These are just some of the famous, talented and occasionally notorious people born in or associated with Wolverhampton, making ‘the town on the hill’ such a unique and memorable place. If you have any comments, or want to suggest other people who might be included, please contact Wolves Beat
Aethelflaed - The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle referred to Aethelflaed as the ‘Lady of the Mercians’. She was the eldest daughter of Alfred the Great, king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, and was born at the height of the Viking invasions of England. She married Ethelred, Lord of the Mercians, and after his death in 911 she ascended the throne and ruled until to her own death in 918. After King Alfred’s death, Aethelflaed’s brother, Edward, ruled Wessex. Facing another Viking threat, in 910, he and his warrior sister won a great victory at a battle near Tettenhall, paving the way for the Saxon reconquest of the Midlands. The Battle of Tettenhall (sometimes called the Battle of Wednesfield or Wodnesfeld) took place near Tettenhall on 5 August 910 when the allied forces of Mercia and Wessex scored a great victory, inflicting heavy casualties on an army of Northumbrian Vikings. Many thousands of Vikings were killed in what was the last major army invasion sent by the Danes to ravage England, which would soon be united under one monarch. The battle figures prominently in the concluding chapter of Bernard Cornwell’s novel, The Pagan Lord. Aethelflaed continued to build a series of ‘burhs’, or fortresses, to protect the kingdom, creating strongholds at Wednesbury, Bridgnorth, Tamworth and Worcester. Little is known about the warrior Saxon princess who saved the Black Country from the Vikings but, within six years of her death, Aethelflaed’s nephew would become the first King of England and, in 985, her granddaughter, Wulfruna, founded Wolverhampton.
Dachiya Atkinson - Britain’s youngest break-dancing champion became a worldwide internet sensation after the six-year-old Wolverhampton schoolgirl’s Youtube video went viral, receiving an amazing 2.8 million views within five days of being uploaded to the internet. The video shows Dachiya - whose stage name is Terra - impressing the judges at the Pro Chelles international dancing competition in Paris with her breathtaking routine of break-dancing skills. Dachiya attended her first dance class at the age of 18 months at Newhampton Arts Centre run by the group Transit Trixand. She could do head stands aged two and won her first competition in Bath, Somerset, in 2012, going on to be crowned ‘Baby Battle Champion’ in St Brieuc, France, later that year where she was up against competitors twice her age. Terra is part of Soul Mavericks, a London B-Boy dance crew, and with her older sister Damita she plans to enter more competitions. In 2011 they attracted the attention of Wolverhampton’s Goldie when he filmed a documentary about his early life in the city and watched them perform. The girls’ mother Jennifer is a university student, who also works at New Cross Hospital, and their father Dean began training Dachiya and Damita at the family home in Fallings Park. Watch Video
Richard Attwood - Born in 1940 in Wolverhampton, Richard James David Attwood was the son of a successful motor trader He started racing in a Triumph TR3 in 1960 and in 1963 he switched to Formula Junior, achieving international prominence by winning the 1963 Monaco Formula Junior race in a Lola entered by the Midland Racing Partnership. In 1965 he drove for Reg Parnell Racing in a Formula 1 Lotus-BRM in several Grands Prix, finishing sixth in Italy and Mexico, and drove for Cooper-Maserati before joining the works BRM team in 1968, taking a morable second place and fastest lap at Monaco behind Graham Hill's winning Lotus. Richard returned to Monaco in 1969 to finish fourth for Lotus. The following year he won the Le Mans 24 Hours race driving a Porsche 917 and took second place in the Nürburgring race the same year. He owned the Porsche 917 which Steve McQueen used in the film Le Mans, on which Richard worked as a stunt driver and adviser. He had the car painted to represent his Le Mans-winner and later cashed-in his ‘pension’ by selling the Porsche for £1 million.
Charles Aubin - Born in 1812, Charles Aubin was one of the country’s greatest locksmiths from the end of the Georgian period through to the mid-Victorian era. His early locks were made in Spicers building in Pountney Street, Wolverhampton, and he went on to become a major innovator whose influence can still be seen in products today. Talented. ingenious and supremely inventive, Charles maintained a high standard of workmanship and is famous for perfecting the technique of integral lever springs. His Aubin Trophy, constructed for The Great Exhibition of 1851, was nicknamed ‘the wedding cake’and stands three feet high. It has 44 different interwoven brass locks with corresponding keys which can be turned individually or simultaneously by the large key at its top. This wonderful creation brought Charles to the attention of many influential people, including pioneer American locksmith Charles Alfred Hobbs, who bought the Trophy for exhibition in his showroom, where it remained for 100 years. John Sutton Nettlefold and sons, who owned a successful wood screw business, provided the capital for Charles to build a lock factory at 25 Great Hampton Street, Wolverhampton, called the Guardian works, and installed him as their manager. He later moved to Liverpool, to work for the Milner Safe Company, where old locksmiths talked about the intricately detailed Aubin trophy and the inscription on it referring to Charles Aubin as ‘The Prince of Locksmiths’.
Babylon Zoo - Song-writer, musician, singer and record producer Jasbinder Singh ‘Jas’ Mann was born in 1971 in Dudley and later educated at Wolverhampton’s Pendeford High School, where he developed a passion for music. He formed his first band at the age of 15 with friend Adam Toussaint called The Glove Puppets. He joined The Sandkings, another local band with a strong following, in 1988 then left the because of creative differences to start his next project, the industrial/electro-pop rock band Babylon Zoo. In 1996 Levi’s used ‘Spaceman’, their first single, in a TV advert and it became the fastest-selling single in UK history, selling over 400,000 copies in one week. The record went to Number One in the UK charts (where it stayed for five weeks) as well as in 22 other countries and Jas pronounced himself a genius who would effortlessly rewrite the future of music. An album, The Boy With the X-Ray Eyes, recorded in his Wolverhampton studio, was followed three years later by the less successful King Kong Groover. In 2005, Jas announced that he would be issuing the new Babylon Zoo album, Cold Clockwork Doll.
Jono Bacon - Software developer and journalist Jonathan Edward James Bacon is a writer and software developer. He works at Canonical and helps lead the worldwide community of contributors who work on the Ubuntu family of distributions. Back in 1998, he built one of the UK’s first Linux websites, Linux UK. Since graduating from Wolverhampton University, he has become a prolific journalist and has written three books, including The Official Ubuntu Book. Jono has also been involved with helping charities and founded Wolverhampton Linux Users’ Group. He is the vocalist and rhythm guitarist in the ‘detuned chugging metal band’ Seraphidian, who record at Magic Garden Studios in Wolverhampton. In 2008, he started a new project called Severed Fifth that aims to produce music in his home studio and then distribute it in new ways. The first album, Denied By Reign, features heavy metal music and the second, Nightmares by Design, was released in 2010.
Ruth Badger - Businesswoman Ruth is best known as the 2006 runner-up in The Apprentice television programme. Determined and combative, she excelled in many tasks and thoroughly deserved to win but was clearly too much of challenge for Lord Sugar. Ruth was educated at Wodensfield Primary School in Wednesfield and at Our Lady & St Chad RC comprehensive school. She worked as a civil servant, barmaid and steward at Wolverhampton Wanderers FC before starting a career in the finance industry with GE Capital. Following The Apprentice, she presented her own Sky television show, Badger or Bust, which was also shown in Australia, America and New Zealand. She launched two new businesses and engaged in a string of public speaking appearances. Her firm Ruth Badger Consultancy is now based in Manchester but Ruth remains fiercely proud of her Wolverhampton roots. In 2014 she settled for substantial damages out of court after taking legal action against the owners of the News of the World after it was claimed that journalists hacked her phone and gathered information to use in a series of articles on her private life.
Chris Baines - Professor Chris Baines is a leading environmentalist as well as a gardener, naturalist, television presenter and author. He was one of the first people to become involved in the burgeoning urban wildlife movement and built the first ever wildlife garden at Chelsea Flower Show. His book, How to Make a Wildlife Garden, inspired many others to start gardening with wildlife in mind and his television series and book, The Wild Side of Town, won the UK Conservation Book Prize in 1987. Chris, who works from home in Wolverhampton, was presented in 2004 with the RSPB’s Medal of Honour for his contribution to nature conservation.
Bakary Sako - Bakary Sako was born in Paris, far away from the Molineux, Wolverhampton Wanderers stadium. Wolves have a proud footballing history, and even prouder supporters, meaning when The Wanderers suffered a double relegation it was hard to stomach. In spite of this average attendance still remained high in the 2013/2014 season, and Bakary Sako was one of the stand out players that repaid the Molineux faithful. He was Wolves top goal scorer in the 2013/2014 side that defied the bookies, and bounced back from League 1, fittingly netting a decisive goal in the 3-1 victory over Stevenage that secured automatic promotion. In an age where footballers increasingly trade loyalty for money, Sako performed in a season where he was heavily linked with Nottingham Forest, a true testament of mental character and footballing ability.
Peter Baker - Golfer Peter Baker was born in 1967 in Shifnal and currently lives near Wolverhampton. He learned golf at his father’s nine hole Himley Hall course and was taught by Sandy Lyle’s father, Alex. Peter won the Brabazon Trophy in 1985 and represented Great Britain & Ireland in that year’s Walker Cup before turning professional the following year. He was a consistent performer on the European Tour during the 1980s and 90s, with three tournament wins and a highest Order of Merit finish of seventh in 1993. Peter won the Credit Suisse Challenge twice and was one of Ian Woosnam’s vice-captains at the 2006 Ryder Cup.
Jack Bannister - Born in 1930 in Wolverhampton, John David Bannister is the current Talksport radio cricket correspondent, and was for many years a BBC television cricket commentator. He had previously played professionally for Warwickshire as a fast-medium bowler, taking 1198 first-class wickets in a career that lasted from 1950 to 1969. Against the Combined Services cricket team for Warwickshire, he took all ten wickets in an innings for 41 runs - the best ever bowling figures in an innings for the county. During the 1995 England test match series in South Africa, Jack promised he would eat a piece of cardboard if South Africa won, which he eventually did. Following his cricket career, whilst working as a bookmaker in Wolverhampton, he was instrumental in setting up the Professional Cricketer’s Pension Scheme.
Albert Bantock - Born in 1862 and educated at Tettenhall College, Albert Baldwin Bantock entered his father’s coal and iron trade firm of Thomas Bantock & Co after leaving school, becoming a partner in the business, which passed to him on his father’s death. Albert married Kate Jones, the daughter of a local politician and industrialist, was a councillor, a magistrate and a county magistrate for Staffordshire (as well as the High Sheriff of the county), a keen gardener, director of Tettenhall College and life governor of Wolverhampton General Hospital, Eye Infirmary and Women’s Hospital. He was the only mayor to return to office for three consecutive elections. His father, who co-founded Tettenhall College, had also been Wolverhampton’s mayor and served on the council for thirty-three years. Albert’s many contributions to civic life were rewarded with the Freedom of the Borough and when he died in 1938 he asked in his will that after his wife’s death, their home Merridale House (now known as Bantock House) and its grounds be given to the town.
Frances Barber - The Wolverhampton-born actress has worked in many award-winning productions for the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company and was nominated for a 1997 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as Goneril in Uncle Vanya. Frances has also worked extensively in BBC, Granada and ITV drama, appearing in programmes such as Mike Leigh’s Home Sweet Home, Inspector Morse, Hustle and Love in a Cold Climate. She starred in the Pet Shop Boys musical Closer to Heaven and was guest singer for the song Friendly Fire on their live concert at the Mermaid Theatre. Alongside her close friend Ian McKellen she appeared in the Old Vic’s pantomime production of Aladdin and again starred with him in King Lear and Chekhov’s The Seagull, which they performed in repertory at the New London Theatre on Drury Lane. Frances attended Bangor University, where she dated director and fellow alumnus Danny Boyle, and in 2006 she received an Honorary Fellowship from the University of Wolverhampton. Watch Video
Dora Barcroft - The daughter of W H Barcroft, former headmaster of St Luke’s School, Blakenhall, Emma Dorothea Barcroft was educated at the private Oxford Lodge School in Pennfields. After completing her education she remained at the school as part of the Staff, and later continued working in education with private pupils, teaching piano, voice projection, singing and theory. In the 1920s she travelled abroad, visiting Europe and Africa, where she stayed for two years in Kenya. In 1923 the BBC broadcast her composition, Africa Suite, and soon afterwards she joined the BBC in Birmingham to work as Organiser of Women’s and Children’s programmes for BBC Midlands. Responsible for an hour and a half of radio entertainment six days a week, Dora directed Woman’s Hour (actually thirty minutes long) for three years and from 1924 to 1935 she was ‘Auntie Dorothy’ on children’s radio. She also composed the signature tune, Arsinoe. In 1935 Dora left the BBC and opened a music studio in Queen Street, Wolverhampton, to give lessons in music and voice training. She also continued to compose music, including Liebeslied (Love Song), Songs of Elfin Town, Over the Garden Wall, O Fairest Rose and Yvonne. In 1957 she moved the studio to her home in Paget Road and died a year later, aged 72, with her funeral held at St Luke’s Church.
Steve Barnett - Born on February 19, 1952, in Wolverhampton, music executive Steve Barnett began his career as an agent in London in 1970, working for the Bron Agency and then for NEMS Enterprises, formed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein. He became president of Epic Records and then Columbia, overseeing the release of albums such as Bob Dylan’s Modern Times and Together Through Life. In 2012 he became Chairman & CEO of the Capitol Music Group, the world’s fifth biggest label. One of Capitol’s top artists, Katy Perry, said of him, ‘It’s nice to have a head in there who knows what they’re doing... .He’s an incredible boss.’ Even though he lives five thousand miles away in Los Angeles, the former Codsall High pupil remains an ardent Wolves fan and continues to follow his team, listening to them through the radio and online. Steve returns to Wolverhampton to catch a game whenever he can and is proud to walk down Rodeo Drive in LA wearing his old gold and black shirt.
Joseph Barney - The eminent Wolverhampton-born artist and engraver Joseph Barney (1753-1832) was a son of Joseph Barney Snr., a local japanner. Joseph Jnr. became a partner of the Barney & Ryton, japanners, and started his artistic career painting flowers which were a popular decoration for japanned ware. He moved to London from around 1774, as in which year he received from the Royal Society of Arts a Silver Palette for a drawing of flowers. He studied with Italian decorative painter Antonio Zucchi and was much influenced by the work of Angelica Kauffmann. During his lifetime Joseph exhibited more than hundred artworks at the Royal Academy and the British Institution, their subjects ranging from fruit and flower pieces to religious, historic, literature and genre paintings, and a Gold Palette was awarded to him in 1781 for his historical drawings. He returned to Wolverhampton in about 1779 and married Jane Whiston Chambers at St John’s chapel, Wolverhampton. To support a large growing family, he started to collaborate with Matthew Boulton and his Soho manufactory, producing so-called mechanical paintings. His duties were to touch and finish in paint images of original figurative paintings which were mechanically reproduced on paper or canvas. Joseph’s mechanical paintings were bought by, among others, Matthew Boulton and Josiah Wedgwood. In 1784, Joseph paintied his second altar piece, ‘The Apparition of Our Lord to St Thomas’ for St Peter & St Paul’s Roman Catholic church. Between 1786 and 1793, he worked in London and took the post of the Second Drawing Master for Figures at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, where he remained until 1820 and became a Fruit and Flower Painter to Queen Victoria. Two of his early altar pieces, ‘The Deposition from the Cross’ and ‘The Apparition of Our Lord to St Thomas’, survive in Wolverhampton at St John’s Church and at St Peter & St Paul’s Roman Catholic church. Greatly respected by his contemporaries, Joseph Barney was described by Stebbing Shaw in his History of Staffordshire as a ‘native genius of Wolverhampton’. His fine pen and ink drawing of ‘A Blind Musician’ is in the Wolverhampton Art Gallery collection.
Stuart Baxter - Born in Wolverhampton and brought up in Scotland, Stuart Baxter played football with Preston North End, Dundee United and Stockport County. He is currently manager of Finland national football team.
