James W Tate – Born the son of a publican in Wolverhampton in 1875, James William Tate was a songwriter, accompanist, composer and producer of revues and pantomimes in the early years of the 20th century. He was the eldest brother of Margaret Tate, who later became Dame Maggie Teyte, and is best remembered for two songs: A Bachelor Gay (in the old sense of the word!) and Paradise for Two, featured in the record-breaking show, The Maid of the Mountains. He also wrote musicals and revues of his own (Round in Fifty, The Beauty Sport and The Peep Show) and songs such as A Broken Doll and Ev’ry Little While, both recorded by Al Jolson. Jimmy Tate was the third husband of Lottie Collins, the famous singer of ‘Ta-ra-ra-boom-di-ay.
Jack Taylor – Tall, burly and darkly forbidding, oozing authority and charisma in equal measure, John ‘Jack’ Keith Taylor was described by the Football League as ‘perhaps the finest English referee of all time’. Jack memorably officiated at the 1974 FIFA World Cup Final, where he awarded two penalties and booked the German captain. The first, after just a minute of play, created World Cup history as the first penalty kick ever awarded in a World Cup final. Born in 1930, Jack grew up above the butcher’s shop in Staveley Road next to Molineux and played for Wolverhampton Town as a schoolboy. He served as a referee for 33 years, taking charge of more than 1,000 games, including over 100 international fixtures in 60 countries. He was only 31 when he refereed the FA Amateur Cup Final in 1962. He first refereed at the World Cup in 1970 and also took charge of many major competition finals, including those for the 1966 FA Cup and 1971 European Cup. Wherever he went, he commanded respect. As the former Manchester United manager Wilf McGuinness said, ‘He was fair and he was fearless. You didn’t mess with Jack Taylor’. After closing his butchers’ shop he spent two seasons refereeing in Brazil before returning to England to become Commercial Director at Wolverhampton Wanderers. He later became a refereeing coach in South Africa and Saudi Arabia Jack received the OBE for services to football in 1975 and was inducted into the FIFA Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2013 he became the first referee to be inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame. At Molineux, the referee’s room has been named the Jack Taylor Room. Jack died Shropshire in 2012, aged 82. Despite his enormous success, he remained a quiet, modest man who was proud of his Wolverhampton roots. He would have been honoured to know that in 2016 he was immortalised with his own entry in the Oxford Dictionary of Biography, joining the likes of Billy Wright, Stan Cullis and Enoch Powell. His favourite anecdote referred to the time he was hit by a flying penny from the crowd as he left the pitch after a match at Kenilworth Road. It cut his face so he had to have six stitches. Eric Morecambe went to see him to ask if he was all right and to make sure he wasn’t going to report Luton. When Jack confirmed that he wasn’t, Eric said, ‘Good, now can I have my penny back?’.
Joanne Shaw Taylor – Blues guitarist and singer was born in Wednesbury in 1986 then moved to Solihull and grew up around Birmingham. She was inspired to play the blues after listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix, and after Dave Stewart (of Eurythmics fame) heard her playhe invited her to join his supergroup, D.U.P. In 2009, she released her debut album, White Sugar, followed a year later by Diamonds in the Dirt. Both her albums reacheded at number eight in the US Billboard Top Blues Albums chart and in 2010, she won Best Female Vocalist at the British Blues Awards. She won this award again in 2011, as well as the Songwriter of the Year award for ‘Same As It Never Was’ from Diamonds in the Dirt. In 2012, Joanne played an extended solo as lead guitarist in Annie Lennox’s band, performing in front of Buckingham Palace at London’s Diamond Jubilee Concert. Stevie Wonder said he loved her ‘clean, bluesy, understated tone’. Her fourth studio album, The Dirty Truth, was recorded in Memphis, Tennessee with producer Jim Gaines, and released in 2014. Joanne blends gritty vocals and superb guitar skills with songwriting, She currently is based in Detroit, Michigan, and has a hectic touring schedule, but comes back to the UK once or year or so to play live and hang-out with her family. She played her first ever gig at the old Robin in Brierley Hill, where her dad used to take her every weekend to watch bands when she was twelve and thirteen, and she still often plays at the new Robin in Bilston, which she describes as her ‘spiritual home away from home’.
Temper – Graffiti artist Temper, aka Arron Bird, is one of the most successful and talented artists of his generation. His ‘Post Graphaelite’ collection made him a cool £1.4 million, so council worker’s son and former gravedigger from Eastfield has come a long way since he first came into contact with graffiti in 1981 at the age of 11. After meeting fellow graffiti artist Goldie on the local scene in Wolverhampton he soon picked up a spray can and was doing it himself. Influenced by hip hop culture he honed his aerosol skills over the next few years illegally spraying tags, bubble letters and figurative images on subways and factory units. By the 90s, he and Goldie were among the first graffiti artists to get paid for their work. Temper painted youth clubs, held live demonstrations and set up his own t-shirt business. In 1995 he created his first art collection on canvas, though his journey was sometimes difficult. He lost several members of his family and had four nervous breakdowns as well as an attempted suicide. In 2001 his big break came when Coca-Cola commissioned him to create highly successful designs for a limited edition Sprite can and became the first graffiti artist to have a solo show in a major public gallery. His ‘Minuteman’ exhibition at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery broke all attendance records, attracting 38,000 visitors in four weeks. Further commissions followed from Saatchi and Saatchi, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne and Chelsea Football Club. His best known collection, ‘The Good Die Young’, demonstrates Temper’s passion for his art and celebrates 27 iconic figures whose lives had a premature end. ‘A New Day’, featuring 24 figurative nudes representing 24 hours in a day pushed back the boundaries of graffiti art and sold out within five minutes of its launch at The Mailbox in Birmingham. His debut collection for Birmingham publisher Washington Green Fine Art was inspired by a series iconic album covers by the likes of The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin. The custom-made frames for each ‘cover-version’ take three days to create and require 36 vinyl records to make the mould. Eleven of the twelve pieces in the collection sold within a fortnight for £45,000 each. Talking about his works he said: ‘Everything I’ve done is real – you can either like my work or hate it – but none of it’s a lie.’
Andy Tennant – Born in Wolverhampton in 1987, Andy Tennant is fast establishing himself as one of the world’s most consistent cyclists on both the road and the track, winning medals at every level and in every major competition. He began cycling aged 14 and four years later he was part of British Cycling’s Olympic Academy Programme, becoming junior world champion in the process. He was a reserve for Team GB’s gold medal-winning team pursuit team at London 2012 and also won the world title in the team pursuit the same year. In 2014 Andy won silver at the Commonwealth Games alongside Sir Bradley Wiggins and followed it up with his fourth gold at the European Championships. The recently-crowned European champion Andy Tennant joined the new UCI-ranked team being put together by Bradley Wiggins in 2015. Remarkably for an elite athlete, Andy suffered from a heart condition when he was younger which prevented him from taking part in physical activity. He remains enormously grateful to the British Heart Foundation and Birmingham Children’s Hospital for their care and attention and continues to undertake charitable work on their behalf. Well-spoken, witty and articulate, Andy has undertaken a variety of public speaking roles, ranging from school appearances to after dinner speaking.
