Robert Felkin - Born in 1853, Dr Robert William Felkin LRCS (Edinburgh), MD (Marberg), FRSE, FRGS, was a medical missionary, ceremonial magician, member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and founder of the Whare Ra lodge. He was also an author on Uganda and Central Africa as well as an explorer and anthropologist. His father was a manager at Mander Brothers and Robert was educated at Wolverhampton Grammar School, where he met and was inspired by the explorer David Livingstone. A full account of his life can be found in A Wayfaring Man, a fictionalised biography written by his second wife, Harriet.
James Fleet - Born in Bilston in 1954, actor James Edward Fleet is most famous for his roles as the well-meaning Tom in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral, and on television as the ineffectual Hilary Tripping in Chambers and dim-witted Hugo Horton in The Vicar of Dibley. His other films include Phantom of the Opera, Charlotte Gray, Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner and Sense and Sensibility, in which he played John Dashwood. James lived in Wolverhampton until he was ten, when his father died, then he moved to Aberdeenshire with his Scottish mother. He studied engineering at Aberdeen University and afterwards went to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. He began his acting career in the 1980s at the Royal Shakespeare Company and has appeared there regularly ever since, including plays by Shakespeare and Chekhov. On radio, he was the upright Captain Brimshaw in the comedy Revolting People, starred in the topical sitcom The Party Line, and has been in many other productions, such as Aubrey’s Brief Lives. He was the voice of ‘Dog’ in the children’s TV show Dog and Duck and his other television roles include parts in Monarch of the Glen, Midsomer Murders, Little Dorrit, Coronation Street, Death Comes to Pemberley, and Bad Education. James now lives Oxfordshire with his wife, Jane, and their son, Hamish.
Pete Forbes - Singer/songwriter Pete Forbes is the frontman of Wolverhampton Indie band The Rubikons. The band’s original lineup was made up of Pete Forbes (vocals/guitar, Daniel Wheway (lead guitar), Byron Benton (bass), and John Hodgkiss (drums). The group was heavily influenced by British alternative arena rock bands, particularly U2. They recorded their first set of demos in 2006 with acclaimed producer Gavin Monoghan and went on to earn a growing following as news of the self-proclaimed best band in the country started to spread.
Laurence Foster - Born in Wolverhampton in 1944, Laurence Foster was educated at Regis School and Birmingham Theatre School, where he won the Outstanding Student Award. Seasons of twice nightly rep followed in 1968 and he was then engaged by Peter Dews at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in Othello, Romeo & Juliet, St. Joan and After The Rain with Michael Gambon and Timothy Dalton. He was also a Birmingham League and Leinster League cricketer. Laurence then acted in and directed children’s theatre seasons in Weston-Super-Mare and Burnham-on-Sea. Dick Condon invited him to Ireland in 1968 as leading man in Billy Liar and other productions. He was a member of the Gate Theatre Company from 1969 to 1971 and, in 1972 returned to Birmingham Rep to play in Vivat,Vivat,Regina!. On returning to Ireland, he appeared in all the major Dublin Theatres taking leading roles in plays such as Arms & the Man, Hamlet and Under Milk Wood, as well as pantomimes and summer revues. In 1974, he joined the RTE Radio Drama Department as an actor and performed in over 750 plays. He acted and directed many plays and ‘radio soaps’, eventually being appointed head of RTÉ Radio Drama. Film appearances include Privilege, Cal and The Escapist. He was Chairperson for the Prix Italia and represented Irish Broadcasting in Europe. Television appearances include Vikings, Rainbow City, United, Remington Steele, Law & Order and The Tudors. Recent theatre includes All’s Well That Ends Well at the Helix Theatre, Dublin, and The Constant Wife in Dublin and in Charleston, South Carolina. Laurence has also received acclaim for his solo performances as Dickens in Dublin. He now lives in Terenure and his autobiography, Rising Without Trace - The Life and Times of an English Actor in Ireland, was published by in 2007. In this he writes honestly and humorously about the highs and lows of a career in one of the most precarious of professions, his move from the theatre to radio drama, and his more recent acting career in theatre and films. He has worked with many famous actors and entertainers, including Micheál MacLiammóir, Spike Milligan and Michael Gambon, and recently played Charles Dickens in a film of A Christmas Carol. Watch video of Laurence Foster as Dickens in Dublin.
Sir Henry Hartley Fowler - The first Viscount Wolverhampton was a solicitor and Liberal politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1880 until 1908 when he was raised to the peerage - the first solicitor and the first Methodist to enter the Cabinet or to be raised to the peerage. Born in Sunderland, Henry Hartley Fowler moved to Wolverhampton and served as a local councillor, becoming Mayor of Wolverhampton in 1866. Henry married Ellen Thorneycroft at St Mark’s, Chapel Ash, and they lived at ‘Summerfield’ in Chapel Ash, then at ‘Woodthorne’ on Wergs Road. At the 1880 general election he became MP for Wolverhampton, serving under Gladstone as Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for India, and Grand Commander of the Star of India. Under Campbell-Bannerman and Asquith he was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He was ennobled in 1908 as Viscount Wolverhampton, of Wolverhampton in the County of Stafford, and was widely thought of as a future Prime Minister until ill health prevented this. Lord Wolverhampton died in 1911, aged 80.
Edith Henrietta Fowler - Edith and Ellen Thorneycroft-Fowler were the daughters of the first Lord of Wolverhampton, Henry Fowler, and granddaughters of the city’s first mayor, George Thorneycroft. Ellen was born in 1865 at 7 Summerfield Road, West Park. Both sisters began to write at an early age, contributing to magazines and periodicals, and Edith’s first two novels were The Young Pretenders and The Professor’s Children, which brilliantly observed the world from a child’s perspective. In 1903, she married the Minister of St George’s Church, William Hamilton, and had two sons, but continued writing novels as well as a biography of her father, which gives revealing insights into family life and the politics of the time. Edith had a strong faith and her imaginative, amusing stories reflect that Christian outlook. Her last published works were Patricia and Christabel.
Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler - Like her sister, Edith, Ellen Fowler was educated at home in Wolverhampton, where their father, Henry Hartley Fowler, encouraged them to have intelligent, witty conversations. Ellen was born in 1860 at 7 Summerfield Road and went on to study at a private school in London. She had two volumes of poetry published - Verses Grave and Gay in 1891 and Verses Wise and Otherwise in 1895. Her sonnet, Wulfruna’s Hampton, written for the 900th anniversary of St Peter’s first Charter, can be seen in the church guide book. A book of short stories was followed in 1898 by Ellen’s hugely successful first novel, Concerning Isabel Carnaby. This sold over a million copies and she went on to write several other clever, imaginative and entertaining novels that combine romance, mystery and drama. In 1903, she married a schoolmaster, Alfred Felkin, who was the son of Robert Felkin, manager of Manders’ Varnish Works in the town. Ellen moved to London, but still often visited the family locally and continued to reference places such as Wolverhampton (sometimes renamed ‘Silverhampton’), Tettenhall (disguised at ‘Tetleigh’), Sedgley (‘Sedghill’) and Tong in her novels, including A Double Thread (called by the Daily Graphic ‘The Novel of the Year’ in 1899) and The Farringdons as well as books of poetry (Fuel of Fire; Place and Power). Ellen and Alfred moved to Bournemouth in 1916, partly for the sake of her health, and she wrote less frequently, except for Beauty and Bands which is set in Bridgnorth. Ellen died in 1929 and is buried with her husband at All Saints, Branksome Park.
