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Wolverhampton, Staffordshire

Historical Description

Wolverhampton, a market-town, a municipal, parliamentary, and county borough, the head of a poor-law union, petty sessional division, and county court district, a township, and a parish in Staffordshire. The town stands on an eminence, at a convergence of railways, almost encompassed by canals, 6 miles N of Dudley, 13 NW of Birmingham, 17 N by E of Kidderminster, and 125 by railway from London, with a station on the G.W.R. and a joint station on the L. & N.W.R. and M.R. Wolverhampton was known to the Saxons as Hanton or Hamton; it became in 996 the site of a college for a dean and several prebendaries or secular canons, founded by Wulfruna, sister of King Edgar; and it then took the name of Wulfrunis Hamton, afterwards corrupted into Wolverhampton. It made little figure in the middle ages, but rose eventually into high consequence, and rapidly increased in connection with vast mineral wealth in its immediate vicinity. It was made a parliamentary borough by the Reform Act of 1832, and a municipal borough in 1848. It is governed by a mayor, 12 aldermen, and 36 councillors. The municipal borough is divided into eight wards, and has a separate commission of the peace and a separate court of quarter sessions. Under the Local Government Act of 1888 it was declared a county borough. By the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, the parliamentary borough, which had then two representatives in the House of Commons, was divided into three divisions, each returning one member. The municipal borough is conterminate with Wolverhampton township, but the parliamentary borough includes also Wednesfield, Willenhall, Bilston, and Sedgeley. The town consists of streets diverging from a spacious central market-place, and for the most part is well-built. It was formerly supplied with water only by deep local wells, but in 1847 it obtained waterworks, drawing supplies from springs at Tettenhall and Goldthorn Hill, but the greater supply is obtained from artesian wells at Cosford. Its outskirts command some fine views, and its interior is adorned with some fine public structures.

An equestrian statue of the late Prince Consort stands in the market-place, and was unveiled by the Queen in 1866. A statue of the Right Hon. C. P. Villiers, M.P., who has represented Wolverhampton for over fifty years, stands on Snow Hill. The town-hall forms an ornamental block of buildings erected in 1867-68 at a cost of nearly £20,000. The exchange was erected in 1851, and includes a principal room 120 feet long and 50 high, used for meetings, concerts, &c., and a newsroom. The market-hall was opened in 1853 and subsequently improved; it is divided into three compartments, the central one 33 feet wide, each of the side ones 26 feet wide, and all about; 100 feet long; is covered with an ornamental glazed roof, and cost about £30,000. The agricultural hall was erected in 1863, and has a principal room 165 feet long, 60 wide, and 30 high. The drill-hall, in Stafford Street, contains the largest rooms in the town, used for concerts, balls, &c. St George's Hall, in Market Street, also contains rooms for concerts, &c. The high-level railway station presents a frontage of 300 feet in the Italian style. The low-level railway station presents a more extended frontage in a bolder and more ornamental variety of Italian architecture. The cattle market occupies an area of 4¼ acres. Other public buildings are the art gallery and museum, the free library, and the public baths. There is a large theatre, opened in 1895, and several clubs. St Peter's Church is an ancient and altered reconstruction of the collegiate church founded by Wulfruna; was reconstituted, for a chapter, by Queen Mary; has undergone so many repairs as to have wholly lost its original architectural character; comprises a Late Perpendicular nave of five bays, an extensive Italian chancel, transepts, and a parvise or chapter-house; has a very beautiful three-storeyed tower, and was restored in 1865 and previous years. St John's Church was built in 1755-56, and is in the Italian style. St George's was built in 1830, and is in the Doric style. St Mark's and St Matthew's are in the Early English style. Other churches are St Mary's (containing a Norman font and an old Flemish reredos), St Paul's, St James', St Luke's, Blakenhall, St Jude's, St Andrew's at Whitmore Reans, All Saints', and Christ Church. An old square mansion, adjacent to St Peter's Church, bears the name of the Deanery, was built in the time of the Commonwealth, and has been for some years the County Conservative Club. There are Roman Catholic, Baptist, Congregational, Free, New Connexion, and Primitive Methodist, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, and Catholic Apostolic chapels, and a Jews' synagogue. There is also a convent of sisters of mercy. The cemetery is about 1¼ mile from the town, and covers an area of 20 acres. It was formed in 1847 at a cost of about £10,000, is ornamentally laid out, and has mortuary chapels and burial vaults. The free grammar school was founded in 1515 by Sir S. Jenyns, a native of the town; was reorganised in 1874 by the Endowed Schools Commissioners, and new school buildings were erected in 1875; the school has three scholarships of £60 yearly, tenable at the universities. The Blue-coat Charity School was founded about 1700 and rebuilt in 1881, and has an annual income of £400. There are numerous board, national, and denominational schools. A school of science and art was built in 1854, and is in the Grecian style with rusticated basement. An orphan asylum was built in 1853. The Wolverhampton and Staffordshire Hospital was erected at a cost of about £15,000, is in the Italian and Roman Doric styles, and contains about 230 beds. There are also a women's hospital, a dispensary, and a large borough hospital for fever and other infectious diseases. A new eye infirmary was opened in 1888, which is much larger than the old building, now used as the women's hospital. The workhouse was built in 1838 at a cost of £9000, and has accommodation for about 800 inmates.