Edwin Butler Bayliss - Born in Wolverhampton in 1874, Edwin Butler Bayliss was a prolific artist famous for his realistic and unsentimental paintings of industrial scenes in the Black Country, particularly the area around Bilston and Tipton close to the Hickman furnaces. One of eight children, he was the eldest son of local ironmaster Samuel Bayliss and spent his childhood in Finchfield and Tettenhall, where his family owned a large house in Wood Road, The Woodhouse. He joined his father’s manufacturing firm, Bayliss, Jones and Bayliss, but at twenty-seven he left to pursue his artistic ambitions. He painted works inspired by scenes from both his father's iron foundry and the steel works of Sir Alfred Hickman, who was a friend of his father. Edwin was originally self-taught, sketching in charcoal, pastel and water colour and painting mainly in oil. He was a prolific painter and His works have both local and national importance as they document the Black Country at the height of Britain’s industrial growth and his landscapes show how industry had a permanent impact on the local environment. A large amount of his work is held by Wolverhampton Art Gallery where a major exhibition of his work in 2013 illustrate his importance as one of the few 19th century painters of the industrial landscape. He depicts the Black Country as a smoke-filled and dangerous place to live and work, often showing figures silhouetted against a dull, grey sky and ravaged landscapes with blast furnaces and chimneys in the background. In contrast to these industrial scenes are his light and colourful seascapes of the Welsh coastline, featuring members of his family relaxing and playing on the shore. In the late 1930s Edwin and his family moved to a house in Woodthorne Road where they stayed until the early 1940s when the house was requisitioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. He later moved to The Beeches in Regis Road. The ‘Poet Painter of the Black Country’ lived most of his life in Tettenhall and died in 1950. An extensive exhibition at Wolverhampton art gallery in 2013 included pictures of the Welsh coastline as well as industrial scenes and showed why his work is so celebrated. Watch video
Sir William Maddock Bayliss - Born in Butcroft, Wednesbury, this pioneering physiologist worked with Ernest H Starling and co -discovered hormones. The Bayliss Effect is named after him and he was awarded their Royal Society’s Medal as well as their Copley Medal and was knighted for his contribution to medicine in 1922. The Bayliss and Starling Society was founded in 1979 as a forum for scientists with research interests in central and autonomic peptide function. Sir William and Lady Bayliss took a great interest in the social issues of the time, including labour conditions of the workers in Cable Street, Wolverhampton.
Ann Beach - Born in 1938 in Wolverhampton, actress Ann Beach is a natural singer and was first heard on radio with the BBC Welsh Orchestra. She later joined RADA, then went on tour with Frankie Howerd in Hotel Paradiso. After joining Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop at the Theatre Royal Stratford East she created the parts of Rosie in Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be and Miss Gilchrist in The Hostage. She also created the role of Barbara in Billy Liar and won bit parts in many sitcoms, including Steptoe And Son, The Rag Trade and most notably as Julia McKenzie and Anton Rodgers’ quirky next-door neighbour Sonia Barratt in Fresh Fields. She often appeared in children’s shows Rainbow and Jackanory and narrated the Fred Bassett cartoons for the BBC. She has been in numerous television series, including Rising Damp and Foyle’s War, and was a memorable Polly Garter in Richard Burton’s 1972 film version of Under Milk Wood. Ann married Canadian Francis Coleman and is the mother of actress daughters Lisa Coleman and Charlotte Coleman, who starred in Four Weddings And A Funeral and Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and died aged only 33 from an asthma attack.
James Beattie - Starting with just £300, James Beattie opened the Victoria Draper Supply Store on Wolverhampton’s Victoria Street in 1877. The shop also provided a home for Beattie’s two assistants. The store prospered and by the end of the 19th century it was turning over more than £30,000 a year in sales, with a payroll of forty employees. A fire in 1896 destroyed the business but instead of re-building the former premises, James Beattie relocated on the opposite side of Victoria Street street. This larger store proved even more successful. The range of merchandise expanded and Beattie’s evolved into a department store which by 1914 had come to be the shopping focus for the middle classes of the west of the west Midlands and inhabitants in the adjacent rural area. Most of the present Beattie’s building dates from 1929. James Beattie remained in control until his death in 1934, when the next generation of Beatties joined the company in the form of the founder’s grandson. Despite becoming a public company in 1954, the family maintained control and James became chairman and managing director in 1961, marking the start of a period of growth as branches were opened in Birkenhead, Solihull, Dudley, Sutton Coldfield, Telford and Northampton. Beatties staff were not employees but ‘members’and management aimed to run the company ‘by consent, mutual respect and a sense of belonging’. The retirement of James in 1987 set the stage for a new period of growth for the company as it renovated its flagship Wolverhampton store at a cost of more than £3 million. New stores opened in Burton-Upon-Trent, Worcester, Aylesbury, Huddersfield and Birmingham. At the same time, the Wolverhampton site was extended to increase its presence on Victoria Street. In 2005, when it had 12 stores, the company was taken over by House of Fraser. The Birmingham branch closed and some in the group have been rebranded as House of Fraser, though the Wolverhampton store retains the name of James Beattie. Wolverhampton City Archives has a huge number of fascinating documents and photographs relating to Beatties from the 1870s to the 21st century.
Nigel Bennett - An accomplished theatre actor, Nigel Bennett appeared on the British stage for fifteen years before moving to Canada in 1986. He starred as the powerful and seductive Lucien LaCroix in the television series Forever Knight and his films include Narrow Margin and Legends of the Fall. Nigel has also co-written three fantasy novels.
Liz Berry - The acclaimed young poet Liz Berry was born and grew up in Sedgley and now lives in Birmingham. She inherited her love of literature from her mother, who worked in Wolverhampton libraries, and feels that the charms of her regional accent have either been mocked or ignored. ‘I wanted to reclaim the Black Country dialect as something beautiful to be treasured ... it is such a beautiful dialect, full of charm and surprise and wonder, but much maligned.’ Although there are many narrative or humorous poems which use regional terms to tell stories or relate a piece of local history, Liz wanted to use it in lyric poetry. Her outstanding debut collection of poems, Black Country, published by Chatto & Windus in 2014, was described in the Guardian as ‘writing of warmth, maturity and intermittent eroticism’. Her poems are written in dialect and come complete with translations for words unfamiliar to non locals, such as cut (canal), donny (hand) and yowm (you are). Black Country is a Poetry Book Society recommendation and an Observer Poetry Book of the Month, and was awarded the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2014. ‘Wench, yowm the colour of ower town: concrete, steel, oily rainbow of the cut.’ Watch video
Gwen Berryman - Most famous for playing the character Doris Archer in BBC Radio 4’s The Archers from 1951 to 1980, Gwen Berryman was born in Wolverhampton in 1906. The only actress ever to play the part, Gwen was sometimes thought to suffer from an identity crisis between herself and the character, though she said, ‘In the studio and on the air I feel, act and think exactly like Mrs Archer, but once outside the BBC I’m Gwen Berryman and as unlike Doris as it’s possible to be.’ Television appearances included This Is Your Life and she wrote two books: Doris Archer’s Farm Cookery Book and Life and Death of Doris Archer. Gwen died in 1983 (three years after Doris) and a blue plaque commemorates her life at the house where she lived at 123 Goldthorn Hill.
Jane Besemeres - Born in 1827, Jane Besemeres was a successful writer of children’s books and poetry. Her experiences as governess of a deaf boy (Rupert Arthur Dent) inspired her to write books entitled Picture Teaching for Young and Old and Hints for Teaching the Deaf and Dumb and to found the Church Mission to the Deaf and Dumb in South Staffordshire and Shropshire in 1886. Based in Bath Street, Wolverhampton, this provided spiritual instruction and visits to the sick at home, and encouraged pre-school training for children. In 1901, Jane also founded a Home for Deaf and Dumb Girls at 80 Compton Road, Wolverhampton. She remained a friend of the Dents after she left her post as governess and was a visitor with them at the time of the 1871 census. Jane died in 1905, aged 78, and is buried in Wolverhampton cemetery. The Dent family were represented at her funeral and donated £5 to a memorial fund.
Bob Bibby - Born in Scotland, Bob Bibby came to live in Wolverhampton in 1946 and was educated at St Luke’s Primary School and Wolverhampton Grammar School. As well as being an English teacher and educational consultant he has written the Tallyforth Mystery series of crime novels - Be a Falling Leaf, Bird on the Wing, and The Liquidator. The latter is set in Wolverhampton and opens with a football match between Wolves and West Bromwich, before the plot thickens. Bob’s travel books include the irreverent and amusing Grey Paes and Bacon, based on a fifty-mile walk around Black Country canals.
Ben Bilboe - Born into an Ironbridge family that travelled the fairs, Ben Bilboe settled in Bilston and became a leader of the Unemployed Workers Movement of the 1930s. He objected to the payment of poverty wages that were well below the trade union rates. These workings became known as ‘Poverty Bonk’. In 1933 he gave an inflammatory speech outside the police station in Mount Pleasant and was arrested, spending polling day in the police cells, from where he was duly elected to the New Town ward. Bilboe proved a militant councillor urging better housing and social services as well as championing the cause of rural workers. During the war Ben joined the forces, but was invalided out to become the Civil Defence Officer at Bridgnorth. After the war he returned to Bilston where he became mayor in 1947 and an alderman of both Bilston UDC and Staffordshire County Council. He remained totally committed to the poor and considered his Council work a full-time job and scraped a subsistence where he could. In 1951 he died suddenly at the age of 49 and his funeral was well attended, such was the respect he had achieved in the town. Bilboe Road in Bradley was named after the firebrand socialist and Black Country scholar Peter Higginson has claimed that the character of Bilbo Baggins in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit may have been based on the author’s observation of Mayor Ben Bilboe. Tolkien may have based the grim region of Mordor on the heavily industrialised Black Country area. In the Elvish Sindarin language, Mor-Dor means Dark (or Black) Land, and is sometimes referred to within the novel as ‘The Black Country’.
Edward Bird - Like Joseph Barney, Edward Bird (1772–1819) was an English genre painter born in Wolverhampton. The son of a poor carpenter, he received no formal artistic training but developed his skills through an apprenticeship in 1785 at the japanning company, Rytons, at their Old Hall works. He began his career painting flowers on tea trays but his outstanding talent as an artist meant he was soon sought after by rival firms. By 1794 he was sufficiently established to move to Bristol to work as an independent artist and set up a drawing school. He pursued a career in portraiture, book illustrations, landscapes and church painting, becoming part of an informal group of artists known as the Bristol School. He always tried to depict human character or to illustrate moral or general truths. In 1809, he exhibited a genre portrait at the Royal Academy of an old soldier, Good News, and his popularity grew when the Prince Regent bought his painting, The Country Choristers and commissioned Blind Man’s Buff. He created an impressive set of pictures showing the progress of the Bourbon restoration to the French throne after the defeat of Napoleon in 1814 and his works also include the Field of Chevy Chase and the Day after the Battle, which is considered his masterpiece. Edward was appointed historical painter to Princess Charlotte in 1813 and soon afterwards was elected a full member Royal Academy. Plagued by ill-health and unable to paint in the last year of his life, he died in 1819 and was buried in Bristol Cathedral after more than 300 people followed his coffin through the streets. Edward Bird was loved and admired by artists and patrons alike and was one of the most financially successful artists of his time.
Joan Blackham - Born in Wolverhampton in 1946, Joan Blackham is a prolific character actress and supply teacher, including special needs. She studied at the New College of Speech and Drama in London and was recognised early in her career as a comic talent, featuring in many sitcom series, notably as Podge Hodge in To The Manor Born, John Thaw’s home help Fiona in Home to Roost and Jemma Redgrave’s mother in Cry Wolf. Kenneth Williams chose her to play Fay in his production of Loot at the Lyric Hammersmith which then transferred to the West End. Other theatre credits include the original West End cast of Calendar Girls, King Lear (for the RSC) and Jane Eyre (for Shared Experience). TV appearances also include Midsomer Murders, Judge John Deed and Inspector Morse. Films include Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Plenty, The Sweeney and The Knot. Joan recently finished shooting in Kiev for the role of Eleanor Roosevelt in Battle for Sevastopol. She was a board member of Women in Film and Television UK and co-produces script-reading sessions for its Writers Group.
Royston Blythe - One of the UK’s most in-demand hairdressers from clients, celebrities and the media alike, Royston Blythe made a name for himself with his creations for fashion shows, wedding hair, education and stage work. He established his Wolverhampton salon in 1989 and his partner Nick Malenko makes up the other half of the renowned Royston Blythe brand. Together they have led the salon to international acclaim and their work has been seen on the London catwalks alongside top designer Christian Lacroix, at the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, and on a host of stars of film and television, ranging from pop singer Katy Perry and model Abbey Clancy to actors Mickey Rourke and Antonio Banderas. One of the company’s stylists is personal hairdresser to the Queen.
Ranjit Singh Boparan - Billionaire ‘chicken king’ Ranjit Singh Boparan left school at 16 with few qualifications and began working in a Bilston butcher’s shop at the age of 11. He started the 2 Sisters group in West Bromwich in 1993 and since then the business has grown phenomenally to become the country’s second largest food production company, acquiring the Harry Ramsden fish and chip shop chain and Northern Foods, which makes Marks & Spencer ready meals. The privately-owned business turns over £3bn a year supplying poultry and red meat to clients such as Asda, Morrisons, KFC, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, British Airways and Harrods. It has factories in Scunthorpe, Smethwick, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton, employing 24,000 people. Ranjit and his wife Baljinder, who also have property interests, have a fortune of £1.3 billion and top the list of the richest Asians in the West Midlands. Ranjit never gives interviews but is described as a very hands-on owner-manager in the traditional Asian style.
Thomas Bratt - Known as The Portobello Poet, Thomas Bratt was born in 1852. His father was from Ettingshall and worked as an engineer and Thomas went on to become a prolific writer of verse, often inspired by local scenes and important events of the day. He married Lucy Maria and lived at the Gough Arms, 20 High Street, Portobello, before moving to a greengrocer’s shop at 84 High Street. Lucy Maria died in 1927, inspiring Thomas’s poem ‘In loving memory of my dearly beloved wife’ and her husband died two years later, after which his son Horace continued running the family shop. Thomas’s works include The Battle of Tettenhall, The Twenty Trees, and The Willenhall Fire Brigade. As well as recording major world events and happenings in his native Willenhall, Thomas wrote about royalty, local football teams (The Wanderers Song - English Cup Final 1893) and more than 90 sonnets about the natural world, including verses about insects, birds, sea creatures and prehistoric mammals. Much of this prolific Black Country bard’s work was thought to have been lost but his great grand daughter, Alice Bratt, has discovered over 17 volumes of handwritten poems that have been handed down within the family, as well as many letters of thanks sent to him by grateful recipients of his work, including royalty and heads of state.
Peter Broadbent - Inside-forward Peter Broadbent was one of the classiest footballers ever to play for Wolverhampton Wanderers, rated alongside Bert Williams and Billy Wright. Dover-born Peter was a master of the body swerve and many fans regard him as the greatest ever to wear the club’s colours. He joined as a 17-year-old and within a month was in the first team. During his Wolves career (1951-1965) Peter scored 145 goals in 497 appearances and was a part of the all-conquering team that won the First Division title in 1954, 1958 and 1959, and the FA Cup in 1960. He was the scorer of Wolves’ first ever goal in European competition in the European Cup in 1958, and played seven times for England. His superb ball control and skills left opposition defenders baffled and at a loss and he was considered the best inside-forward in the country. Unfortunately, his England appearances were restricted by a policy of not selecting too many players from a single club (Wolves already had Billy Wright, Ron Flowers, Bill Slater and Denis Wilshaw). In his autobiography, George Best said he was a Wolves fan and that Peter Broadbent was the player he most admired. After leaving Wolves, Peter went on to play for Shrewsbury Town, Aston Villa, Stockport County and Bromsgrove Rovers. He successfully ran a greengrocers shop in Halesowen, lived in retirement in Codsall and died aged 80 in 2013.
Norman Brook, Baron Normanbrook - Educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School, Norman Craven Brook was Secretary to Cabinet (1947-62), Joint Permanent Secretary to the Treasury (1956-62) and chairman of the BBC in 1964. As Sir Norman Brook, he advised John Profumo, Secretary of State for War, to end his affair with Christine Keeler.
Steve Bull - Stephen George Bull MBE was born on Tipton’s Moat Farm estate in 1965, attending Wednesbury Oak Primary School and Willingsworth High School, where he excelled in the football team. After playing for Tipton Town and West Bromwich Albion, Steve joined Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1986, playing for the same club until his retirement 13 years later and breaking no less than four Wolves goalscoring records. ‘Bully’ became the all -time leading scorer with 306 goals in competitive games (250 of them in the Football League, also a club record) and became their highest scorer in a single season when he reached 52 goals in competitive games during the 1987–88 season. He also scored a club record of 18 hat -tricks, making 464 league appearances for the club and 561 appearances in total. He was also capped 13 times for England, scoring five goals. Steve stayed loyal to his club, despite interest from the likes of Coventry City and Newcastle United, and retired as a a Wolves player in 1999. Known to his fans as ‘Bully’, Steve’s rapport with supporters and passion for the game are legendary Also called the ‘Tipton Skin’ for his trademark closely cropped haircut, he received an MBE for services to Association Football. One of the main stands at Molineux is now named after him.
