Talbot House

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.

It was a cracking little town

Wednesbury is a market town and was well known in the past for its large market which was located in Market Place around the clock tower. Changes in recent years have seen the market move to different locations in the town centre and it now resides at the bottom of Union Street. We asked all the participants to reflect on how Wednesbury town centre has changed over the years and to share their memories of the market and the numerous businesses that used to thrive in the town.

ⓘ 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.

Ian Bott is a local resident and historian. He shares his vivid memories of the market and discusses the historical importance of market towns like Wednesbury. Ian also talks about historical events that took place in Market Place. 
Elaine Copson and Pat Hunt are the daughters of Mary and Harry Roberts whose family ran a newsagents in Russell Street and then Market Place for some 50 years. They remember a thriving town centre of independent retailers and how the move of the market and the arrival of chain stores started the demise of the high street. 
Teresa Davies’ father was Marian Maczka who ran a jewellers and gift shop on Union street for 30 years. Teresa recalls a time when Wednesbury town centre was thriving, full of successful shops and businesses, She reflects on how this has changed over the years. 
Elaine Costigan is a local councillor and Wednesbury resident. She discusses how the market and town centre has changed through the years.
Les Smith was the landlord of The Golden Cross from 1984-88, and has lived locally since. He remembers Wednesbury town centre from that time and how it has changed over the years.
Claire Livesey is a Wednesbury resident and landlady of The William Archer pub. She shares her thoughts on why the high street has declined and how it has changed over the years. 

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

Teresa Davies grew up helping in the family jewellery business on Union Street, established by her father, Marian Maczka. She recalls the community spirit among the traders and remembers shops such as O’Connell’s Florist and Fruitier, Alan Barnett’s Newsagent, Stanton’s wet fish shop, and Austin’s leather goods.
Ian Bott worked as a watchmaker at Marian’s Jewellers on Union street in the 1980s. He remembers some of the local characters; the strong community amongst the traders and how people were partial to a bit of gossip. 
Teresa Davies’ father was Marian Maczka who ran a jewellers and gift shop on Union street for 30 years. Marian was good friends with Toni Amoroso, a larger than life character known as the singing barber. Teresa remembers Toni who had a barber shop on Upper High Street before moving to premises on Union Street. 
Elaine Costigan recalls her father, Bill Archer’s, clothes shop called Freda’s after her mother. She remembers helping out in the family business. 
Violet Heywood (with her daughter Sandie Wood) recalls her first job working at Hollingsworth butchers in 1945 aged 14. Later she worked at the Gaumont Cinema as an usherette and at Wards Poultry & Greengrocers. 
Elaine Costigan remembers Brays fish and chip shop. 
Violet Heywood (with her daughter Sandie Wood) recalls working at Wards Poultry & Greengrocers in 1949 when she was 18. She also remembers some of the many shops and market stalls there were in Wednesbury at this time and shares her fondness for grey peas. 

Images in this 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: Ian Bott, Teresa Davies, Chris Murray, Wednesbury In Work, Sandra Reid, Tim Ward, Terry Nightingale, and Paul Nightingale who gave their time, access to personal collections and shared memories of Wednesbury High Street. Their vital contributions add to the conversations around Wednesbury’s rich heritage.