Dame Maggie Teyte – One of the greatest operatic sopranos of the twentieth century, with a career that lasted almost sixty years. was born in Wolverhampton in 1888. She was one of ten children of Maria and Jacob James Tate, a wine and spirit merchant who ran several public houses, including the Chequer Ball in North Street and the Old Still in King Street. The family first lived in Compton Road before moving to Dunstall House, in the grounds of Dunstall Hall in the town’s northern suburbs. Maggie’s parents were keen amateur musicians and opera enthusiasts and one of her brothers was the composer James W Tate. She attended St Joseph’s Convent School, Snow Hill, run by the Catholic Sisters of Mercy, and the Royal School of Music when the family moved to London in 1898. After her father died, Maggie went to Paris to study and made her first public appearances there. Finding that her surname was often mispronounced, she changed it from Tate to Teyte before joining the Opéra-Comique in Paris. When she was cast as Mélisande in Pelléas et Mélisande she studied with Debussy himself, becoming the only singer ever to be accompanied by the composer on the piano with an orchestra in public. After a London season with Sir Thomas Beecham in 1910, Maggie moved to America, performing with the Chicago and Boston Opera Companies, before returning to Britain in 1919, performing many leading roles until she retired. Master showman Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph, arranged many ‘Tone Tests’ of the company’s new Diamond Discs, where Maggie Teyte would sing with a phonograph recording of her voice before a large audience in concert halls. The house lights would be dimmed and only the record or her live voice would remain. Audiences would be challenged to detect which they were listening to and apparently were convinced ‘that there was no difference between Miss Teyte’s voice and the New Edison RE-CREATION of it.’ In 1931, she attempted to resume her career after an absence of nearly a decade and ended up performing music hall and variety until her recordings of Debussy songs brought her renewed fame as the leading French art song interpreter of her time. During World War II, she sang in concerts sponsored by the French Committee of National Liberation for which she received the Gold Cross of Lorraine. She continued to record and perform in opera until 1951, making her final appearance in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in London. Her last concert appearance was in 1956 and she spent her remaining years teaching. In 1958 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire and published her autobiography, Star at the Door. Married and divorced twice, Dame Maggie died in 1976 at the age of 88.
Mike Thelwall – Professor of Information Science and leader of the Statistical Cybermetrics Research Group at the University of Wolverhampton, Mike Thelwall joined the university in 1989. His current research field includes identifying and analysing web phenomena using quantitative-lead research methods, primarily web link analysis and blog analysis, and he promotes an information science approach for link analysis. Mike has developed a wide range of free tools for gathering and analysing web data, including the research web crawler SocSciBot and software for statistical and topological analyses of web structures (LexiURL, SocSciBot Tools) and site and blog content (Cyclist, Mozdeh). He played a leading role in a project to create the world’s first social media driven light show at the EDF Energy London Eye for the 2012 Olympics. A stunning spectacle was created by analysing every tweet for its sentiment, whether positive, negative or neutral. These were then filtered through a computer program, which converted them into a light show using the London Eye. The colours reflected the mood of people tweeting such as purple for negative, yellow for positive and green for neutral, and the shows ran every night during the Olympics and Paralympics. This year saw the SentiStrength program used again in the lead-up to the Superbowl final – this time turning the Empire State Building in New York into a fantastic light show. Fans were encouraged to tweet in support of their team and negative comments about their opponents and each night the building was lit up in the colours of the team with the strongest sentiments. Professor Thelwall’s work has been rated as world leading in the Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), which evaluates the quality and impact of research submitted by UK universities.
Norman Thelwell – Arguably Britain’s most popular cartoonist since the Second World War, Norman Thelwell was born in Tranmere, Cheshire and studied at Liverpool College of Art. From 1950 to 1957 he lectured on design and illustration at Wolverhampton College of Art, and in 1950 he sold his first drawing to Punch. This showed two horse riders surrounded by a troop of boy scouts, with the caption ‘I’m sorry I ever mentioned that he had a stone in his hoof…’ . The Thelwell name soon became synonymous with his immortal subject of little girls and their fat hairy ponies, and his iconic drawings have been used on many items of merchandise. He was also a serious landscape artist, painting in watercolour and oils. Norman Thelwell’s 32 books have sold millions of copies in the UK and been translated into languages as diverse as Finnish and Japanese.
Kristian Thomas – A longstanding member of both the England and Great Britain men’s team, Kristian James Thomas was born in Wednesfield in 1989. He was just starting as a pupil at St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School when he went to Earls Gymnastics Club in Halesowen with his older brother Ashleigh. He was soon performing impossible-looking acrobatic feats, and wth the help of coaches picked up on the skills that encouraged him to become an elite athlete. Kristian rose to national prominence when he was crowned British champion in 2008 and in 2009 he was sixth with a superb performance in the all-around event at the World Championships in London. He was a member of the British team that won gold in the 2012 European Championships team event, and an historic bronze in the same event at the 2012 Summer Olympics. He won his first global individual medal in the 2013 World Championships, a bronze in vault – the first global medal ever won in vault by a British male gymnast. At the 2014 European Championships in Sofia he and his teammates won the silver medal behind Russia, and Kristian won the bronze medal in high bar. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow he contributed a score of 58.599 for the England team and won gold. He was Team GB’s gymnastics captain at the 2016 Olymics in Rio.
George Benjamin Thorneycroft – Born in 1791 in Tipton, where his parents ran the Three Furnaces public house, George moved to Leeds with his family and spent most of his childhood there, eventually working at a local forge. He turned to Wolverhampton aged 18 with this basic knowledge of iron forging which allowed him to join an established iron works in Bilston. In partnership with his twin brother Edward he founded the Shrubbery Ironworks at Horseley Fields in Wolverhampton in 1824. The business was soon producing 700 tons a week of high quality iron and became a key supplier to the fast expanding railway companies. He married Eleanor Page of Moxley and lived with his family at Chapel Ash House (now Salisbury House) in Tettenhall Road. He was an outspoken conservative, though a friendly and generous employer. George Thorneycroft’s growing stature saw his selection as the first Mayor of Wolverhampton after the town’s incorporation in 1848. He donated a silver gilt mace to the Corporation to mark his accession and a statue of him stands in the foyer of the old Town Hall. The business continued to grow, even after George’s death 1851 when he was seriously injured in a works accident. He had a massive funeral with 20,000 people lining the streets as a long procession passed through the town to a service in St. Mark’s Church. George was buried in Merridale Cemetery and a thousand Shrubbery workers subscribed to a bronzed cast-iron monument. A huge marble statue of him produced by the sculptor Thomas Thornycroft was placed on a plinth next to his grave. In 1871 the statue was moved to the then new Town Hall, where it now stands at the top of a staircase. When Eleanor died in 1874 she was buried alongside her late husband. George and Mary had four daughters, Mary, Emma, Harriet and Ellen (mother of author Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler), and a son Thomas. All the daughters married men who were prominent in the life of the town, and Thomas Thorneycroft became a famous local eccentric.
Colonel Thomas Thorneycroft – Son of Wolverhampton’s first mayor, Thomas Thorneycroft built Tettenhall Towers for himself and his family and enjoyed a flamboyant lifestyle. The Towers, now part of Tettenhall College, dates back to the early part of the eighteenth century when General Thomas Pearson returned from India and bought land in Tettenhall at the site of the Holly Bush Inn to build a bungalow. This property was acquired in 1851 by Thomas Thorneycroft, who was known as Colonel Thorneycroft after being made a Lieutenant Colonel in the Staffordshire Yeomanry. He added a great hall to the existing buildings, complete with a stage, 500-seat theatre (still in use today), electric light and an indoor water cascade. Thomas married Jane Whitelaw and was a wealthy industrialist, landowner, wit and eccentric, famous for using semaphore flags to communicate with his workforce from the roof. Sometimes he would push butlers off the top of the towers to test flying machines he had invented. He also designed elaborate devices for heating and ventilating the house. Thomas died in 1903 (aged 80) but is thought still to roam the Towers, where he has been seen many times before disappearing as quickly as he came. The sound of voices has been heard coming from empty rooms and visitors have seen strange black shadows. Apparently the Colonel is unhappy that people are in his home. Frightened builders have been known to flee the house because of what they saw and heard!
Thomas Thornycroft – Sculptor and engineer Thomas Thornycroft created a huge statue of Wolverhampton’s first mayor, George Benjamin Thorneycroft (no relation) and a larger than life-sized plaster equestrian statue of Queen Victoria for the Great Exhibition of 1851. He also made several memorials to Prince Albert following his death in 1861 and his statue of Albert on a horse was unveiled in Wolverhampton in 1866 by Queen Victoria after she emerged from five years retirement from public appearances. A public holiday was declared and a hundred thousand people lined the streets to see the royal procession. Queen Victoria was so overwhelmed by the reception that she borrowed a sword and spontaneously knighted the mayor, industrialist John Morris. There was a myth that the position of the horse is unnatural as both of its right legs are placed forward while both of the left legs are back. Legend has it that this caused the sculptor of the ‘mon on the oss’ to shoot himself at the foot of the statue when the mistake was pointed out to him. In fact, Thomas Thornycroft died of natural causes almost 20 years later. Victoria had previously visited Wolverhampton in 1832 when she was a princess on a tour of the newly industrialised Midlands. Shocked by the bleak surroundings, she was nevertheless charmed by the people she met and wrote in her diary: ‘The men woemen (sic), children, country and houses are all black. But I can not by any description give an idea of its strange and extraordinary appearance. The country is very desolate every where; there are coals about, and the grass is quite blasted and black. I just now see an extraordinary building flaming with fire. We have just changed horses at Wolverhampton a large and dirty town but we were received with great friendliness and pleasure.’ In November 2016, the 150th anniversary of the statue was formally rededicated, a plaque was installed, and a series of events was organised to celebrate this iconic Wolverhampton landmark.