Tommy Burton - Jazz musician, entertainer and raconteur Thomas William Burton was born in Hartshorne Street, Bilston, in 1935, and always remained a Midlander. He began taking piano lessons at the age of eight and later learned to play clarinet and alto saxophone. He made his professional debut aged 15 on the back of a truck at Bilston carnival with a local band, Pete Young and his Chitterling Twisters. He later joined Johnny Fenton and the Fentones as band pianist. While serving in the RAF in the 1950s, Tommy led several unit dance bands and made his first broadcast with Humphrey Lyttelton before forming his own group, Thunderfoot Burton’s Celestial Three. With the arrival of rock-and-roll, he started the Ravemen, featuring his own vocals and guitar, and played to packed houses around the Midlands. In the 1960s, he fronted the Tommy Burton Combo, playing tenor and soprano saxophones. At the end of the decade, he returned to jazz piano, with the Sporting House Quartet, taking on the mantle of his musical hero, Fats Waller. His mastery of the demanding Harlem-stride style was complemented by his ability to mimic the cheerfully arcane vocal style of his mentor. A consummate entertainer with a rich local accent, risqué sense of humour and thirst for the odd pint of bitter, Tommy played at jazz clubs and festivals, was a radio performer and did a long stint on BBC televisions’s Pebble Mill At One. He was a sell-out attraction for nine successive new year’s eve shows at London’s 100 Club and for six years in the 1970s he was the publican at the Lord Raglan in Wolverhampton. He regularly visited New Orleans, where he enjoyed the respect of many old-time musicians and often performed at Fritzel’s Jazz Pub on Bourbon Street. Tommy died aged 65 in 2000, after recovering sufficiently from a stroke to play piano in his last gigs at the Upton-on-Severn and Bude jazz festivals. Watch video
William Butler - Born around 1815 in Ettingshall, William Butler first traded as a beer retailer in Priestfield in a modest set-up with a shop run by his wife Hannah. William brewed beer at the rear of the premises and sold beers from a cart in and around Ettingshall. His brews became increasingly popular and by 1861 William Butler employed ten men. In 1871 he went into partnership with Thomas Russell and traded as William Butler and Company. As sales increased the company moved in 1873 to a marshy seven acre site bordering Grimstone Street at Springfield, which had an abundance of clean water. The company built a new brewery with maltings, cooperage and stables and started production the following year. Helped by its location close to the canal and railway lines (a Great Western Railway siding was extended to the site), the brewery could trade outside the local area and production increased from 400 to 1,500 barrels a week. William Butler died in 1893 while on a visit to America for the benefit of his health, and bequeathed £10,000 for the benefit of the inhabitants of the borough. ‘Five thousand pounds are to be devoted to providing a branch public reading room, and the interest on the remainder is to provide music for the public parks. William’s sons had by then joined the company and the eldest, William Bailey Butler, took over the firm. W. B. Butler acquired a large number of small local breweries as well as the 42 public houses of the larger Bloxwich and Cannock Breweries, William Blencowe and Co, Eley’s of Stafford and Clarke’s of Wellington. The company continued to expand up until the late 1950s, becoming one of the largest brewers in the Midlands. However, they themselves were taken over in 1960 by Mitchell’s and Butler’s, who kept the Springfield Brewery open until brewing ceased around 1990. Plans to develop the site as a retail park with the old buildings retained as landmarks ended when a fire destroyed much of the site in 2006. After being empty for 24 years, Springfield Brewery was been taken over by the city’s university to become a construction college for 600 students.
Frances Butt - The youngest of ten children, Frances grew up in Wolverhampton. All the family played instruments and fooled around singing while washing up. Frances wrote short classical and jazz pieces as a child, but never imagined it possible to write ‘for real’. In her teens she played keyboards and sang backing vocals with punk band Self Drive, borrowing keyboards from and jamming with reggae band Weapon of Peace. During a happy career in the film business she met and married producer/director Bill Butt and they settled in Bristol. Frances started writing music again: 10 years of TV soundtracks followed, mostly for wildlife films – one of which resulted in the jazz suite Calls Of The Wild. After writing her first song ‘Sometimes’ in 1999, she collaborated with Jimmy Galvin and the Pindrop Band before releasing her first album ‘I Wonder’ in 2005. ‘The Girl From Wolverhampton’ album was released in 2008.
Stephen Byers - In a controversial career, the former Labour Party MP and Cabinet Minister was involved with the Phoenix Consortium takeover that led to the collapse of MG Rover. His political adviser, Jo Moore, sent an email suggesting that the September 11, 2001 attacks made it ‘a very good day to get out anything we want to bury bad news’. In the MPs’ expenses scandal it was reported that he claimed more than £125,000 in second home allowances for a London flat where he lived rent-free. He was also caught out by Channel Four’s Dispatches programme describing himself as a ‘cab for hire’, offering to lobby his parliamentary contacts for a payment of up to £5,000 per day.
Bill Caddick - Folk singer-songwriter and guitarist Lewis Frederick William Caddick was born in 1944 in Hurst Hill, Wolverhampton. Singing since the 1960s in folk clubs and festivals, he joined the street theatre group Magic Lantern before leaving to concentrate on his solo career. In 1977 he joined the Albion Band in National Theatre productions of ‘Lark Rise’ and ‘The Passion’ and later collaborated in a stage show and album about circus life, called ‘A Duck on his Head’. He wrote songs for radio and TV, and performed his own songs in a film about the Tolpuddle Martyrs. From 1980 Bill was a member of the innovative and influential folk-rock band Home Service while continuing to write and perform at clubs and festivals and work with the National Theatre, writing and appearing in award winning plays such as ‘The Mysteries’. Bill left The Home Service in 1985 and after a brief spell in London, he moved back to the Midlands and now lives in Jackfield, Shropshire, with his wife Katherine, an Illustrator, and their son Tam. In 1996 he released a CD, Winter with Flowers, backed by a number of local musicians, including members of ceilidh band All Blacked Up which he has since joined. He continues to work as a solo performer as well as with another local band, the Jackfield Riverbillies, and the new Anne Lennox Martin Band. A retrospective double album, Unicorns, was released in 2002. Bill’s songs have been recorded by the likes of June Tabor, Alex Campbell, The Yetties, Christy Moore and John Kirkpatrick, and he is currently working on a play ‘The Peat Bog Soldiers’ as well as a new CD, The Cloud Factory. He still plays regularly at folk clubs and festivals around the country and hosts a Singers night at the Black Swan in Jackfield on the first Sunday of the month (highly recommended). Watch video
Sidney Cartwright - Victorian business man and art collector Sidney Cartwright ran a factory originally owned by his step-father John Evans in Dudley Street, Wolverhampton. At its peak the factory employed more than 150 people, many of them children, and manufactured tinplate toys. Sidney was a benevolent employer and a well-respected gentleman who became an alderman of the borough, a magistrate for Staffordshire, chairman of the Wolverhampton Branch of Justices and chairman of the Wolverhampton Bank. He was a friend and patron of many artists and his collection included pictures by Frederick Daniel Hardy, Edwin Henry Landseer and John Faed. An avid collector of works by the Kent-based Cranbrook Colony, he amassed one of the largest collections of their art during his lifetime. When Sidney died in 1883, aged 81, he left his collection of paintings to his wife, Maria. When she died five years later, she left it to the borough of Wolverhampton as he intended and the paintings are now a vital part of the Art Gallery collection.
G G Carver - Born in the heart of England to two devoted parents G G Carver enjoyed a happy, loving childhood. Not long after completing his further education he set off on a worldwide adventure visiting various places around the globe. In New Zealand he discovered his creative side with amateur dramatics and he made several brief appearances in national soap operas. After five years he returned to England and discovered his passion for writing. Since publishing his first erotic novel, Whiter than White, the 41-year-old Finchfield author and carpenter has gathered a considerable following. In the book, life is a rat race for Elena White. She’s been living on autopilot, a slave to the 9-5 routine - until a chance meeting with an old school friend serves as the catalyst that changes Elena’s life in a way she could never have imagined, leaving her life anything but predictable. G G Carver lives with his wife Sarah and his close companion Carver, a cuddly Cavachon pup who features in many of his humorous Facebook updates.
Pete Cashmore - A widely-published freelance writer and ideas generator based in Wolverhampton, Pete Cashmore currently contributes to The Guardian, The Sun, guardian.co.uk, people.co.uk, Daily Mail, Sport Matters, NME, Formula Life and others. He likes pizzas and once tried to go a year without pizza, lasting three weeks, and is a former Countdown champion. Wolverhampton’s foremost pizza blogger became a staff writer at Loaded magazine in 1994 and later edited the ‘lads’ mag’ Nuts, which became the biggest-selling weekly in the country. He had previously been expelled from Codsall High School for creating his own ‘risqué’ precursor to Nuts. After taking an extra year of A-levels at Staffordshire College he went on to graduate at Hull University. Rubbing shoulders with glamorous girls and celebrities hasn’t changed him. ‘They’re just normal people like you and me but they’ll never compare to the women of Wolverhampton!’. Friends and family, who still live in Codsall, keep Pete grounded and he can often be found in his local, The Newhampton.
Harry Challenor - Harold Gordon ‘Tanky’ Challenor was born in 1922 in Bradley, near Bilston, the son of a brutal, hard-drinking father who during the Depression took a job as a nurse in a mental hospital in Watford. Harry was captain of games and PE at school but left at 14, taking jobs successively as a mechanic, nurse and lorry driver before enlisting in the Royal Army Medical Corps, describing himself as ‘the most aggressive medical orderly the Commandos ever had’. He had a fine war record, serving in north Africa and Italy from 1942 to 1944, and volunteered to join the SAS, receiving his nickname, ‘Tanky’, after borrowing a tank corps cap to wear. In 1943, he took part in Operation Speedwell in which he helped derail three trains behind enemy lines. Following the operation, Challenor was twice captured but managed to escape each time, eventually reaching safety. He was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery the following year. After the war Harry worked for a short time as an iron moulder before joining the Metropolitan Police, where he became a legendary scourge of Soho racketeers, drug dealers and pimps. His eccentricities included standing on a table in the charge room and singing a popular song of the time, Bongo bongo bongo, I don’t want to leave the Congo, walking home from West End Central to Surrey every night, and calling everyone Me ol’ darlin’. A short, tocky man, loud and aggressive, he was remarkably successful with both arrests and convictions. He was hated and feared by the criminal fraternity, including Reg and Ron Kray, as he developed a reputation for planting evidence when necessary to take those he regarded as villains off the streets. His downfall came when he was accused of planting half-bricks on innocent protesters demonstrating against a state visit by Queen Frederika of Greece. Harry was brought to trial at the Old Bailey on a charge of corruption but found unfit to plead because he was suffering paranoid schizophrenia. He was subsequently committed to a mental hospital and later retired with his wife to Cornwall, where he died in 2008. A 1966 novel by Bernard Toms, The Strange Affair, made into a film with Jeremy Kemp, was based in part on his corruption trial. Harry Challenor also appears as the detective in Joe Orton’s play Loot. He published a memoir - SAS and the Met, co-written with Alfred Draper - and continued to be a revered by his SAS comrades. In 2013, policeman-turned-author, Dick Kirby, published The Scourge of Soho, a book based on interviews with former friends and colleagues of Harry Challenor and meticulous studies of court records and official documents.
Charles Chaplin - Charlie Chaplin worked as a call boy at Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre in 1902. He made one of his first stage appearances (as ‘Charles Chaplin’) at the age of 14 at the Grand the following year, taking the minor role of Billy, Dr Watson’s pageboy, in a Sherlock Holmes play called The Strange Case of Miss Faulkner. in the 1902 production of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ Evidence has recently emerged suggesting that the comic genius may have been born into a gypsy family in the Black Country, rather than in London. A letter written to him by Jack Hill from Tamworth in the 1970s claims that he was born on the Romany ‘Black Patch’ in Smethwick in a caravan belonging to the ‘Gypsy Queen’. Chaplin’s birth certificate has never been found and his mother, who was descended from a travelling family, had the maiden name Hill. The letter was discovered in the locked drawer of a bureau inherited by the great man’s daughter, Victoria. Designed by eminent theatre architect Charles J Phipps and Wolverhampton builder Henry Gough, the Grand Theatre was built on demolished farm buildings and opened in 1894. Although it wasn’t the town’s first theatre the Grand has outlived all its rivals, including The Star Theatre in Bilston Street and The Empire Palace in Queen Square, later known as The Hippodrome. Future Prime Minister Winston Churchill and David Lloyd George have addressed audiences from its stage and countless famous artists have appeared, including the greatest Victorian actor Sir Henry Irving (who appeared in four plays), Norman Wisdom, Tommy Cooper, Spike Milligan, Ian McKellen, Dame Margot Fonteyn on her farewell tour, Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles, plus real lions in a pantomime of Robinson Crusoe. Marlene Dietrich was in Wolverhampton for about a week in December 1966 and was well received at the Grand for her only theatre performance in the country. Her costume included a pure white fur coat and it’s said that she swept the stage herself each evening with a broom to keep it immaculately clean. Many aspiring professionals trod the boards in repertory at the Grand at the start of their careers, including Kenneth More, Peggy Mount, June Whitfield, Peter Jones (aged 16), Sean Connery, Gwen Berryman and Leonard Rossiter. Agatha Christie came to the Grand in 1958 to see her new play, Verdict. Actor and comedian Nicholas Parsons has often appeared at The Grand Theatre, praising its elegance and the warmth of Wolverhampton audiences.
William Chappell - Dancer, theatre designer, producer and writer William ‘Billy’ Chappell was born in Wolverhampton on 27 September 1907. The son of theatrical manager Archie Chappell and his wife Edith Eva Clara Black, William and his mother moved to Balham, London, after his parents separated. She pursued a career as a fashion journalist and he studied at the Chelsea School of Art and took up dancing seriously aged 17 when he studied under Marie Rambert and Frederick Ashton, with whom he toured Europe in Ida Rubenstein’s company. He later danced with Ballet Rambert and Ninette de Valois’s Vic-Wells Ballet, becoming one of the founding dancers of British ballet. Throughout the 1930s he created more than 40 roles for Rambert, including designs for Ashton’s Les Rendezvous and Les Patineurs. As a dancer, William ‘moved with an astonishing grace and indolent sensuality’ and as a man he had a modest, dreamy and diffident temperament. By 1959, he had extended his work to include opera, musical theatre, revues and drama, often as director as well as designer. In films, he worked as an actor, dance director (The Prince and the Showgirl and Moulin Rouge), costume designer (The Winslow Boy) and director (Expresso Bongo) He lectured on ‘The Ballet in Britain’ at Oxford, the first time ballet had been considered seriously at the university. His books included Studies in Ballet, Fonteyn: Impressions of a ballerina and two memoirs about his close friend, the artist Edward Burra. William retired to his home in Rye and died there after a long illness in 1994.
Charles I - Prior to the first major battle of the English Civil War at Edgehill in 1642, King Charles I came to Wolverhampton in order to collect troops and revenue. He stayed at the house of Madame St Andrew which was situated in Cock Street on the site of the former Star and Garter (now the Mander Centre). A wealthy merchant, Henry Gough, gave him £l,200 in gold for the Royalist cause. Charles I also visited the town in 1645 on his way to the Battle of Naseby, staying in Bushbury or, in his own words, ‘a private sweet village where Squire Grosvenor lives’. After the Royalist defeat at the Naseby he made his last visit to the town, staying at the home of Mrs Barnford in Cock Street (now Victoria Street).
Charles II - After an unsuccessful bid to reclaim the throne at Worcester in 1651, King Charles II disguised himself as a peasant and hid in a priest hole in Mosley Old Hall. He had previously sought refuge at nearby Boscobel House, famously hiding in a tree now known as The Royal Oak. He later travelled on in disguise via other safe houses before escaping to France.
Radzi Chinyanganya - Born in Wolverhampton to a Scottish mother and a Zimbabwean father, Radzi Chinyanganya made his debut appearance at the age of 26 as a presenter of the BBC’s popular, long-running children’s programme, Blue Peter, in 2013. Since graduating from Loughborough University, his varied career has included competing at a national level in karate and achieving a top ten finish at 2011 GB Skeleton Bobsleigh Trials. He is well known to CBBC viewers as co-presenter of the live Saturday morning show, Wild, and was one of the presenters of the BBC’s coverage of weightlifting at the London 2012 Olympics. He also presented at the London Paralympics for Channel 4. Before joining Blue Peter, which had been an ambition of his since the age of ten, Radzi filmed Your Body: Your Image, which focuses on body image in schools, for BBC Two. He was selected to attend Kiss FM’s Presenter Academy and worked as an online reporter for the Bauer Media radio station.