John Fraser - Dr John Fraser was born in Glasgow in 1820 and after studying Medicine at Glasgow University he moved to Wolverhampton in 1854, where he lived for the rest of his life and worked as a GP. He was also Honorary Surgeon-Major to the 4th Staffordshire Volunteers. John Fraser was married in Wolverhampton to Sarah Wilkes and lived at 30 Darlington Street and 5 Tettenhall Road, where his blue plaque can be seen. Like many educated men of his time John was a competent scientist in other fields and as well as being one of Staffordshire’s foremost botanists, he was also an amateur geologist with a passion for fossils, which he collected from all over the world. He was at one time president of the Dudley and West Midlands Geological Society and on his death in 1909, he bequeathed his fossil collection to the people of Wolverhampton for educational purposes. This now forms the largest part of the geology collection cared for by Wolverhampton Arts and Museums Services. An exhibition, ‘The Riches Beneath Us’, opened at Bantock House Museum in 2015 to explore the collection of rocks and fossils he bequeathed in 1911. This was the largest display of Wolverhampton’s impressive geology collection in decades and featured many fascinating fossils, collected from the Black Country’s collieries and limestone mines, dating from when this area was a tropical forest or shallow coral reef. Among the exhibits was the 315 million year old ‘Coseley Spider’, never shown in Wolverhampton before, and a rare example of the species Eophrynus Prestvicii. Discovered in 1871 at the former Parkfields Colliery near Coseley, it shows the early evolution of spiders. Other items included ‘The Dudley Bug’ trilobite from the Silurian paeriod (over 400 million years ago), an ammonite from the Middle Jurassic period, a perfectly preserved fossilised fern leaf which fell from a prehistoric tree more than 300 million years ago, and a tooth from one of the Jurassic world’s most vicious predators, the plesiosaur.
Helen Geake - Dr Helen Geake was born in 1967 in Wolverhampton and grew up in Bath. She originally trained as a secretary but after reading archaeology books and attending lectures by Mick Aston she went on to study medieval archaeology at University College London. Subsequently she took a PhD at the University of York then worked as assistant keeper of archaeology at Norwich Castle Museum. Currently she is Finds Advisor for Early Medieval to Post-Medieval Objects for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, based at Cambridge University Department of Archaeology. She first worked for Channel 4's popular and long-running archaeology series Time Team in 1998 as a digger and occasionally as an Anglo-Saxon specialist. She joined the frontline team of presenters, alongside Tony Robinson and Mick Aston, for the 2006 series. Helen has contributed a number of articles on her specialist field, editing and writing other works, and is a regional member of the Council of Rescue: The British Archaeological Trust. In 2003 she was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. Helen is married with two sons and a daughter and lives in Suffolk. She is a cousin of the late John E Geake, after whom the asteroid 9298 Geake is named.
James Glaisher - Born in Rotherhithe, James Glaisher was a founder member of the Meteorological Society and the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain. Between 1862 and 1866, usually with Henry Tracey Coxwell as his co-pilot, he made numerous balloon ascents in order to measure the temperature and humidity of the atmosphere at its highest levels. On 17 July in 1862, he and Coxwell rose to some 22,000ft over Wolverhampton in an attempt to set an altitude record. They reached 24,000 feet in a second attempt on 18 August and at on 5 September they reached a record height in a balloon of 11,887m (39,000 feet) from Wolverhampton Gas Works (now the Science Park on Glaisher Drive). Due to reduced atmospheric pressure and exposure during the ascent, Glaisher passed out, and because of his frost-bitten hands Coxwell opened the gas valve with his teeth to make a rapid but safe descent. One of the pigeons making the trip with them died. In the year 2000, Mike Kendrick from Bridgnorth and American-born Jim Dexter, now of Telford, broke the world airship speed record in a dramatic flight over the Midlands from Halfpenny Green airfield. Their airship reached 94.7 kilometres per hour (58mph), causing passing cars and ramblers to stop and watch. The pilots' Lightship Group is the world’s largest airship operator and has been involved in Richard Branson’s ballooning exploits.
Goldie - Electronic music artist, disc jockey, visual artist and actor Clifford Joseph Price, better known as Goldie, was born of Jamaican and Scottish heritage in Walsall in 1965, growing up in Wolverhampton from the age of 18. He was a member of the breakdance crew Westside, based in the Whitmore Reans and Heath Town areas of the city, and later joined a breakdance crew called the Bboys before making his name as a graffiti artist in the West Midlands. Well known for his innovations in the jungle and drum and bass music genres, Goldie has also worked as an actor (including James Bond film The World Is Not Enough and the TV’s EastEnders) and has appeared in Celebrity Big Brother, Strictly Come Dancing, Celebrity Mastermind and Come Dine with Me. He was placed second behind Sue Perkins when learning to conduct a concert orchestra in the BBC’s Maestro reality television show. Goldie’s box set album, The Alchemist, features the best tracks from throughout his musical career to 2012. Goldie was romantically involved with singer Björk for several years and is now married to Mika Wassenaar, a Canadian. His autobiography, Nine Lives, was published in 2002. Goldie received an honorary degree of Doctor of Design from the University of Wolverhampton and in 2016 he was awarded an MBE for his contribution to the music, TV and film industries as well as his work with a number of charities. Video
Jaki Graham - Wolverhampton-based Jaki Graham is one of the UK’s original female soul singers. She rose to fame in the 1980s, starting out as a backing singer for UB40 before finding solo success with with top ten tracks such as ‘Could it be I’m Falling in Love’ and ‘Set Me Free’. Her first album, ‘Real Life’, sold more than 800,000 copies in under four weeks, with tickets for her tour selling out in 20 minutes. Jaki had an international hit in the 1990s with her cover of Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’, which was top of the USA Billboard dance charts for five weeks and also reached gold in Australia and Japan. She has released more than 20 singles and numerous albums worldwide, achieving a Guinness World Record as the first Black British female solo artist to have six consecutive Top 10/20 hits. Jaki has inspired many other artists including Beverley Knight, who regards her as a role model. The two finally met in 2009 after being asked by a Wolverhampton charity to take part in a gala Jaki was involved in and have since made a long-lasting friendship. Beverley has said that, ‘When we’re together we’re two Black Country girls. When she speaks she has a far stronger accent than me but after I’ve been with her for a few hours I go into her half-Jamaican, half-Wolverhampton speak.’ In recent years Jaki has enjoyed a phenomenal worldwide success for her ‘Gershwin & Soul’ and Duke Ellington concerts with the BBC Big Band and joined Cliff Richard as the only British special guest on his successful ‘Soulicious’ Arena Tour. She has also released ‘For Sentimental Reasons’, her first, long awaited studio album in over 15 years, and published her autobiography, Heaven Knows. In 2013 she received an honorary degree from the University of Wolverhampton for her contribution to music, and addressed students at the University in 2015 when she was made one of four Pro Chancellors who act as ambassadors.