Sue Townsend – Born in Leicester in 1946, the brilliantly funny writer Sue Townsend was best known for her much-loved comic creation, Adrian Mole. This self-proclaimed ‘intellectual’ appeared in an incredibly successful series of books in which Sue made many references to Wolverhampton. Most memorably, in The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole, her hero adopts the name Adrienne Storme when writing his novel, Longing for Wolverhampton, which begins: ‘Jason Westmoreland’s copper-flecked eyes glanced cynically around the terrace. He was sick of Capri and longed for Wolverhampton. He flexed his remaining fingers and examined them critically. The accident with the chain saw had ended his brilliant career in electronics. His days were now devoid of microchips. There was a yawning chasm in his life. He had tried to fill it with travel and self-gratification but nothing could blot out the memories he had of Gardenia Fetherington, the virginal plastic surgeon at St Bupa’s in Wolverhampton. Jason brooded, blindly blinking back big blurry tears….’ In The Wilderness Years, the lovely Bianca Dartington, who gives Adrian such exquisite pleasure, attends a Guns ‘n’ Roses convention in Wolverhampton. Sue Townsend died in 2014, but the archetypal adolescent Adrian Mole remains immortal.
Herbert Turnbull – Born in Tettenhall in 1885, Herbert Westren Turnbull was one of seven children of William Peveril Turnbull, HM Inspector of Schools for Wolverhampton. He graduated from Cambridge and after working as a teacher and Schools Inspector, following his father’s profession, he was appointed Regius Professor of Mathematics at St Andrews in 1921, a post he held for nearly 30 years. He was a mathematician of the classical school and made important contributions to algebraic invariant theory and to the history of mathematics. In his lectures he favoured an informal style, sometimes relying on improvisation, and in his relations with students, colleagues and friends he showed inexhaustible kindness and patience. He was a prolific author of lucid books on mathematics and edited the first three volumes of The Correspondence of Isaac Newton. In 1911 he married Ella Drummond Williamson and there was one son of the marriage. Herbert received many honours for his work, including the Fereday Fellowship at St John’s College, Oxford, and election as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1932. He was also elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, receiving their Keith Medal and Gunning Victoria Jubilee Prize. After he retired in 1950 Herbert, at the request of the Royal Society, began to work on the Correspondence of Isaac Newton. Two volumes of this important work were published before his death in 1961. Outside mathematics his interests included music (he was an excellent pianist, playing in a chamber orchestra) and mountaineering. As a member of the Alpine Club he made many ascents without the help of a guide and on the cliffs of St Andrews bay he discovered fourteen ways up ‘The Maiden Rock’. Walter Ledermann, who had been a lecturer at the University of St Andrews when Herbert Turnbull was Professor of Mathematics, wrote an obituary recalling his kindness and caring nature. ‘He was a lovely man who extended hospitality to countless students and friends. At these gatherings Mrs Turnbull was a gracious and lively hostess. The highlight of the evening was the performance on two pianos by Professor and Mrs Turnbull. Their playing, highly musical and exquisitely blended, was a beautiful expression of a harmonious partnership. It is inconceivable that a harsh word should have fallen from his lips or that he should have harboured hostile feelings towards any human being. He was deeply religious in the widest sense of the word. His faith permeated his every action and undoubtedly was the reason for his serenity.’
Dennis Turner – Born in Bradley, where he lived most of life, Dennis Turner worked as a market trader and steelworker, became a strong trade unionist, and was one of the youngest-ever members of Wolverhampton Council from 1966, rising through the ranks to become deputy leader for seven years. ’I’m a Black Country man and proud of it,’ he would say. He was elected member of Parliament for Wolverhampton South East at the 1987 general election, serving as an opposition whip then as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Clare Short. He campaigned on issues of Fairtrade and further education, chaired the Co-op Parliamentary Group and the West Midlands group of Labour MPs, and introduced a private member’s bill seeking to make clear in law the correct amount of froth at the top of a pint of beer. A dapper man with a sense of style, Dennis was a true working class fighter for social justice, universally respected for his warmth and straightforwardness. He stepped down as an MP in 2005 and was created a life peer, becoming Baron Bilston, of Bilston in the County of West Midlands. The title was a mistake – he wanted to be ‘Turner of Bilston’ but was introduced as ‘Lord Bilston of Bilston’. When he died in 2014 there were tributes from many fellow MPs, including Ed Miliband and Lord Kinnock, who spoke of his fondness and admiration for a man whose whole life was about helping people. ‘Dennis would say ‘representatives of the working class must always be in their Sunday best, brother’. He was an unforgettable character.’ Flags were flown at half mast as a mark of respect at the University of Wolverhampton, where Lord Bilston received an honorary degree of doctor of letters in 2006. Dennis’s brother, Bert Turner, who died in 2015, was a long-serving councillor for Bilston East, a former Wolverhampton mayor, and chairman of governors at Wilkinson Primary School for 43 years.
Jack Turner – Engineer, entrepreneur and motor racing enthusiast Jack Turner was was born in 1916 in Abergavenny, Wales. After serving in the Second World War he worked with Wattons in Wolverhampton, where he was in charge of the toolroom and made small hand tools for fitting liners in re-bored engines. In 1948 he set up in business for himself at the Old Smithy in Seisdon, which he converted into a workshop, specialising in sports car repairs and modifications. He successfully raced an old MG Magnette and also designed and built his own engines, developing a 4 cylinder, 500c.c. engine for Formula Three racing. In 1954 he decided to produce a simple, affordable, entry-level sports car with a steel chassis and a steel or fibreglass body, initially with engines designed and built by himself. The first Turner sports cars were produced at The Old Smithy before the works moved to 32 Merridale Street, Wolverhampton around 1953, and then in 1956 to its final location at Pendeford Aerodrome. The cars were lightweight with a good power to weight ratio and renowned for great handling on both road and track. They won the Team prize in 1958 and 1959 and a 1960 Class Championship win in the UK Autosport Championship as well as many individual successes in club racing. In the USA, Turners won the Sam Collier Memorial Trophy race twice and competed at Sebring in 1959 and 1960. Turner sports cars often surprised better known car brands and many discerning drivers rated them superior to the MG Midget and Austin Healey Sprite for real sports car performance and handling. Between 650 and 700 of these fabulous little sports cars were built before Jack Turner decided to retire due to ill health in 1966, when Turner Sports Cars (Wolverhampton) Limited went into liquidation. Turners continue to be successful in Historic Motor Sport around the world to this day, though only 350 or so remain on the road.
Evelyn Underhill – The Anglo-Catholic poet, novelist, pacifist and guide to spiritual life, Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941) wrote many books about religion and spiritual matters, in particular Christian mysticism. She was one of the most widely read writers on such things in the first half of the twentieth century, her best-known work being Mysticism: A Study of the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness, published in 1911. Born in Wolverhampton, Evelyn was an only child who described her early mystical insights as ‘abrupt experiences of the peaceful, undifferentiated plane of reality – like the ‘still desert’ of the mystic – in which there was no multiplicity nor need of explanation.’ The meaning of these experiences became a lifelong quest and source of private angst, provoking her to research and write. She began writing before she was sixteen and her first publication, A Bar-Lamb’s Ballad Book of humorous verse concerned with the law, appeared in 1902. She and her husband, Hubert Moore, grew up together, although he was a Protestant and didn’t share her interest in spiritual matters. Evelyn travelled widely in Europe, visiting churches and monasteries as she pursued her interests in art and Catholicism and was a prolific author, publishing over thirty books either under her maiden name or the pseudonym John Cordelier. She had a vivid, lively personality with a keen sense of humour and great lightness of touch. It was her fundamental belief that all of life was sacred and that this was what ‘incarnation’ meant. Evelyn’s novels – The Grey World, The Lost Word, and The Column of Dust – suggest that for the mystic, two worlds may be better than one. Evelyn Underhill was the first woman to lecture on religion at Oxford University, and since 1988 she has been commemorated in the Episcopalian Calendar, the closest that denomination comes to canonisation.
