Bill Caddick – Folk singer-songwriter and guitarist Lewis Frederick William Caddick was born in 1944 in Hurst Hill, Wolverhampton. He was inspired to take up music after seeing Buddy Holly perform at the Gaumont Cinema in 1958, and after singing in 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 to live 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 later joined. He continued 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 hosted a regular Singers night at the Black Swan in Jackfield until shortly before he passed away in 2018, aged 74.
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 Wolverhampton 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) and Peter Vaughan – both born in Shropshire, 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 roamed this area with a small band of supporters, hiding from the Roundheads with the help of local families. He crammed himself into a priest hole in Mosley Old Hall, having previously sought refuge at nearby Boscobel House, where he famously hid in a tree now known as The Royal Oak (after which many pubs have been named). It was in Wolverhampton that the King learned that Parliament had put a bounty of £1000 on his capture. He later travelled on in disguise through the Black Country, which was then at the start of the Industrial Revolution, going via Stourbridge and Rowley Regis and staying in safe houses before escaping to France. The King had a good sense of humour and was adept at mimicking the Midland accent. He returned to the throne a decade later thanks to the help of local families such as the Giffards.
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 350hp Sunbeam built for K L Guinness established a new world land speed record at Brooklands in 1922 with a top speed of 133.75mph. The car had a narrow polished aluminium single seat body and was powered by a modified 18.322-litre V12 modified Manitou Arab aero engine and manufactured at the Sunbeam Motor Company’s Moorfield Works in Upper Villiers Street, Wolverhampton. In Malcolm Campbell’s hands the same car (given a streamlined tail, painted in his distinctive blue and renamed Blue Bird) achieved achieved a new record of 146.16 mph in 1924 at Pendine Sands, South Wales, where on July 21 the following year he raised the record to 150.766 mph, becoming the first person ever to travel that fast. The car was later sold and eventually bought by Lord Montagu in 1957 for his motor museum at Beaulieu, Hampshire. After extensive reservation work, Blue Bird was driven again at Pendine on 21 July 2015 to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Sir Malcolm’s record and the creators of the car. His grandson Don Wales took the wheel in a low-speed demonstration run watched by a large, enthusiastic crowd. In 1926, Major Henry Segrave captured the LSR in a new 4 litre V12 Sunbeam racer originally named Ladybird and later renamed Tiger. Louis then built the gigantic streamlined Sunbeam 1000HP ‘Mystery S’, nicknamed The Slug and powered by two 450 hp Sunbeam Matabele aero engines with the driver’s cockpit located between them. On 29 March 1927, driven by Major Segrave, this iconic car, weighing more than three tons, captured the land speed record at 203.792 mph (the first at over 200 mph). Watched by 30,000 spectators at Daytona Beach in Florida, Segrave completed two runs, strong winds causing him to slow down by driving into the sea. Like Blue Bird, it can now be seen in the ‘For Britain and For The Hell Of It display at the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu. In 2017 the car’s corroding engines were restored in time for the 90th anniversary of its record-breaking run with an engine start-up planned for later in the year. 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.
William Congreve – Inventor, rocket artillery pioneer and Tory Member of Parliament Sir William Congreve, 2nd Baronet KCH FRS (1772-1828) was the son of military engineer Sir William Congreve, 1st Baronet. Raised in Kent, young William was partly educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School (founded in 1515 by Sir Stephen Jenyns), where he learned the foundations of commerce and engineering. By the age of thirty he was a businessman and published a newspaper called the Royal Standard and Political Register. When the paper was sued for libel William Congreve withdrew from publishing to pursue his career as an inventor and military rocket designer, inspired by the rockets fixed with sword blades used by the Mughals in India. William developed rockets that were large scale versions of those we now see on November 5th, with gunpowder in a paper casing with a long stick for guidance and stability. In 1805 he demonstrated them to the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, and they were put into production at Woolwich and used for the first time to attack Boulogne in 1805. As well as hos Congreve Rockets, William was a prolific inventor. He adapted his rockets as a whaling harpoon, designed a new type of heavy gun for the Royal Navy, experimented with better methods of making gunpowder, built a fire-sprinkler system for the Drury Lane Theatre, invented a new system of colour printing and making water marks, a rolling-ball clock, a ‘perpetual motion machine’, and a hydro-pneumatic canal lock on London’s Regent’s Canal (the last two were failures). His rocket factory supplied the East India Company with weapons and provided fireworks for George IV’s coronation. He envisioned rockets weighing a ton for use against fortifications and his private life was as controversial as his work. He married in 1824 after living with a mistress and having at least two illegitimate children. He was a director of many companies, including the Arigna Iron and Coal Company, which was involved in fraud in 1826. William Congreve was among those accused so he fled to the south of France, where he died two years later. The baronetcy passed to his son, William Augustus who mysteriously disappeared en route to Fiji and was never heard of again.