Jeremiah and Charles Chubb - The internationally famous lock making firm Chubb & Sons was founded by brothers Jeremiah and Charles, who patented their Detector Lock in 1818. Two years later, they moved from Portsmouth to Wolverhampton, by then lock making capital of Great Britain, and opened a factory in Temple Street. In 1836 they moved to St James’ Square, followed two years later by a moved to premises on the corner of Horseley Fields and Mill Street, where they remained for over forty years. This was the site of an old Workhouse founded by Mrs Ann Gough in 1714. When the lease of the factory expired in 1882, the works were closed and moved to London, returning to Wolverhampton in 1898 on the completion of a new factory in Railway Street. This could accommodate 350 locksmiths and the same number of safe makers. The Chubb lock supposedly became popular as a result of the interest generated when the Prince Regent accidentally sat on one which still had the key inserted. There have been significant advances in the arrangement of the Chubb lock over the years but the basic principle of its construction has remained unchanged, with more than two and a half million made in the first century of Chubb’s existence. In 1835 a patent was taken out for a burglar -resistant safe and by the 1840s Chubb had become a household word, even appearing in playbills and popular verses of the time. The factory in Fryer Street now houses the Lighthouse Media Centre, with Chubb's lock manufacturing gone the way of Sunbeam cars and Goodyear tyres.
Winston Churchill - Britain’s wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill (1874-1965) came to Wolverhampton during the 1906 election campaign when he visited a relative who was standing as a candidate. He came again in 1909 to attend a meeting at the the Grand Theatre. Suffragette movement protesters were marching up and down Lichfield Street, picketing the theatre, so he had to enter by the stage door at the back. He also addressed crowds at Himley Hall in 1928. Churchill kicked off the General Election battle of 1949 by speaking in Wolverhampton as the Tory party tried to win back power after being in opposition to the post-war Attlee Labour government. He addressed a crowd of 25,000 people at a rally at Molineux after he had visited Wolverhampton town hall, now the site of the city’s magistrates court, and had lunch at the Victoria Hotel. David Lloyd George also visited Wolverhampton and made an important speech at the Grand Theatre in which he promised ‘a land fit for heroes’.
Louis Coatalen - Breton car engineer and designer Louis Hervé Coatalen (1879-1962) was born in the fishing town of Concarneau and went on to study engineering before working for Panhard in France then for the Hillman company in England. He moved to Wolverhampton in 1914 to join the Sunbeam Car Company, where during World War I he designed aircraft engines. In addition to quality limousine, saloon and touring cars, Louis designed and built racing cars for Henry Segrave, who won the French and Spanish GPs in 1923/4 (first British car ever to win a Grand Prix). A Sunbeam built for K L Guinness established a new land speed record at Brooklands, and in Malcolm Campbell’s hands the same car (painted blue and renamed Blue Bird) achieved 150.766 mph. In 1926 Segrave captured the LSR in a new 4 litre V12 Sunbeam racer originally named Ladybird and later renamed Tiger. Louis then built the gigantic Sunbeam 1000HP ‘Mystery S’. nicknamed The Slug and powered by two 450 hp engines. On 29 March 1927, driven by Major Henry Segrave, this car captured the land speed record at 203.792 mph and it can now be seen at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu. During World War II Louis lived in France although he had earlier taken out British citizenship and continued living there until his death. He married four times, including in 1910 his marriage to Olive Bath, daughter of a Sunbeam director.
Alfred Egerton Cooper - Born in 1883 in Tettenhall, Alfred Ernest Egerton Cooper was an internationally acclaimed painter in oil and water-colour of portraits, figure subjects, landscapes, coastal views, horse racing scenes and still life. He studied at Bilston School of Art and the Royal College of Art, graduating in 1911. He won a prize there judged by John Singer Sargent, who was impressed enough to offer Alfred a job at his famous Tite Street studio in Chelsea, which had once belonged to James McNeill Whistler. Alfred spent a year as Sargent’s assistant, painting backgrounds and details for his paintings, and was elected to the Royal Society of British Artists in 1914. Contacts he made at this time enabled him to have a long and successful career as a portrait painter in the grand style. He served in the Artist’s Rifles in the First World War, during which the sight in one eye was impaired by chlorine gas. At the end of the war, he became an official artist of the Royal Air Force and was an expert in the technique of large-scale aerial camouflage and painting landscapes from the air. Some of these works can be seen in the Royal Air Force Museum and Imperial War Museum in London. Ambitious and technically skilled, Alfred received prestigious portrait commissions during his career from some of the richest and most powerful people in Britain, including royalty, members of parliament and other eminent public figures. He exhibited in Paris, winning an Honorable Mention at the 1924 Paris Salon, at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, and in London, including 40 times at the Royal Academy. His portrait of the ‘Lady in Red Velvet’ is in the Wolverhampton Art Gallery collection. He painted King George VI in 1940 and his 1943 portrait of Winston Churchill was used as a morale-boosting poster during the Second World War. He painted Churchill many times and succeeded where others failed, as WSC liked all his works. Alfred often visited the American midwest in the 1960s and continued to paint into his nineties, dying in 1974. His son, Peter C. Cooper, also became an artist.
Cornershop - Wolverhampton born Tjinder Singh formed the Indian Britpop band Cornershop in 1991. The band came wider fame after Fatboy Slim remixed their song, Brimful of Asha, which became an infectious number one single in 1998. Cornershop’s album, Judy Sucks a Lemon for Breakfast, was released in 2009.
Leonard Cottrell - Born in Tettenhall in 1913 to William and Beatrice Cottrell. Leonard Cottrell was a prolific and popular author and journalist specialising in books about history. His father inspired his interest in history at the age of ten and his very enjoyable Hannibal: Enemy of Rome tells the story of Hannibal’s amazing campaign against the Roman army. Leonard travelled the ostensible path Hannibal took across the Alps into the Po River valley and incorporated his personal findings with his research in the book’s narrative. In the 1930s, he toured the English countryside on his motorcycle, visiting prehistoric stone circles, burial mounds of the Bronze Age, medieval and Renaissance monuments. On those journeys, he was often accompanied by Doris Swain, whom he later married, although the marriage was dissolved in 1962. After gaining experience writing articles on historical subjects for motoring magazines, he joined the BBC in 1937, where he wrote documentaries and worked as a writer-producer. During the Second World War, the BBC stationed him in the Mediterranean with the RAF as a war correspondent and his experiences there formed the basis of his book All Men are Neighbours (1947). He worked at the BBC until 1960, when he resigned and moved to a house overlooking the estuary of the River Kent in Westmoreland, Cumbria, where he stayed for the rest of his life, writing - he was the editor of the Concise Encyclopaedia of Archaeology - and died in 1974.
Stan Cullis - During his reign as manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers between 1948 and 1964, Stan Cullis presided over one of the finest teams in the country. In his autobiography, All For the Wolves, he recalled that his father was a great supporter of Wolves and always vowed that, ‘When I consider my boy is good enough, he will join Wolverhampton Wanderers.’ Stan duly joined Wolves as a player when he was teenager and made his senior debut in 1935. He soon became a first choice regular, replacing Bill Morris as club captain, and Wolves were runners-up in the league in 1938 and 1939, when they also narrowly failed to win The Double. The Second World War took many of the best years of Stan’s playing career so he won only 12 full caps (once as captain) for England, although he also played in 20 wartime internationals (10 as captain). When England played Germany in Berlin in 1938, he refused to join the rest of his team mates in performing a Nazi salute prior to the match. As the only player to refuse, he was dropped from the team. Like Billy Wright, he served during the war as a PT instructor in both Britain and Italy, and managed 34 wartime appearances for Wolves. He played one more season after the war then retired as a result of injury and was appointed assistant to manager Ted Vizard. In 1948, he started his career as manager during the most successful era in the club's history, winning three league titles (as well as being runners-up three times) and two FA Cups. In his first season, he became the youngest manager to win the FA Cup at Wembley as Wolves beat Leicester City for their first major trophy since 1908. A study in 2014 by Dr Ian McHale, director of the centre for sports business at Salford Business School and chair of the Royal Statistical Society’s sports section, showed that Stan Cullis’s Wolves team was the third most successful side in history. Based on the period from 1951-61, Stan Cullis’s great side comes out behind only Manchester United from 1992-2002 and Liverpool from 1979-89. During their finest decade, Wolves won 220 out of their 420 League games, scoring 949 goals, including a never-to-be-matched 100-plus in four consecutive seasons from 1957-61. They also took on and beat some of the continent’s best club sides, including Honved, Moscow Dynamo, Moscow Spartak, Red Star Belgrade and Real Madrid. The 1960s saw Wolves begin to struggle though, and Stan was surprisingly sacked in 1964. After working as a sales representative, he returned to the game as manager of Birmingham City but could not reproduce the success he enjoyed at Wolves. He retired from football in 1970 and took up a post with a travel agency in Malvern, his adopted home town. The manager of the ‘champions of the world’ died in 2001 at the age of 84. Watch Wolves videos
Thomas Dadford - Pioneer canal engineer and tramroad builder Thomas Dadford Junior was born in 1761 in Wolverhampton, the first son of Thomas Dadford (Sr) and Frances Brown. His father was a canal engineer, as were his brothers John and James, and at the age of 16 Thomas worked with his father on the Stour and the Trent. Later, he independently contributed to a number of canal schemes, mainly in Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire but also in Montgomeryshire and Ellesmere. During his brief working life, Thomas Dadford Jr. achieved a great deal. Major structures for which he was responsible include the fourteen locks on the Monmouthshire Canal at Rogerstone, the embankment at Gilwern which enables the Brecon and Abergavenny Canal to cross the River Clydach and a four-arched stone-built aqueduct which carries the same canal over the River Usk at Brynich. Thomas died aged only 40, probably from over-work, and is buried under an ancient yew tree in the grounds of Llanarth Church near Raglan. Unlike Thomas Telford (born four years earlier) or James Brindley, no portrait of Thomas Dadford Junior survives, but the Cefn Flight of Fourteen Locks stands as his greatest achievement. This incredible piece of engineering is one of the wonders of the Canal Age and was constructed with only manual labour and 200 wheelbarrows in a remarkably short time when completed by 1798. The Monmouthshire canal is now protected by Welsh historical environment body Cadw as an ancient monument. Following a rededication ceremony of his grave at St Teilo’s Church in Llanarth,.a plaque was unveiled near the Fourteen Locks Canal Centre to honour the engineer who masterminded the Monmouthshire and Brecknock and Abergavenny canals and revolutionised the science of canal building.
Jean Margaret Davenport - Born in Wolverhampton in 1829, Jean Margaret Davenport was an accomplished tragic actress who made her home in America. Pretty and clever, she began her career at the age of eight with the help of her father, who managed the Richmond Theatre and was also an actor. She made her professional debut as Little Pickle in The Manager’s Daughter (also known as ‘The Spoiled Child’) and Dickens probably used the father and daughter as the inspiration for his characters Crummles and the Infant Phenomenon in Nicholas Nickleby. Jean and her father travelled to America in 1838 on one of the first steamships to cross the Atlantic and she appeared there again in The Manager’s Daughter (a critic in The New York Times called her ‘a little gem’). Back in Europe, she studied music and continued her acting career in the Netherlands and Germany, receiving adulation, acclaim and considerable income. In England, she was one of the first women since Mrs. Siddons to give public readings from Shakespeare and played many Shakespearean roles, including a highly praised Juliet. Returning to America, in 1860 she married a handsome, hard-drinking explorer and civil engineer named Frederick W. Lander, who became a brigadier-general in the Civil War. When he died in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln attended the funeral. His young widow subsequently served as a supervisor in charge of the nurses working in Union Army hospitals. After the war she returned to acting and toured as Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary Stuart, Marie Antoinette and Lady Macbeth. She was the first actress in America to play Marguerite Gauthier, a part which she named Camille, and her last appearance, in 1877, was in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Jean Margaret Davenport retired to live in a beautiful house on Massachusetts Bay, where she entertained some of the most famous actors and artists of her generation, and died aged 74.
Mark Davies - Originally a product of the Wolves youth academy, Wolverhampton-born Davies had already captained England in a European Under-17 Championship qualifier against Northern Ireland at Molineux by the time he signed professional forms in 2005. He made his team debut for Wolves that year, the first of 35 appearances for the club before he moved to Bolton Wanderers.
Norman Deeley - Norman Victor Deeley was born in Wednesbury in 1933 and attended Holyhead Road School. He signed for Wolverhampton Wanderers as an amateur, before turning professional at the end of 1950. Initially placed at right-half, then inside forward, Stan Cullis moved him to the wing, where he excelled alongside the likes of Billy Wright, Jimmy Mullen and Johnny Hancocks. Norman made 237 appearances altogether for Wolves and featured in the side’s back-to-back championship wins of 1958 and 1959, as well as scoring twice as ‘man of the match’ in the 1960 FA Cup final victory over Blackburn Rovers. A very popular character at the club, where his skill, determination and bravery more than made up for physical diminutive stature. Norman stood at 5ft 4in and was the smallest footballer ever to appear for England at schoolboy level, being only 4ft 4in when he turned out as an international in 1947. He also earned two full England caps, against Brazil and Peru, but his international career suffered when Wolves foolishly transferred him to Leyton Orient, where he helped the tean win promotion to the First Division. After retiring in 1974 Norman worked at a community centre in Walsall and was a steward for Walsall FC. He died in 2007 at home in Wednesbury, where playing fields have been named after him in tribute.
Rupert Arthur Dent - Born in Wolverhampton in 1853, son of a Stafford solicitor, Rupert Arthur Dent was one of nine children when Miss Jane Besemeres became the family governess in 1861. Rupert was deaf from birth but from the age of eight he showed outstanding artistic talent, observing and drawing animals. He was educated at the Old Trafford (Manchester) Institution, then Wolverhampton School of Art, becoming a Royal Academy student and exhibitor. Fond of history and interested in antiquities, he was also a philanthropist, holding regular Sunday afternoon classes for deaf people in Wolverhampton. Best known for his pictures of dogs, including greyhounds, he also painted miniatures and landscapes. In 2012, one of his paintings was sold for $4,750 in New York.
Narinder Dhami - Award winning children’s book author Narinder Dhami was born in Wolverhampton in 1958. Her father was an Indian immigrant from the Punjab who arrived in the UK in 1954, and her mother is English. Narinder grew up in a multi-cultural environment, with Asian Indian and western cultures both major influences in her life, and was educated at Wolverhampton Girls’ High School and Birmingham University, where she graduated in English in 1980. While working as a teacher in Essex and London, she began writing stories for teenage magazines and contributed photo-stories to Jackie magazine. Eventually, Narinder gave up teaching to concentrate on writing contemporary realistic fiction about children growing up in ethnically mixed Britain. Her teen thriller Bang, Bang You’re Dead! won or was shortlisted for many awards in 2010, and The Beautiful Game was the first book in a series about girls’ football. Narinder’s most famous and biggest selling book was Bend It Like Beckham, a novelisation of the hugely successful 2002 film. She now lives in Shropshire with her husband and her cats, continuing her writing career.
Michael Dibdin - The acclaimed crime writer was born in Wolverhampton in 1947, the son of a physicist. He was passionate about crime fiction and his first novel, The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, published in 1978, was an affectionate Sherlock Holmes pastiche that took the form of a confessional manuscript by the detective’s long-suffering sidekick, Dr Watson. Michael lived in Italy, where he taught at the university in Perugia, and in Seattle, Washington, USA. Michael is best known for his Aurelio Zen mysteries, which was made into an excellent BBC television series. Set in Italy, the novels provide a penetrating insight into the less visible aspects of Italian society over the last twenty years. The earlier books have a lightness of touch that gradually becomes much darker. The character of Zen himself is anti-heroic, which adds much to the books’ irony and black humour. The first Zen book, Ratking, won a Gold Dagger award in 1988 and the final one, End Games, appeared posthumously in 2007. He also wrote other detective works set in America and in England. The Dying Of The Light, published in 1993, was an homage to Agatha Christie’s country hotel murder mysteries.
Charles Dickens - The greatest novelist of the Victorian period was a hugely popular and prolific writer, creating some of the most memorable fictional characters of all time, and his novels and short stories continue to enjoy an enduring popularity. Dickens also lectured and performed extensively, visiting Wolverhampton several times. On 23 January, 1867, he gave one of his final stage readings at the old Exchange building in Darlington Street and wrote to his sister that audiences in the town ‘were quicker even than in Edinburgh’. Wolverhampton’s finest hostelry during the 1870s was The Swan Hotel, used by ironmasters and other dealers who transacted business there and in the market square outside, and it was a favourite with Charles Dickens. He stayed there several times and wrote an entertaining description in the magazine he edited, Household Words. His grandmother, Elizabeth Ball, was born in Claverley, Shropshire, where she was baptised at All Saints Church. She became housekeeper at Tong Castle near Albrighton and married William Dickens in 1781. Charles knew the village of Tong well and included its church in his novel, The Old Curiosity Shop, in which the heroine, Little Nell, goes on the run from London and travels across the Black Country. The industrialised town where she spends the night by a furnace is Birmingham, and in Wolverhampton she faints and is rescued by the school master. The village where they find peace and where Nell dies is a fictionalised Tong. The book’s illustrator, George Cattermole, had picturesque Tong Church in mind when he depicted Little Nell’s grandfather grieving beside her grave in the churchyard. Visitors today can still see ‘Little Nell’s grave’ and there is said to be a forged entry for her in the church’s burial register. Charles Dickens often stayed in Shifnal and also featured some of the town’s buildings in The Old Curiosity Shop, including The Unicorn Public House, now known as Naughty Nell’s. Shifnal is also thought to be the origin of P. G. Wodehouse’s fictional town Market Blandings.