Richard Hartland Vertegans – Victorian nurseryman and landscape architect Richard Hartland Vertegans was born in Gloucestershire in 1826. He managed the Chad Valley nurseries near Birmingham and went on to design Handsworth Park as well as West Park in Wolverhampton. He had a liking for broad tree-lined boulevards and contrasting garden landscapes which were not immediately apparent, but revealed themselves in unexpected ways to visitors as they walked around. The site chosen for the first of the large parks in Wolverhampton was Broad Meadows, owned by the Duke of Cleveland and used as a course for horse racing. In 1879 Alderman Samuel Dickinson invited landscape gardeners to compete for the layout of the park and the winner of the £50 prize was Richard Hartland Vertegans. His plans included 8 acres of ornamental lakes and 12 acres of gardens, with areas for volunteer drill, archery, cricket and bowls. The park was opened in 1881 by the Mayor of Wolverhampton, Alderman John Jones. A handsome bandstand was presented by the town’s long serving MP, Charles Pelham Villiers, the following year. Now Grade II listed, the bandstand was restored in 2002 at a cost of £70,000. The impressive conservatory, opened in 1896 by the widow of former Mayor Samuel Dickinson, was built at a cost of £1,500 funded by the 1893 Floral Fete, one of a series of annual fetes held between 1889 and 1939.
The largest and most ambitious exhibition held in Wolverhampton was the 1902 Arts and Industrial Exhibition which took place in West Park. Although housing only one international pavilion, from Canada, the scope and scale of the exhibition mirrored all the advances in other exhibitions of its time. The exhibition site featured several large halls housing machinery, industrial products, a concert hall, two bandstands, a restaurant and a fun fair with thrill rides and a water chute. Its opening, by the Duke of Connaught, was received with hopeful enthusiasm, unfortunately not matched by the weather, which contributed to a £30,000 loss, equivalent to nearly £2M at today’s value. In 1911, commemorative flower beds were set out for the coronation of King George V; similarly in 1937 for King George VI. During World War I ducks and rabbits were raised, and vegetables grown, to aid the war effort. In 1942 the park was turned into allotments and the normal closing time extended to allow for the extra work involved. The park was placed on the Heritage National Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in 1986 and a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2005 enabled the refurbishment of the tea room.
Joseph Vickers de Ville – Landscape painter Joseph Vickers de Ville was born in Derbyshire in 1856 and moved to Wolverhampton in 1881, together with his widowed mother and brothers Richard and John. In the 1880s, he lived at Osborne Cottage in Sweetman Street and later moved to Compton. He maintained a studio in Tettenhall Wood and from 1887 he exhibited at the Royal Academy. Between 1876-1920, sixty eight his works were shown at the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, a full member of which he was elected in 1917. He also exhibited at the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, Fine Art Society, The Royal Glasgow Institute for the Fine Arts, Royal Scottish Academy, and at the Salons in Paris. Joseph worked in both oils and watercolours and his favourite subjects were in North Wales, especially coastal landscapes, streams and rivers as he investigated light effects in open air. His landscapes of the Cotswolds, Malvern, Cheshire and Staffordshire are also well known and it was said that ‘few can rival him in depicting torrent, rock, river and trees. Often they expressed the mood of melancholy and solitude. In 1915, he exhibited successfully at Wolverhampton Art Gallery presenting sixty-four paintings and numerous sketches, many loaned by Scottish, Liverpool and London patrons. The exhibition was favourably reviewed and it was noted that ‘a great many of his pictures are in the United States, and others have found owners in France, Germany and South America. The demand from abroad is one of the reasons why Wolverhampton people have been able to see so little of his work. In 1923, there was another exhibition of his drawings. A number of Joseph’s paintings have been preserved at Wolverhampton Art Gallery and his works can also be found at other public and private collections. Joseph died in 1925 but little is known about his personal life. He married in 1894, and with his wife Mary had at least one child – a son Claude born in 1895. The 1901 census also shows a daughter Gladys, born in about 1886, well before their marriage.
Sir Charles Pelham Villiers – The longest-ever serving member of parliament was Charles Pelham Villiers, who was born in 1802 into an aristocratic family but spent his life as a reformer, trying to improve conditions for the working classes. He was an MP for 63 years and first sat as a Liberal for Wolverhampton on 19 February, 1835, replacing another Liberal, Richard Fryer. In 1847 he was also returned for Lancashire South as an honour conferred by people there in gratitude for his good work with the repeal of the Corn Laws, but elected to sit for his former constituency. He also became involved in education reform, the anti-slavery movement, factory reform, opposed home rule for Ireland and supported votes for women. He was patron of many local societies and charities and often enjoyed attending Wolverhampton races. Sir Charles was offered a peerage but declined as he was not interest in titles and felt more at home in the House of Commons. His constituency was divided in 1885 and he was then elected for Wolverhampton South, becoming Father of the House from 1890 until his death in 1898. He died unmarried, aged 96, leaving £350,000 (£35 miilion today), bequeathing £100,000 to local charities. A statue of him, paid for out of public funds, was erected outside the Agricultural Hall in Snow Hill and now stands in West Park, where the bandstand was named after him. Other long standing parliamentary representatives of the town include Henry Fowler and Enoch Powell.
George Wallis – Artist, museum curator and art educator, George Wallis FSA, was born in Wolverhampton in 1811. His father died early, and George was adopted by his grand-uncle, John Worralow, who was a famous maker of steel-jewellery at the time of George III. George Wallis was educated at the Grammar School and received initial artistic training in japanned ware painting. He practised as an artist and art educator in Wolverhampton from but in 1832 he left for Manchester where he lived the next five years and met the great engineer Joseph Whitworth, who became his lifelong friend. In 1837, he returned to Wolverhampton and worked for local japanners Ryton & Walton painting the centres of tea trays. His design for the shape of a tray named ‘Victoria’ after the young queen became very popular. George taught at several leading Schools of Design in London and Manchester, organised the 1845 Manchester Royal Institution Industrial Art Exhibition, and delivered the first course of lectures on the principles of decorative art. These lectures led Lord Clarendon, then President of the Board of Trade, to ask him to draw up a chart of artistic and scientific instruction as applied to industrial art, which became the basis for industrial art education in Britain in the late 19th century. From 1852-1857, George was Headmaster of the Birmingham School of Design, worked on the 1851 Great Exhibition, was one of six commissioners sent to the 1853 New York International Exhibition, and was appointed Special Superintendent of British and Colonial manufactures which were displayed at the International 1855 Exhibition in Paris. In 1858 he joined the South Kensington Museum as Senior Keeper of the Art collection, a post which he kept until just before his death in 1891. He was also actively engaged in the British section of the Paris Universal Exhibitions of 1862 and 1867. In 1869, he initiated similar South Staffordshire Industrial and Fine Arts Exhibition which was held at Wolverhampton. Although he abandoned early an idea of a professional artistic career, George continued to practise drawing, painting and etching as a hobby. In the collections of Victoria & Albert Museum, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery there are a number of Wallis artworks, and Wolverhampton Art Gallery also has medals awarded to him by Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Louis-Napoleon of France.