W G Grace - Supreme amateur cricketer William Gilbert ‘W G’ Grace was important in the development of the sport and one of its greatest-ever players. The majestically-bearded former England and Gloucestershire captain, an intimidating 6ft 2in and 16 stone, scored over 54,000 runs and played for England until he was past 50. He played first-class cricket for a record-equalling 44 seasons up to his retirement, aged 60, in 1908. In July 1911, he played as part of a G L Jessop Select XI versus Wolverhampton Cricket Club captain H D Stratton’s Select XI. Wolverhampton Cricket Club is the oldest sporting club in the city, founded in 1835 and located at various grounds before settling in 1890 on its present site at Danescourt. In the famous two-day, two-innings match in 1911, fast scoring batsman Jessop and his team won by 26 runs. Grace was out cheaply in both his innings but took two wickets. H D Stratton was the club captain from 1882 to 1911 and the result of this match may have contributed to his retirement. In nearby Enville, in July 1870, I Zingari defeated a United South England XI by an innings in a three-day game at the beautiful cricket ground on the Earl of Stamford’s 6,500 acre Enville Hall estate. A total of 30,000 spectators saw several Test cricketers in the beaten side, including a younger W G Grace, Henry Jupp, Fred Grace, James Lillywhite, James Southerton and Henry Charlwood. An under-arm bowler, Osbert Mordaunt, captured nine wickets for the Zingari side who had no less than 18 batsmen including the Earl himself, who was out for a duck.
Keedie Green - Known only as Keedie on stage, Keedie Green is a soprano with three octaves in her voice that reaches a top A above a top E. She born was Keedie Babb in 1982 in Wolverhampton and baptised as Keedie because her father is a fan of Kiki Dee. The family moved to Torquay when she was three years old and Keedie left school aged 14 to pursue a singing career, signing her first record contract when she was 16 years old. Success in a local talent show led to an appearance at a World AIDS Day event in London with Liberty X in aid of Crusaid. Keedie entered the classical crossover market in 2004 by reaching number two in the UK singles chart with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s I Believe My Heart, taken from his then-new musical The Woman in White. Her album (also called I Believe My Heart) is an eclectic mix of pop, opera, classical and original material. Keedie’s working class background and jeans and top clothing surprised audiences that had other expectations for what a classical singer should look like and come from. She sings in two voices – a sweet pop voice, and a powerful operatic one that far exceeds the required ability of a crossover artist. She is as happy to burst into arias such as Vissi d’Arte as she is to cover songs by Madonna and Enya or interpret new material. Despite a seven figure record deal and a large amount of money thrown at her promotion, a sustainable marketing campaign failed to materialise and she parted ways with her record company, EMI classics. Keedie scored a second Top 20 hit with her version of the hymn Jerusalem, released to celebrate the England cricket team’s victory in The Ashes, and performed at events such as the Carling Cup Final and David Beckham’s first L.A. Galaxy match, supported Tina Turner at her one-off gig at The Bedrock Ball, provided vocals for OMD’s comeback single, Sister Marie Says, and reached the boot-camp stage of the seventh season of The X-Factor.
Rosalie Glynn Grylls - Biographer, lecturer and Liberal Party politician, Rosalie Glynn Grylls was born in Cornwall in 1905 and educated at Queen’s College, London, and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she graduated with a Master of Arts. She worked as secretary to the Liberal MP Edgar Granville and in 1930 she was selected as Liberal prospective parliamentary candidate for the Reading Division of Berkshire for the at the following year’s General Election. In 1930 she married Geoffrey Mander, MP for East Wolverhampton, and by the time the Election came, a National Government had been formed and the Reading Liberals did not contest the constituency. Although she remained interested in politics, she concentrated instead on her writing. A prolific biographer, with a special interest in the writers and artists of the Romantic period, she was an early connoisseur of the Pre-Raphaelite movement at a time when they had fallen out of fashion. Rosalie was shrewd collector, buying a Millais self-portrait for just £15, and transformed her home, Wightwick Manor, into an ad-hoc gallery. Wightwick Manor contains many pieces of fine stained glass created by the celebrated Victorian designer and manufacturer C E Kempe. Rosalie Glynn Grylls wrote that, ‘Kempe’s work has a unique charm; its colours shine out from jewels that cluster on the mitres or the crowns his figures wear and from their peacocks’ feathers, while angels playing their instruments are drawn with tender delicacy and scattered above the main windows informally but making a pattern of precision. Above all, the prevailing yellow wash is literally translucent, for it lets through the rays of the full or the setting sun...’ Two more fine examples of Kempe’s work can be seen in Christ Church, Tettenhall Wood. Her biographical subjects included Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont, Edward John Trelawny, William Godwin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ivy Compton-Burnett and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She was influential in the overdue reassessment of artists and writers of the Victorian period and frequently lectured in USA. Although Rosalie died in 1988, her unique collection continues to grow as contacts that she made during her lifetime are still giving Wightwick Manor works of art.
Elvis Gordon - One of Wolverhampton’s greatest sporting heroes, Elvis Gordon was a giant in the sport of Judo. The Black Country heavyweight legend won numerous titles at national, international and world level and put Wolverhampton on the map during the 1980s and 1990s. He was three times Olympian World Silver Medalist, European Champion, Double Commonwealth Champion, Shoriki Cup Champion, twice Paris Tournament Medalist and British Open Champion 11 times. Weighing in at 23 stone, he competed in the Los Angeles, Seoul and Barcelona Olympics Games before retiring in 1992. The father of five, who worked as a caretaker at Moseley Park School in Bilston, passed away at the age of 52 in 2011 following a brave battle against cancer.
Button Gwinnett - Born in 1735, Button Gwinnett moved to Wolverhampton in 1755 and married a local girl, Ann Bourne, at St. Peter’s Church. In 1762 the couple left England and sailed to America, where he prospered as a planter and was elected to the Provincial Assembly. As a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776 he was one of fifty-six signatories of the Declaration of Independence. Button Gwinnett’s extremely rare autograph is among the most valuable in the world, with single examples selling for as much as $150,000, and this fact was used by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in his short story, Button, Button.
Sydney Guy - Guy Motors of Wolverhampton was the Black Country’s longest surviving powered vehicle manufacturer, continuously in production for 68 years. The factory was established at Fallings Park in 1913 by Sydney Slater Guy, a clever, ambitious and determined young man with great drive, enthusiasm and engineering ability. Sydney continued to run the business until his retirement in 1957 at the age of 72. Famous at home and abroad for its commercial vehicles, Guy’s originally manufactured lorries before turning to the production of charabancs after the First World War. In the 1920s, they made cars, buses and trolley buses and contributed important innovations to the motor industry such as a V8 petrol engine, automatic chassis lubrication, rear-hinged doors, adjustable steering columns, six-wheel bus and trolleybus chassis, the first bus and truck available with diesel engines, four-wheel disc brakes and air suspension. Customers included London Transport, Harrods and Wolverhampton Corporation and the Guy slogan, ‘Feathers In Our Cap’, became well known thanks to the Red Indian mascot that was fitted to almost every vehicle. In 1928, Guy’s took over Star Cars Ltd, continuing production of the Star car until 1932, and in 1948 they acquired Sunbeam-Karrier. At one point, Guy’s were one of the largest manufacturers of trolley buses in the world and developed the largest bus in the world, designed to carry 110 passengers. Production continued until the 1960s, when fondly remembered trolley buses fell out of favour. With falling sales, Guy Motors Ltd ceased trading in 1961 and was taken over by Jaguar Cars Ltd. Vehicle production ended in 1975 and final production of components came in 1978.