Diomed - The first Epsom Derby race took place on 4 May 1780 and was won by Diomed. This bright chestnut horse was owned by Sir Charles Bunbury, ridden by Sam Arnull and trained by R Teasdale at Hilton Hall in Wolverhampton. The first Derby was run over one mile and nine horses went to post, including three colts sired by the unbeaten Eclipse. Diomed, nicknamed ‘The Marvel’, was less auspiciously bred, being by Florizel, but he had won his only previous race and started as 6/4 favourite. The original Derby had little of the glamour and importance of what has since become ‘the greatest turf event in the world’ and after which more than 140 other horse races are named. Fewer than 5,000 spectators attended and there were no professional bookmakers - the gentlemen making books among themselves. Diomed’s victory proved to be the high water mark of his racing career, although he continued unbeaten as a three-year-old and after ten consecutive wins be was rated the best colt seen in Britain since Eclipse. After being beaten for the first time as a four year old he would win only once more before being put out to stud, where he proved tremendously successful in the United States by siring many of the greatest horses in American turf history. At Diomed’s death at the age of 31 it was reported that ‘there was as much mourning over his demise as there was at the death of George Washington.’
Rebecca Downes - Wolverhampton’s Rebecca Downes grew up at home in Finchfield listening to blues, swing and jazz. Fast establishing herself as one of the star attractions amongst the new vanguard of blues performers in the UK, 34-year-old Rebecca’s unique voice also draws influences from soul and rock, and her powerful performances have been likened to artists such as as Tina Turner, Etta James and Janis Joplin. As a teenager she was in a band with fellow Wulfrunian Dan Whitehouse. Full of raw passion and emotion, her live performances reflect her devotion to musical authenticity and the sheer love of what she does. She has worked with Ruby Turner, The Climax Blues Band and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, among many others, and has played many gigs in New York. Closely collaborating with co-writer Steve Birkett and a talented band of UK and US musicians, she has put together an accomplished collection of material for her debut album, Back to the Start. Recorded at Mad hat Studios in Coven, the music takes in rockabilly shuffles, Santana-esque jazz and sultry southern soul. Watch the video for Basement of my Heart
Edwin Drummond - Born in Wolverhampton in 1945, Ed Drummond, sometimes known as Ed Ward-Drummond, is a visionary climber, poet, philosopher and anti-apartheid campaigner. The eldest son of a builder, he went to Springdale School in Warstones Drive, Penn, and the former Wolverhampton Technical High School, in Old Hall Street, and began his climbing career on neighbouring Shropshire crags such as The Wrekin and Pontsbury Hill. He became an English teacher and tried various other trades before becoming a full-time climber, writer and activist. In 1969 Edwin attempted to climb the Trolltind Wall in Norway, the tallest vertical rock face in Europe, and the following year he became the first man to climb St John’s Head on the island of Hoy, taking seven days to climb the wild and remote 1000-foot sea cliff in the Orkney Islands. In 1971 he made the world’s first solo attempt to climb the North American Wall, a 3,000ft sheer granite face in California’s Yosemite Valley. In 1973 he became the first Briton to make a successful solo climb of El Capitan, a 3,564ft sheer rock face also in the Yosemite Valley, and was the world’s first solo climber to do so without rock-climbing pegs called pitons. In 1975 he went to live in San Francisco, where he made a living as a poet and became a vocal supporter of the anti-apartheid movement. This which led to a media sensation in 1978 when he and fellow protester Colin Rowe climbed Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square to unfurl a banner criticising Barclay’s Bank for its commercial activities in South Africa. He was in trouble again after climbing 250ft up San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral to protest against the imprisonment of Black Panther revolutionary, Elmer ‘Geronimo’ Pratt. In 1980, he and fellow protester Steven Rutherford climbed 305ft up the Statue of Liberty, again calling for Pratt’s release. In 1981 he was in the headlines for climbing a San Francisco skyscraper to make an anti-nuclear protest, Joined on the climb by Lia Minacher, who became his second wife after he divorced former Wolverhampton Grammar School girl Josephine. Edwin settled into a quiet life as a family man writing poetry and climbing for pleasure, until he resurfaced in 1993 for a BBC documentary, Shattered Dream, which focused on the break-up of his marriage to Lia, who found his idealism hard to live with. His book of essays and poems, A Dream of White Horses, takes its title from the poetic name he gave to his most infamous rock climb, on the cliffs of Gogarth in North Wales. The collection provides a loose but vivid autobiography, marking the pivotal moments of a dare-devil life lived intentionally on the edge. One of the greatest characters ever to grace the British climbing scene, Ed is now suffering from both Parkinson’s Disease and cancer and is only too aware that his days are numbered. Despite this, he is philosophical about his condition. ‘I have always valued my health, but having done so much, I didn’t feel aggrieved when it was diagnosed.’ His family have launched a fund-raising appeal and to donate please see the website https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/9zg1/ed-drummond-s-parkinson-s-disease-and-cancer-fund
Carol Ann Duffy - Born in 1955 in Glasgow, Carol Ann Duffy moved to England when she was six and grew up in Stafford. She started writing from a young age, getting her poems published at 15, and came to national prominence when she entered and won the National Poetry Competition in 1983. Carol Ann continued to write award winning poems and won the Costa Poetry Award as well as a CBE from the Queen. Her poems have played a key role in British education and in 2009 and she was appointed the UK’s first woman and openly LGBT Poet Laureate. Before taking up this role, Carol Ann Duffy worked in Wolverhampton Central Library as an artist-in-residence during 2000-01. Funded by the Arts Council, she encouraged creative writing in the city through its libraries and helped create a thriving literary scene which still continues. Her poetry focused on the world of gambling as she visited local betting shops, a casino and the race track in pursuit of subject matter (a selection of her verses from this period was published as A Woman’s Guide to Gambling). Carol Ann Duffy, along with may other writers such as Caitlin Moran and Jonathan Coe, has joined recent protests against library closures. She was made a Dame in the 2015 New Year’s Honours list.
Sheila Dunn - Actress Sheila was born in Wolverhampton as the daughter of ICI chairman Bill Dunn, who invented the bullet-proof engine of the Spitfire. She worked primarily in television, including three Doctor Who stories directed by her husband, Douglas Camfield, as well as in episodes of Z-Cars and The Bill. Her film career included roles in Roman Polanski’s Dance of the Vampires and John Schlesinger’s A Kind of Loving. In later years she turned to comedy, playing as Harry Hill’s mother and ‘Old Baby Spice’ in An Audience with the Spice Girls, as well as appearing in Bremner, Bird and Fortune. For more than a quarter of a century before she died in 2004 she was a popular figure in the Richmond Shakespeare Society.
Dr S C Dyke - Born in England in 1886 and raised in Canada, where his family emigrated when he was 12 years old, Sidney Campbell Dyke graduated at the University of Toronto with first class honours in arts in 1909. After a short time in teaching and journalism he went to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar and gained another first, this time in natural sciences. In 1914 he became a trooper in King Edward’s Horse. Later he completed his medical studies and joined the R.A.M.C. At the end of the war he worked at Durham University and St. Thomas’s Hospital before he became M.D. and M.R.C.P. in 1924 and moved to the Royal Hospital, Wolverhampton, where he stayed until retirement in 1952. Sidney believed that the place of the clinical pathologist was at the patient’s bedside so he established out-patient clinics in his laboratory as well as having charge of a few beds in the hospital. He wrote papers on the diagnosis of pernicious anaemia, pioneered the use of insulin for diabetes, and was awarded the Radcliffe Prize for the Advancement of Medicine by the University of Oxford. He created the Association of Clinical Pathologists (ACP) as well as the European Association of Clinical Pathology, now the International Society, which honoured him with the title President d’Honneur. Despite his eminence, Sidney was kindly, generous and easy to get on with, having a gift for informed conversation backed by apt literary quotation (often from the Bible). His far-sighted and courageous leadership profoundly influenced the practice of pathology in the UK and much of the world. After retirement he became Senior Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham and was the first Curator of the Regional Histological Collection. In addition to his medical activities, he founded the Wolverhampton Civic Hall Arts Society and was elected as an Independent for Tettenhall Council, becoming the last man to wear the chairman’s ornate chain of office before Tettenhall merged with Wolverhampton in 1966. He continued attending national and international meetings and looked after a large number of devoted private patients. He and his wife went on living in their solid 19th century house facing the Upper Green in Tettenhall and he remained fully active until shortly before his death in 1975. When Sidney developed cancer he accepted it calmly, having been a practising Christian for over 30 years.
Harry Eccleston - The Bank of England's first full time artist and banknote designer - a position created for him in 1967- was born in Coseley in 1923. He trained at Bilston School of Art (studying under master etchers Raymond Cowern and Andrew Freeth), Birmingham College of Art, and later the Royal College of Art's engraving school. Harry’s paintings and etchings of the Black Country’s industrial landscape included a set of superb aquatint prints of the interior of the British Steel Works at Bilston, a factory he could see from the bedroom window of his childhood home. He joined the Bank of England in 1958 designed the first pictorial notes, featuring meticulous cross-hatched portraits of Isaac Newton, the Duke of Wellington, Florence Nightingale, William Shakespeare and Christopher Wren. Harry Eccleston was made an OBE in 1979 and received an honorary doctorate of arts from the University of Wolverhampton for his services to banknote design and printmaking.
Catherine Eddowes - Catherine ‘Kate’ Eddowes was one of the victims in the Whitechapel murders - the second person killed on a night which already had seen the murder of Elizabeth Stride less than an hour earlier. These two murders are often referred to as the ‘double event’ and attributed to the mysterious serial killer known as Jack the Ripper. Also called Kate Conway and Kate Kelly, Catherine was born in 1842 in Graisley Green, Wolverhampton. Her parents, tinplate worker George Eddowes and his wife Catherine, had ten other children. The year after her birth, she and her family moved to London, but she later returned to Wolverhampton to work as a tinplate stamper. Losing this job, she met an ex-soldier called Thomas Conway in Birmingham. Thomas and Catherine Eddowes - or ‘Kate Conway’ as she liked to be known - made a living by peddling books on street corners and at open air meetings, including at public executions. Thomas wrote impromptu ballads about any event which captured the public interest and earned a fair living from his rhyming talents. On one trip to Stafford, Catherine saw her own cousin, Christopher Robinson, hanged for the murder of his sweetheart in Wolverhampton. She then helped to sell copies to the assembled crowd of ‘On the Fatal Morning’, the title of the music hall song she and her lover composed. Reports at the time suggest that the couple returned from Stafford in style. Leaving the coach at Wolverhampton, the jubilant poet hired a donkey cart and set off with Catherine for Bilston where he ordered another 400 copies of the ballad from Sam Selman, the Church Street printer. Catherine was rewarded with a flowery hat from Wooley’s in Bilston High Street. The couple later moved to London, where they had three children. After taking to drink, Catherine split from the family in 1880 and lived with a man named John Kelly in Spitalfields, at the centre of London’s most notorious criminal haunt, where she may have taken to casual prostitution to pay the rent. Friends described her as very good looking, intelligent and scholarly, but possessed of a fierce temper. A jolly woman, she was always singing, and the evening before being murdered she attracted a crowd in Aldgate High Street by doing an impersonation of a fire engine, after which she lay down on the pavement to sleep. Arrested for drunkenness, she was taken to Bishopsgate Police Station, where she gave her name as ‘Nothing’. When deemed sober enough she was released, her last known words being ‘Good night, old cock’, said to the officer in charge as she was freed from her cell. In the early hours of Sunday 30 September 1888, Catherine’s savagely mutilated body was found by a policeman in the south-west corner of Mitre Square. Later, a bloodstained piece of her apron was discovered in a nearby doorway. Next to the body lay some black buttons, a thimble, and a mustard tin. At the time of her death Catherine was 5 feet tall, with hazel eyes, dark auburn hair and had a tattoo - ‘TC’ - in blue ink on her left forearm. She was buried in an unmarked public grave in the City of London Cemetery. Her funeral procession, followed by thousands of people, consisted of a hearse, a mourning coach for relatives and friends, and a brougham containing members of the press. The coffin was of polished elm, with oak mouldings, and bore a plate with the inscription, in gold letters, ‘Catherine Eddowes, died Sept. 30, 1888, aged 43 years’. In 1996, the cemetery authorities decided to mark her grave with a plaque. The artist Walter Sickert took a great interest in Catharine, whose background and story he evidently knew. She is believed to be the subject in a series of his pictures that demonstrate aspects of her personality, her situation and her terrible death. In one sketch, Sickert shows Catherine in one of her lovely hats and seated at her at the piano, possibly composing one of her ballads. American crime novelist Patricia Cornwell’s book, Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper - Case Closed, claimed that Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper, although he was in France at the time of several of the murders, including that of Catherine On the anniversary of her death, people have sometimes seen Catherine’s ghostly figure lying on the spot where her life came to such a tragic end. Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s graphic novel, From Hell, introduces Catherine late in the narrative, when she is targeted by the Ripper because she claims she is Mary Kelly and is killed by mistake. In 2007, Russell Edwards, a self-confessed ‘armchair detective’, bought a shawl allegedly found by the body of Catherine Eddowes. An expert in molecular biology used pioneering techniques to find DNA from her blood and that of the killer. As a result, Edwards claimed that he had proved that Jack the Ripper was Aaron Kosminski, a 25-year-old Jewish immigrant.
Sir Edward Elgar - Despite living in Worcester, Edward Elgar was an ardent Wolverhampton Wanderers fan and often travelled 30 miles to home games on his bicycle. He bought two Wolverhampton-produced Royal Sunbeam bicycles, which he named Mr Phoebus, and visited the Sunbeam Works in Upper Villiers Street for ‘tuning’. Sir Edward attended his first Wolves match in 1895 with Dora Penny, the teenage daughter of the rector of Wolverhampton, and she later became the inspiration for ‘Dorabella’, the tenth of his Enigma Variations. Dora’s account of Elgar’s interest in Wolves is given in her book Memories Of A Variation, in which she recalls sending the composer a press report of a Wolves match in February 1898. The write-up said that his hero Billy Malpass ‘banged the leather for goal’, a phrase that caught Elgar’s fancy so much that he set this memorable phrase to music, creating the first ever football chant. Edward Elgar’s friend and fellow composer Sir Granville Bantock was a relation of the Wolverhampton philanthropic Bantock family at Bantock House - now Bantock Museum and Park.
Robert Jackson Emerson - Sculptor, medallist, painter and teacher Robert Jackson Emerson FRBS, RBSA was born in Leicestershire in 1893 and was apprenticed to a boot and shoe factory when he left school. Encouraged by his former headmaster, he enrolled in evening classes at Leicester School of Arts and Crafts and won many prizes and local scholarships, one of these awards enabled him to study metalwork and modelling in Rouen and Paris. He gained his Art Master’s Teaching Certificate and worked for a firm of art metalworkers until his appointment as second master at Wolverhampton School of Art in 1910. A modest, shy man given to few words, he was nevertheless a highly talented, energetic and inspirational teacher. His enthusiasm was infectious and his students worked hard to reach the high standards he set for them. Robert taught by practical demonstration and his dazzling virtuosity was recalled with awe by those who witnessed it. One of his former students, Geoffrey Dudley, remarked: ‘Watching him model clay was like seeing magic take place before your eyes. It was almost frightening.’ Robert also ran a successful professional practice, setting up a studio in Castle Street and undertaking large-scale commissioned work, often made of bronze, including the Douglas Morris Harris Memorial, the J.H. Carless Memorial in Walsall, the War Memorial for Butler’s Brewery in Wolverhampton, and the Mercury Frieze on the Express & Star building facade. His works were noted for their sympathetic depiction of people, including friends and family. In 1937 Robert joined the British School at Rome Faculty of Sculpture and became the first sculptor who was not a member of the Royal Academy, and who was living outside London, to be nominated for the position. His election reflected the outstanding success of many of his former students, two of whom won the Rome Scholarship: Geoffrey Deeley and Albert Pountney. His most distinguished pupil and lifelong friend was Sir Charles Wheeler. Robert Jackson Emerson retired from teaching in 1942 but continued to make sculpture, despite failing health, until his death in 1944.
