Of all the gateways into Wolverhampton city centre, Chapel Ash is probably the biggest symbol of what once was, what was once grandiose now lies crumbling, weedy roots penetrating brickwork, paint peeling and the poorly constructed shop fronts of assorted take-aways. We’re probably exaggerating when we call Chapel Ash a sleeping giant, but it was once more than an area to drive through. It’s not hard to imagine what Chapel Ash once looked like. Prior to the 1970s construction of Wolverhampton’s Ring Road, Chapel Ash wasn’t just another gateway to Wolverhampton centre, but a thriving community of its own, with all the amenities one could need without the short journey into the then town. Even today, at glance at the buildings will tell you that there was once an abundance of wealth in this area – indeed, during the 1800s Wolverhampton pushed out in this direction following the construction of Darlington Street, Banks’s Brewery was established here and Wolverhampton’s wealthy had their homes constructed in the then affluent countryside areas leading from Tettenhall Road, Compton Road and Merridale Road.Chapel Ash – much more than just a gateway to Wolverhampton
Whilst Chapel Ash won’t necessarily attract Wolverhampton’s current crop of entrepreneurs (living at a busy traffic intersection probably isn’t their style), its majesty is still there to see and with a little work, some tidying up here and there,
Chapel Ash is, with the increased traffic of the 1970s onwards, one of Wolverhampton’s busiest junction areas. Three major roads meet here and funnel into the city centre. The area sees a phenomenal amount of traffic passing through – but here lies the issue. The traffic is passing through. Only a tiny fraction of those entering one end of Chapel Ash will be intending to stop off at Chapel Ash. It’s not that Chapel Ash doesn’t have businesses worthy of visiting. It certainly does, the likes of restaurants Bella and Banks Bistro, the Combermere Arms and the Clarendon, the Banks’s Brewery shop and much more besides. The problem is, in the age of the car, Chapel Ash boasts very little parking. And people simply aren’t prepared to walk from nearby West Park or Clifton Street unless there really is something unique to stop off for. Much of the time, the area sees visitors on foot by way of buses. Chapel Ash sees a good flow of buses servicing the west of Wolverhampton – the 1, 3, 4 and 10 being the most frequent and the construction of a new bus stop next to St Marks Church has helped people get to and from the area.
The area deserves a high profile and should indeed get one. There have been some positive recent developments, not least the new Sainsburys at Raglan street and the impressive Lifespring Church on Clifton Street. In recent years work has gone into tidying up the Tattoo Palace building and the City of Wolverhampton Council has repaved areas, also ensuring the area looks pretty in the warmer months with flower displays. The solution to improving the area is, of course, investment. But careful investment. Chapel Ash is unique in its buildings and layout, busy with traffic but not so with feet. An effort at repainting buildings, removing weeds and improving shop fronts is what’s needed to start with. Fill the few empty buildings with enterprising businesses. Give passers though reason to stop off. We can breathe new life into the area, a mixture of the old and new – with careful forethought and consultation with existing businesses.
West Wulf will be looking at Chapel Ash along with other areas of Wolverhampton in more detail as part of our forthcoming ‘Wolverhampton Future’ project.