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.
Joan Cooper – Actress Joan Cooper was born in 1922 in Wolverhampton. Her husband was the actor Arthur Lowe (Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army), who she met at the Manchester Repertory Theatre in 1946. ‘Who is that man with the gorgeous voice? I think I’m going to marry him’, the vivacious young Joan told a girlfriend when she first heard Arthur during an audition. However there was a problem: she was already married to another actor, Richard Gatehouse, and had a five-year-old son. Joan and Arthur became infatuated with one another and started a secret affair, eventually getting married in 1948. Joan put her acting career on hold, although she did appear in films such as The Ruling Class, The Bawdy Adventures of Tom Jones and Sweet William. On television she was in Rookery Nook and played Private Godfrey’s sister Dolly in several episodes of Dad’s Army. After her husband’s death in 1982, she moved to his parents’ cottage in a Derbyshire village, where she died in 1989, aged 66. Arthur Lowe appeared as George Radfern in J.B. Priestley’s Laburnum Grove at Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre in 1977.
Jeremy Corbyn – Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was brought up in Shropshire He often visited Wolverhampton from Shrewsbury and has spoken about how his father used to take him to games at the Molineux as a youngster. Jeremy is a still a Wolves fan and follows the club’s results with great interest (checking the score second only to Arsenal).
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.
Ernest Cox – Electrical and mechanical engineer and marine salvage expert Ernest Frank Guelph Cox was born in 1883, the eleventh son of a Wolverhampton draper. He left Dudley Road Free School aged 16 and studied electrical engineering in his spare time, becoming engineer at a Wolverhampton power station by the age of eighteen. He became Chief Engineer at the age of twenty-four in Wishaw, Lanarkshire, where he married the daughter of the mayor, who owned Overton Forge steelworks. In 1913 he set up the firm of Cox and Danks with his wife’s cousin Tommy Danks and the firm profited from large munitions manufacturing contracts during the First World War, At the end of hostilities, new and lucrative opportunities opened up in scrap and metal salvage. Ernest branched out into shipbreaking and opened a yard at the Isle of Sheppey on the Thames Estuary, where he broke up and sold off war surplus vessels, including British battleships HMS Erin and HMS Orion. In1924 he turned his attention to the wreckage of the High Seas Fleet, scuttled at its moorings in the natural harbour of Scapa Flow in Orkney in 1919. Though initially written off by the British Admiralty as unsalvageable, Ernest bought the rights to salvage two battlecruisers and twenty six destroyers. His team was composed of local labour supporting a core of hired divers and skilled salvage men from all over Scotland. They were soon raising a destroyer every four to six weeks and bought the rights to the remainder of the sunken fleet. With no previous experience and often in appalling weather, the company raised 32 German warships, from small frigates up to the 28,000 tonnes Hindenburg (then the largest ship ever salvaged). Ernest was impulsive and stubborn to the point of pig-headedness, not sparing either his workers or himself during the eight years at Scapa Flow. He kept his business afloat by common sense, good judgement and ingenuity, salvaging coal from the wreck of the Seydlitz to provide fuel for his machinery during the General Strike of 1926. Fatal accidents on the wreck of the White Star liner Celtic and Prinzregent Luitpold eventually convinced him that the work was too dangerous to continue. He retired from marine salvage but, foreseeing another war in Europe, expanded Cox and Danks and flourished again after the war when disposing of military surplus and salvage. Plain spoken and often blunt, he was known for his explosive temper, though quick to forgive. He was a popular and generous employer respected by his workers for being brilliant and hard working, proud of family as well as his personal appearance. Ernest’s personal motto was: “There is no such thing as can’t, there is only shan’t and won’t”. In 1949, he sold the firm and spent the rest of his life supporting charities and giving lectures on deepwater salvage. In failing health, Ernest died in 1959 at the age of seventy-six.
Rebecca Cresswell – Born in Wolverhampton in 1980, artist and illustrator Rebecca Cresswell specialises in healthcare subjects and pet portraits. Originally from Tettenhall, she attended Tettenhall College and has been painting since she was six years old. She has a degree in Illustration from the University of Wolverhampton and found her niche when researching public art in 2006. This led to a commission for a painting to hang in a hospital maternity unit in Bromley, Kent. From that point, Rebecca has received a steady stream of commissions for artwork to hang in other healthcare facilities, including St Mary’s Hospital in London, Compton Hospice and West Park Hospital in Wolverhampton and the New Health Centre, Birmingham. Each painting takes about two months to complete and aims to relieve stress and anxiety by transporting the viewer into a surreal, yet beautiful world that is enriched with colour and detail. In her spare time Rebecca enjoys long walks in the Shropshire countryside with her partner and pet dog Poppy, a two-year old border collie. The natural world is a great source of inspiration for her artwork and the landscape is the place she escapes to when she needs time to contemplate and reflect. She is one of the winners of People’s Bead 2013 and designed Silver Lining for the Traditional Sayings Collection, reflecting the qualities of hope, positivity and seeing the good in a bad situation.
