Judith Keppel - In 2000, Judith Cynthia Aline Keppel became the UK’s first £1 million prize winner on the television game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? She was born in 1942 in Wolverhampton, the daughter of Lieutenant Commander Walter ‘Wacky’ Keppel and his wife Aline. Judith’s million-pound question was ‘which King was married to Eleanor of Aquitaine’ and, coincidentally, her genealogy can be traced back to Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England. She is the granddaughter of Walter, 9th Earl of Albemarle, and her great-grandfather, the 8th Earl was brother-in-law of Alice Keppel, the mistress of King Edward VII. He was the great-uncle of Camilla Parker-Bowles, now Duchess of Cornwall, who is therefore Judith’s second cousin once removed. Her father was in the Fleet Air Arm so the family moved to various naval postings around Britain during her ‘very happy’ childhood. After they settled in London when she was 17, Judith completed a secretarial course and married art dealer Desmond Corcoran. The couple had three children but divorced. She was briefly married to comedy script writer Neil Shand and became a garden designer. Since 2003, Judith has appeared regularly as the star attraction on the BBC Two quiz show Eggheads, where she is often teased about her poshness.
Cyril Kieft - Born in Swansea on September 27 1911, Cyril William Kieft followed his father into the steel industry, training under him at Richard Thomas & Baldwin. In 1943 he became managing director of Wolverhampton steel works and purchased a drop forging company and a pressing company based in Derry Street, Wolverhampton, which after the war became home to Kieft Cars. Cyril had long an interest in motor racing and when the Marwyn company, who had built Formula Three cars, failed he bought the designs and used them as the basis for his own 500cc car. Several of these were sold, competition success resulted, and publicity was gained by successful attempts on fourteen different speed records at Autodrome de Montlhéry in France. One of the drivers there was Stirling Moss who explained the shortcomings of the cars. As a result of this a new design was acquired and Moss and his manager Ken Gregory became directors of the company, which moved to new premises at Reliance Works in Derry Street. The resulting car was launched in 1951 and won its first competition at Goodwood with Moss at the wheel. Kieft cars went on to many more victories over the next two years, winning the Formula Three championship on three successive occasions. The Kieft car in which Don Parker, another ‘privateer’, won these titles was exhibited at the Earl’s Court motor show in recognition of his success. Two 1100-cc sports cars were shown at the 1954 Motor Show and had fibreglas bodies - the first ever produced from a single mould as a complete unit - and could reach speeds over 100mph. The cars were the first to win an international race using a Coventry Climax engine and a restored example can be seen at the Black Country Museum.
Mervyn King - Governor of the Bank of England from 2003, Mervyn Allister King is the son of a Gornal headmaster. Born in 1948, he grew up in Canterbury Road, Penn. He studied at Warstones Junior School, Wolverhampton Grammar School and King’s College, Cambridge (gaining a first class degree in economics) then taught at the University of Birmingham, Cambridge and Harvard before becoming a Professor at the London School of Economics. He was one of the 364 economists who in 1981 signed a famous letter to The Times condemning Geoffrey Howe’s budget. Mervyn joined the Bank of England in 1991 and was controversially involved in the collapse of the Northern Rock and the subsequent banking crisis in 2007. He was the first Governor of the Bank to be received in audience by Queen Elizabeth II and is, inexplicably, a fan of Aston Villa FC. After leaving the Bank of England in 1913, he became a crossbencher in the House of Lords as Baron King of Lothbury. He is a fellow of the British Academy, a Trustee of the National Gallery, a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the holder of many honorary degrees. In 2014, he was appointed President of the Worcestershire County Cricket Club in time for the club’s 150th anniversary celebrations year in 2015 (hes been a fan for more than 50 years).
Patricia Kneale - Classical stage and television actress Patricia Kneale was born the daughter of strolling musicians in Wolverhampton in 1925, and was educated mainly at home by her father, William Lawrence Kneale. She worked as a typist on Vogue magazine then gained a Meggie Albanesi scholarship to RADA, where she was awarded the Bancroft gold medal. She made her acting debut in 1947, as Olivia in Twelfth Night at Regent’s Park, and in a career lasting over 40 years she stuck closely to Shakespeare, as well as plays by Chekhov, Oscar Wilde, T. S. Eliot, Samuel Beckett and Eugene Ionesco. At Nottingham Playhouse she was as a commading Lady Macbeth. In 1966 she became a member of Frank Dunlop’s Pop Theatre Company then she spent two seasons with the Welsh National Theatre before returning to Regent’s Park open-air theatre. Although mainly a stage actor, she was probably best known for her role as Judy Adamson in the 1961 television science fiction drama, A for Andromeda. She also appeared in Jean-Paul Sartre’s French Resistance drama, Men Without Shadows, and in the 1970s police sitcom Rosie, as well as in episodes of Crane, No Hiding Place, George and Mildred, Hawaiian Eye, Danger Man and The Good Life:. She later became an author and toured a couple of her own one-act plays in the 1980s - Hester, The Lady of Lebanon and Sarah Siddons. Patricia Kneale was married to the actor Jeremy Geidt and they had one daughter. After they divorced she was happily married to Neil Osborne until his death in 2001. Patricia died in Eastbourne 2008 (aged 83) leaving a daughter and three grandchildren.