Steve Evans - Wolves fan Steve Evans spent 32 years as a building surveyor for Wolverhampton City Council, and was also a magician, comedian and balloon modeller. Working on the comedy club circuit rekindled his childhood love of magic, which became part of his act. He joined the Wolverhampton Circle of Magicians (WCM), where he won the close-up magic competition three times in succession - the only time in the club’s history that had been achieved. In 2006, he embarked on a secondary career as event manager at Wolverhampton’s Civic Halls, where he would compere comedy nights and look after many of the big stars who performed there, making sure that comedians had everything they needed before and after their appearances. Steve was so well liked by performers and staff at the Civic that his name was added to a wall of fame alongside Lenny Henry and Noddy Holder (comedian Jimmy Carr attended the ceremony). In 2012, Steve retired from his job after being diagnosed with cancer. His regular and uplifting messages on the Twitter website gained him an army of 26,000 supporters and he became a national celebrity, appearing on Richard Bacon’s Radio 5 Live show and the BBC’s Breakfast programme on TV. Steve said he felt lucky to have been able to share his experiences with the public. ‘Love is all around me and I’m so blessed that I have had so much of it around me.’ When Steve died aged 52 in 2014, comic Frank Skinner, who partnered him at comedy shows from 1988, led the tributes at his funeral. Appearing in the order of service for the memorial at the Civic Hall under his real name Chris Collins, an emotional Frank shared personal and affectionate reminiscences with the audience. ‘Evo was Wolverhampton through and through, but I forgave him for that...He had put everything in order and told everyone that he loved them, and got that back. When Evo decided he had done everything he needed to do, he was able to go to sleep.’ Black Country band The Empty Can’s song, I Vow to Thee Black Country, celebrates the pride of the Black Country and is the official anthem for July’s national Black Country Day ( Watch the video ). All money raised through sales of the single goes to Compton Hospice in memory of the inspirational Steve Evans. See also The Empty Can’s video for Last Train Out of Wolverhampton, a celebration of the highs and lows of being a touring band.
Robert Felkin - Born in 1853, Dr Robert William Felkin LRCS (Edinburgh), MD (Marberg), FRSE, FRGS, was a medical missionary, ceremonial magician, member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and founder of the Whare Ra lodge. He was also an author on Uganda and Central Africa as well as an explorer and anthropologist. His father was a manager at Mander Brothers and Robert was educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School, where he met and was inspired by the explorer David Livingstone. A full account of his life can be found in A Wayfaring Man, a fictionalised biography written by his second wife, Harriet.
James Fleet - Born in Bilston in 1954, actor James Fleet is most famous for his roles as the well-meaning Tom in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, and on television as the ineffectual Hilary Tripping in Chambers and dim-witted Hugo Horton in The Vicar of Dibley. Other films have included Phantom of the Opera and Sense and Sensibility, in which he played John Dashwood. James lived in Wolverhampton until he was ten and began his career in the 1980s at the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Pete Forbes - Singer/songwriter Pete Forbes is the frontman of Wolverhampton Indie band The Rubikons. The band’s original lineup was made up of Pete Forbes (vocals/guitar, Daniel Wheway (lead guitar), Byron Benton (bass), and John Hodgkiss (drums). The group was heavily influenced by British alternative arena rock bands, particularly U2. They recorded their first set of demos in 2006 with acclaimed producer Gavin Monoghan and went on to earn a growing following as news of the self-proclaimed best band in the country started to spread.
Sir Henry Hartley Fowler - The first Viscount Wolverhampton was a solicitor and Liberal politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1880 until 1908 when he was raised to the peerage - the first solicitor and the first Methodist to enter the Cabinet or to be raised to the peerage. Born in Sunderland, Henry Hartley Fowler moved to Wolverhampton and served as a local councillor, becoming Mayor of Wolverhampton in 1866. Henry married Ellen Thorneycroft at St Mark’s, Chapel Ash, and they lived at ‘Summerfield’ in Chapel Ash, then at ‘Woodthorne’ on Wergs Road. At the 1880 general election he became MP for Wolverhampton, serving under Gladstone as Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for India, and Grand Commander of the Star of India. Under Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith he was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He was ennobled in 1908 as Viscount Wolverhampton, of Wolverhampton in the County of Stafford, and was widely thought of as a future Prime Minister until ill health prevented this. Lord Wolverhampton died in 1911, aged 80.
Edith Henrietta Fowler - Edith and Ellen Thorneycroft-Fowler were the daughters of the first Lord of Wolverhampton, Henry Fowler, and granddaughters of the city’s first mayor, George Thorneycroft. Ellen was born in 1865 at 7 Summerfield Road, West Park. Both sisters began to write at an early age, contributing to magazines and periodicals, and Edith’s first two novels were The Young Pretenders and The Professor’s Children, which brilliantly observed the world from a child’s perspective. In 1903, she married the Minister of St George’s Church, William Hamilton, and had two sons, but continued writing novels as well as a biography of her father, which gives revealing insights into family life and the politics of the time. Edith had a strong faith and her imaginative, amusing stories reflect that Christian outlook. Her last published works were Patricia and Christabel.
Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler - Like her sister, Edith, Ellen Fowler was educated at home in Wolverhampton, where their father, Henry Hartley Fowler, encouraged them to have intelligent, witty conversations. Ellen was born in 1860 at 7 Summerfield Road and went on to study at a private school in London. She had two volumes of poetry published - Verses Grave and Gay in 1891 and Verses Wise and Otherwise in 1895. Her sonnet, Wulfruna’s Hampton, written for the 900th anniversary of St Peter’s first Charter, can be seen in the church guide book. A book of short stories was followed in 1898 by Ellen’s hugely successful first novel, Concerning Isabel Carnaby. This sold over a million copies and she went on to write several other clever, imaginative and entertaining novels that combine romance, mystery and drama. In 1903, she married a schoolmaster, Alfred Felkin, who was the son of Robert Felkin, manager of Manders’ Varnish Works in the town. Ellen moved to London, but still often visited the family locally and continued to reference places such as Wolverhampton (sometimes renamed ‘Silverhampton’), Tettenhall (disguised at ‘Tetleigh’), Sedgley (‘Sedghill’) and Tong in her novels, including A Double Thread (called by the Daily Graphic ‘The Novel of the Year’ in 1899) and The Farringdons as well as books of poetry (Fuel of Fire; Place and Power). Ellen and Alfred moved to Bournemouth in 1916, partly for the sake of her health, and she wrote less frequently, except for Beauty and Bands which is set in Bridgnorth. Ellen died in 1929 and is buried with her husband at All Saints, Branksome Park.
Helen Geake - Dr Helen Geake was born in 1967 in Wolverhampton and grew up in Bath. She originally trained as a secretary but after reading archaeology books and attending lectures by Mick Aston she went on to study medieval archaeology at University College London. Subsequently she took a PhD at the University of York then worked as assistant keeper of archaeology at Norwich Castle Museum. Currently she is Finds Advisor for Early Medieval to Post-Medieval Objects for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, based at Cambridge University Department of Archaeology. She first worked for Channel 4's popular and long-running archaeology series Time Team in 1998 as a digger and occasionally as an Anglo-Saxon specialist. She joined the frontline team of presenters, alongside Tony Robinson and Mick Aston, for the 2006 series. Helen has contributed a number of articles on her specialist field, editing and writing other works, and is a regional member of the Council of Rescue: The British Archaeological Trust. In 2003 she was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. Helen is married with two sons and a daughter and lives in Suffolk. She is a cousin of the late John E Geake, after whom the asteroid 9298 Geake is named.
James Glaisher - Born in Rotherhithe, James Glaisher was a founder member of the Meteorological Society and the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain. Between 1862 and 1866, usually with Henry Tracey Coxwell as his co-pilot, he made numerous balloon ascents in order to measure the temperature and humidity of the atmosphere at its highest levels. On 17 July in 1862, he and Coxwell rose to some 22,000ft over Wolverhampton in an attempt to set an altitude record. They reached 24,000 feet in a second attempt on 18 August and on 5 September Glaisher passed out as they reached 29,000 feet. At a record 7 miles Coxwell managed to begin their descent. One of the pigeons making the trip with them died. In the year 2000, Mike Kendrick from Bridgnorth and American-born Jim Dexter, now of Telford, broke the world airship speed record in a dramatic flight over the Midlands from Halfpenny Green airfield. Their airship reached 94.7 kilometres per hour (58mph), causing passing cars and ramblers to stop and watch. The pilots' Lightship Group is the world’s largest airship operator and has been involved in Richard Branson’s ballooning exploits.
Goldie - Electronic music artist, disc jockey, visual artist and actor Clifford Joseph Price, better known as Goldie, was born of Jamaican and Scottish heritage in Walsall in 1965, growing up in Wolverhampton from the age of 18. He was a member of the breakdance crew Westside, based in the Whitmore Reans and Heath Town areas of the city, and later joined a breakdance crew called the Bboys before making his name as a graffiti artist in the West Midlands. Well known for his innovations in the jungle and drum and bass music genres, Goldie has also worked as an actor (including James Bond film The World Is Not Enough and the TV’s EastEnders) and has appeared in Celebrity Big Brother, Strictly Come Dancing, Celebrity Mastermind and Come Dine with Me. He was placed second behind Sue Perkins when learning to conduct a concert orchestra in the BBC’s Maestro reality television show. Goldie’s box set album, The Alchemist, features the best tracks from throughout his musical career to 2012. Goldie was romantically involved with singer Björk for several years and is currently married to Mika Wassenaar, a Canadian. His autobiography, Nine Lives, was published in 2002 and he received an honorary degree of Doctor of Design from the University of Wolverhampton. Video
Jaki Graham - Wolverhampton-based Jaki Graham is one of the UK’s original female soul singers. She rose to fame in the 1980s, starting out as a backing singer for UB40 before finding solo success with with top ten tracks such as ‘Could it be I’m Falling in Love’ and ‘Set Me Free’. Her first album, ‘Real Life’, sold more than 800,000 copies in under four weeks, with tickets for her tour selling out in 20 minutes. Jaki had an international hit in the 1990s with her cover of Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’, which was top of the USA Billboard dance charts for five weeks and also reached gold in Australia and Japan. She has released more than 20 singles and numerous albums worldwide, achieving a Guinness World Record as the first Black British female solo artist to have six consecutive Top 10/20 hits. Jaki has inspired many other artists including Beverley Knight, who regards her as a role model. The two finally met in 2009 after being asked by a Wolverhampton charity to take part in a gala Jaki was involved in and have since made a long-lasting friendship. Beverley has said that, ‘When we’re together we’re two Black Country girls. When she speaks she has a far stronger accent than me but after I’ve been with her for a few hours I go into her half-Jamaican, half-Wolverhampton speak.’ In recent years Jaki has enjoyed a phenomenal worldwide success for her ‘Gershwin & Soul’ and Duke Ellington concerts with the BBC Big Band and joined Cliff Richard as the only British special guest on his successful ‘Soulicious’ Arena Tour. She has also released ‘For Sentimental Reasons’, her first, long awaited studio album in over 15 years, and published her autobiography, Heaven Knows. In 2013 she received an honorary degree from the University of Wolverhampton for her contribution to music.
W G Grace - Supreme amateur cricketer William Gilbert ‘W G’ Grace was important in the development of the sport and one of its greatest-ever players. The majestically-bearded former England and Gloucestershire captain, an intimidating 6ft 2in and 16 stone, scored over 54,000 runs and played for England until he was past 50. He played first-class cricket for a record-equalling 44 seasons up to his retirement, aged 60, in 1908. In July 1911, he played as part of a G L Jessop Select XI versus Wolverhampton Cricket Club captain H D Stratton’s Select XI. Wolverhampton Cricket Club is the oldest sporting club in the city, founded in 1835 and located at various grounds before settling in 1890 on its present site at Danescourt. In the famous two-day, two-innings match in 1911, fast scoring batsman Jessop and his team won by 26 runs. Grace was out cheaply in both his innings but took two wickets. H D Stratton was the club captain from 1882 to 1911 and the result of this match may have contributed to his retirement. In nearby Enville, in July 1870, I Zingari defeated a United South England XI by an innings in a three-day game at the beautiful cricket ground on the Earl of Stamford’s 6,500 acre Enville Hall estate. A total of 30,000 spectators saw several Test cricketers in the beaten side, including a younger W G Grace, Henry Jupp, Fred Grace, James Lillywhite, James Southerton and Henry Charlwood. An under-arm bowler, Osbert Mordaunt, captured nine wickets for the Zingari side who had no less than 18 batsmen including the Earl himself, who was out for a duck.
Keedie Green - Known only as Keedie on stage, Keedie Green is a soprano with three octaves in her voice that reaches a top A above a top E. She born was Keedie Babb in 1982 in Wolverhampton and baptised as Keedie because her father is a fan of Kiki Dee. The family moved to Torquay when she was three years old and Keedie left school aged 14 to pursue a singing career, signing her first record contract when she was 16 years old. Success in a local talent show led to an appearance at a World AIDS Day event in London with Liberty X in aid of Crusaid. Keedie entered the classical crossover market in 2004 by reaching number two in the UK singles chart with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s I Believe My Heart, taken from his then-new musical The Woman in White. Her album (also called I Believe My Heart) is an eclectic mix of pop, opera, classical and original material. Keedie’s working class background and jeans and top clothing surprised audiences that had other expectations for what a classical singer should look like and come from. She sings in two voices – a sweet pop voice, and a powerful operatic one that far exceeds the required ability of a crossover artist. She is as happy to burst into arias such as Vissi d’Arte as she is to cover songs by Madonna and Enya or interpret new material. Despite a seven figure record deal and a large amount of money thrown at her promotion, a sustainable marketing campaign failed to materialise and she parted ways with her record company, EMI classics. Keedie scored a second Top 20 hit with her version of the hymn Jerusalem, released to celebrate the England cricket team’s victory in The Ashes, and performed at events such as the Carling Cup Final and David Beckham’s first L.A. Galaxy match, supported Tina Turner at her one-off gig at The Bedrock Ball, provided vocals for OMD’s comeback single, Sister Marie Says, and reached the boot-camp stage of the seventh season of The X-Factor.
Rosalie Glynn Grylls - Biographer, lecturer and Liberal Party politician, Rosalie Glynn Grylls was born in Cornwall in 1905 and educated at Queen’s College, London, and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she graduated with a Master of Arts. She worked as secretary to the Liberal MP Edgar Granville and in 1930 she was selected as Liberal prospective parliamentary candidate for the Reading Division of Berkshire for the at the following year’s General Election. In 1930 she married Geoffrey Mander, MP for East Wolverhampton, and by the time the Election came, a National Government had been formed and the Reading Liberals did not contest the constituency. Although she remained interested in politics, she concentrated instead on her writing. A prolific biographer, with a special interest in the writers and artists of the Romantic period, she was an early connoisseur of the Pre-Raphaelite movement at a time when they had fallen out of fashion. Rosalie was shrewd collector, buying a Millais self-portrait for just £15, and transformed her home, Wightwick Manor, into an ad-hoc gallery. Wightwick Manor contains many pieces of fine stained glass created by the celebrated Victorian designer and manufacturer C E Kempe. Rosalie Glynn Grylls wrote that, ‘Kempe’s work has a unique charm; its colours shine out from jewels that cluster on the mitres or the crowns his figures wear and from their peacocks’ feathers, while angels playing their instruments are drawn with tender delicacy and scattered above the main windows informally but making a pattern of precision. Above all, the prevailing yellow wash is literally translucent, for it lets through the rays of the full or the setting sun...’ Two more fine examples of Kempe’s work can be seen in Christ Church, Tettenhall Wood. Her biographical subjects included Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, Edward John Trelawny, William Godwin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ivy Compton-Burnett and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She was influential in the overdue reassessment of artists and writers of the Victorian period and frequently lectured in USA. Although Rosalie died in 1988, her unique collection continues to grow as contacts that she made during her lifetime are still giving Wightwick Manor works of art.
Button Gwinnett - Born in 1735, Button Gwinnett moved to Wolverhampton in 1755 and married a local girl, Ann Bourne, at St. Peter’s Church. In 1762 the couple left England and sailed to America, where he prospered as a planter and was elected to the Provincial Assembly. As a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776 he was one of fifty-six signatories of the Declaration of Independence. Button Gwinnett’s extremely rare autograph is among the most valuable in the world, with single examples selling for as much as $150,000, and this fact was used by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in his short story, Button, Button.