Sir Godfrey Cretney – Comprehensive education pioneer Godfrey Cretney arrivied in Wolverhampton in 1955 from the Isle of Man – where comprehensive education already existed – to establish Regis School (now The King’s School) in Tettenhall. It was one of the first four comprehensive schools to be launched in England and considered revolutionary at the time. When Regis opened with 206 pupils, many of the buildings were only half-finished. Pupils of all abilities were admitted and although there were some who couldn’t read or write when they arrived many would go on to university. Godfrey Cretney was totally committed to comprehensive education and was an exceptional man. He was strict, but his charm and appeal to children meant he could always get them to do what he wanted. He attracted the best teachers from all over the country (including the formidable deputy head, Mr ‘Mac’ Macgregor) to come and work at the school and visitors from all over the world came to see an experiment in practice. Sir Godfrey received his knighthood in 1966 for championing the comprehensive system, becoming the the first serving head to be so honoured. He loved the school and former Regis pupils remember seeing him out and about the large playing fields picking up litter in his dinner break. They also fondly remember the annual dance and the terrifying teachers who still wore their gowns from the private education system. The positive ethos of the school produced innovative managers, an England rugby international, an English test cricketer, a violin virtuoso, an Olympic gold medallist, a published poet and a national concert orchestra cellist. The sixth-form block, named after Sir Godfrey, was opened in 1972 by Lady Cretney. The library in the Cretney building included a collection of reference books worth £750, which were purchased as a result of a memorial appeal set up following Sir Godfrey’s death in 1971, aged 59.
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.
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 Staffordshire & Worcester Canal (including Compton lock in Wolverhampton), 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.
Victor Davies – Alfred Victor Davies was a railway clerk in North Wales before transferring to Wolverhampton, where he started mending bicycles in his spare time. He left his railway job in 1908 to found the Viking Cycle Company at 5 Wolverhampton Road, Heath Town, to assemble bicycles from bought-in components. Ten years later the company moved to larger premises in Broad Street and also established the first motorcycle repair shop in Wolverhampton. A shop was opened in Midland Chambers at 34 Princess Street in 1934 and the company acquired a neighbouring building to house the works and start to make frames. Alfred’s son Reg took over the company in the late 1930s, when it became Viking Cycles Limited and was making 2.000 bicycles a year by 1948. The celebrated cyclist Bob Thom was recruited to set up a road racing team and Viking soon became famous for their many major racing successes. They used lightweight machines designed by Reg Davies, who was an experienced club rider himself. Viking had 1,250 bicycle dealers throughout the country supplying club type machines and became one of the premier names in the business. By 1963 the company was producing 20,000 bicycles a year at a large Merridale Works factory in Russell Street. Reg also designed a revolutionary children’s bike in which the frame grew with the rider by using telescopic rear stays and a telescopic seat tube. The idea was very successful and this market soon accounted for three quarters of the company’s turnover. Unfortunately a slump in trade forced Viking to end production in 1967, when two Americans bought the business and transferred it to Londonderry as an assembler of bicycles using bought-in parts. Les Holland, Viking’s chief frame builder, started his own company, Knight Cycles, producing top class frames in Pendeford. The Viking name today is owned by Avocet Sports, based in Manchester, which imports a wide range of bicycles into the UK under the Viking name.
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.’
Sam Doble – International rugby player Samuel ‘Sam’ Arthur Doble was born in Red Lion Street, Wolverhampton, in 1944. He showed exceptional sporting ability as one of the first pupils at Regis School and after further education at St. Paul’s College, Cheltenham he became a school teacher in Wolverhampton and began playing rugby union for Moseley, where he was the club’s leading scorer for six consecutive seasons. In 1969/70 he played in the Staffordshire side that won the County Championship for the first time and contributed a record 64 points. Sam first came to public attention when he scored a world record 581 points for Moseley (and 63 for Staffordshire) in the 1971/72 domestic season This achievement earned him a call up as full-back to the England national team and his debut was one to remember, an 18–9 victory over South Africa in Johannesburg, against a side that were considered to be the unofficial World Champions. With the forwards keeping the Springboks at bay, Sam scored four penalties and converted Alan Morley’s second half try from the touchline to help England to a most unlikely victory. In all he made five appearances during the tour and scored 47 points. Despite his heroics in South Africa, he only played two more matches for England. At the end of his career Sam held the record for most points in senior matches (3,651). He was was a big man with a big talent and was one of the game’s most popular characters. His tragically early death from a rare form of lymphatic cancer in 1977 at the age of 33 was mourned throughout English rugby. Sam’s life was honoured with a special match between the Rugby Writers International XV and Moseley later that year, and he is still fondly remembered by all those who knew him. Thirty years on, the victorious England side of Ellis Park ‘72 met up at Twickenham to watch Clive Woodward’s England beat South Africa 53–3. Sam was the only player missing from the line-up.