Racheal Kneller - Talented and successful jockey Racheal Kneller was born in Lower Penn in 1988 and grew up in Wolverhampton as something of a tomboy. Her uncle was an apprentice jockey and her granddad owned a riding school where both her parents worked, so horses were always part of Racheal’s life. She started riding from about the age of four, when her legs barely reached either side of the horse (she is still just 4ft 10 in tall), and grew up attending pony club and going to local shows. She took part in show jumping and eventing and eventually became involved in racing after doing a week’s work experience whilst still at Oundsdale School in Wombourne. Racheal started out with a local point-to-point trainer at sixteen then spent four years as a very successful amateur jockey with Reg Hollinshead, before moving to trainer Mark Usher’s Lambourn yard in 2010. After taking out her apprentice licence, she rode 32 winners in the following two years. Racheal fractured her spine and pelvis in a fall in August 2013 but scored a win on her ninth ride following her return to action the following year. She turned professional in 2014 and her winners since have include her favourite, the grey Idol Deputy, who romped to victory at Wolverhampton Racecourse as well as in nine other races.
Beverley Knight - Soul and R&B singer extraordinaire Beverley Knight was born in 1973 in Penn Fields, Wolverhampton, where she attended Woodfield Infants and Junior School and Highfields School. She grew up in a strict Pentecostal household and began singing in church, which she continued to do so throughout her childhood. Secular music was frowned upon at home but artists such as Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin were a big influence. She began writing her own songs and by the age of seventeen was performing them on stage in her hometown clubs. Record contracts soon followed and her debut album was released in 1995. Five more best-selling studio albums followed as Beverley became one of Britain’s greatest soul singers, best known for hit singles Greatest Day, Get Up!, Shoulda Woulda Coulda and Come As You Are. After releasing a platinum-selling compilation album, The Best of Beverley, in 2006, she toured the UK with a reformed Take That and has hosted several series of the Radio 2 show Beverley’s Gospel Nights, which explores the origins and impact of gospel music. The excellent 100% is one of the Queen of British Soul’s finest albums to date. Following her acclaimed performances in the hit musical, The Bodyguard, Beverley was nominated for as Best Theatre Actress at the Glamour Magazine UK Women of the Year Awards in 2014. She also starred as leading lady Felicia Farrel in another West End show, the Tony Award-winning Memphis the Musical, set in the underground dance clubs of 1950s Tennessee, a role for which she was nominated for best actress at the Olivier Awards. She will also star as Grizabella, singing Memory in a revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats at the London Palladium. As well as being an ambassador for charities such as Christian Aid, Beverley is a vocal campaigner against homophobic lyrics in urban music. She was made an MBE in 2007 and received an honorary Doctorate of Music from the University of Wolverhampton ‘in recognition of her outstanding contribution to music and the local community, and for her extensive charity work’. Watch Video
Joanne Latham - Former glamour model Joanne Kandy Latham was born in Wolverhampton in 1961. After studying classical ballet for nine years she took a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School. A dancing competition led to a request for her to model for Miss Selfridge, followed by entry into the world of modelling and television commercials. She appeared on Page Three of the Sun and in the Daily Mirror and built a huge following of fans. Central Television made a documentary about her called ‘A Model’s Dream’ and Patrick Lichfield included her on the cover of his book of photographs, The Most Beautiful Women. Allegedly admired and courted by a member of the Royal Family and a close acquaintance of a President of the United States, she was also romantically linked with Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Vitas Gerulaitis, Ryan O’Neal and George Peppard. In 1979 Joanne was paid £70,000 to appear on nineteen pages in the 10th Anniversary edition of Penthouse magazine. After moving from New York to Los Angeles she became the girlfriend of Hugh Hefner, living in the Playboy Mansion. In the early Eighties she returned to her home in Tettenhall and in 1982 was involved in a serious car accident that caused her to give up modelling. Joanne opened the first ‘workout’ keep fit studio in the UK and later became a teacher of Yoga training at the Sivananda Yoga Vendanta Centre in Nassau in the Bahamas. She has continued working in the healing arts with her daughter, Elizablue Nairi.
Margery Lawrence -Writing under the pseudonym Mrs Arthur E Towle, Margery Lawrence was a poet and an author of fantasy, horror and detective fiction, specialising in ghost stories. Margery Harriet Lawrence was born in Wolverhampton in 1889. Her father, a solicitor named Richard J. Lawrence, published her early poetry in Songs of Childhood, and Other Verses. Her earliest collections, the Round Table sequence, include Nights of the Round Table (1926) and The Terraces of Night (1932). One of her poems, Arabian Serenade, was set to music by Edward Elgar in 1914 and is one of his finest songs. She wrote nearly thirty novels in a wide range of genres, including adventure-romance and novels of the supernatural. One of them, Red Heels, was filmed by the Austrian film company Sascha Film as Das Spielzeug von Paris, starring Lili Damita. In 1941, she published another collection of short fiction, Strange Caravan. Her nine short story collections and novels often reflect her Spiritualist beliefs and she also published two studies on Spiritualism as well as an autobiography in verse. Her best-known supernatural works include Number Seven, Queer Street, a collection that purports to be the case histories of a supernatural detective, Miles Pennoyer. Margery’s final novel, Autumn Rose, appeared in 1971, more than a year after her death in 1969.
