H. L. Roberts, Russell St

The following story is part of Memories of Wednesbury High Street, a collaboration between artists, Iain Armstrong and Jo Löki, involving participation from a variety of Wednesbury residents. You can look through the photographs while you listen to people’s stories. For more information on the project and to view more stories, visit here.

H. L. Roberts, Russell St

The Roberts family originally ran a dairy shop at 8 Russell Street and a newsagent at 9 Russell Street. Pat Hunt and her younger sister, Elaine Copson, grew up in the family business until a compulsory purchase order in 1965 forced the family to move out of the town centre to one of the new estates. The family was then provided with a temporary shop on Russell Street before taking over Riley’s Stationers at 26a Market Place in 1966. They ran it as H. L. Roberts newsagents until 1985.

There are two sets of audio and images on this page, scroll down to view and listen to all of the audio and archival photographs.
Pat shares her childhood memories of growing up in the family business in Russell Street. She shares some of her family history and recalls life living in the back-to-back surrounded by family. 
Elaine shares her early memories of Russell Street when, even as a toddler, she started helping in the shop. She also recalls community living alongside family and knowing all the customers by name.  
Elaine remembers the compulsory purchase of the Russell Street properties in 1965 which had a devastating impact on the local community as family, friends and neighbours were split up and dispersed to different parts of the town. 
As well as running the family’s newsagent business, Pat and Elaine’s father, Harry, was a trained musician who worked as organist and choir master at some of the local churches. Elaine remembers how much music was a part of family life. This track features family archive recordings of Harry Roberts on organ and piano with vocals by good friend and choir member Frank Massey.

To see more, and to read captions, click on the photographs. Scroll down past this gallery for more audio interviews and photographs.

H. L. Roberts, Market Place

The Roberts family ran H. L. Roberts newsagents at 26a Market Place from 1966 after a compulsory purchase order forced them to move from their former premises on Russell Street. Previously Riley’s Stationers, the shop continued to sell stationery along with newspapers, books, greetings cards, confectionery and tobacco. Sisters, Pat Hunt and Elaine Copson, worked in the shop with their mother Mary who ran the business for several years after the death of her husband, Harry Roberts, in 1973.

Elaine and Pat remember working in the newsagent shop as teenagers and supporting their mother to run the business after their father died. They remember a vibrant, busy shop serving the many local customers and keeping them entertained with occasional music and comedy performances. 
Local resident Ian Bott recalls his first job as a teenager working as a paperboy for Roberts Newsagent in the 1970s. 

To see more, and to read captions, click on the photographs.

Images in the gallery were shared by project participants working with visual artist Jo Löki.  They were collected, edited, adapted and digitised into photo-albums © Jo Löki/Memories Of Wednesbury High Street.  With special thanks to the Robert’s family: Pat Hunt, Elaine Copson and Teresa Davies who gave their time, access to personal collections and memories of Wednesbury High Street. Their vital contributions add to the conversations around Wednesbury’s rich heritage.