Pete Waterman – Born in Coventry in 1947, Pete Waterman left school at 15 without having learned to read or write. His first job was as a steam locomotive fireman at Wolverhampton station’s engine shed in the 1960s. He later worked as a disc jockey before becoming a hugely successful record producer, selling more than 500 million records around the world and working with stars such as Kylie Minogue, Bananarama and Donna Summer, as well as an impresario and Pop Idol judge. Steam buff Pete fondly remembers his trainspotting visits to the city as a boy: ‘I knew really after visiting Stafford Road Works in the mid-1950s (courtesy of a hole in the fence) that there was really only one place where I wanted to work when I left school. To me, Wolverhampton, Oxley and Bushbury were magical places, and as long as the pocket money was forthcoming, most Saturdays found me on my way to Wolverhampton.’ The city hugely influenced his decision to set up a railway heritage works at Crewe, and Pete is so devoted to railways that he has a 348-foot scale model of 1950s Leamington Spa in the barn of his Cheshire farm. Since founding the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) in 1993, he has continued to contribute massively to the preservation and development of this historic and essential industry, leading a successful campaign for a National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering. Pete published his autobiography, I Wish I Was Me, in 2000. In 2005, he was awarded the OBE for his services to music and in 2011 he received The John Peel Award by the Radio Academy for his outstanding contribution to UK music radio. The award winning freight haulier GB Railfreight named one of its locomotives after Wolverhampton Wanderers football club, thanks to a campaign organised by young Wolves fan Harry Cartwright, who attracted support from celebrity Wolves afficionados such as Robert Plant, Suzi Perry and ELO drummer Bev Bevan. The class 66 locomotive, number 66736, was named at a special ceremony at Wolverhampton Station in 2011, when guests included former Wolves players and Rachael Heyhoe Flint. Hornby makes a 00 Gauge scale model of the R3182 Class 66 diesel 66736 ‘Wolverhampton Wanderers’ in GBRf livery.
Steve Wernick – Singer/songwriter Steve Wernick was born on the Tettenhall Road. Steve’s family owned the Wernick Sheds business on Waterloo Road (their vans were painted old gold and black) and his grandparents Solly and Dolly, who lived next door to Billy Wright and Joy Beverley, owned several casinos in Wolverhampton. Steve lived in Finchfield during the 1990s before moving in 2000 to Sydney in Australia, where he is now a successful musician and songwriter. He remains a proud Wolves fan and on a recent visit to Molineux was inspired to write a new anthem, Wolf-Pack.
Sir Charles Wheeler – Sculptor Sir Charles Thomas Wheeler KCVO RA (1892-1974) was the son of a journalist. Born at The Cottage, Church Road, Codsall, he was raised in Wolverhampton, attending St Luke’s Church School and the Wolverhampton Higher Grade School. At 15 he won a scholarship to Wolverhampton School of Art and in 1912 he gained a scholarship to the Royal College of Art, where he studied under Edouard Lanteri. He came to specialise in portraits and architectural sculpture and one of his earliest commissions was a bronze memorial tablet to Rudyard Kipling’s son, who was killed in World War I. He also sculpted many leading figures of his day, including T. E. Lawrence and Sir Edwin Lutyens. Sir Charles was instrumental in founding the Society of Portrait Sculptors and became their first President in 1953. He was also the first sculptor to hold the Presidency of the Royal Academy (1956 to 1966). Many examples of his work can still be seen, including 20-foot bronze doors at the Bank of England, the western fountain figures in Trafalgar Square, a statue of Charles Pelham Villiers in West Park, and the statue of Lady Wulfruna outside St Peter’s Collegiate Church, Wolverhampton. Sir Charles left a bronze statue, ‘The Lone Singer’, to the village of Codsall, where he is buried in the churchyard. His 1968 autobiography was called High Relief.
Brian White – Wolverhampton-based chemistry scholar Brian White got three A*s and an A in triple science and maths at A-level but risked being deported in 2017 when his application for a student grant to study chemistry at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, was refused after it transpired he did not have permission to live here. Brian grew up in a Zimbabwean orphanage until the age of six then was fostered and later adopted by the White family, who moved to Botswana and later returned to the UK when Brian was aged 15. When his application in 2014 to become a British citizen was rejected, the brilliant 21-year-old student’s life was on put hold while he appealed against the decision. His plight made national headline news and earned support from Caitlin Moran, Beverley Knight, Sathnam Sanghera, best-selling author Philip Pullman and local MP Eleanor Smith, and prompted more than 111,000 people to sign an online petition launched by his school friend Luke Wilcox. Sharon Bishop, a teacher at Highfields School, Penn, where Brian studied after arriving in this country from Africa at the age of 15, played a vital role in supporting him. Brian pledged to grasp his Oxford opportunity with both hands after he finally won his battle to stay in this country.
Dan Whitehouse – Talented musician and singer-songwriter Dan Whitehouse was born in Compton, Wolverhampton in 1979, the son of a Wolverhampton Community Radio pioneer Pete Waterhouse. As a teenager he played guitar in several bands before touring and in his early 20s he was the lead singer and creative force behind Sonara, whilst studying music at Westminster University. The band toured and released several EPs before Jon Mac of Barfly Group signed them to Camden based independent label Force Ten Records. In 2003 they recorded their debut single at Air Studios and appeared at the Reading Festival. After graduation, Dan pursued a career in creative music making and had a wide range of experiences ranging from session guitar work to community music workshops with children. In 2007 he became disillusioned with life in London and returned home to Wolverhampton with the intention to rest and recuperate. Revelling in the peace and quiet his hometown, he wrote a lot of new material during this year, largely based on stressful experiences in London and the calming relationship with his family. He played his first headline gig at the Glee Club Birmingham, where he met the pianist/composer June Mori who was playing on the same bill. In February 2008 Dan began recording songs at Zip Studios in Wolverhampton with a core band of Steve Clarke (bass), John Large (drums) and June Mori on piano, later joined by Tom Bounford (violin). Other musicians included BJ Cole, Andy Bole and Carina Round. In 2009 the recordings were released as a series of three critically acclaimed EPs: The Balloon, The Bubble & The Box. ‘Really, really gorgeous songs.’ – Janice Long. Now mostly working from Birmingham, Dan has toured with New York singer, author and poet Simone Felice. He also collaborated with a 24-piece mixed choral choir, The Brewood Singers, to perform two joint concerts. Dan’s second album, Reaching for a State of Mind, was released in 2013, and Raw State, released on Heantun Records, was launched at the Glee Club, Birmingham, in 2014. Dan’s latest CD/Digital release, That’s Where I Belong, came out on Reveal Records in 2016.
Mary Whitehouse – Born in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, Constance Mary Whitehouse became an art teacher, taking a job at a school in Wednesfield and moving to Wolverhampton. She launched her Clean Up TV campaign in 1964 and became a tireless campaigner who braved derision and abuse in her crusade against screen sex and violence. During the 1970s she broadened her activities, and was a leading figure in the Nationwide Festival of Light, a Christian campaign, initiating controversial private prosecutions against Gay News and the director of a play, The Romans in Britain, at the National Theatre. She was appointed a CBE in 1980, retired in 1994 and died in 2001. In ‘Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story’, broadcast on BBC2 in 2008, the indefatigable campaigner was played by divine Brummie Julie Walters. The programme’s opening scene from 1964 showed Mrs Whitehouse riding her bike through the village of Claverley.
