada retains the original bar fittings, panelling and seats.
The pub is an architectural gem. There are lots of coloured tiling on the walls, stained and leaded glass in the windows, leather upholstered seating, bare floorboards, and other features associated with late Victorian pubs.
The notable faience frontage of the Posada dates from a remodelling in 1900 by a local architect Fred T Beck, a pupil of TH Fleeming, who designed some of the Victorian buildings in Wolverhampton, including the Municipal Grammar School, Midland Counties Eye Infirmary and Barclay’s Bank in Queen’s Square. Beck was based in Darlington Street and was responsible for a wide range of domestic and commercial buildings as well as several churches in the area.
The ceramic exterior of the pub on Lichfield Street includes the wording ‘The Posada’ on three tiled panels – one on the fascia and two in vertical lettering on pilasters in each of the external recessed porches that have mosaic floors.
Below the small-paned bowed window is a dado of golden yellow glazed brick and tiles. Both porches have a glazed brick and tiled dado in golden yellow with cream glazed brick above up to ceiling height with a dark yellow tiled frieze at the top and mosaic floors.
Of the five main lower front windows, the central three are now plain, but this is not likely to have been the case when the pub was built. The leaded window in the right hand door is a modern replacement.
Inside the Posada, one small room has a curved bar, with room for about three tables. Behind that there is a room that looks like a Victorian parlour, there is a snug off to the side, and there is another room behind.
The public bar is a very special room with its tiled walls in orange-brown on the dado and cream above, original bar fittings including rare snob screens and is little altered since 1900. The left hand door leads into a vestibule that looks modern as does the panelling so it has been added later, possibly in 1983.
The bar counter looks like the original 1900 one with panelled frontage – the only changes seem to be a 1960s or 1970s slanting piece of timber piece on the left for the present hatch. There is a cut right at the front right-hand end where the quadrant becomes straight, facing to the window which is where the hatch was originally.
Plans on the wall of the smoke room show the changes made to the Posada by the architects David Horne Associates in 1983, when Allied Breweries converted the pub into one of the earliest of their ‘Holt, Plant & Deakin’ pubs.
The original ornate bar back fitting has mirrored panels on the lower part above the main shelf and above that a row of snob screens with plain bevelled glass in them. Original sets of snob screens like these are rare.
Above the snob screens is a row of four Art Nouveaux leaded and green stained panels. Two-thirds of the lower back fitting shelving has been lost to fridges.
The public bar in the Posada has a glazed brick and tiled dado in golden yellow, with some in relief with cream coloured glazed brick-shape tiles above from floor up to ceiling height. The tiling is complete on the left hand wall, on the right hand wall in the passageway. The original tiled dado on the rear wall extends to just before the 1980s cut-through, but some tiling is now missing. The original ornate plasterwork ceiling now painted brown.
The bay window fixed seating does not appear on the 1900 plan and may be from the post-war period. The smoke room remained little altered until 1983. The tiny seating alcove on the right was added in 1983 in what was originally a passage to the rear.
The recent destruction of the Crooked House in Himley, near Dudley in the Black Country, shows how we must not take heritage pubs for granted. We need to value the social and architectural heritage that is preserved in well-loved pubs.
Hopefully, the Posada continues to remain a living part of the architectural heritage of Wolverhampton, to be enjoyed and treasured by future generations of local people and visitors long into the future.
We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and tomorrow is the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity (20 August 2023).
Before this day begins (19 August 2023), I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection.
In recent weeks, I have been reflecting on the churches in Tamworth. For this week and next week, I am reflecting each morning in these ways:
1, Looking at a church in Lichfield;
2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
The Chapel, Dr Milley’s Hospital, Lichfield:
I pass Dr Milley’s Hospital regularly when I am walking along Beacon Street from the Hedgehog Vintage Inn to Lichfield Cathedral, and some years ago I was part of a small tour of Dr Milley’s organised by Kate Gomez and the local history group, Lichfield Discovered.
We were welcomed by the chair of the trustees, Mrs Sheelagh James, then Deputy Mayor of Lichfield, and were shown around by two other trustees, Mr Peter Parsons and Mr Ronald Monk.
