1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wolverhampton

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WOLVERHAMPTON, a market town, and municipal, county and parliamentary borough of Staffordshire, England, 125 m. N.W. from London by the London & North-Western railway, served also by the northern line of the Great Western and by a branch of the Midland railway. Pop. (1891) 82,622; (1901) 94,187. It lies at the north-western edge of the group of great manufacturing towns extending S.E. to Birmingham, but there are pleasant residential suburbs to the west, where the country is rich and well wooded. The situation is elevated and healthy. The church of St Peter is a fine cruciform building, with S. porch and central tower. The lower part of the tower and the S. transept date from the 13th century; the nave, clerestory, upper part of the tower and N. transept from the 15th; the chancel was rebuilt in the restoration, completed in 1865, with an apsidal termination. The chief public buildings are the town hall (1871), exchange, agricultural hall, free library and theatres. A large free grammar school, founded in 1515 by Sir Stephen Jermyns, a native of the town and alderman of London, occupies modern buildings (1876). There are a Blue Coat school (1710) and a school of art. The benevolent institutions include a general hospital, the eye infirmary, orphan asylum, nursing institution and institute of the society for outdoor blind. In Queen Square is an equestrian statue of Albert, Prince Consort, unveiled by Queen Victoria in 1866, and on Snow Hill a statue (1879) of Charles Pelham Villiers. There are parks on the east and west of the town, and a new racecourse (1887) replaces that formerly on the site of the west park. In the district S. and E. of Wolverhampton (the Black Country) coal and ironstone are mined. Ironmongery and steel goods of all kinds, especially locks, machinery, tools and cycles, are produced; there are also tin and zinc works. Large agricultural markets are supplied from the districts W. and N. of the town. An annual fair is held at Whitsuntide. In 1902 an industrial and art exhibition was held. The parliamentary borough of Wolverhampton has three divisions, each returning one member. The town is governed by a mayor, 12 aldermen and 36 councillors. Area, 3525 acres. Wednesfield (pop. 4803), Heath Town or Wednesfield Heath (9441) and Willenhall (18,515) are neighbouring urban districts, with populations employed in the manufacture of locks, keys and small iron goods, in iron and brass foundries, varnish works, &c.

The town of Wolverhampton (Handone, Wolvernehamptone, Wollernehampton) seems to have grown up round the church of St Mary, afterwards the royal free chapel of Wolverhampton, probably founded in 996 by Wulfruna, widow of the earl of Northampton, who in that year endowed it with extensive lands. The estates of the clerks of Handone are enumerated in Domesday. In 1204 John granted the manor of Wolverhampton to the church, and at the Reformation it was held by the dean of the collegiate body; in 1553 Edward VI. granted the college and manor to Dudley, duke of Northumberland, but Mary, at the beginning of her reign, refounded the college and restored to it its property, and this arrangement was confirmed by Elizabeth. Henry III. (1258) granted the Wednesday market, which is still held, and a fair for eight days, beginning on the eve of the feast of SS. Peter and Paul (June 29). During the Great Rebellion the sympathies of Wolverhampton were royalist. In 1645 it was for a time the headquarters of Prince Rupert, while Charles I. lay at Bushbury to the north. At the end of the 17th century the market was esteemed the second market in the county. An account of Wolverhampton published in 1751 stated that the chief manufacture was locks, “here being the most ingenious locksmiths in England,” and attributed the slow growth of the town to the fact that most of the land was church property. Wolverhampton was incorporated in 1848 as a municipal borough. It was not represented in parliament until after the passing of the Reform Bill (1832), under which it returned two members until in 1885 the representation was increased to three. The county borough dates from 1888.