Ricki Hall - Called ‘the man with the most influential haircut in Britain’ by Esquire Weekly, Ricki Hall also sports an impressive beard and more than a hundred tattoos, including a McDonalds Golden Arch, Mr Men characters and a coffin design that covers the name of his ex-girlfriend. Born in Codsall, he was working at his father’s garage, Highway Motorcycles in Wolverhampton, when he was spotted by a model scout at Topman’s Oxford Circus branch, while dressed in his mechanics overalls when visiting a friend in London. After signing to the prestigious Nevs Models, Ricki landed his big break in a Lyle & Scott fashion campaign and gained an impressive social media profile, with more than 170,000 followers on Instagram and Twitter alone. He has featured in countless fashion magazine shoots and thousands of people around the world have started asking their barbers for ‘a Ricki Hall’. He now lives in Brixton but makes regular visits to his hometown.
Sir Leslie Geoffrey Hampton - Born in 1952, Leslie Geoffrey Hampton is best known as Geoff Hampton and he became head teacher of Northicote School in Wolverhampton. In 1998 he received a knighthood in recognition for his achievements in transforming in five years the fortunes of the school, the first in Britain which had been deemed by OFSTED inspectors as ‘failing’. Sir Leslie has since left Northicote School and is now a Professor at the University of Wolverhampton. Remarkably, only two headteachers have ever been knighted (the first being Sir Godfrey Cretney) and both worked in Wolverhampton.
Johnny Hancocks - Born in 1919 in Oakengates, Johnny Hancocks played for for Oakengates Town and Walsall before joining Wolves in 1946. A diminutive figure, standing just 5' 4" with size 3 boots, Johnny thrilled crowds for ten years with his fast wing play, unstoppable shots and never-say-die spirit, becoming a part of the Molineux folklore. He helped Wolves win their first league title in 1953/54 and was top goalscorer for the club in the following two seasons. He also collected an FA Cup winners medal in 1949 and in total scored 168 goals for Wolves in 378 appearances (his tally of 158 top-flight goals is still a club record). He later became player/manager of non-league Wellington Town, then moved to Cambridge United, Oswestry Town and GKN Sankeys before retiring from football in 1961. He then worked at the ironfounders Maddock & Sons in Oakengates until his retirement on his 60th birthday. Johnny died on February 19, 1994, aged 74.
Gilbert Harding - Born in Hereford in 1907, Gilbert Charles Harding was an irascible radio and television personality who was one of the most famous people in the country during the 1950s. His father died at an early age so his mother placed Gilbert into the care of The Royal Orphanage of Wolverhampton, now the Royal School. After studying at Cambridge he worked as a schoolmaster, journalist, policeman, disc-jockey, interviewer and television presenter, and appeared in several films, usually as a version of himself. The gruff, moustachioed presenter was a regular on the BBC’s What’s My Line? panel show and became known as ‘the rudest man in Britain’, though he could be kind and sensitive in private life. A tortured, self-destructive, lonely, alcoholic, homosexual Catholic who always regarded himself as a failure, he was almost reduced to tears in John Freeman’s famous Face to Face interview. Gilbert died suddenly, aged 53, in 1960, a few weeks after the programme was broadcast. ‘Behold in me the common people’s sage, The Plato of the television age. In place of wisdom, piety or grace, I offer endless prospects of my face.’
Douglas Harris - Able Seaman Douglas Morris Harris of Pennfields, Wolverhampton, was a wireless telegrapher on board the Italian drifter Floandi during World War 1, one of a number of armed drifters used to blockade the port of Cattaro (Kotor) to prevent the Austrian Navy’s use of the Adriatic. On the night of the 14th/15th May 1917, the drifters came under attack from three ships of the Austrian Navy. Douglas remained at his post during the battle and was killed, aged just 19. For his bravery he was awarded one of Italy’s highest honours, and a bronze memorial to him, created by Robert Jackson Emerson and cast in 1919, now stands in St Peter’s Gardens. Douglas Harris is also commemorated on the war memorial in the garden opposite St Philip’s Church at Penn Fields.
Billy ‘Artillery’ Hartill - Footballer William ‘Billy’ John Hartill was born in Wolverhampton in 1905 and spent most of his playing career at Wolverhampton Wanderers. Nicknamed ‘Artillery’ after serving as a bombardier in the Royal Horse Artillery, he joined Wolves in 1928 and in the following year, his first full season as a professional, he scored 33 goals to become the club’s top goalscorer. He repeated this feat for the next three seasons (five times in total) and altogether scored 170 goals in 234 games. This was a record until it was broken in 1980 by John Richards and Billy remains the club’s third-highest ever goalscorer. He twice scored five goals in a single match, a record never bettered by any other Wolves player, and achieved a then club record of 16 hat-tricks (later beaten by Steve Bull). Billy remained at Molineux until 1935, when he moved briefly to Everton, then to Liverpool and Bristol Rovers. He retired in 1940 and died in Walsall in 1980.
Helene Hayman - Baroness Hayman was born Helene Middleweek in 1949 and was a Labour Member of Parliament from 1974 to 1979, when she was the youngest member of the House of Commons and the first woman to breastfeed at Westminster. She became a Life Peer and in 2006 won the initial election for the newly created position of Lord Speaker. Lord McNally, the Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords, called her ‘the Julie Andrews of British politics’.
Sir Jack Hayward, OBE - The son of Wolverhampton factory owners, Sir Jack Arnold Hayward was a millionaire industrialist and philanthropist, benefactor of countless charities, including many local ones. In his remarkable life he was a Dakota fighter pilot in the Second World War and a lover of all things British, including HP Sauce and Colman’s mustard. He was the saviour of Lundy Island, Brunel’s ship, SS Great Britain, and Wolverhampton Wanderers FC. After relocating his business from the United States to the Bahamas in the 1950s, he became a Vice President of The Grand Bahama Port Authority and continued to play an active role in Freeport, where the Sir Jack Hayward High School is named after him. He became the owner and chairman of his beloved boyhood football club Wolverhampton Wanderers after buying it in 1990 for £2.1million. Sir Jack had financed England women’s cricket tours in the 1970s and his close friend Rachael Heyhoe Flint persuaded him to buy the club. He spent an estimated £70million of his own money on redeveloping Molineux Stadium, writing off debts and buying players during the 17 years he was the owner. In 2007 he sold control of Wolves to businessman Steve Morgan for a nominal £10 fee in exchange for a conditional £30m of investment in the club. The training complex at Compton is now called ‘The Sir Jack Hayward’ training ground and a street, Jack Hayward Way, beside Molineux (previously Molineux Way) was renamed to commemorate his 80th birthday in 2003. Sir Jack remained life president of Wolverhampton Wanderers and was a member of the club’s Hall of Fame. He was knighted in 1986 for his many charitable enterprises and in 1994 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Wolverhampton University to mark his services to the country. The Sunday Times Rich List placed him as 125th richest in Britain with an estimated £160million fortune in 2009. Sir Jack died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2015, aged 91. The Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Perry Christie, described him as ‘the single most important figure behind the economic development of the city of Freeport and a colourful, larger-than-life personality who was held in great affection by the Bahamian people.’ It was announced that the new Grand Bahamas Highway Bridge would be named in his honour. Robert Plant said that ‘He was a charming, warm gentleman. As I met him more often I was aware of his deep love of all things Wolverhampton. He loved the football club and had strong, passionate opinions – the colours ran through his veins. As our legions of followers will never forget . . . he did indeed “save the day”.’ Thousands of people lined the streets of Wolverhampton for his funeral at St Peter’s Collegiate Church to say an emotional farewell. Over 650 mourners, including 250 fans chosen by ballot, joined Sir Jack’s friends and family and a clutch of Wolves legends. Queen Square was packed as hundreds of fans gathered to follow the service on a big screen. watch video tributes by Matt Murray and Suzi Perry.