Sydney Guy - Guy Motors of Wolverhampton was the Black Country’s longest surviving powered vehicle manufacturer, continuously in production for 68 years. The factory was established at Fallings Park in 1913 by Sydney Slater Guy, a clever, ambitious and determined young man with great drive, enthusiasm and engineering ability. Sydney continued to run the business until his retirement in 1957 at the age of 72. Famous at home and abroad for its commercial vehicles, Guy’s originally manufactured lorries before turning to the production of charabancs after the First World War. In the 1920s, they made cars, buses and trolley buses and contributed important innovations to the motor industry such as a V8 petrol engine, automatic chassis lubrication, rear-hinged doors, adjustable steering columns, six-wheel bus and trolleybus chassis, the first bus and truck available with diesel engines, four-wheel disc brakes and air suspension. Customers included London Transport, Harrods and Wolverhampton Corporation and the Guy slogan, ‘Feathers In Our Cap’, became well known thanks to the Red Indian mascot that was fitted to almost every vehicle. In 1928, Guy’s took over Star Cars Ltd, continuing production of the Star car until 1932, and in 1948 they acquired Sunbeam-Karrier. At one point, Guy’s were one of the largest manufacturers of trolley buses in the world and developed the largest bus in the world, designed to carry 110 passengers. Production continued until the 1960s, when fondly remembered trolley buses fell out of favour. With falling sales, Guy Motors Ltd ceased trading in 1961 and was taken over by Jaguar Cars Ltd. Vehicle production ended in 1975 and final production of components came in 1978.
Ricki Hall - Called ‘the man with the most influential haircut in Britain’ by Esquire Weekly, Ricki Hall also sports an impressive beard and more than a hundred tattoos, including a McDonalds Golden Arch, Mr Men characters and a coffin design that covers the name of his ex-girlfriend. Born in Codsall, he was working at his father’s garage, Highway Motorcycles in Wolverhampton, when he was spotted by a model scout at Topman’s Oxford Circus branch, while dressed in his mechanics overalls when visiting a friend in London. After signing to the prestigious Nevs Models, Ricki landed his big break in a Lyle & Scott fashion campaign and gained an impressive social media profile, with more than 170,000 followers on Instagram and Twitter alone. He has featured in countless fashion magazine shoots and thousands of people around the world have started asking their barbers for ‘a Ricki Hall’. He now lives in Brixton but makes regular visits to his hometown.
Johnny Hancocks - Born in 1919 in Oakengates, Johnny Hancocks played for for Oakengates Town and Walsall before joining Wolves in 1946. A diminutive figure, standing just 5' 4" with size 3 boots, Johnny thrilled crowds for ten years with his fast wing play, unstoppable shots and never-say-die spirit, becoming a part of the Molineux folklore. He helped Wolves win their first league title in 1953/54 and was top goalscorer for the club in the following two seasons. He also collected an FA Cup winners medal in 1949 and in total scored 168 goals for Wolves in 378 appearances (his tally of 158 top-flight goals is still a club record). He later became player/manager of non-league Wellington Town, then moved to Cambridge United, Oswestry Town and GKN Sankeys before retiring from football in 1961. He then worked at the ironfounders Maddock & Sons in Oakengates until his retirement on his 60th birthday. Johnny died on February 19, 1994, aged 74.
Gilbert Harding - Born in Hereford in 1907, Gilbert Charles Harding was an irascible radio and television personality who was one of the most famous people in the country during the 1950s. His father died at an early age so his mother placed Gilbert into the care of The Royal Orphanage of Wolverhampton, now the Royal School. After studying at Cambridge he worked as a schoolmaster, journalist, policeman, disc-jockey, interviewer and television presenter, and appeared in several films, usually as a version of himself. The gruff, moustachioed presenter was a regular on the BBC’s What’s My Line? panel show and became known as ‘the rudest man in Britain’, though he could be kind and sensitive in private life. A tortured, self-destructive, lonely, alcoholic, homosexual Catholic who always regarded himself as a failure, he was almost reduced to tears in John Freeman’s famous Face to Face interview. Gilbert died suddenly, aged 53, in 1960, a few weeks after the programme was broadcast. ‘Behold in me the common people’s sage, The Plato of the television age. In place of wisdom, piety or grace, I offer endless prospects of my face.’
Douglas Harris - Able Seaman Douglas Morris Harris of Pennfields, Wolverhampton, was a wireless telegrapher on board the Italian drifter Floandi during World War 1, one of a number of armed drifters used to blockade the port of Cattaro (Kotor) to prevent the Austrian Navy’s use of the Adriatic. On the night of the 14th/15th May 1917, the drifters came under attack from three ships of the Austrian Navy. Douglas remained at his post during the battle and was killed, aged just 19. For his bravery he was awarded one of Italy’s highest honours, and a bronze memorial to him, created by Robert Jackson Emerson and cast in 1919, now stands in St Peter’s Gardens. Douglas Harris is also commemorated on the war memorial in the garden opposite St Philip’s Church at Penn Fields.
Billy ‘Artillery’ Hartill - Footballer William ‘Billy’ John Hartill was born in Wolverhampton in 1905 and spent most of his playing career at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Nicknamed ‘Artillery’ after serving as a bombardier in the Royal Horse Artillery, he joined Wolves in 1928 and in the following year, his first full season as a professional, he scored 33 goals to become the club’s top goalscorer. He repeated this feat for the next three seasons (five times in total) and altogether scored 170 goals in 234 games. This was a record until it was broken in 1980 by John Richards and Billy remains the club’s third-highest ever goalscorer. He twice scored five goals in a single match, a record never bettered by any other Wolves player, and achieved a then club record of 16 hat-tricks (later beaten by Steve Bull). Billy remained at Molineux until 1935, when he moved briefly to Everton, then to Liverpool and Bristol Rovers. He retired in 1940 and died in Walsall in 1980.
Helene Hayman - Baroness Hayman was born Helene Middleweek in 1949 and was a Labour Member of Parliament from 1974 to 1979, when she was the youngest member of the House of Commons and the first woman to breastfeed at Westminster. She became a Life Peer and in 2006 won the initial election for the newly created position of Lord Speaker. Lord McNally, the Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords, called her ‘the Julie Andrews of British politics’.
Sir Jack Hayward, OBE - The son of Wolverhampton factory owners, Sir Jack Arnold Hayward was a millionaire industrialist and philanthropist, benefactor of countless charities, including many local ones. In his remarkable life he was a Dakota fighter pilot in the Second World War and a lover of all things British, including HP Sauce and Colman’s mustard. He was the saviour of Lundy Island, Brunel’s ship, SS Great Britain, and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC. After relocating his business from the United States to the Bahamas in the 1950s, he became a Vice President of The Grand Bahama Port Authority and continued to play an active role in Freeport, where the Sir Jack Hayward High School is named after him. He became the owner and chairman of his beloved boyhood football club Wolverhampton Wanderers after buying it in 1990 for £2.1million. Sir Jack had financed England women’s cricket tours in the 1970s and his close friend Rachael Heyhoe Flint persuaded him to buy the club. He spent an estimated £70million of his own money on redeveloping Molineux Stadium, writing off debts and buying players during the 17 years he was the owner. In 2007 he sold control of Wolves to businessman Steve Morgan for a nominal £10 fee in exchange for a conditional £30m of investment in the club. The training complex at Compton is now called ‘The Sir Jack Hayward’ training ground and a street, Jack Hayward Way, beside Molineux (previously Molineux Way) was renamed to commemorate his 80th birthday in 2003. Sir Jack remained life president of Wolverhampton Wanderers and was a member of the club’s Hall of Fame. He was knighted in 1986 for his many charitable enterprises and in 1994 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Wolverhampton University to mark his services to the country. The Sunday Times Rich List placed him as 125th richest in Britain with an estimated £160million fortune in 2009. Sir Jack died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2015, aged 91. The Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Perry Christie, described him as ‘the single most important figure behind the economic development of the city of Freeport and a colourful, larger-than-life personality who was held in great affection by the Bahamian people.’ It was announced that the new Grand Bahamas Highway Bridge would be named in his honour. Robert Plant said that ‘He was a charming, warm gentleman. As I met him more often I was aware of his deep love of all things Wolverhampton. He loved the football club and had strong, passionate opinions – the colours ran through his veins. As our legions of followers will never forget . . . he did indeed “save the day”.’ Thousands of people lined the streets of Wolverhampton for his funeral at St Peter’s Collegiate Church to say an emotional farewell. Over 650 mourners, including 250 fans chosen by ballot, joined Sir Jack’s friends and family and a clutch of Wolves legends. Queen Square was packed as hundreds of fans gathered to follow the service on a big screen. watch video tributes by Matt Murray and Suzi Perry.
Rachael Heyhoe-Flint - Probably the best known female cricketer in England, Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, OBE, was a member of the English women’s cricket team from 1960 to 1982. She played in 22 Women’s Test cricket matches, with a batting average of 45.54 in 38 innings. Her three Test centuries included her highest score of 179, a world record when she achieved this against Australia at the Oval in 1976, earning a draw to save the series by batting for more than 8½ hours. Rachael was captain from 1966 to 1978, unbeaten in six Test series, and led England to triumph in the inaugural Women’s Cricket World Cup of 1973. Since retiring from cricket, she has been a journalist, broadcaster and after-dinner speaker, and was one of the first women to be admitted to the MCC. In 2010, Rachael was appointed to the House of Lords, joining Baroness Hayman and Lord Turner of Bilston. She is a director of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, supports many local organisations and charities, and co-authored a history of women’s cricket, Fair Play.
Alfred Hickman - Industrialist and politician Sir Alfred Hickman was born in Tipton in 1830. His father was the owner of the Moat Colliery in Tipton and Alfred was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham. He became a colliery proprietor and ironmaster, as the family acquired Springvale Furnace in 1866. He was a director of Lloyd’s Staffordshire Proving House, a Member of Council of Mining Association of Great Britain, and chairman of Staffordshire Railway and Canal Freighter’s Association. In 1882 he formed the Staffordshire Steel Ingot & Iron Company Ltd (which eventually became part of Stewarts & Lloyds) to produce steel using the Bessemer process. Alfred Hickman stood for the Conservatives at the 1885 general election and was elected MP for Wolverhampton West. He was created a baronet in 1892. He became both President of the British Iron Trades Council and President of Wolverhampton Chamber of Commerce, and in 1902 he was given the honorary freedom of the borough of Wolverhampton. He later became Chairman of the newly formed Tarmac Limited. On his death in 1910, he bequeathed a park (Hickman Park) to the people of Bilston. Alfred married Lucy Owen Smith in 1850 and his grandson Alfred succeeded to the baronetcy.
Alexander Staveley Hill - Barrister and staunch conservative politician Alexander Staveley Hill (1825-1905) was the only son of banker Henry Hill of Dunstall Hall, Staffordshire, and Anne, daughter of Luke Staveley. Having become a barrister and QC, he was recorder of Banbury from 1866 to 1903 and deputy high steward of Oxford University from 1874 until his death. He enjoyed a good common law practice, besides holding a leading position in the probate, divorce, and admiralty division and frequently acting as arbitrator in important rating cases. He was leader of the Oxford circuit from 1886 to 1892. After an unsuccessful attempt in Wolverhampton in 1861, Alexander was elected for Coventry in 1868 and sat in the house for thirty-two years - representing Coventry (1868-74), West Staffordshire (1874-85), and Kingswinford (1885-1900). He was counsel to the admiralty and judge advocate of the fleet from 1875 till his retirement through failing health in 1904. In 1881 he went to Canada to study its suitability as a centre for emigration. He created a large cattle ranch seventy miles south of Calgary, now included in the province of Alberta. To this ranch, called New Oxley, he often returned, and he published a volume descriptive of the life among the foothills of the Rocky Mountains entitled From Home to Home: Autumn Wanderings in the North West, 1881-1884, illustrated by his wife, Mary. The town of Stavely, Alberta was named after him and Toronto University made him an hon. LL.D. in 1892. He lived at Oxley Manor in Bushbury, Staffordshire, where he was a JP and Deputy Lieutenant of the county. In 1880 he and his wife funded a school and chapel at Bushbury. His only child (from marriage to his first wife Katherine) was Henry Staveley-Hill, who succeeded him as recorder of Banbury and also became MP for Kingswinford. Dunstall Hall, which was surrounded by a moat and had a gatehouse dating from the sixteenth century, had been located in pleasant countryside some distance from Wolverhampton. Dame Maggie Teyte lived at Dunstall House in the grounds. Dunstall Park became overlooked by the new Great Western Railway locomotive works and sidings from 1855, causing Alexander to move out to Oxley Manor. The Park was sold to a new horse racecourse company in 1887 and Dunstall Hall was demolished in 1915. Dunstall Park became Britain’s first all-weather, floodlit course in 1993 and is now the busiest racecourse in Britain.
Dave Hill - Born in Devon, Dave Hill moved with his parents to Penn when he was a year old. He attended Springdale Junior school and Highfields Secondary school, and after leaving played lead guitar with drummer Don Powell in a band called The Vendors, later changing their name to The N’Betweens. They met bass player Jimmy Lea and singer Noddy Holder, forming the massively successful Slade. Dave became famous for his ‘John Birch Superyob’ guitar, huge platform boots, outrageous costumes and ‘YOB 1’ car numberplate. Slade split up in 1991 but Dave Hill and Don Powell carried the group on as Slade II (now shortened back to Slade). Dave and his wife have embraced the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith and live in Lower Penn, where he occasionally teaches music at Lower Penn School and Penn Hall School. Despite having suffered a stroke while performing in 2010, Dave has no plans slow down and continues to tour. In 2014, wearing his trademark cowboy hat, he won a celebrity edition of the television quiz show Pointless, making £2,750 for two charities.
Sir Roland Hill - Born in Kidderminster in 1795, Roland Hill moved with his family to Horsehills Farm in Wolverhampton, located on the corner of Compton Road and Richmond Road. He met his future wife, Caroline Pearson, there at the age of six, married her in St John’s Church in 1827, and lived at Graiseley House, off the Penn Road. Roland and Caroline later moved to London, where he became secretary of the South Australia Commission. His interest in postal reform led to a proposal that letters should be charged by weight, not distance, with the sender paying the postage. This scheme went before Parliament, and from 1840 a letter could be sent to any part of the country for one penny with the famous Penny Black stamp. Roland was given a job in the Treasury to help initiate of the new ‘penny post’ service and eventually he became Secretary to the Post Master General. During this time he introduced money orders, travelling post offices, the Post Office Savings Bank and improved rural services. He was knighted in 1860 and granted the freedom of London, where he died aged 84 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Laurence Hodson - Brewery owner, art collector and philanthropist Laurence W Hodson (1864–1933) became a partner in the Springfield Brewery (Butlers) off the Cannock Road in Wolverhampton following the death of his father in 1890. He also inherited his father’s mansion, Compton Hall, originally built for a Black Country hardware merchant in the mid-1840s. Among the Hall’s previous owners was a mayor of Wolverhampton who had been accidentally knighted by Queen Victoria. Laurence Hodson was a founder of Birmingham University, supporter of the Guild of Handicraft, and chairman of the Wolverhampton Art and Industrial Exhibition of 1902, for which he employed the future poet-laureate, John Masefield, as his secretary. He filled Compton Hall with one of the finest private collections in the Midlands and commissioned William Strang to paint a cycle of large murals on the life of Eve. A great patron of the Arts and Crafts movement, Laurence also commissioned his close friend William Morris to refurbish the interior, giving a name to one of ‘the Firm’s’ best-known wallpaper designs, ‘Compton’. He also purchased a set of the Grail tapestries by Morris and Edward Burne-Jones married Georgiana, companion and soulmate of William Morris and one of the three beautiful and talented daughters of the local Methodist minister, George Browne Macdonald. The library at Compton Hall included an early 15th-century edition of Chaucer, woodcuts by Durer, engravings by Hogarth and 16th-century copies of Mantegna’s Triumphs of Caesar, made for the ducal palace at Mantua and later owned by Charles I. There was also a complete set of volumes from Morris’s Kelmscott Press, many printed luxuriously on vellum, and 87 glass slides of Burne-Jones’s illustrations for the Kelmscott Chaucer. Unfortunately, Laurence got into financial difficulties in 1906, probably as a result of his lavish expenditure on arts and crafts. Compton Hall had to be sold, along with much of the collection. The Hall was bought by Thomas Adams, a Wolverhampton industrialist, who lived there until his death in 1939. It was opened in 1982 by the Duchess of Kent (still the Patron) as Compton hospice. Laurence’s private papers are now housed in Harvard University library and one of the Strang Adam and Eve panels can be seen at the Tate Gallery. Two auctions held in Newbury and London in 2013 featured many items from Compton Hall, including rugs, wall hangings, carpets, curtains and furniture, the Kelmscott editions, the Burne-Jones slides, letters from William Morris and John Ruskin, and an autograph copy of a sonnet by Oscar Wilde. The London sale alone raised £1.3 million. Philip Webb, Morris’s architect, had trained in Wolverhampton, and four of the exquisite sketches and watercolours he produced for the famous Forest Tapestry are now owned by nearby Wightwick Manor. The stunningly beautiful pieces depict a lion, a hare, a fox and a raven.