T E Lawrence - Lawrence of Arabia secretly visited Wolverhampton in 1934 to work with the Park Lane engineering firm Henry Meadows, where he signed himself in as ‘T E Shaw’, the pseudonym he used after the war when he served in the RAF. He used the alias ‘T E Smith’ when signing the visitors book at the Victoria Hotel in Wolverhampton but was recognised one night in the lounge by a man who had served with him in Arabia during the war. Lawrence then took refuge at Perry’s tea rooms in Queen Street, Wolverhampton, where he liked to discuss football and motorbikes with the other customers, who had no idea who he was. He went to work each day at Henry Meadows, where he would sit cross-legged on the floor, Arabian-style, as he studied the firm’s engines and gearboxes. Very few details of the work carried out at the factory were ever revealed because of its national importance and Lawrence tried to keep a low profile. Sid Pitt, landlord at The Posada in Lichfield Street at the time, arranged a private dinner at the pub for Lawrence and Henry Meadows. A bronze portrait of Lawrence had been sculpted by Sir Charles Wheeler in 1919 at his architect patron Herbert Baker’s house, where Lawrence completed Seven Pillars of Wisdom. There was just one session lasting five intense hours during and Wheeler recalled that Lawrence ‘would not sit, but stood the whole time - like a rock’. Charles Wheeler produced another, much more idealised carved stone head in 1929. Now in the National Portrait Gallery, these two portrayals represent both the perceptive naturalist rendering of a highly complex human being as well as a stylised heroic vision of a warrior scholar who shaped the course of middle-eastern history.
Winifred Lawson - Born in 1892 in Wolverhampton, where she grew up, Winifred Lawson started out as a concert singer and is best remembered for her performances in Gilbert and Sullivan operas. After a 1918 concert, The Times wrote, ‘It is becoming rare nowadays to hear a high soprano who sings perfectly in tune, with a flexible voice and without tremolo, and the pleasure is all the greater when it does come.’ She first appeared on the London opera stage in 1920 as the Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro at the Old Vic and also sang in the first performances of Purcell’s Fairy-Queen since the seventeenth century. Winifred made her D’Oyly Carte Opera Company debut in 1922 at the Prince’s Theatre in London, playing Princess Ida, then joined the company as principal soprano. The usual practice of creating new G. and S. principals from the chorus was broken when Mr D’Oyly Carte heard Winifred sing the Countess in Figaro (the nearest to Mozart’s ideal ever witnessed, according to singer and producer Clive Carey). Winifred regularly appeared in D’Oyly Carte productions such as Iolanthe, The Yeomen of the Guard, The Gondoliers, Patience, H.M.S. Pinafore and The Mikado. She toured as Lili in Lilac Time before rejoining the D’Oyly Carte Company and recorded five of her roles there. She left to look after her mother, who was unwell, before returning to the stage to appear with the Sadler’s Wells Opera and tour Australia and New Zealand with the J. C. Williamson Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company. Back in England, she reprised the role of the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro at the Open Air Theatre in London’s Regent’s Park in 1938 for her last appearance on the London stage. During World War II, she sang in many concerts and toured the Middle East for ENSA. After the war she took part in the ‘Life of Gilbert and Sullivan’ radio broadcasts for the BBC, singing popular songs from the operas. Winifred was elected Vice-President of the Gilbert and Sullivan Society in 1944 and regularly joined Society meetings and events. Her refreshingly lighthearted and unaffected autobiography, A Song to Sing-O!, has a foreword by Sir Malcolm Sargent, who wrote that she always appeared to be ‘a simple and attractive child-like creature taken completely by surprise.’ Winifred died in London in 1961 at the age of 69.
Jim Lea - James Whild Lea was born in Wolverhampton in 1949. His parents owned The Grange pub in Bilbrook where he grew up. He attended Codsall Secondary Modern School - now Codsall Community High School - and played in the Staffordshire Youth Orchestra. Influenced by French jazz-violinist Stéphane Grappelli, his first musical love was the violin. He would later become equally accomplished on bass guitar, keyboards, guitar and vocals.. He gained first class honours in a London music-school practical exam, before moving on to piano, guitar and finally bass guitar. He first played guitar, and then bass, in the schoolboy group, Nick and The Axemen. Jim auditioned for The ‘N Betweens, of which drummer Don Powell, guitarist Dave Hill and vocalist Johnny Howells were members. Noddy Holder joined soon after, and the foundations for Slade were created. Jim became was the band’s principal songwriter, along with Noddy Holder, mostly writing the melodies. Slade’s lack of success during the late 1970s led him to form a new band, The Dummies, with his brother Frank and wife Louise. The group released three singles and in 1992, an album called A Day in the Life of the Dummies was released that included all the material recorded by the band. In the 1980s Jim also produced all of Slade’s recording sessions (except for some of the singles), and became an increasingly dominant creative force within the band. Under the name China Dolls he released the single One Hit Wonder and another single, Poland, under the name Greenfields of Tong. In 1983, he and Noddy produced Girlschool’s cover of the T-Rex song 20th Century Boy and the album Play Dirty which featured two Slade tracks. In 1985, he released his only solo single under his own name, entitled Citizen Kane and featuring Noddy on backing vocals. Jim left Slade after Noddy Holder’s departure from the band in 1991 and went on to study psychotherapy while continuing to release a number of singles under the names Gang of Angels, Whild and The X Specials. Since Slade stopped touring, Jim has performed live only twice; once for a local protest against a motorway development in his home area, and once again for a charity event at the Robin 2 venue in Bilston, near Slade’s old local pub, The Trumpet. He is still creating music and in 2007 he released his first solo album, Therapy, which features his own version of Slade’s last single, Universe.