Willard Wigan – Born in Wednesfield, Wolverhampton, in 1957, Willard Wigan is a sculptor of amazing work where a figure can be as small as 0.005mm tall. On average it takes him eight weeks to complete one sculpture and there is an enormous personal sacrifice involved in his working process. Because the works are so small, the pulse of the artist’s finger could easily destroy an entire work. Willard therefore has to control his nervous system to ensure that he does not make even the tiniest movement. Even the reverberation caused by outside traffic can affect the work so Willard often works through the night when there is minimal disruption. When working, he enters a meditative state in which his heartbeat is slowed, allowing him to reduce any hand tremors and work between heartbeats. His unique micro-sculptures are so minute that they are only visible through a microscope. Each piece commonly sits within the eye of a needle, or on a pin head. He uses a tiny surgical blade to carve sculptures out of rice and sugar, and paints using an eyelash as a brush. His favourite materials are Kevlar (used to make bullet-proof jackets) and gold. Ball bearings and a slide are used to crush his oil paints to molecule size. Willard’s artwork has been described as ‘the eighth wonder of the world’ and he was honoured in 2007 with an MBE for his services to art. Audiences that attend his exhibitions are the most diverse of any living artist, with his work selling out around the world. Owners of these unique sculptures include Prince Charles, Sir Elton John, Mike Tyson and Simon Cowell. A Coronation Crown was requested by Queen Elizabeth II to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. David Lloyd, who captained Britain’s Davis Cup tennis team, bought a collection of Willard’s works – including Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker – valued at £11.2m. Willard’s achievement is all the more remarkable as he has suffered from dyslexia and learning difficulties since childhood. He struggled at Russell Close School but his art helped him escape the taunts from his teachers and student peers. Inspired by a speech of Martin Luther King Jr, he found solace and peace in creating art of such minute proportions that it could not be seen with the naked eye. If his work could not be seen, then it and he could not be criticised. ‘My work is a reflection of myself. I wanted to show the world that the little things can be the biggest things.’ The internationally renowned micro artist features in the Guinness Book of World records for the smallest hand-made sculpture of a motorbike entitled Golden Journey. The sculpture, created out of gold, sits in a hollowed-out section of a single hair of beard stubble and is 0.1603 mm long. Like his Wolverhampton-born friend Arron Bird, who works out of the Jewellery Quarter as the graffiti artist Temper, Willard lives in Birmingham and has put a difficult childhood behind him. An exhibition at Wolverhampton’s Lighthouse in 2016 featured 20 of his miniature masterpieces, including Jesus Christ with his disciples at the last supper, trees depicting the four seasons, and one of Noddy Holder (who attended the opening). Willard has plans to create sculptures of other West Midlands rock legends, including Robert Plant and Ozzy Osbourrne. An hour-long documentary called The World’s Tinest Masterpieces was shown on Channel 4 in 2018, featuring this unique artist at work on his most ambitious piece to date as Willard sculpts a tiny baby from a fragment of carpet fibre gathered at his family home in Wolverhampton and places it inside a microscopic length of his own hair. This was a tribute to his mother, who always encouraged his art, and has been rated as ‘the smallest sculpture ever made’ by the Guinness Book of Records. The programme also showed his amazing miniature recreation of the Mona Lisa. Watches containing one of Willard’s miniatures can sell for a million pounds.
Jonathan Wild – The self-syled Chief Thieftaker General of Great Britain and Ireland, Jonathan Wild created the first English police force, was the world’s biggest gangster prior to Al Capone, invented ‘the double cross’, and became one of the best known public figures of his time. He was born in 1682 or 1683 in Wolverhampton and baptised at St Peter’s Church. The first of five children in a poor family, his father, John Wyld, was a joiner, and his mother sold herbs and fruits in the local market. Jonathan had two brothers. John became a bailiff and was Wolverhampton’s town crier until he led a riot during the 1715 Rebellion and was jailed for two years. Brother Andrew became a petty criminal. Jonathan attended the Free School in St John’s Lane (now rebuilt as the Grammar School) and was apprenticed to a local buckle-maker. He married and had a son, but went to London in 1704 as a servant. After being dismissed by his master, he came back to Wolverhampton before returning to London in 1708, becoming a notorious thief and informer. He ran a gang of thieves, kept the stolen goods, and waited for the crime and theft to be announced in the newspapers. At this point, he would claim that his ‘thief taking agents’ (police) had ‘found’ the stolen merchandise and would return it to its rightful owners for a reward. As well as ‘recovering’ stolen goods, he would offer the authorities help in finding the thieves, who would usually be his rivals. In order to control his huge criminal empire, he had a large ledger of thieves in his employment and used agents throughout southern England, including in ports as far away as Bristol. Active thieves had a cross next to their name and if he decided they were not up to scratch he would put a second cross, indicating that he was going to turn them in. Thus, betrayal was represented by ‘the double-cross’. These dangerous games inevitably to his arrest and trial at the Old Bailey. He was convicted, sentenced to death and executed at Tyburn in 1725. His infamy was such that the hanging drew a large and boisterous crowd that included eighteen-year-old writer Henry Fielding. Mock invitations were sold with the words ‘To all the Thieves, Whores, Pick-pockets, Family Fellows &c. in Great Brittain & Ireland. Gentlemen & Ladies, You are hereby desir’d to accompany yr. worthy friend ye. Pious Mr. J- W-d from his seat at Whittington Colledge to ye. Tripple Tree, where he’s to make his last Exit on -, and his Corps to be carry’d from thence to be decently Interr’d amongst his ancestors. Pray bring this ticket with you.’ Jonathan Wild was secretly buried in the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church next to Elizabeth Mann, his third wife. In the 18th century, his body was exhumed and sold to the Royal College of Surgeons for dissection. His skeleton remains on public display in the Royal College’s Hunterian Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Daniel Defoe wrote a True and Genuine Account of the Life and Actions of the Late Jonathan Wild and other publications at the time claimed to contain excerpts from the thief-taker’s diaries. Henry Fielding’s novel, The Life and Death of Jonathan Wild, The Great, satirises the corrupt Prime Minister, Robert Walpole as well as Wild. John Gay put him into The Beggars’ Opera in the disguised form of the character Peachum. In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes novel, The Valley of Fear, arch-villain Professor Moriarty is referred to as a latter-day Jonathan Wild. In the 1969 film, Where’s Jack, he is played by Stanley Baker as a suave and sinister criminal mastermind.
John Wilkinson – ‘Iron Mad’ John Wilkinson was one of the great figures of the early Industrial Revolution, pioneering the use and manufacture of cast iron and cast iron goods. was a friend of James Watt and helped in his experiments to develop the steam engine. Born in Cumberland, John moved to Broseley in Shropshire in about 1753. He married Ann Madsley and moved to Bradley, Bilston, in 1766, purchasing land on which to build his ‘Mother Furnace’ – the first ever steam-powered blast furnace – in an area with an abundance of coal, limestone and iron ore. Bradley became his largest and most successful enterprise and was the site of extensive experiments in getting raw coal to substitute for coke in the production of cast iron. At its peak, it included several blast furnaces, a brick works, potteries, glass works and rolling mills, and ‘Iron Mad’ John became immensely rich. When he died in 1808 he was buried in an iron coffin, placed in a cast iron tomb which he had designed and built himself.
Bert Williams – Widely recognised as Wolves’ greatest goalkeepers, Bert Frederick Williams was born in Bradley, Bilston, in 1922. After leaving school he played for the works side, Thompson’s, while working in a factory in Great Bridge. His goalkeeping talents were spotted by the Walsall manager, Andy Wilson, and Bert joined the Saddlers, making the first team at just 16 years old. During the Second World War he served in the RAF as a PT instructor and afterwards signed for Wolves, making his debut on the same day in 1946 as his former Walsall team mate, Johnny Hancocks. Nicknamed The Cat, Bert spent the rest of his playing career at Wolves, where he won the 1953–54 League Championship and 1949 FA Cup. By the time of his retirement in 1957 he had made 420 appearances for his club and played in 24 games for England. He later ran a sports shop in Bilston as well as a sporting academy specialising in goalkeeping skills and lived near Shifnal. In 2007 he released The Cat in Wolf’s Clothing, an excellent book of pictorial memories compiled from his vast memorabilia collected over the years. Bert was at the time English football’s oldest living player to have played in a World Cup. He received an MBE for his services to football and charity (Bert had been involved in several fundraising campaigns for the Alzheimer’s Society after his wife Evelyn died from the illness in 2002). Bert Williams, a true gentleman and great footballer, died aged 93 in 2014. ‘Legend is a word which may be overused these days, but in the case of Bert Williams it simply doesn’t do him justice. He will be sadly missed at Molineux, but will never, ever be forgotten.’ – Wolves chairman Steve Morgan. A public memorial service took place at St Peter’s Collegiate Church, with former England stars Gordon Banks and Ron Flowers among hundreds of mourners at the ceremony.
Martin Wilson – Born in the 1950s in Wolverhampton, ‘Mad’ Marty Wilson is a professional poker player who has won a reported $4 million in tournaments around the world in a career spanning three decades. His nickname originates from when, as a teenager, he escaped several rival football fans by jumping into a polar bear pit. The local paper got hold of the story and the headline read ‘Mad Marty’. Growing up in Wolverhampton in the early 70s he was a Pendeford High School pupil set to work at local firm Lucas Aerospace, when he turned to gambling to make a living. He soon found a flair for betting, and made money on racing, sports and even the Eurovision Song Contest. A keen card player, he was invited to a game of poker that was about to take Britain by storm. That was the first ever live Texas Hold’Em tournament in England, at the Rubicon in Wolverhampton in 1986. Marty became an established professional, travelling to Las Vegas, and winning major tournaments at home and abroad. He became a regular on the Late Night Poker television series, being one of few players to appear in every series. Father of three and a granddad of several, when not on the poker circuit Marty now lives in Bridgnorth, Shropshire.