Noddy Holder - Neville John ‘Noddy’ Holder was born in Walsall in 1946, the son of a window cleaner. He then attended the then new T. P. Riley Comprehensive School and formed a group called The Rockin’ Phantoms with school friends at the age of 13, and with money earned from a part-time job, he bought a guitar and an amplifier. He turned professional with a band called The Memphis Cutouts and then with Steve Brett & the Mavericks in the early 60s made four singles for Columbia Records.. Noddy went on to fame as the lead singer and showman with Slade, where he co-wrote most of the band’s songs with fellow member Jim Lea. In those happy days Noddy and and the boys, including flamboyant lead guitarist Dave Hill, could often be found hanging out at the Trumpet in Bilston. Since leaving Slade, Noddy has appeared on television, notably in The Grimleys, Coronation Street and Have I Got News for You, had his own radio show and written his autobiography, Who’s Crazee Now? His distinctive voice was used to record the lift announcements at Walsall’s Art Gallery and can be heard in many advertisements, memorably for Nobby’s Nuts and Crisps.
Dave Holland - Born in Wolverhampton in 1946, bassist, composer and bandleader Dave Holland taught himself how to play ukele at the age of four and went on to become a legend among jazz fans. After playing at Ronnie Scott’s in London, ‘Wolverhampton’s jazz son’ got his big break as a performer from Miles Davis, with whom he played during the great trumpeter’s ground-breaking Bitches Brew period. Solo, and in collaboration, Dave has worked with folk and rock musicians such as Bonnie Raitt and John Hartford, and even had a passing encounter with Jimi Hendrix, as well as Stan Getz, Chick Corea, Thelonious Monk and Herbie Hancock. In 2009, he co-founded an all-star group, The Overtone Quartet, and currently lives in upstate New York. His new Prism Quartet goes back to basics with blues, ballads and a definite dance vibe influenced by Caribbean sounds and the John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra fusion.
Philip Horsman - Well-known city dignitary and philanthropist Philip Horsman (1825–1890) was a self-made man who became a very successful building contractor whose firm built Wolverhampton Art Gallery from designs by Birmingham architect Julius Chatwin. The gallery opened in 1884, generously funded at a cost of £8,000 by the builder, who also donated a significant part of the original collection of art. Other early bequests and gifts came from a local tin toy manufacturer, Sidney Cartwright and his wife Marie Christian Cartwright, as well as from industrialist Paul Lutz, retailer James Beattie and the Jones Brothers, who were manufacturers of metalware and holloware. The Cartwright collection was valued at the time at £17,000 - more than the cost of the building itself. Under its charismatic curator David Rodgers, the Art Gallery would later acquire one of the country’s finest collections of Pop Art. At the foot of the imposing staircase inside is a fine painting of Philip Horsman by George Phoenix. Philip also built Wolverhampton’s Town Hall and founded the Eye Infirmary, to which he contributed £5,000, and helped rescue the Blind School in Victoria Street by giving £800. He was described as being of a modest, retiring nature and a quiet, unostentatious man of a kindly disposition. The Horsman Fountain in nearby St Peter’s Gardens was erected in grateful recognition of his generosity and unveiled by the Mayoress, Mrs Mander, in 1896. Sculpted by Messrs Farmer and Brindley, it has a red granite lower bowl and the rest is in ‘stone’, with six dolphins supporting the central bowl and four putti supporting the upper bowl.
Matthew Hudson-Smith - Born in Wolverhampton in 1994, Matthew Hudson-Smith joined his local athletics club, Birchfield Harriers, and competed in sprint events before becoming a 200 metres runner. He was twice runner-up at the English Schools Championships over that distance before winning the title in 2013 at the age of eighteen. He also made his international debut for Great Britain at the 2013 European Athletics Junior Championships, getting the bronze medal, and in the 2014 season he started to concentrate on competing at 400 metres. in In Zurich he finished right behind Martyn Rooney to win a European Championship silver in a new personal best of 44.75. Matthew had only run five 400 metre races in the season before being chosen as part of England’s 4×400 metres relay team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The 19-year-old, competing at his first major senior championship, picked up the baton for the final leg of the race in second place before passing Trinidad and Tobago’s Zwede Hewitt and holding off Chris Brown of the Bahamas to win the race in a storming finish. This sensational performance continued Matthew’s meteoric rise from complete unknown to world-class one-lap runner. Matthew comleted a triumphant 2014 by being crowned British Athletics Young Athlete of the Year.
Glenn Hughes - Born in 1951 in Cannock, Glenn fronted Finders Keepers in the 1960s and was bass player and vocalist for funk rock pioneers Trapeze, formed in 1969 with Mel Galley, Dave Holland, John Jones and Terry Rowley. Glenn joined Deep Purple in 1973 and also briefly fronted Black Sabbath. Stevie Wonder once called him his favourite white singer, and as well as being an active session musician he has maintained a notable solo career. His album called Live In Wolverhampton was recorded on a two-night stint in June 2009 at the Robin 2 in Bilston. The first night featured some of his greatest songs, including solo material and songs from his glory days with Deep Purple. The next night concentrated on his time in Trapeze. Dedicated to the memory of his friend and former Trapeze guitarist Mel Galley, who passed away in July 2008, Glenn delivered emotionally charged versions of songs taken from the albums Medusa and You Are the Music... We're Just the Band. Glenn currently fronts the supergroup Black Country Communion, with guitar star Joe Bonamassa, keyboard player Derek Sherinian and drummer Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin legend John Bonham.
William Huskisson - Born in 1770 in Worcestershire, William Huskisson spent the first five years of his life there until the family moved to the estates of his grandfather at Oxley and Bushbury, near Wolverhampton. In 1783, William and his brother Richard were adopted by their mother’s uncle and went to live with him in Paris, where he witnessed the French Revolution first hand. On his return to England, he became and member of parliament and was made President of the Board of Trade in 1823. Plans for the Manchester to Liverpool railway were first made known to him the following year as the canals were proving insufficient for this area - William was a shareholder in the canals which had done so much for the counties of his birth and family and was a rail enthusiast. Unfortunately he became ill as the railway neared completion in 1830 though he was determined to be present at the opening ceremony. During this, he and some friends left their carriage during a halt when a warning was given that Stevenson’s Rocket was approaching. Still feeble from illness, William attempted to board the carriage, fell across the line and was run over. He died later that day, becoming the first person in Britain to be killed in a rail accident. He was buried, with great pomp in Liverpool’s St. James's Cemetery.
Eric Idle - Comedian, actor, author, singer, writer and composer Eric Idle was born in South Shields, County Durham, in 1943 and enrolled into the Royal Wolverhampton School aged seven as a boarder. At this time the school was a charitable foundation dedicated to the education and maintenance of children who had lost one or both parents (Eric’s father Ernest died in a hitch-hiking accident on Christmas Eve in 1945). Eric is quoted as saying: ‘It was a physically abusive, bullying, harsh environment for a kid to grow up in. I got used to dealing with groups of boys and getting on with life in unpleasant circumstances and being smart and funny and subversive at the expense of authority. Perfect training for Python.’ The two things that made his life bearable were listening to Radio Luxembourg under the bedclothes and watching Wolverhampton Wanderers. He went on to become head boy but would often sneak out of school to the local cinema. He was eventually caught watching the X-rated Butterfield 8 at The Savoy Cinema in Bilston Street and stripped of his prefecture. Boredom drove Eric to study hard and he won a place at Cambridge before going on to great things with Monty Python’s Flying Circus and beyond. Asteroid 9620 Ericidle is named in his honour. Video
Howard Jacobson - Manchester-born author and journalist Howard Jacobson is best known for his comic novels, and won the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question. At a table-tennis trial in Wolverhampton in the Fifties he failed to make it into the English team and the scar of defeat clearly hadn’t healed when he came back to teach English Literature at Wolverhampton Polytechnic. ‘When I returned to Wolverhampton 20 years later, the streets were still sodden with my disappointment. Wolverhampton didn’t make everyone’s life hell, only mine; the rest of the population, even those only passing through, being of the conviction that there was no pleasanter place on the planet.’ The novelist has said many unflattering things about the city, though he enjoyed the curries at the Taj Mahal on the Willenhall Road and admired John Boulton, then head of English at Poly. He has described himself as ‘an unpleasant snob’ in those days and perhaps he has now seen the error of his ways. Margaret Gray, a student of Jacobson’s at the Poly, has written, ‘I am sure he has a great deal to thank Wolverhampton for. I suggest that his continual criticism of a resourceful and warm-hearted city owes more to his being “at a rubbishy time in my life” than to the shortcomings of his surroundings.’ His experiences in Wolverhampton formed the basis of his first novel, Coming from Behind, a campus comedy about the fictitious Wrottesley Polytechnic’s plans to merge with the local football club.
Stuart Jeffries - Born in Wolverhampton, Stuart Jeffries used to edit the Walsall Observer’s children’s page under the pseudonym ‘Uncle Tom’. He started his journalistic career at the Birmingham Post and Mail and now works for the Guardian as a feature writer and columnist. He is also the author of Mrs Slocombe’s Pussy: Growing Up in front of the Telly - a highly entertaining social history described by the Daily Mail as an ‘hilariously Proustian, witty, entertaining and wholly idiosyncratic study’.
Stephen Jenyns - Knighted by Henry VIII, wool merchant Sir Stephen Jenyns was born in Wolverhampton around 1448 and founded the Grammar School in 1512. He was a master of the ancient guild of Merchant Taylors and became Lord Mayor of London in 1509, the year of Henry VIII’s coronation. He became one of the wealthiest men in the country, reputedly paying more tax than any other person in the year 1519.
Charles Jones - Born the son of a butcher in Wolverhampton in 1866, Charles Harry Jones was a gardener and photographer, famous for his beautiful black and white still lifes of fruit and vegetables. He worked in gardens on private estates in England from the 1890s and photographed the fruits of his labours. These inspired creations were never exhibited in his lifetime, but since a trunk containing 500 of his prints was discovered by a photography scholar at an antiques market in 1981 they have been shown widely across the world. Charles is now recognised as a master of the camera as well as the kitchen garden and a book of his photographs, The Plant Kingdoms of Charles Jones, was published in 1998.
Wayne Jones - Darts player Wayne Alan Jones was born in 1965 in Wolverhampton and uses the nickname The Wanderer for his matches. He started his career in the British Darts Organisation in the late 1980s and reached the final of the British Open in 1990, but his greatest achievement was reaching the final of the Winmau World Masters in 1999 when Andy Fordham ended his hopes of a first major title. Wayne made his debut at the PDC version of the World Championship in 2004, producing his best ever performance two years later by reaching the semi-finals. In 2010, he made his first televised final appearance in the European Championships, which guaranteed him a place in the Grand Slam of Darts in his home town of Wolverhampton, where he produced a big upset by beating Scotland’s number one Gary Anderson in a thrilling victory.
Judith Keppel - In 2000, Judith Cynthia Aline Keppel became the UK’s first £1 million prize winner on the television game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? She was born in 1942 in Wolverhampton, the daughter of Lieutenant Commander Walter ‘Wacky’ Keppel and his wife Aline. Judith’s million-pound question was ‘which King was married to Eleanor of Aquitaine’ and, coincidentally, her genealogy can be traced back to Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England. She is the granddaughter of Walter, 9th Earl of Albemarle, and her great-grandfather, the 8th Earl was brother-in-law of Alice Keppel, the mistress of King Edward VII. He was the great-uncle of Camilla Parker-Bowles, now Duchess of Cornwall, who is therefore Judith’s second cousin once removed. Her father was in the Fleet Air Arm so the family moved to various naval postings around Britain during her ‘very happy’ childhood. After they settled in London when she was 17, Judith completed a secretarial course and married art dealer Desmond Corcoran. The couple had three children but divorced. She was briefly married to comedy script writer Neil Shand and became a garden designer. Since 2003, Judith has appeared regularly as the star attraction on the BBC Two quiz show Eggheads, where she is often teased about her poshness.
Cyril Kieft - Born in Swansea on September 27 1911, Cyril William Kieft followed his father into the steel industry, training under him at Richard Thomas & Baldwin. In 1943 he became managing director of Wolverhampton steel works and purchased a drop forging company and a pressing company based in Derry Street, Wolverhampton, which after the war became home to Kieft Cars. Cyril had long an interest in motor racing and when the Marwyn company, who had built Formula Three cars, failed he bought the designs and used them as the basis for his own 500cc car. Several of these were sold, competition success resulted, and publicity was gained by successful attempts on fourteen different speed records at Autodrome de Montlhéry in France. One of the drivers there was Stirling Moss who explained the shortcomings of the cars. As a result of this a new design was acquired and Moss and his manager Ken Gregory became directors of the company, which moved to new premises at Reliance Works in Derry Street. The resulting car was launched in 1951 and won its first competition at Goodwood with Moss at the wheel. Kieft cars went on to many more victories over the next two years, winning the Formula Three championship on three successive occasions. The Kieft car in which Don Parker, another ‘privateer’, won these titles was exhibited at the Earl’s Court motor show in recognition of his success.
Mervyn King - Governor of the Bank of England from 2003, Mervyn Allister King is the son of a Gornal headmaster and grew up in Canterbury Road, Penn. He studied at Wolverhampton Grammar School and King’s College, Cambridge (gaining a first class degree in economics) then taught at the University of Birmingham, Cambridge and Harvard before becoming a Professor at the London School of Economics. He was one of the 364 economists who in 1981 signed a famous letter to The Times condemning Geoffrey Howe’s budget. Mervyn joined the Bank of England in 1991 and was controversially involved in the collapse of the Northern Rock and the subsequent banking crisis in 2007. He was the first Governor of the Bank to be received in audience by Queen Elizabeth II and is, inexplicably, a fan of Aston Villa FC. After leaving the Bank of England in 1913, he became a crossbencher in the House of Lords as Baron King of Lothbury. In 2014, he was appointed President of the Worcestershire County Cricket Club in time for the club’s 150th anniversary celebrations year in 2015 (he’s been a fan for more than 50 years).
Racheal Kneller - Talented and successful jockey Racheal Kneller was born in Lower Penn in 1988 and grew up in Wolverhampton as something of a tomboy. Her uncle was an apprentice jockey and her granddad owned a riding school where both her parents worked, so horses were always part of Racheal’s life. She started riding from about the age of four, when her legs barely reached either side of the horse, and grew up attending pony club and going to local shows. She took part in show jumping and eventing and eventually became involved in racing after doing a week’s work experience whilst still at school. Racheal started out with a local point-to-point trainer at sixteen then spent four years as a very successful amateur jockey with Reg Hollinshead, before moving to trainer Mark Usher’s Lambourn yard in 2010. After taking out her apprentice licence, she rode 32 winners in the following two years. Racheal fractured her spine and pelvis in a fall in August 2013 but scored a win on her ninth ride following her return to action the following year.
Beverley Knight - Soul and R&B singer extraordinaire Beverley Knight was born in 1973 in Penn Fields, Wolverhampton, where she attended Woodfield Infants and Junior School and Highfields School. She grew up in a strict Pentecostal household and began singing in church, which she continued to do so throughout her childhood. Secular music was frowned upon at home but artists such as Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin were a big influence. She began writing her own songs and by the age of seventeen was performing them on stage in her hometown clubs. Record contracts soon followed and her debut album was released in 1995. Five more best-selling studio albums followed as Beverley became one of Britain’s greatest soul singers, best known for hit singles Greatest Day, Get Up!, Shoulda Woulda Coulda and Come As You Are. After releasing a platinum-selling compilation album, The Best of Beverley, in 2006, she toured the UK with a reformed Take That and has hosted several series of the Radio 2 show Beverley’s Gospel Nights, which explores the origins and impact of gospel music. The excellent 100% is one of the Queen of British Soul’s finest albums to date. Following her acclaimed performances in the hit musical, The Bodyguard, Beverley was nominated for as Best Theatre Actress at the Glamour Magazine UK Women of the Year Awards in 2014. She also starred as leading lady Felicia Farrel in another West End show, the Tony Award-winning Memphis the Musical, set in the underground dance clubs of 1950s Tennessee. As well as being an ambassador for charities such as Christian Aid, Beverley is a vocal campaigner against homophobic lyrics in urban music. She was made an MBE in 2007 and received an honorary Doctorate of Music from the University of Wolverhampton ‘in recognition of her outstanding contribution to music and the local community, and for her extensive charity work’. Watch Video
Wolverhampton people, L-Z