Margaret Lee - Born Margaret Gwendolyn Box in Wolverhampton in 1943, Margaret Lee was a beautiful and talented actress in Italian films of the 1960s and 70s. She studied at the Italia Conti Theatre School in London before moving to Rome, making her screen debut there in 1962 in the adventure film Fire Monsters Against the Son of Hercules. A string of popular comedies followed as Margaret became a star in numerous blonde, Marilyn Monroe type roles. Fluent in both English and Italian, she dubbed most of her own films from 1966 onwards. She was later cast as a seductive brunette femme fatale in spy films such as An Orchid for the Tiger, directed by Claude Chabrol, and horror films such as Night of the Blood Monster with Christopher Lee. In Casanova ‘70 she co-starred with Marcello Mastroianni. Harry Alan Towers cast her in leading roles in several of his international productions, including the British thriller Circus of Fear, Venus in Furs and Dorian Gray. Her co-star in Circus of Fear was the German actor Klaus Kinski and they went on to make 12 films together. Margaret was also popular on Italian television, appearing as a showgirl alongside the singer Johnny Dorelli and as Cinderella an the TV special Il Cenerentola. She was also in the British TV series The Protectors. Later films became exploitative, culminating in Fernando Di Leo’s sleazy and violent thriller Slaughter Hotel, after which she returned to England, making a minor comeback in the early 80s in Dino Risi’s comedy Sesso e volentieri and the obscure crime-comedy Neapolitan Sting before retiring altogether. Margaret was married briefly to choreographer Gino Malerba and later married again in England. Both her sons, Roberto and Damian, are involved in film production.
Simon Lees - One of the UK’s best rock guitarists, famous for his acclaimed One Man Rock Show, Simon Lees won Guitarist Magazine’s prestigious ‘Guitarist of the Year’ competition in 1998 after being runner up three times previously. He grew up in the Wolverhampton area and first picked up a guitar in 1982, when he was aged twelve. He is currently lead guitarist with metal band Anubis and formerly played with Welsh classic rock legends Budgie. He has produced two solo studio CDs featuring his own material along with the current Anubis album and four of Budgie’s ‘Remastered’ series. Simon is also a renowned teacher and budding musicians have travelled from all over the country to be taught at his Wolverhampton Guitar Studio. He is an expert in the use of guitar multi-effects processors and his high quality Wolverhampton recording studio is equipped with expensive valve microphones.
Sir Richard Leveson - Elizabethan seaman, politician and landowner Richard Leveson (1570-1605) was born into the landed gentry. In the late Middle Ages, the Levesons were wool merchants in the Wolverhampton area and became major landowners in Shropshire and Staffordshire. They married into the Corbet family and became the most powerful of local landed gentry families. Richard Leveson took to the sea in his teenage years and married Margaret the daughter of Charles Howard, who had been appointed Lord High Admiral in 1585. Richard served as a volunteer under Sir Francis Drake on board the Ark Royal against the Spanish Armada. He was knighted after taking part in the expedition in which his father-in-law, Lord Howard, attacked and laid siege to Cadiz for two weeks. Sir Richard was elected a member of the English parliament for the first time in 1588 and two years later he commanded a squadron sent towards the Azores to look for the Spanish treasure-ships. In 1603 he commanded the fleet in the narrow seas to prevent any disturbance of the peace following the death of Queen Elizabeth I, at whose funeral he was a knight of the canopy. He lived at Lilleshall, Trentham or Wolverhampton when not on active service but the family estates were largely dissipated by his mentally ill father, Sir Walter Leveson, who was accused of piracy and sorcery and imprisoned in the Fleet. Sir Richard was made vice-admiral of England for life in 1604. When his wife became insane she was confined to one of Sir Richard’s houses, Oxley Hall, near Wolverhampton. In his final years he set up home at the Manor House, Perton, near Wolverhampton, with his second cousin, the noted courtesan Mary Fitton, who was a wanton maid of honour to Queen Elizabeth 1. They had a daughter, Anne, and Mary Fitton continued to live at Perton after Richard’s death at the age of 36. St Peter’s Collegiate Church has a striking bronze statue and monument to Leveson sculpted by Huguenot artist Hubert Le Sueur. This originally formed part of a family group in the chance but after damage during the English Civil War it was detached and reassembled in the lady chapel. Two bronze plaques give details of Richard Leveson’s naval achievements and family connections. In 1607, Mary married married one of Richard’s subordinates, William Polewhele. by whom she had three children. She later married John Lougher of Tenby, Pembrokeshire and had at least three more children. Mary died in 1641 and was buried beside Lougherin Gawsworth parish church. Her scandalous reputation may be why she was suggested as a candidate for Shakespeare’s ‘dark lady of the sonnets’. The suggestion was first made by Thomas Tyler in his 1890 edition of the sonnets and was taken up by the unreliable Frank Harris in several books, including a biography, The Man Shakespeare, in which he asserted that she had ruined Shakespeare’s life and that he died ‘broken hearted for love of the Dark Lady’. In 1987, Francis Carr wrote a book claiming that William Shakespeare and Francis Bacon spent three years living with Mary at Perton, although there is no convincing evidence that she was acquainted with Shakespeare. She did know William Kempe, who was a clown in his theatre company.