Wolves – Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club, better known as ‘Wolves’, was founded in 1877 as St Luke’s after a group of pupils at St Luke’s school in Blakenhall had been presented with a football by their headmaster, Harry Barcroft. Two years later, they merged with cricket and football club, The Wanderers, to form Wolverhampton Wanderers and became one of the twelve founders of the English Football League in 1888, finishing the inaugural season in third place and reaching their first ever FA Cup Final. Wolves have played at Molineux in Whitmore Reans since 1889, moving there from their previous home in Blakenhall, where a road is still called Wanderers Avenue. In 1953, the stadium became one of the first to install floodlights and Wolves beat South Africa in the first ever floodlit game, going on to play a series of prestigious friendlies against teams from across the globe. Famously, they came from two goals down to beat the classy Hungarian side Honvéd. This, together with Wolves’ previous European exploits against the likes of Spartak Moscow and Real Madrid, lead the formation of the European Cup, now the UEFA Champions League. Having won the FA Cup twice before the First World War, Wolves consolidated their reputation as a top side under the legendary management of ex-player Stan Cullis after the Second World War, going on to win three league titles and the FA Cup twice between 1949 and 1960. Wolves have yet to match those successes in the modern era, although they did contest the first UEFA Cup final in 1972 and won the League Cup in 1974 and 1980. After many vicissitudes in lower divisions, Wolves survived thanks to Sir Jack Hayward and revival saw the team twice return to the top flight, where they played under former Republic of Ireland manager Mick McCarthy and owner Steve Morgan. The Stan Cullis Stand was erected on the site of the North Bank, the Billy Wright Stand replaced the Waterloo Road Stand, and the Jack Harris Stand replaced the South Bank. The John Ireland Stand, now renamed as the Steve Bull Stand, was completely refurbished. The new stadium was opened by HM The Queen in 1994.
Following a descent into League 1, the team broke many club records in returning to the Championship, where a promising young team was managed by Kenny Jackett. His first season with Wolves saw a new club record points total of 103, which was also an all-time record for the most points accumulated by any team during a third tier season. In 2016, the Chinese investment group Fosun International bought the club from Steve Morgan and Italian international Walter Zenga was appointed manager, followed by Paul Lambert and then former FC Porto boss Nuno Espirito Santo. Exceptional players such Diogo Jota, Willy Boly and Rúben Neves (a club record signing at £15.8 million) were brought in and Nuno combined them with established players such as Ivan Cavaleiro, Hélder Costa, Connor Coady and Matt Doherty to create one of the most exciting and successful teams ever seen at Molineux. The passionate Nuno employed a 3-4-3 formation to make the most of Wolves’ pace and energy and provided a solid base to keep many clean sheets in the league. Their efforts were rewarded in 2017–18 EFL Championship title success and promotion to the Premier League after a six-year absence. The tally of 99 points was the club’s highest-ever in the second tier. Exuberant celebrations followed and 80,000 people lined the streets of Wolverhampton to watch the team’s two golden open-top buses travel through the city on a hot Bank Holiday in May. Thirty thousand more were in West Park for a jubilant party where Nuno and his stars appeared on stage, as well as superstar fans Beverley Knight and Tito Jackson.
Great Wolves players have included Roy Swinbourne, Billy Wright, Bert Williams, Johnny Hancocks, Jimmy Mullen, Norman Deeley, Peter Broadbent, John Richards, Steve Bull, Derek Dougan, Richard Stearman and Robbie Keane. Former managers include Major Frank Buckley, Stan Cullis from the glory days, Bill McGarry, Tommy (‘more clubs than a golfer’) Docherty, Dave Jones and, er, Glenn Hoddle. There are supporters’ clubs around the UK and across the world, including Australia, the United States, Spain, Germany, and especially Scandinavia. Famous Wolves fans have included football legends George Best, Bobby Charlton and Kevin Keagan, as well as Tito Jackson (of The Jackson Five), Star Wars legend Mark Hamill, Ingvar Carlsson (former Prime Minister of Sweden), sports commentators Murray Walker and David Coleman, Sir Edward Elgar, Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, Noddy Holder, Eric Idle, Beverley Knight, Denise Lewis, John Lloyd (former Davis Cup Captain), Robert Plant, Kevin Rowland, comedian Steve Edge (Phoenix Nights), golfer Peter Baker, presenter Sue Lawley, Jaz Mann (Babylon Zoo frontman), John Middleton (Emmerdale actor), Glenn Hughes (singer/bassist with Trapeze, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath), Bev Bevan (ELO and Black Sabbath drummer), Jon Brookes (Charlatans drummer), Roland Orzabal (Tears For Fears singer), the band Pop Will Eat Itself, Suzi Perry, DJ Peter Powell and Gary Stringer (singer with Reef). Future England manager Sam Allardyce was born in 1954 in a council house on the Old Park Farm Estate, Dudley, and as a child supported Wolverhampton Wanderers, dreaming that one day he would play at and manage the club.
William Wood – Hardware manufacturer and mintmaster William Wood (1671–1730) was born in Shrewsbury. He married Margaret Molineaux in 1690, the daughter of a Willenhall ironmonger, Richard Molineaux, and lived at The Deanery, a large house in Wolverhampton where they raised their 14 children. William entered into a prosperous partnership as a manufacturing ironmonger in Wolverhampton with his father-in-law, Richard Molyneux. In 1715, he applied for the receiver-generalship of the land tax for the county of Shropshire, and formed a large partnership for the production and marketing of iron and steel in the Midlands and London. He built foundries in Whitehaven, Cumberland, run by his son Charles, and the Falcon Iron Foundry in London, with his son William in charge. He also built, among others, a blast furnace at Rushall as well as a brass and iron mill in the grounds of Attingham Park (then called Tern Hall). Hoping to make a profit from making coins, he purchased a royal patent for £10,000 authorising him to produce up to 360 tons of halfpence and farthings for Ireland. These ‘Hibernia’ coins, minted in Phoenix Street, Seven Dials from 1722, were heavier and thus more valuable than the coppers then circulating in Ireland. They were also less profitable to mint and William lost a fortune over the fourteen years of the patent. He also produced ‘Rosa Americana’ coins for British America, which were struck in the same period. His ‘Hibernia’ coinage became unpopular as a result of the publication of Jonathan Swift’s Drapier’s Letters, which incorrectly claimed that it was of inferior quality. The coins were withdawn from Ireland though Sir Isaac Newton, at that time Master of the Mint, confirmed that the copper ‘was of the same goodness and value with that which was coined for England’. William later received compensation for the loss of his patents. Blind Irish harper Turlough O’Carolan wrote a tongue-in-cheek celebration of this failed venture called ‘Squire Wood’s Lamentation on the Refusal of his Halfpence’. William’s son Charles went on to build the Cyfarthfa Iron foundry in Glamorgan, and with his brother John he patented a process known as potting and stamping, an important advance in the conversion from pig iron to bar iron. Charles was the grandfather of the Victorian writer Mary Howitt, who published a history of the family, Some Reminiscences of my Life in the journal Good Words.
Billy Wright – Football maestro William Ambrose ‘Billy’ Wright, CBE, was born in Ironbridge, Shropshire, and spent his whole career as a player at Wolverhampton Wanderers. The first player in the world to earn 100 international caps, Billy also holds the record for longest unbroken run in competitive international football and captained England a record number of times, including campaigns at the 1950, 1954 and 1958 World Cup finals. His association with Wolves began in 1938 when he was taken on as a member of their ground staff. He made his first team debut aged just 15 and signed as a professional at 17, but the effects of the Second World War forced Wolves to suspend competitive football. Billy joined the army as a PT instructor, playing for Wolves whenever possible and making over 100 appearances during wartime. He became club captain soon after the end of the conflict, following the playing retirement of Stan Cullis. With Billy leading the team, Wolves won the First Division title three times as well as the FA Cup. He was a virtual ever-present, missing only 31 games for the club during the 1950s. He made his England debut in 1946 in a win over Belgium and was made captain in 1948, a role he held for 90 games until his retirement (an all time record shared with Bobby Moore). In 1952, with his 42nd cap, he surpassed Bob Crompton’s appearance record for England, which had stood since 1914.