Karl Henry – Born in in 1982 and originally from Dovecotes in Pendeford, Karl Levi Daniel Henry was the first black captain of a Wolverhampton Wanderers Premier League football team. He began his career with Stoke City before joining Wolves in 2006. Karl excelled during the 2010/2011 season and was an ever present in the Wolves midfield, spennding seven seasons at Wolves making 272 appearances in all competitions, until losing the captaincy shortly after the arrival of new signing Roger Johnson. Karl also joined the ranks of Wolves players who have played for the club over 200 times. He joined Queens Park Rangers in the summer of 2013 and helped them to victory in the 2014 Championship play-off Final.
Rachael Heyhoe-Flint - Probably the best known female cricketer in England, Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, OBE, was born in Wolverhampton and became a PE teacher at the town’s municipal grammar school , but had to take leave when she was selected for the England team to tour South Africa in the winter of 1960-61. As well as winning two England hockey caps in the 1960s, she was a member of the English women’s cricket team from 1960 to 1982 and played in 22 Women’s Test cricket matches, with a batting average of 45.54 in 38 innings. Her three Test centuries included her highest score of 179, a world record when she achieved this against Australia at the Oval in 1976, earning a draw to save the series by batting for more than 8½ hours. Rachael was captain from 1966 to 1978, unbeaten in six Test series, and led England to triumph in the inaugural Women’s Cricket World Cup of 1973. She gave up teaching for journalism on the Wolverhampton Express and Star in the mid-1960s, and in 1967 began a 23-year association with the Daily Telegraph. She was also the first female presenter on ITV’s World of Sport. After retiring from cricket, she continued to work as a journalist, broadcaster and after-dinner speaker, and was one of the first women to be admitted to the MCC. In 2010, Rachael was appointed to the House of Lords, joining Baroness Hayman and Lord Turner of Bilston. She became a director of Wolverhampton Wanderers FC, supported many local organisations and charities, and co-authored a history of women’s cricket, Fair Play. The MCC flag was flown at half mast when Rachael, who Australian cricket writer Jarrod Kimber called ‘the W G Grace of women’s cricket’, died in January 2017, aged 77. The city centre came to a standstill to pay tribute to Rachael on the day of her funeral as hundreds of people gathered outside St Peter’s Church as her coffin travelled there from Molineux. Among the mourners were lyricist Sir Tim Rice, Sir Trevor Brooking, Denise Lewis, former England cricket captain Mike Gatting and broadcasters Judith Chalmers, Suzi Perry and Jacqui Oatley. Angela Rippon said in her eulogy that Rachael had ‘stolen our hearts’. The International Cricket Council has announced an annual award, named after Rachael Heyhoe-Flint, to be given to the year’s leading woman cricketer.
Alfred Hickman - Industrialist and politician Sir Alfred Hickman was born in Tipton in 1830. His father was the owner of the Goveland Ironworks and Moat Colliery in Tipton. Alfred was educated at King Edward’s School, Birmingham and went to work in his father’s business aged 16, eventually taking over the company with his brother. He became a colliery proprietor and modernising ironmaster, as the family acquired Springvale Furnace in 1866. He was a director of Lloyd’s Staffordshire Proving House, a Member of Council of Mining Association of Great Britain, and chairman of Staffordshire Railway and Canal Freighter’s Association. In 1882 he formed the Staffordshire Steel Ingot & Iron Company Ltd (which eventually became part of Stewarts & Lloyds) to produce steel using the Bessemer process. Alfred Hickman stood for the Conservatives at the 1885 general election and was elected MP for Wolverhampton West. He was created a baronet in 1892. He became both President of the British Iron Trades Council and President of Wolverhampton Chamber of Commerce, and in 1902 he was given the honorary freedom of the borough of Wolverhampton. He later became Chairman of the newly formed Tarmac Limited. On his death in 1910, he bequeathed a park (Hickman Park) to the people of Bilston. Alfred married Lucy Owen Smith in 1850 and his grandson Alfred succeeded to the baronetcy. In 1920, Hickman’s was taken over by the Stewarts and Lloyds company and continued to dominate employment in Bilston until the furnaces closed in 1980, despite the great efforts of Dennis Turner to keep ’Big Lizzie’ going.
Barbara Hicks - Stage and screen actress Barbara Hicks was born in Wolverhampton, the youngest of three daughters of iron and steel merchant, William ‘Copper’ Hicks, and his wife, Hester Woolley, a strong-minded suffragette. Barbara was educated at Adcote School for Girls in Shrewsbury and served as a land girl in Wales during the war. After graduating from the Webber Douglas school in London in 1947, she made her acting debut at the Royal Court in Liverpool and married a stage manager, Robert Loblowitz in 1951. She was at the Royal Court in Noël Coward’s Look After Lulu, starring Vivien Leigh, and Christopher Logue’s The Lily White Boys, starring Albert Finney and directed by Lindsay Anderson, who became a friend. She then joined the National at the Old Vic, acting with Maggie Smith, Laurence Olivier, Edith Evans and Derek Jacobi. After separating from Loblowitz she met Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Taylor, twice awarded the MC during the Italian campaign in the war, and went to live on the island of Elba, opting out of her career for ten years to raise her child, Giles, also now an actor. She appeared inTony Richardson’s film The Charge of the Light Brigade, Terry Gilliam’s cult film Brazil and the award-winning Merchant Ivory production of Howards End. The family returned to London in the mid-1970s and Barbara rejoined the National, making her her last stage appearance there in 1995 in a revival of Rodney Ackland’s Absolute Hell, with her friend Judi Dench. Barbara died in 2013, aged 89. Although she never worked for Alan Bennett on stage, her roles in his semi-autobiographical Me! I’m Afraid Of Virginia Woolf and A Question Of Attribution led him to observe, ‘When you go, Barbara, there’ll be a terrible hole in Spotlight’. American director Mel Brooks called her the funniest woman he had ever met.