Denise Lewis - Born in 1972 in West Bromwich, Denise Lewis is one of the ‘golden girls’ of British athletics. She grew up in a terraced house in Wolverhampton with her mother and went to The Regis School in Tettenhall, now The King’s School, where a £1 million sports hall has been named after her. Denise started taking athletics seriously at the age of 13 and set out on a course that would make her Britain’s woman athlete of the year in 1996. A year later she took the World silver medal and in 1998 the gold at both the European and Commonwealth Games. Her greatest triumph came when in winning a gold medal in the heptathlon at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The seriously beautiful Denise was twice runner up in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year and has been a fashion model, appearing on the cover of Esquire magazine. In 2000, she was awarded an OBE and the Freedom of Wolverhampton, and in 2014 she received an honorary degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Wolverhampton. Denise was runner-up in 2004’s Strictly Come Dancing competition and is a now a regular pundit for the BBC’s coverage of athletics events, including the 2012 London Olympics and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. She has also appeared as an intrepid presenter with the equally delightful Ellie Harrison on BBC TV’s Secret Britain series. Denise was a member of the Wolverhampton & Bilston Athletics Club, based in Aldersley, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017. A former version of the club was located at Molineux in 1914, with a track running around the football pitch. Other illustrious members of the W&B have included Jim Auckett, Sonia Lannaman, Don Holliday, Verona Barnard, Maureen tranter, Rosemary Stirling, Mike Bull, Phil Lewis, Ralph Banhorpe, Kathy Cook, Gary Cook and Tessa Sanderson. Watch video
Edward Lisle - The Lisle family came from Yorkshire and Edward’s grandfather moved to Wolverhampton to work as a ledger clerk in Blakenhall. Two of his three sons, Richard and Thomas, ran a japanning and tin company in the area. Edward Lisle (1852-1921) joined the family’s japanning company in the 1870s and in his spare time he built a velocipede in the cellar of his father’s house. He entered some of the races that took place in the grounds of the Molineux Hotel and was very successful riding his home-built machine. He began building cycles to order, and in 1876 he started a bicycle manufacturing partnership with Edwin John Sharratt in Poutney Street. In 1883, Edward founded the Star Cycle Company and later moved to a factory on Stewart Street, where production reached 10,000 cycles a year. By 1904 Star was the largest Wolverhampton based bicycle manufacturer and began to produce motor vehicles based on a 3.5 hp Benz car. A six pointed star was adopted as their logo and in 1900, production expanded to facilities in Dudley Road and Nelson, Stewart, Ablow, and Dobb Streets. In 1902 the Star Motor Company changed its name to the Star Engineering company and rapidly expanded and diversified. A 40,000 sq ft factory was built on Frederick Street to make advanced new designs such as the popular ‘Little Star’ model. The main Star company continued to make well engineered models up to the outbreak of war in 1914 adding a range of vans and trucks to the output to became one of the six largest British car makers. The Star Cycle Company run by Lisle’s son, also called Edward, continued in business building bicycles and motorcycles and in 1905 entered the car industry in its own right, producing a De Dion-powered two-seater called the Starling. Star proper took advantage of export sales and saw racing success in South Africa and New Zealand. In 1912, an aesthetically pleasing, torpedo-bodied 15.9 hp model with a new bullnosed radiator was introduced which would remain in production until 1922. The company came under government control during the First World War Star. when commercial vehicles were made for the British, French and Russian armies. Star’s main contribution to the war effort was the production of aircraft wings and parts for mines. Post-war car production resumed in 1919 and by the early 1920s a thousand cars a year were being made but the death of Edward in 1921 was a major blow for company. Star Engineering lasted another 11 years but mass production was not its style and the market for luxury cars was badly hit by the great depression. In 1927 Guy Motors became major shareholders and by 1932 the Star Company had closed.
David Lloyd George - David Lloyd George, who had been British Prime Minister since 1916, was widely admired as ‘the leader who won the First World War’. Whilst in Wolverhampton on a triumphal national tour, he announced the start of the 1919 election campaign with a celebrated speech at Grand Theatre on November 24, 1918 (just two weeks after the Armistice). ‘What is our task?’ her asked the audience. ‘To make Britain a fit country for heroes to live in.’ Lloyd George was hosted on his whistle-stop visit to the Black Country by Charles Tertius Mander - alderman, baronet, industrialist and four times mayor of Wolverhampton - and family at their palatial house, the Mount, in Tettenhall. After a sumptuous dinner at the Mount with his wife and the Manders, the Prime Minister made his memorable speech at the Grand then attended a ceremony in the town hall, where he received the freedom of the town, had tea in mayor’s parlour and took the train back to London. Local artist George Phoenix sketched Lloyd George while he was in the mayor’s parlour and his subsequent portrait can be seen at the Amgueddfa Lloyd George Museum in Criccieth. The photograph shows Lloyd George at The Mount with his wife and the Manders.