The town has a head post office (for which handsome new buildings were erected in 1895-96) and four banks, and publishes five newspapers. A weekly market for corn, cattle, and provisions is held on Wednesday, a market for meat and vegetables on Wednesday and Saturday, and a great annual pleasure fair on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, in Whitsun week. Trade is carried on in corn-mills, mailings, breweries, grease-works, japan and varnish works, dye-works, colour-works, roperies, cooperages, saw-mills, coach-works, sacking-lofts, chemical works, iron and brass foundries, smelting furnaces, very extensive ironworks, and large and numerous establishments for all kinds of ironmongery and hardware, including tin and japanned wares. Vast traffic exists also in connection with coal-mining, ironstone-mining, iron-manufacture, and ragstone-quarrying throughout a great extent of country to the S and to the E. The area of the municipal and county borough is 3525 acres; population, 82,662. The area of the parliamentary borough is 18,738 acres; population, 174,365. Wolverhampton is growing very fast, many new streets, especially on the Dudley Road and on the Graisley property, having been made within the past few years. The Dunstall Park Races are held (six meetings a year) at Dnnstall Park, which is within the borough.

The parish contains Wolverhampton, Wednesfield, Willenhall, Bilston, Hilton, Hatherton, Featherstone, Kinvaston, Bentley, and Pelsall townships, and is divided into the ecclesiastical parishes of St Peter, St John, St George, St Paul, St Mary, St James, St Mark, St Matthew, St Luke, St Andrew, St Jude, All Saints, and Christchurch, Wednesfield, Wednesfield Heath; St. Giles, St Stephen, St Ann, and Holy Trinity, Willenhall; St Leonard, St Mary, St Luke, Bilston, Pelsall, and part of Bradley, Ettingshall, and Moxley. Populations-Wolverhampton St Peter, 3797 , St John, 5529; St George, 6459; St Paul, 8737; St Mary, 8071; St James, 5766; St Mark, 10,194; St Matthew, 6504; St Luke, 5958; St Andrew, 5761; St Jude, 3152; All Saints, 7355; and Christchurch, 5273. The living of Wolverhampton St Peter is a rectory, and the other livings of Wolverhampton are vicarages in the diocese of Lichfield; net value of St Peter, £510 with residence; of St John, £300 with residence; of St George, £116 with residence; of St Paul, .6340 with residence; of St James, £250 with residence; of St Mark, £460 with residence; of St Matthew, £300 with residence; of St Luke, £275 with residence; of St Andrew, £146 with residence; of St Jude, £430; of All Saints, £230 with residence; of Christchurch, £200; gross value of St Mary, £300 with residence. Patron of St Peter, St George, St Paul, St Mary, St James, St Andrew, All Saints, and Christchurch, the Bishop of Lichfield; of the other livings, trustees.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Administration

The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyStaffordshire 
Ecclesiastical parishWolverhampton St. Peter 
HundredSeisdon 
Poor Law unionWolverhampton 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.


Church Records

Findmypast, in association with the Staffordshire & Stoke on Trent Archive Service have the Baptisms, Banns, Marriages, and Burials online for Wolverhampton


Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Wolverhampton from the following:


Land and Property

A full transcript of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Staffordshire is online.


Maps

Online maps of Wolverhampton are available from a number of sites:


Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Staffordshire newspapers online:


Villages, Hamlets, &c

Bentley
Featherstone
Hilton
Kinvaston
Wednesfield
Willenhall
DistrictCity of Wolverhampton
RegionWest Midlands
CountryEngland
Postal districtWV1
Post TownWolverhampton