1914 - The High Street

While still writing of 1914 and the war period I shall try to give a description of some of the buildings in the High Street Lye as I knew them then. Starting at the Centre Building at Lye Cross and next door to the anvil and shovel works of Jeremiah Brooks was the Star Tea Company and next door to that the ironmonger's shop of J.T.F.Homer.

The next two shops were managed by the Cartwright family, Effie and Timmy, if I recall correctly. The large shop was Cartwright the tailor and clothier, who had what he used to advertise as a "Factory to Wearer" manufactory at the rear of his shops, the whole being known as the Centre Building. Being built in the times before the 1914 war, it was all very ornate with terra-cotta bricks and ornaments and was lit by the modern electric lights. Dr Hardwick's surgery and home, where his famous son was born, was next door. Opposite the centre on the other side of the road was Lye Post Office, managed by a Mrs Freeman who, with her two daughters, also ran a private Prep school in the upper room with about a dozen pupils. Next door to that was Harvey the barber.

On the other side of the Cross were a couple of Inns - the "Rose and Crown" on the left and the "Cross Inn" on the right, although they were never called that by Lye folk being better known as "Polly Brookes's" and "The Merricks Bar", so named because of the two brass rails where men could rest their feet when drinking at the bar in American style. Polly Brookes brewed the beer at the side of the Inn which jutted out and gave Lye Cross its characteristic smell. Brookes Bros fruit and vegetable shop which was owned by Polly and her brother Jeremiah was next to the brewery.

Opposite was a grocery shop kept by Mr and Mrs Robins and then the well known "Olde Antique Shop". The Quaker Webster, a very tiny cobbler's shop, was next door which existed there for very many years and then came the Lye Institute ("The Stute") which was rather old being built in the 1870s as a kind of reading room and merchant institute. About 1900 it had an ornamental front added to it with ballustrades and terra-cotta ornamentation. On the opposite side of the street next to Brookes's was Cathy Lavender's sweet shop. Her father kept the fish shop next door between which was an opening leading to a row of very old and poor cottages. Next to the fish shop was the Mitre Inn at the corner of Mitre Road. Moyes grocery shop was next door to the Institute and then a haberdashery and the shop of Price the printer. Next door, White the butcher occupied a well appointed meat shop with his slaughterhouse at the rear and then came two tailors' shops leading up to the corner shop at Jackson Street which was managed by a Mrs Moreton, who had several daughters.

On the other side of the High Street was Mitre Road and the shop on the corner belonged to the Lavender family which had a good name all round the Midlands for very high class tailoring and riding outfits for the local gentry. Next to that was Wooldridge the ladies' wear shop. Mr Wooldridge was involved with the Fire Brigade, of which he was the head man. The chemist's and wine store next shop up was Greenwood's, father and son, Vic. Another small haberdashery store takes us up to the Victoria Hall, always in Lye talk known as "The Vic".

Now move opposite. From Jackson Street was Moyle & Adams grocery store then the shop of Mr A.A.Pugh whose clock in the doorway was remarkably accurate. When one was running down the street to catch a train one could always rely on Mr Pugh's clock; incidentally the trains always used to run to accurate time in those days. Next door was Haddock the tobbaconist where, later on in the war, queues used to line up for tobacco, twist and cigarettes. Next was a meat shop, a milliners - Mrs Chance's - and the fancy goods shop of Mrs Bills. Her husband David Bills was next door with his hairdressing salon and next to that the saddlery of Foster & Pearson, expert in all kinds of leather. Next came Moyles the grocer. When his daughter was married a red carpet was laid from the shop door across the road and footpaths to the Congregational Chapel opposite. Try and imagine that happening with today's traffic in what is surely the worst congested street in the whole of the West Midlands.

Lye High Street in 1928

J.T.Worton the clothier was next to the chapel and next to Moyles' shop was Beeton the newsagent. Then Clara Cox's shoe shop and Jim Watkins the butcher whose shop was on the corner (and still is in 1984) of what is now Clinic Drive. The name was changed some years ago from Pig Lane. Up above the chapel was the shop of Tom Young the hatter and the small shop next door to that was run by a Mr Jeb Walton who had a clothing store at the rear. He later left that and went into the motor cycle business. On the same side, and lying much further back up a slope, was J.Allchurch the pork butcher's.

The block of ten shops opposite and leading from Pig Lane to the parish church changed hands many times but in 1914 four of them can be recalled. Jasper the baker, Lloyd's Bank, Darbyshire the draper and a corn and seed merchant by the name of Hall, Newell & Cake. From Allchurch upwards was the wool shop of the Miss Beavons; a milliner, later the fancy goods and glassware shop of Mrs Lamont; Miss Keightley; Bullock the baker; Bromley the painter, plumber and sundry tradesman. There were then three old cottages built up high with a retaining wall on the footpath leading one to the Danic Dairy Company where Mr Entwistle used to package the various blends of butters and margarine. Then there was Harry Homes' drysaltery and my home 179 High Street. On the other side of Church Road stood the co-operative shop of the Halesowen & Hasbury society which was built around 1909. Next to that was 175 High Street, my home for twenty-five years until 1938. The Parish Church and churchyard on the other side of the High Street enables me to continue the 1914 saga up as far as Chapel Street where the present library stands on the site of the council office.

The shop (my dad's) was empty in 1914 but was let to a drapery and children's outfitter by the name of Blunt from Cradley, whose daughter Winnie used to be in charge, and next door to that was the shop known as Foxall's bakers and confectioners. Then three houses occupied the space up to Chapel Street where the Lye and Wollescote Council House stood, before Harry Brettell built shops there, one of which later became J.Taylor's.

Opposite, and next to the churchyard, the first building was the Midland Bank with lawyer Mobberley's offices above. Next was the shoe shop of two sisters, the Misses Hyram, next to which was the shop of Freeman the chemist who was always helpful with remedies for various ailments. Next, Miss Emily Round had a millinery and hat shop; Rowley the clothes and haberdashery; Robinson's sweet shop; and the last shop was that of the River Plate Meat Company next to a field belonging to the Croft family, where the Clifton Cinema (now the Lye Market) was built. Opposite the River Plate shop Pharaoh Adams the butcher had his premises and every Saturday night (the shops kept open until about ten in those days) there would be a terrific slanging and shouting match across the street between these two butchers. Women would sometimes wait until the shops were closing and the meat being sold off cheaply. Next to Pharaoh's was the old Bell Inn.

There are photos of many of the shops my dad discussed in this section in Denys Brooks's fine book "Britain in old photographs: Lye and Wollescote".

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Copyright © A.H.Pardoe and W.D.Pardoe 1991