Barbara Lord - The best remembered of the original Pan’s People dancers, ‘Babs’ Lord was born in Wolverhampton and started dancing at the age of three in her mother’s stage school. She later spent six years at the Arts Educational Trust stage school. She became one of the six original members of Pan’s People when the dance group was formed in 1966 and appeared on countless television programmes, most notably Top of the Pops. Barbara is married to the actor Robert Powell and has had a subsequent career as an amateur yachtswoman and world explorer, making several trips to the Himalayas, the Sahara, both Poles and the Guyana jungle. She holds the remarkable record of being the oldest housewife to visit both the North and South Poles. Barbara was the subject of a BBC This Is Your Life programme in 2001 and appeared on the final regular weekly edition of Top of the Pops in 2006, the only member of any of the show’s dance troupes to appear in person at the recording.
Anita Lonsbrough - Yorkshire born Anita Lonsbrough was the Golden Girl of British swimming in the 1960s, when she won a total of seven gold, three silver and two bronze medals. The highlight of this impressive series of performances was her gold medal in the Olympic 200 metres breaststroke at the 1960 Rome Olympics when, at the age of 19, she set the second of her four individual world records. Four years later she was chosen as the first female flag bearer for Great Britain at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics. At one time she simultaneously held the Olympic, Empire and European titles. After retiring, Anita married Hugh Porter, who she met travelling to Tokyo for the games, and the couple live in Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, after previously livung in Compton amd Pattingham. After teaching swimming at the Regis School in Tettenhall and Ounsdale High School, Anita became a sports commentator and journalist for The Telegraph under the name Anita Lonsbrough-Porter. She was the first woman winner of BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1962 and was awarded an MBE in 1963 for services to swimming. In 1983 she was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Anita was the last British woman to win an Olympic gold in swimming until Rebecca Adlington won at the 2008 Summer Olympics, 48 years later.
Henry Loveridge - Wolverhampton and Bilston were important centres of the English japanning industry, which developed in the 18th century to provide cheaper alternatives to expensive imported oriental lacquer ware. Production started in the 1760s when a factory was established at the Old Hall works and at the height of its popularity, richly decorated japanned ware could be seen in every middle class home. A wide variety of papier mâché and tin-plate japanned goods were produced, including trays, coal scuttles, hip baths, teapots, coffee pots, kettles, vases, beds, chairs, tables, cabinets, cash boxes and writing cabinets. Wolverhampton art gallery has hundreds of fine examples in its collection. Henry Loveridge was a keen businessman and together with William Shoolbred he established one of the most successful japanning factories in the Midlands. They began japanning in 1840 in John Street, Wolverhampton, and when these premises became too small for their expanding business, they bought land in Merridale Street to build a new factory. The Merridale Works was completed in 1848 and continued to manufacture japanned ware until 1927. According to those who knew him, Henry Loveridge ‘had a merry, jocular way, and was always happy and cheerful; he could tell pleasant anecdotes better than most men, and was a general favourite.’ According to one of his contemporaries, ‘he won the confidence and friendship of all with whom he came into contact’. He was a powerful figure in Wolverhampton, becoming a magistrate, Chairman of the School of Art and Design in Darlington Street, President of the town’s Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the first School Board, established following the Education Act of 1870. He was one of the founders of the North Street Liberal Club, later becoming its President, and put great energy into having a statue of lifelong friend C P Villiers erected in the town. He encouraged the theatre and when Mr. Henry Irving visited Wolverhampton in 1890, the great actor presented Henry with a life ticket of admission to performances at the Lyceum. His commercial career was very successful and his lifestyle suggested considerable wealth as he eventually moved to the splendid Elmsdale on Wightwick Bank, where his friends, the Manders, were near neighbours. Christ Church in Tettenhall Wood has a plaque in his memory, next to a much larger memorial to his wife, Sophia. When Henry died in 1892, his funeral cortege went all the way from Tettenhall to his modest grave in Merridale Cemetery, Jeffcock Road. The internment was attended by a number of his workmen as well as by the Mayor and a wide selection of the town’s industrial greats.
The MacDonald Sisters - Agnes MacDonald was a famous beauty who in 1866 married Sir Edward John Poynter - the eminent painter, designer, draughtsman and President of the Royal Academy. Agnes was one of four remarkable women who were among the seven daughters and 11 children of Reverend George Browne MacDonald, minister of the Methodist Chapel on Waterloo Road from 1862-65. Agnes’s sister Georgiana married an even more famous artist, the pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones. Another sister, Alice, married John Lockwood Kipling and was the mother of the poet and author Rudyard Kipling. A Viceroy of India once said, ‘Dullness and Mrs Kipling cannot exist in the same room.’ The fourth sister, Louisa, married industrialist Alfred Baldwin and was the mother of prime minister Stanley Baldwin. Louisa also wrote novels, short stories and poetry, sometimes credited as ‘Mrs Alfred Baldwin’. Three of the sisters married when the family was living in Wolverhampton, though two of them met their husbands in London when their father was a minister there. They became part of the artistic circle of the Victorian era partly because of the school-boy friendship between Edward Burne-Jones and their brother Harry. He introduced his younger sisters to his artistic friends, who became known as the ‘Birmingham set’. Judith Flanders’ excellent book, A Circle of Sisters, tells the fascinating story of Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne-Jones, Agnes Poynter and Louisa Baldwin.