Alongside the Cathedral and Saint John’s Hospital, Dr Milley’s Hospital is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Lichfield. The original almshouse was founded almost 600 years ago by the Bishop of Lichfield, William Heyworth, in 1424, and it was refounded and endowed by Canon Thomas Milley almost 520 years ago in 1504.
The pedimented tablet above the entrance says:
This hospital for fifteen women was founded by Thomas Milley, DD, Canon Residentiary of the Cathedral Church of Lichfield AD 1504.
A view of the front of the hospital, drawn in 1841, suggests a number of alterations were made in the 18th century. These included the facing of the exterior with plaster, the insertion of wood casement windows, and the addition of gabled dormers to the roof.
Stepping into the hospital is like stepping down in a bygone age, and I mean stepping down, for the ground floor of Dr Milley’s Hospital is now well below the street level on Beacon Street, due both to its original location in the town ditch, and to the raising of the street levels over the years, catering for the heavy traffic along the A51 which was once the main road from Chester to London, running through the heart of Lichfield.
The front range, facing onto Beacon Street, contains a central stone porch giving access to a wide entrance hall flanked by rooms for the matron and almswomen. It is possible the large beam in the entrance hall below the chapel dates back to the building of 1504, and I had to stoop my head several times to avoid a nasty bump.
The hospital building is a two-storey, red-brick building, with a stone plinth and stone dressings. Originally the building was L-shaped in plan: from the southern end of the front range, a long rear wing extended back along the southern boundary of the property.
It is generally believed in Lichfield that parts of Dr Milley’s Hospital date back to the 16th century and that the building survived the English Civil War in the mid-17th century.
However, a scientific report by MJ Worthington and DWH Miles of the English Heritage Centre for Archaeology in 2002 used dendrochronology or tree-ring dating techniques and they suggest that much of the hospital did not survive the civil war and that it was rebuilt just after 1652.
An examination of glass-making techniques has shown that some of the glass in windows in the upper storey survive from the late 17th and early 18th century.
The chapel is in the oldest part of the building, and is in a separate space on the first floor, above the porch and hallway and facing east.
The rear wing has a corridor on each floor, and these corridors originally gave access to residents’ rooms on the south side of the building. On the north side of the corridors is the staircase and also a two-storey addition, probably dating from the late 18th century, containing two rooms. At the bottom of the staircase, we were pointed to the covering over a well that provided fresh, clean water in the hospital until the first half of the 20th century.
The internal partitions are of heavy close-studded timbering and incorporate many of the original early 16th century doorways.
By the early 20th century, the hospital was in need of modernisation and repair, and a complete rebuilding was proposed, with plans to demolish the old building. However, the Charity Commissioners wanted a careful restoration instead, and their recommendations were carried out in 1906-1907. The alterations allowed for only eight resident women, but their accommodation was now more comfortable. New stone-mullioned windows were inserted at the front, and the external plaster was stripped away to reveal the earlier brickwork.
Each woman had one room for all her needs, but water had to be carried from the well at the end of the passage.
The building was designated a Grade II* Listed building in 1952, and it was not until 1967 that the hospital was provided with one bathroom and a communal laundry room.
Dr Milley’s Hospital was extensively refurbished in 1985-1987, with a major extension and the provision of a communal lounge. New kitchens were provided in 2013, the communal lounge and heating were renovated in 2014, and this year sees the updating of bathrooms in in the apartments.
Dr Milley’s Hospital now has 10 residents. Six of the women live in self-contained flats and the other four live in studio apartments. Each resident has her own kitchen and bathroom, and some women live in studio apartments.
After our tour of the hospital and gardens we were entertained to morning tea and coffee in the Dennis Birch Room, which serves as a community or common room, and in the gardens.
Matthew 19: 13-15 (NRSVA):
13 Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14 but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ 15 And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.
The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Reducing Stigma.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday.
The USPG Prayer Diary today (19 August 2023, International Youth Day) invites us to pray in these words:
Lord, we give thanks for all who are involved in the healing ministry of the Church.
Let your merciful ears, O Lord,
be open to the prayers of your humble servants;
and that they may obtain their petitions
make them to ask such things as shall please you;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
The Post Communion Prayer:
God of our pilgrimage,
you have willed that the gate of mercy
should stand open for those who trust in you:
look upon us with your favour
that we who follow the path of your will
may never wander from the way of life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org