Monday, 4 June 2012

Wolverhampton





Wolverhampton, known variously as Wlfrunhamtona, Wlurenehamton, Heantune and Wulvenehamton (Wulfruna's High Town) was founded 985A.D. by virtue of a grant from Aethelred the Unready to Lady Wulfruna, and can be found listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Hantone with a population of approximately two hundred, quite considerable for that time.

St Peter's
Records show a parish church as early as 994, endowed by Lady Wulfruna from an already existing one. By the twelfth century this became known as the church of Wulfrunhampton. In the sixteenth century it was rededicated as St Peter's, the name by which it is now known. During the years 1852- 65 St Peter's was thoroughly restored by the aptly named Ewan Christian leaving just the base of the tower, believed to date from early thirteenth century, as the oldest surviving part. Beside the church is a statue honouring Wolverhampton's founder Wulfruna about whom, sadly, little is known other than in 943 the invading Danes held her prisoner.

War Memorials
St Peter's is home to several of Wolverhampton's war memorials; recently the grounds of the church were overhauled and the memorials cleaned including one to Able Seaman Douglas Morris Harris killed by Austrian naval gunfire in the Adriatic on May 15 1917 while continuing to enter a message in the log that the ship was under attack. The official war memorial stands in the shadow of St Peter's, while inside the church itself are rolls of honour from both World Wars and Wolverhampton's oldest memorial: the tomb of a soldier from the English Civil war, John Lane.

The Great Fire
The first Great Fire in Wolverhampton occurred in 1590 destroying 104 homes and 30 barns; it began in Barn Street and lasted for five days. The second was more than a century later in 1696, September 10 at 4p.m. to be precise, and once again the seat of origin was Barn Street. Within five hours 60 houses were gutted leaving the cost of damage at over £8,500 -a vast amount. These calamities led to inhabitants banding together in order to buy their own fire engine, which they accordingly did in 1703 (including 24 buckets for the water). And in 1814 thatched roofing was finally banned. Today only two Tudor buildings remain: 44 Exchange Street and Wolverhampton's most famous building, 19 Victoria Street 'Lindy Lou's' possibly erected in the 1590's and once the Hand Inn.

Industry
Wolverhampton's proximity to rich agricultural land prompted the creation of its initial wealth from wool, a part of its heritage which is celebrated through some of the street names: Farmers Fold and Tup Street; and also in its coat of arms which incorporates a wool pack and a lock in recognition of Wolverhampton's world famous locksmith industry creating keys, nails and bolts since 1603. The best-known local firm, Charles and Jeremiah Chubb, arrived in 1818 and was patented lock maker to Queen Victoria. As the Industrial Revolution continued apace so the population increased from 7,454 in 1750, to 12,500 in 1801, to 94,187 a century later. Today the total stands in excess of a quarter of a million.

With the Industrial Revolution came the canal system and in 1772 the Staffordshire and Worcester canal opened; it was surveyed by James Brindley the same man who oversaw completion of the first canal in the country: Manchester in 1761. It meant goods could be transported from Birmingham to London in just four to five days, where previously it had taken weeks. The first train arrived on 1 June 1837, by then the canals had enjoyed their day. Now canals are experiencing a revival as a popular tourist and leisure facility.

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