Charles MacMunn - Born in Sligo, Ireland, in 1852, Dr Charles Alexander MacMunn studied medicine at Trinity College Dublin, where he was encouraged by William Stokes to study spectroscopy. After qualifying, he joined his elderly cousin’s practice in Wolverhampton in 1873. He took over the practice when his cousin died later that year, and married his cousin’s daughter in 1874. He started to study body tissues with a microspectroscope and discovered respiratory pigments throughout plant and animal tissues, naming them histohaematin and myohaematin. He showed that the chemistry of energy production in the body took place deep in the cellular structure of the tissues and not just in the blood as had been previously thought. These respiratory pigments are now known as cytochromes, and are fundamental to energy metabolism. In order to pursue his scientific research, he had the loft of his stable converted to a laboratory. He also had an eyepiece drilled through the wall of his study to scrutinise patients approaching, so that he could claim he was too busy for those he did not want to examine! Charles was appointed Honorary Pathologist and Physician to Wolverhampton’s General Hospital (later The Royal) in 1889 and married, as his second wife, the sister of Captain Webb, the swimmer. He was also Physician to the Royal Orphanage, Wolverhampton, Life Governor of the University of Birmingham, Fellow of the Microscopical Society, and of the Chemical Society, and Lieutenant Colonel and Medical Officer to the Staffordshire Voluntary Infantry Brigade. His book on his research was published posthumously by his wife, and was dedicated to her. Charles MacMunn’s pioneering work was finally vindicated when he received due recognition 14 years after his death in 1911. He had a distinguished career in the army, although the malaria that he contracted in South Africa during the Boer war affected him for the rest of his life. He was given a military funeral when he died, his coffin being borne on a gun carriage with a military escort through the town. In 2014, the Institute of Technology in Sligo named its new £13.5 million Charles MacMunn Science Building after Wolverhampton’s revered scientist.
Sir Geoffrey Mander - Born in 1882, the elder son of Theodore Mander, Geoffrey Le Mesurier Mander was an industrialist, art collector and man of integrity - a pugnacious parliamentarian with a strong patrician sense of public service and philanthropy. He became Liberal Party MP for Wolverhampton East at the 1929 general election, taking a strong stand against Appeasement of fascist dictators (upsetting Mussolini in the process) and crusading on behalf of the League of Nations. After losing his seat in 1945 he joined the Labour party, subsequently serving as a Labour member of the Staffordshire County Council among many other public offices. He was chairman of Mander Brothers (established 1773) and led many progressive initiatives in the field of labour relations and employment welfare - Manders was the first British company to introduce the 40-hour week. Sir Geoffrey, who was knighted in 1945, was also an early conservationist and presented the family house, Wightwick Manor, with its outstanding collections of Victorian art and objects associated with William Morris, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, C E Kempe and the Arts and Crafts movement to the National Trust in 1937. This was the first time a house had been presented to the Trust during the lifetime of its donor. His second wife, Rosalie Glynn Grylls, was a noted biographer of writers and artists of the romantic period and an early connoisseur of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Together they were influential in the reassessment of the artists and writers of the Victorian period. Watch Wightwick Manor video
Miles Mander - Geoffrey Mander’s younger brother Miles (sometimes credited as Luther Miles) was born Lionel Henry Mander in 1888. He was a versatile character actor of early Hollywood cinema as well as a film director and producer, a film exhibitor, a playwright and a novelist. A captain in the Royal Army Service Corps in World War I, he spent his twenties in New Zealand farming sheep. Miles achieved acting success as Sir Hugh Boycott in The First Born (1928) which he directed and starred in, and which was based on his own novel and play. He is best remembered for his portrayals of oily villains, many of them English gentlemen or upper-crust cads - such as Cardinal Richelieu in the spoof musical The Three Musketeers (1939). In his Hollywood debut, he had portrayed King Louis XIII in the rather more serious 1935 version of that same Alexandre Dumas classic. Other credits included The Private Life of Henry VIII, Sherlock Holmes And The Scarlet Claw, Farewell My Lovely, To Be Or Not To Be, Mrs Miniver, and the classic Olivier 1939 version of Wuthering Heights, in which he played Mr Lockwood. Miles’s first wife was an Indian princess, Prativa Devi, the daughter of a Maharajah, and his brother Alan married her sister.
Theodore Mander - Born in 1853, Theodore Mander was a Gladstonian Liberal, philanthropist and strict Congregationalist. He was a man of refined tastes and sympathies, a collection of whose diaries and letters was published in 1993 as A Very Private Heritage. He is remembered today as the builder of Wightwick Manor, which he was inspired to create after hearing in Wolverhampton a lecture by Oscar Wilde on ‘the house beautiful’. As a young man, Theodore was active in public life in the arts and education, as a governor of the Grammar School, of Tettenhall College and of Birmingham University (where he endowed a scholarship), and one of the founding benefactors of Mansfield College, Oxford. He was a successful mayor of Wolverhampton at the turn of the century, was presented to Queen Victoria and entertained the Duke and Duchess of York at Wightwick. Theodore married Flora Le Mesurier, a Canadian from Nova Scotia who provided Geoffrey Mander with his middle name. He died aged only 47 in 1901, following an operation on his kitchen table at Wightwick Manor.
