19 August 2023
The Posada, a fine
Victorian pub on
Lichfield Street in
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.