Alexander Staveley Hill - Barrister and staunch conservative politician Alexander Staveley Hill (1825-1905) was the only son of banker Henry Hill of Dunstall Hall, Staffordshire, and Anne, daughter of Luke Staveley. Having become a barrister and QC, he was recorder of Banbury from 1866 to 1903 and deputy high steward of Oxford University from 1874 until his death. He enjoyed a good common law practice, besides holding a leading position in the probate, divorce, and admiralty division and frequently acting as arbitrator in important rating cases. He was leader of the Oxford circuit from 1886 to 1892. After an unsuccessful attempt in Wolverhampton in 1861, Alexander was elected for Coventry in 1868 and sat in the house for thirty-two years - representing Coventry (1868-74), West Staffordshire (1874-85), and Kingswinford (1885-1900). He was counsel to the admiralty and judge advocate of the fleet from 1875 till his retirement through failing health in 1904. In 1881 he went to Canada to study its suitability as a centre for emigration. He created a large cattle ranch seventy miles south of Calgary, now included in the province of Alberta. To this ranch, called New Oxley, he often returned, and he published a volume descriptive of the life among the foothills of the Rocky Mountains entitled From Home to Home: Autumn Wanderings in the North West, 1881-1884, illustrated by his wife, Mary. The town of Stavely, Alberta was named after him and Toronto University made him an hon. LL.D. in 1892. He lived at Oxley Manor in Bushbury, Staffordshire, where he was a JP and Deputy Lieutenant of the county. In 1880 he and his wife funded a school and chapel at Bushbury. His only child (from marriage to his first wife Katherine) was Henry Staveley-Hill, who succeeded him as recorder of Banbury and also became MP for Kingswinford. Dunstall Hall, which was surrounded by a moat and had a gatehouse dating from the sixteenth century, had been located in pleasant countryside some distance from Wolverhampton. Dame Maggie Teyte lived at Dunstall House in the grounds. Dunstall Park became overlooked by the new Great Western Railway locomotive works and sidings from 1855, causing Alexander to move out to Oxley Manor. The Park was sold to a new horse racecourse company in 1887 and Dunstall Hall was demolished in 1915. Dunstall Park became Britain’s first all-weather, floodlit course in 1993 and was the first to have a revolutionary ‘Tapeta’ track surface installed. Dunstall is the busiest racecourse in Britain and holds the record for 125 meetings in a single year. Every race is screened live in more than 10,000 UK bookmakers and 53 countries worldwide.
Dave Hill - Born in Devon, Dave Hill moved with his parents to Penn when he was a year old. He attended Springdale Junior school and Highfields Secondary school, and after leaving played lead guitar with drummer Don Powell in a band called The Vendors, later changing their name to The N’Betweens. They met bass player Jimmy Lea and singer Noddy Holder, forming the massively successful Slade. Dave became famous for his ‘John Birch Superyob’ guitar, huge platform boots, outrageous costumes and ‘YOB 1’ car numberplate. Slade split up in 1991 but Dave Hill and Don Powell carried the group on as Slade II (now shortened back to Slade). Dave and his wife have embraced the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith and live in Lower Penn, where he occasionally teaches music at Lower Penn School and Penn Hall School. Despite having suffered a stroke while performing in 2010, Dave has no plans slow down and continues to tour. In 2014, wearing his trademark cowboy hat, he won a celebrity edition of the television quiz show Pointless, making £2,750 for two charities.
Sir Roland Hill - Born in Kidderminster in 1795, Roland Hill moved with his family to Horsehills Farm in Wolverhampton, located on the corner of Compton Road and Richmond Road. He met his future wife, Caroline Pearson, there at the age of six, married her in St John’s Church in 1827, and lived at Graiseley House, off the Penn Road. Roland and Caroline later moved to London, where he became secretary of the South Australia Commission. His interest in postal reform led to a proposal that letters should be charged by weight, not distance, with the sender paying the postage. This scheme went before Parliament, and from 1840 a letter could be sent to any part of the country for one penny with the famous Penny Black stamp. Roland was given a job in the Treasury to help initiate of the new ‘penny post’ service and eventually he became Secretary to the Post Master General. During this time he introduced money orders, travelling post offices, the Post Office Savings Bank and improved rural services. He was knighted in 1860 and granted the freedom of London, where he died aged 84 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Laurence Hodson - Brewery owner, art collector and philanthropist Laurence W Hodson (1864–1933) became a partner in the Springfield Brewery (Butlers) off the Cannock Road in Wolverhampton following the death of his father in 1890. He also inherited his father’s mansion, Compton Hall, originally built for a Black Country hardware merchant in the mid-1840s. Among the Hall’s previous owners was a mayor of Wolverhampton who had been accidentally knighted by Queen Victoria. Laurence Hodson was a founder of Birmingham University, supporter of the Guild of Handicraft, and chairman of the Wolverhampton Art and Industrial Exhibition of 1902, for which he employed the future poet-laureate, John Masefield, as his secretary. He filled Compton Hall with one of the finest private collections in the Midlands and commissioned William Strang to paint a cycle of large murals on the life of Eve. A great patron of the Arts and Crafts movement, Laurence also commissioned his close friend William Morris to refurbish the interior, giving a name to one of ‘the Firm’s’ best-known wallpaper designs, ‘Compton’. He also purchased a set of the Grail tapestries by Morris and Edward Burne-Jones married Georgiana, companion and soulmate of William Morris and one of the three beautiful and talented daughters of the local Methodist minister, George Browne Macdonald. The library at Compton Hall included an early 15th-century edition of Chaucer, woodcuts by Durer, engravings by Hogarth and 16th-century copies of Mantegna’s Triumphs of Caesar, made for the ducal palace at Mantua and later owned by Charles I. There was also a complete set of volumes from Morris’s Kelmscott Press, many printed luxuriously on vellum, and 87 glass slides of Burne-Jones’s illustrations for the Kelmscott Chaucer. Unfortunately, Laurence got into financial difficulties in 1906, probably as a result of his lavish expenditure on arts and crafts. Compton Hall had to be sold, along with much of the collection. The Hall was bought by Thomas Adams, a Wolverhampton industrialist, who lived there until his death in 1939. It was opened in 1982 by the Duchess of Kent (still the Patron) as Compton hospice. Laurence’s private papers are now housed in Harvard University library and one of the Strang Adam and Eve panels can be seen at the Tate Gallery. Two auctions held in Newbury and London in 2013 featured many items from Compton Hall, including rugs, wall hangings, carpets, curtains and furniture, the Kelmscott editions, the Burne-Jones slides, letters from William Morris and John Ruskin, and an autograph copy of a sonnet by Oscar Wilde. The London sale alone raised £1.3 million. Philip Webb, Morris’s architect, had trained in Wolverhampton, and four of the exquisite sketches and watercolours he produced for the famous Forest Tapestry are now owned by nearby Wightwick Manor. The stunningly beautiful pieces depict a lion, a hare, a fox and a raven.
Noddy Holder - Neville John ‘Noddy’ Holder was born in Walsall in 1946, the son of a window cleaner. He then attended the then new T. P. Riley Comprehensive School and formed a group called The Rockin’ Phantoms with school friends at the age of 13, and with money earned from a part-time job, he bought a guitar and an amplifier. He turned professional with a band called The Memphis Cutouts and then with Steve Brett & the Mavericks in the early 60s made four singles for Columbia Records. Noddy went on to fame as the lead singer and showman with Slade, where he co-wrote most of the band’s songs with fellow member Jim Lea. In those happy days Noddy and the boys, including drunner Don Powell and flamboyant lead guitarist Dave Hill, could often be found hanging out at the Trumpet in Bilston. Since leaving Slade, Noddy has appeared on television, notably in The Grimleys, Coronation Street and Have I Got News for You, had his own radio show and written his autobiography, Who’s Crazee Now? His distinctive voice was used to record the lift announcements at Walsall’s Art Gallery and can be heard in many advertisements, memorably for Nobby’s Nuts and Crisps.