Billy became the first player to reach the century in world football, despite playing in the era before substitutes and losing seven years of his career to the Second World war. In total, Billy made 105 full international appearances – including an amazing 70 consecutive ones – and scored three times for England. During his 541 appearances for Wolves and 105 games for England, his disciplinary record was second to none. Despite being a tenaciously competitive tackler, his skill and gentlemanly conduct meant that he was never cautioned or sent off by any referee. After retirement as a player, he managed England’s youth team before becoming Arsenal’s manager from 1962-1966. He also became Head of Sport at ATV and Central Television and joined the Wolves board in 1990. Billy died in 1994, aged 70. A 12ft brass statue of him can be seen outside Molineux, where one of the stands is named after this dedicated, loyal, decent, unselfish and gifted player. As Walter Winterbottom said, ‘Billy Wright had a heart of oak.’ The leather football from the 1959 game in which Billy won his 100th cap in England’s 1-0 win over Scotland was sold for £1,350 at auction and bought by the club in 2015 for display in the Wolves Museum at Molineux. Billy owned the ball until his death, before wife Joy gave it away to an unnamed footballer.
David Wright – Formerly Her Majesty’s representative in the Land of the Rising Sun, Sir David Wright was born in 1944 and grew up in Penn Fields, Wolverhampton. As a teenager he worked in the school holidays at his parents’ carpet shop (F Wright and Son) located in the Central Arcade, now demolished to make way for the Mander Centre. David studied at Wolverhampton Grammar School and Cambridge before joining the Foreign Office where he served as Ambassador to Korea and as Deputy Under Secretary of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before being appointed Britain’s Ambassador to Japan (1996-99). ‘When I began my career, there were people who said an ordinary lad from Wolverhampton could never make it. But that was nonsense.’ He was made a LVO in 1990, CMG in 1992 and promoted to KCMG in 1996. He later became a GCMG. After retiring from the Diplomatic Service, Sir David joined Barclays Capital, and remains an avid Wolves supporter.
John Wrottesley – Landowner and distinguished astronomer John Wrottesley was born at Wrottesley Hall near Woverhampton in 1798, the eldest son of Sir John Wrottesley and his first wife Lady Carolyn Bennet. He attended Westminster School then graduated first class in mathematics from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, before practising as a lawyer. He built an observatory in Blackheath, London, and his ground-breaking catalogue of the Right Ascensions of 1,318 Stars earned him a gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society. After inheriting his father’s title as Baron Wrottesley in 1841, he moved his observatory from Blackheath to his new home at Wrottesley Hall, a magnificent structure erected in 1696. He continued his observations and issued two supplementary catalogues of stars, publishing the results in papers for the Royal Society, of which he was president from 1854 to 1858, and Royal Astronomical Society, of which he was a founding member and served as president from 1841 to 1842. A crater on the moon is named in his honour. He served on several royal commissions of a scientific nature and was one of the original poor-law commissioners. He advocated the policy of encouraging merchant captains to keep meteorological records of winds and currents during their voyages, a project which was extensively adopted by the board of trade.
John married Sophia Elizabeth, third daughter of Thomas Giffard of Chillington in Staffordshire, and had seven children. His two youngest sons fell in action, and when he died at Wrottesley in 1867 he was succeeded by his eldest son Arthur, third baron Wrottesley.
Sir John Wrottesley – The first Baron Wrottesley was born in 1771 and was a descendant of Sir Walter Wrottesley. He attended Westminster school then served in Holland and France during the revolutionary war as an officer in the 13th lancers. He became a member of parliament for Lichfield and later for Staffordshire. After the passage of the Reform Act in 1832 he continued to sit for the southern division of the county until 1837, when he was moved to the House of Lords with the title of Baron Wrottesley of Wrottesley. He was a good practical farmer and his lands at Wrottesley were equipped with the latest improvements in agricultural machinery. While in parliament he procured the exemption of draining tiles from duty. He died at Wrottesley in 1841 and was buried in the ancestral vault at Tettenhall church. He was twice married and had three daughters and five sons, including the astronomer John Wrottesley.
Walter Wrottesley – Sir Walter Wrottesley, who died in 1473, was a captain of the town of Calais, which was in English hands from 1347 to 1558. The family, whose name was originally Verdon, had been settled at Wrottesley in Staffordshire for many centuries. The first member of the faily to adopt the name Wrottesley was William de Verdon, who succeeded to the manor in 1199 and died in 1242. Walter was a firm adherent of Warwick ‘the king-maker’, and in 1460 he was appointed High Sheriff of Staffordshire. Styled a ‘king’s knight,’ he was granted the manors of Ramsham and Penpole, Dorset, formerly belonging to William Neville, 1st Earl of Kent. Grants of the manors of Clynte, Hondesworth and Mere in Staffordshire soon followed. Wrottesley joined Warwick in his attempt to overthrow the Woodvilles, and when in 1471 the king-maker restored Henry VI, Wrottesley was put in command of Calais. After Warwick’s defeat and death, Wrottesley surrendered Calais to Edward IV on condition of a free pardon. His descendants include Sir Richard Wrottesley, dean of Worcester, and John, first baron Wrottesley.
Lady Wulfruna – Founder of the city, Lady Wulfruna, or Wulfrun to use the correct Anglo-Saxon pronunciation of her name, lived from about 935 to 1005. Grand-daughter of King Ethelred I and Queen Aethelflaed (daughter of King Alfred the Great), the earliest reference to Wulfrun is in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles for 943AD, which state that she was taken prisoner following a raid at Tamworth, Staffordshire. The next reference to her is in a land charter of 985 in which King Ethelred II (Ethelred the Unready), granted to Wulfrun ten hides of land at Heantun (or High Town) which became known as Wulfruna’s Heantune, hence the name Wolver-hampton. There were successive raids on England by Vikings at the time and when in 943 the Vikings captured the old capital of Mercia, Tamworth, Wulfruna was taken hostage. She somehow survived the ordeal and went on to have two powerful sons – Aelfhelm, Ealdorman of Northumbria, and Wulfric Spott, founder of Burton Abbey. Lady Wulfruna was an important figure in the kingdom of Saxon England and used her influence to ensure Wolverhampton’s wealth and importance. She founded St Peter’s (originally dedicated to St Mary), established a manor house in the Gorsebrook area of the town and endowed a monastery, commemorated by a stone tablet in the porch of St Peter’s. After her death, Wolverhampton continued to thrive, and on the steps outside St Peter’s stands a statue by Sir Charles Wheeler of her wearing long robes and holding a scroll. In 1894 Wolverhampton Borough Council adopted the name Wulfruna, the Latin variation of her name.
Percy M Young – Music scholar, editor, organist, composer, conductor and teacher Percy Marshall Young (1912-2004) was born in Cheshire and became Director of Music at Wolverhampton College of Technology from 1944 to 1966. One of the musical world’s most venerable elder statesmen, he published more than 50 books in a 70 year career, including acclaimed biographies of Händel, Vaughan Williams and Sir Edward Elgar. Percy was equally prolific as a composer, writing choral motets, solo songs and chamber music, as well as concertos and a wonderful Elegy For String Orchestra. He fulfilled a long-held ambition in 1994 by attending a stage performance of his newly-completed edition of Elgar’s embryonic opera, The Spanish Lady, left uncompleted at the time of the composer’s death. In the service of his beloved Midland community Percy was a Labour member of Wolverhampton council (he loved a good discussion or argument), a school governor and a delegate on several statutory health bodies. For his contributions to music, he received several honours, including a Handel Prize in 1961 and an honorary fellowship in 1998 from Selwyn College, Cambridge. He was also a long-standing supporter of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC and wrote several histories of league clubs, including Wolverhampton Wanderers, Centenary Wolves 1877 -1977. ‘Modest, committed, dynamic and diverse in equal measure, Percy Young enjoyed a worldwide reputation second to none. Yet while his supreme gifts gave his music an unforgettable quality, above all, it was his deep humility and natural goodness that shone through, to bring such added distinction to a rich and fulfilling life.’ – The Independent.