Rebecca Downes – Wolverhampton’s Rebecca Downes grew up at home in Finchfield listening to blues, swing and jazz. A pupil at Smestow School, she became interested in music and at the age of 13 she left the school’s choir to join her first band, Oblivion, with fellow Wulfrunian Dan Whitehouse. Rebecca is fast establishing herself as one of the star attractions amongst the new vanguard of blues performers in the UK, with her powerful performances being likened to artists such as as Tina Turner, Etta James and Janis Joplin. Full of raw passion and emotion, her unique voice draws influences from soul and rock. Her live performances reflect her devotion to musical authenticity and the sheer love of what she does. Rebecca has worked with Ruby Turner, The Climax Blues Band and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, among 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 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. In 2016, Rebecca was announced as female vocalist of the year at the annual British Blues Awards and won the Barry Middleton Award for emerging artist at the Newark Blues Feastival.
David Downton – Celebrated artist David Downton was born in 1959 in Kent and studied at Canterbury then at Wolverhampton (BA hons illustration/graphics 1979-1981). In 1984 he moved to Brighton and began his illustration career, working on a wide variety of projects ranging from advertising and packaging to illustrating fiction, cook books and, occasionally, fashion. In 1998, he started working on a series of portraits (from life) of some of the world’s most beautiful women, including Cate Blanchett, Dita Von Teese, Erin O’Connor, Catherine Deneuve, Iman, Linda Evangelista, Rachel Weisz and Paloma Picasso. In 2007, he launched Pourquoi Pas?, a journal of Fashion Illustration. David has established a reputation as one of the world’s leading fashion artists and his classically elegant, yet highly contemporary images have been a key factor in the revival of interest in the tradition of fashion illustration. His reports from the major shows have appeared in V Magazine, Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, The Times, The New York Times, Telegraph Magazine and Vanity Fair among others. His clients include Chanel, Dior, Tiffanys New York, Harrods, Estée Lauder and the V&A Museum. His book, Masters of Fashion Illustration, was published in 2010 and he is currently working on a new monograph. In 2011 he was appointed the first ever fashion artist in residence at Claridge’s Hotel in London, in which capacity he has been commissioned to draw the Hotel’s most illustrious guests from the world of style and fashion. David has been awarded Honorary Doctorates by London College of Fashion, Academy of Art University, San Francisco and the University of Wolverhampton.
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.’
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.
Ron Dutton – Born Nantwich, Cheshire, in 1935, Ron Dutton is an internationally acclaimed artist and medallist. After studying Fine Art at the University of Durham he lectured in sculpture at Sunderland and Wolverhampton Colleges of Art and exhibited from 1964. In 1975 he held his first exhibition of medals at Wolverhampton Art Gallery. His interest, encouraged by the response from exhibiting in the 1974 Royal Academy Summer Show, led to several research studies including visits to Finland, Sweden, Bulgaria, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. In 1982 he was a founding member of the British Art Medal Society. Exhibiting in the UK and internationally his work has been acquired by private and major public collections including the British Museum who hold some 40 of his medals and The Royal Coin Cabinet, National Museum of Economy, Stockholm where a major retrospective was held in 2004. He has undertaken commemorative medal commissions for many clients including the Royal Mint, National Trust, universities, churches and commercial organisations. In 2008 Ron was the recipient of the Vicenza International Career prize and the J. Sanford Saltus Award of the American Numismatica Association for Distinguished Achievement in the Art of the Medal. In 2016 he made a beautiful bronze cast scroll plaque that can be seen at The Gateway building to the University of Wolverhampton, Wulfruna Street. The plaque honours an elite group of Wolverhampton-born people now famous in the worlds of sport, business, education and media, who have been rewarded after being selected in the roll of honour for Wolverhampton’s Famous Sons & Daughters. Ron lives in Wolverhampton and was made an Honorary Fellow of the University in 2006 in recognition of his eminence as a medallist and for his enthusiastic advocacy of his craft.
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 at 20 Merridale Street 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. In 2015 Russell Edwards was present at a the unveiling of a blue plaque at the Jubilee Christian Centre in Merridale Street to celebrate the life of Catherine Eddowes, close to her former home.
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. The German wartime Enigma coding machine is said to have been named after Elgar’s love of ciphers, reflected in his famous work. 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.’ His works were often made of bronze, but sometimes he worked in mediums such as plaster and marble. 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 similar 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.