Dave Holland - Born in Wolverhampton in 1946, bassist, composer and bandleader Dave Holland taught himself how to play ukele at the age of four and went on to become a legend among jazz fans. After playing at Ronnie Scott’s in London, ‘Wolverhampton’s jazz son’ got his big break as a performer from Miles Davis, with whom he played during the great trumpeter’s ground-breaking Bitches Brew period. Solo, and in collaboration, Dave has worked with folk and rock musicians such as Bonnie Raitt and John Hartford, and even had a passing encounter with Jimi Hendrix, as well as Stan Getz, Chick Corea, Thelonious Monk and Herbie Hancock. In 2009, he co-founded an all-star group, The Overtone Quartet, and currently lives in upstate New York. His new Prism Quartet goes back to basics with blues, ballads and a definite dance vibe influenced by Caribbean sounds and the John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra fusion.
Philip Horsman - Well-known city dignitary and philanthropist Philip Horsman (1825–1890) was a self-made man who became a very successful building contractor whose firm built Wolverhampton Art Gallery from designs by Birmingham architect Julius Chatwin. The gallery opened in 1884, generously funded at a cost of £8,000 by the builder, who also donated a significant part of the original collection of art. Other early bequests and gifts came from a local tin toy manufacturer, Sidney Cartwright and his wife Marie Christian Cartwright, as well as from industrialist Paul Lutz, retailer James Beattie and the Jones Brothers, who were manufacturers of metalware and holloware. The Cartwright collection was valued at the time at £17,000 - more than the cost of the building itself. Under its charismatic curator David Rodgers, the Art Gallery would later acquire one of the country’s finest collections of Pop Art. At the foot of the imposing staircase inside is a fine painting of Philip Horsman by George Phoenix. Philip also built Wolverhampton’s Town Hall and founded the Eye Infirmary, to which he contributed £5,000, and helped rescue the Blind School in Victoria Street by giving £800. He was described as being of a modest, retiring nature and a quiet, unostentatious man of a kindly disposition. The Horsman Fountain in nearby St Peter’s Gardens was erected in grateful recognition of his generosity and unveiled by the Mayoress, Mrs Mander, in 1896. Sculpted by Messrs Farmer and Brindley, it has a red granite lower bowl and the rest is in ‘stone’, with six dolphins supporting the central bowl and four putti supporting the upper bowl.
Don Howe - Born in the Springfield area of Wolverhampton in 1935, Donald ‘Don’ Howe was educated at St. Peter’s Collegiate School before going on to have a significant career in football as a player, coach and manager. He made 342 professional appearances for West Bromwich Albion and a further 70 for Arsenal (signing for Billy Wright and made club captain) as well as 23 games for England. As a coach he worked at West Bromwich Albion, Galatasaray SK, Arsenal , Queens Park Rangers and Coventry City, and was Assistant Manager with England (1977-1982). For 25 years Don was regarded as the most revered training ground guru in English football. He managed West Bromwich Albion and Arsenal and in 1988 he won the FA Cup whilst assistant manager of Wimbledon - one of the biggest shocks in the history of the competition. After leaving Wimbledon, he managed QPR and secured a place in the new FA Premier League for Coventry City. In 2003 he retired with a reputation as one of the most well-liked and respected figures in British football. Don then moved into journalism and broadcasting, becoming a pundit for Channel 4’s coverage of Serie A and for the BBC Sport website, and continued to run youth coaching schemes across the United Kingdom. After Don died aged 80 in 2015, tributes poured in from football luminaries such as Roy Hodgson and Gary Lineker for a great coach, who revelled in working with players and had a superb tactical awareness - a visionary with an old-fashioned ability to organise and, above all, a gentleman.
Matthew Hudson-Smith - Born in Wolverhampton in 1994, Matthew Hudson-Smith joined his local athletics club, Birchfield Harriers, and competed in sprint events before becoming a 200 metres runner. He was twice runner-up at the English Schools Championships over that distance before winning the title in 2013 at the age of eighteen. He also made his international debut for Great Britain at the 2013 European Athletics Junior Championships, getting the bronze medal, and in the 2014 season he started to concentrate on competing at 400 metres. in In Zurich he finished right behind Martyn Rooney to win a European Championship silver in a new personal best of 44.75. Matthew had only run five 400 metre races in the season before being chosen as part of England’s 4×400 metres relay team at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The 19-year-old, competing at his first major senior championship, picked up the baton for the final leg of the race in second place before passing Trinidad and Tobago’s Zwede Hewitt and holding off Chris Brown of the Bahamas to win the race in a storming finish. This sensational performance continued Matthew’s meteoric rise from complete unknown to world-class one-lap runner. Matthew comleted a triumphant 2014 by being crowned British Athletics Young Athlete of the Year.
Glenn Hughes - Born in 1951 in Cannock, Glenn fronted Finders Keepers in the 1960s and was bass player and vocalist for funk rock pioneers Trapeze, formed in 1969 with Mel Galley, Dave Holland, John Jones and Terry Rowley. Glenn joined Deep Purple in 1973 and also briefly fronted Black Sabbath. Stevie Wonder once called him his favourite white singer, and as well as being an active session musician he has maintained a notable solo career. His album called Live In Wolverhampton was recorded on a two-night stint in June 2009 at the Robin 2 in Bilston. The first night featured some of his greatest songs, including solo material and songs from his glory days with Deep Purple. The next night concentrated on his time in Trapeze. Dedicated to the memory of his friend and former Trapeze guitarist Mel Galley, who passed away in July 2008, Glenn delivered emotionally charged versions of songs taken from the albums Medusa and You Are the Music... We're Just the Band. Glenn currently fronts the supergroup Black Country Communion, with guitar star Joe Bonamassa, keyboard player Derek Sherinian and drummer Jason Bonham, son of the late Led Zeppelin legend John Bonham.
William Huskisson - Born in 1770 in Worcestershire, William Huskisson spent the first five years of his life there until the family moved to the estates of his grandfather at Oxley and Bushbury, near Wolverhampton. In 1783, William and his brother Richard were adopted by their mother’s uncle and went to live with him in Paris, where he witnessed the French Revolution first hand. On his return to England, he became and member of parliament and was made President of the Board of Trade in 1823. Plans for the Manchester to Liverpool railway were first made known to him the following year as the canals were proving insufficient for this area - William was a shareholder in the canals which had done so much for the counties of his birth and family and was a rail enthusiast. Unfortunately he became ill as the railway neared completion in 1830 though he was determined to be present at the opening ceremony. During this, he and some friends left their carriage during a halt when a warning was given that Stevenson’s Rocket was approaching. Still feeble from illness, William attempted to board the carriage, fell across the line and was run over. He died later that day, becoming the first person in Britain to be killed in a rail accident. He was buried, with great pomp in Liverpool’s St. James's Cemetery.
Eric Idle - Comedian, actor, author, singer, writer and composer Eric Idle was born in South Shields, County Durham, in 1943 and enrolled into the Royal Wolverhampton School aged seven as a boarder. At this time the school was a charitable foundation dedicated to the education and maintenance of children who had lost one or both parents (Eric’s father Ernest died in a hitch-hiking accident on Christmas Eve in 1945). Eric is quoted as saying: ‘It was a physically abusive, bullying, harsh environment for a kid to grow up in. I got used to dealing with groups of boys and getting on with life in unpleasant circumstances and being smart and funny and subversive at the expense of authority. Perfect training for Python.’ The two things that made his life bearable were listening to Radio Luxembourg under the bedclothes and watching Wolverhampton Wanderers. He went on to become head boy but would often sneak out of school to the local cinema. He was eventually caught watching the X-rated Butterfield 8 at The Savoy Cinema in Bilston Street and stripped of his prefecture. Boredom drove Eric to study hard and he won a place at Cambridge before going on to great things with Monty Python’s Flying Circus and beyond. Asteroid 9620 Ericidle is named in his honour.
Howard Jacobson - Manchester-born author and journalist Howard Jacobson is best known for his comic novels, and won the Man Booker Prize for The Finkler Question. At a table-tennis trial in Wolverhampton in the Fifties he failed to make it into the English team and the scar of defeat clearly hadn’t healed when he came back to teach English Literature at Wolverhampton Polytechnic. ‘When I returned to Wolverhampton 20 years later, the streets were still sodden with my disappointment. Wolverhampton didn’t make everyone’s life hell, only mine; the rest of the population, even those only passing through, being of the conviction that there was no pleasanter place on the planet.’ The novelist has said many unflattering things about the city, though he enjoyed the curries at the Taj Mahal on the Willenhall Road and admired John Boulton, then head of English at Poly. He has described himself as ‘an unpleasant snob’ in those days and perhaps he has now seen the error of his ways. Margaret Gray, a student of Jacobson’s at the Poly, has written, ‘I am sure he has a great deal to thank Wolverhampton for. I suggest that his continual criticism of a resourceful and warm-hearted city owes more to his being “at a rubbishy time in my life” than to the shortcomings of his surroundings.’ His experiences in Wolverhampton formed the basis of his first novel, Coming from Behind, a campus comedy about the fictitious Wrottesley Polytechnic’s plans to merge with the local football club.
Francesca Jackson - Musical theatre actress Francesca Jackson was born in Wolverhampton in 1983. At the age of eight she moved to Swansea, where she grew up and where her parents Mel and Steve still live. Francesca joined the National Youth Music Theatre in 1991 and studied Performing Arts at Neath Port Talbot College before gaining a place at the prestigious Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts (sharing a flat with her best friend, Sound of Music star Connie Fisher). Since graduating has played leading roles in a number of West End Shows including Dyanne in Million Dollar Quartet, Sue in Dreamboats and Bill Kenwright’s Petticoats (Playhouse and UK tour), Joanne in Rent, alongside Denise van Outen, Bet in Oliver! at the London Palladium, and Bugsy Malone (Queen’s). She has also performed the role of Petra in A Little Night Music at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris (alongside Leslie Caron and Greta Sacchi.), Lucy in the Barry Manilow based musical Can’t Smile Without You, Dee Dee in Tonight’s the Night and Lucinda in Into the Woods. Francesca’s television work includes Heno, The House and Refresh. She also made the final ten in the BBC TV’s search for Nancy and sang on the soundtrack recording of Evita. Francesca is a regular concert performer in the UK and abroad, including A Little Night Music in Concert for Radio France and appearing as soloist with the Transworld Orchestra at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre.
Stuart Jeffries - Born in Wolverhampton, Stuart Jeffries used to edit the Walsall Observer’s children’s page under the pseudonym ‘Uncle Tom’. He started his journalistic career at the Birmingham Post and Mail and now works for the Guardian as a feature writer and columnist. He is also the author of Mrs Slocombe’s Pussy: Growing Up in front of the Telly - a highly entertaining social history described by the Daily Mail as an ‘hilariously Proustian, witty, entertaining and wholly idiosyncratic study’.
Stephen Jenyns - Knighted by Henry VIII, wool merchant Sir Stephen Jenyns was born in Wolverhampton around 1448 and founded the Grammar School in 1512. He was a master of the ancient guild of Merchant Taylors and became Lord Mayor of London in 1509, the year of Henry VIII’s coronation. He became one of the wealthiest men in the country, reputedly paying more tax than any other person in the year 1519.
Bob Jones - Robert Moelwyn ‘Bob’ Jones was born in Wolverhampton in 1955 and lived here all his life except when he studied public administration at Nottingham University. He served as a Labour Councillor for Blakenhall Ward on Wolverhampton City Council from 1980 to 2013 with responsibility for Leisure and Community Safety as well as Education, Finance, Youth Committees and many others on the City Council. He was the Labour Party candidate for Wolverhampton South West in the 1983 general election, but was defeated by Conservative Nicholas Budgen. Bob was a member of the West Midlands Police Authority from 1986 to 2012, and chaired the Authority from 1995 to 2000. He also served as a member of the Association of Police Authorities (APA) and was a member of the National Policing Board, National Criminal Justice Board, and Senior Appointment Panel. He was also a member of the service authorities for the National Crime Squad (NCS) and National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) and chaired the disciplinary committee for both authorities. He served as a non-executive director of the Black Country Cluster PCT Boards and chaired various other local community organisations and trusts. He was also the campaigning strategy director for the Campaign for Real Ale. In 2010 Bob was awarded the CBE for services to policing. On 22 November 2012, he was elected as the first Police and Crime Commissioner for the West Midlands and made an immediate impact. Bob died suddenly in his sleep in 2014 aged 59. His widow Sarah described him as a ‘warm and wonderful man’ and many people, including Teresa May and Ed Miliband, paid tribute as ‘Bob Jones’ trended on Twitter UK. Flags outside Wolverhampton Civic Centre were flown at half-mast and a memorial event was held at Wolverhampton Civic Hall to honour a great public servant man of the people, respected across the political spectrum. In 2015, Blakenhall Community and Healthy Living Centre was renamed the Bob Jones Community Hub in recognition of his contribution to the city.
Charles Jones - Born the son of a butcher in Wolverhampton in 1866, Charles Harry Jones was a gardener and photographer, famous for his beautiful black and white still lifes of fruit and vegetables. He worked in gardens on private estates in England from the 1890s and photographed the fruits of his labours. These inspired creations were never exhibited in his lifetime, but since a trunk containing 500 of his prints was discovered by a photography scholar at an antiques market in 1981 they have been shown widely across the world. Charles is now recognised as a master of the camera as well as the kitchen garden and a book of his photographs, The Plant Kingdoms of Charles Jones, was published in 1998.
Wayne Jones - Darts player Wayne Alan Jones was born in 1965 in Wolverhampton and uses the nickname The Wanderer for his matches. He started his career in the British Darts Organisation in the late 1980s and reached the final of the British Open in 1990, but his greatest achievement was reaching the final of the Winmau World Masters in 1999 when Andy Fordham ended his hopes of a first major title. Wayne made his debut at the PDC version of the World Championship in 2004, producing his best ever performance two years later by reaching the semi-finals. In 2010, he made his first televised final appearance in the European Championships, which guaranteed him a place in the Grand Slam of Darts in his home town of Wolverhampton, where he produced a big upset by beating Scotland’s number one Gary Anderson in a thrilling victory.
Wolverhampton people, A-B, C-E, F-J, K-M, N-S, T-Z