Marilyn - Singer and songwriter Marilyn was born Peter Robinson in Jamaica in 1962, but spent a lot of time in Wolverhampton after his large family moved here when Peter was young. He is best known for his 1983 hit Calling Your Name and for his highly androgynous appearance. As a teenager in the late 1970s, he was a regular nightclub-goer and wanted to look different, so he adopted a Marilyn Monroe image wearing vintage dresses with bleached blond hair (he had originally earned the nickname ‘Marilyn’ from the bullies at school). He became a part of the British New Romantic movement which emerged in the late 1970s club scene in London and was popularised in the early 1980s. During this time, he met Boy George (who lived for a while in Walsall) prior to his forming Culture Club. The pair would later share a squat together before falling out. In 1984, Marilyn took part in the Band Aid charity single Do They Know It’s Christmas but financial difficulties and drug problems led to the abandonment of his music career. Lately revovered, he is now writing and recording new material.
Sir Charles Marston - The eldest son of John Marston (founder of both the Sunbeam Cycle and Motor Car Companies), Charles Marston was born in 1867 and joined the family firm in 1890. On a sales trip to the USA he was impressed by the assembly line production systems he saw at the Pratt & Whitney factory and decided to introduce these at home. The family acquired a small japanning shop and three cottages in Villiers Street, converting them into offices and a factory, and Charles was put in charge. The new machinery and methods proved to be such a success that the company produced more pedals than Sunbeam needed for its high-class Cob so began to sell them to other bicycle makers as well. John Marston sold the factory to Charles in 1902 and Villiers grew into a major manufacturer, developing and patenting the cycle free-wheel, production of which eventually reached its four million a year. Engine production began in 1911 and a range of single and twin two-stroke engines were made for motorcycle and vehicle manufacturers until the 1960s. The two millionth engine, produced in 1956, was presented to the Science Museum in London. Sir Charles became a Justice of Peace, officer in the Order of St John of Jerusalem, fellow of the Society of Antiquarians, and a strong believer in the Holy Bible. He spent a fortune on archaeological expeditions in Palestine, Mesopotamia, Egypt and Syria to bolster up Biblical lore, publishing an account of his work as New Bible Evidence.
John Marston - Born in Ludlow to a landowning family, John Marston (1836-1918) was sent at the age 15 to be apprenticed to Richard Perry, Son & Co, tinsmiths and japanners, at the Jeddo Works of Wolverhampton as a japanner (metal lacquerer). After completing his apprenticeship he bought Daniel Smith Lester’s japanning business at Bilston and established his own company, John Marston Ltd, producing tin goods. He did so well that when Perry died in 1871 Marston took over the company and merged it with his own. The company began making bicycles under the trademark Sunbeam, a name suggested by his wife, and the factory was renamed Sunbeamland. John based his production on high build quality, producing the best cycles on the market. The first Sunbeam motorcycle, a 350cc two and three quarters horsepower side-valve single, was produced in 1912 and soon established a reputation for sound construction and exemplary finish. The top model, the ‘Golden’, had real gold-leaf pin-striping and Sunbeam was famous as ‘The Gentleman’s Motorcycle’. This and other models continued to be made at ‘Sunbeamland’, Pool Street, Wolverhampton until 1937 and subsequently by AMC and BSA until 1957. The first production car named as a Sunbeam was introduced in 1901, with limited success, before the company started production of a Thomas Pullinger designed car. In 1905, a separate Sunbeam Motorcar Company Ltd was formed. The company’s greatest era was in the 1920s under Louis Coatalen’s leadership with exceptionally well engineered, high quality cars and a great reputation on the track. Many Sunbeam motorcycles won Tourist Trophy races in the Isle of Man and were famous for their superb quality. Original Sunbeam motorcycles remain much sought after and many are preserved around the world. Other Wolverhampton motorcycle firms who sent factory teams to the TT races included AJS, HRD (winners in 1925 and 1927), Diamond from Sedgley Street and HB in Walsall Street. Wolverhampton motorcycle manufacturers also included Clyno, Norton, Juckes on the Bilston Road, Olympic in Granville Street, Orbit in Sedgley Street and Wearwell (renamed Wolf in 1904) in Great Brickkiln Street, making the town the centre of the British motorbike industry in its glory days. Sunbeam also manufactured 647 aircraft during the Second World War but went into receivership in 1935 and was bought by the Rootes Group, which continued to use the Sunbeam marque. Fischer Bearings and Villiers Engineering moved to the Sunbeam site before it was occupied by lock manufacturer C E Marshall from 1967 to 1997. In 1865 John married Ellen Edge and they had ten children, two of whom died young. John and Ellen outlived several of the others and lived most of their lives at The Oaks, Merridale Road. A prominent figure in the local community, John supported education and was a councillor for St Paul’s ward. He became Mayor of Wolverhampton in 1889 and 1890 and in these two years he arranged for sanitation to be improved and instigated water and sewerage works that are in use to this day. He also oversaw the building of a new power station to supply electricity for electric lighting and the approval of the Local Government Act of 1888 that made Wolverhampton a County Borough. John was 80 years old when he retired from business. After being empty for 15 years, the splendid Sunbeamland factory building is being converted into 116 apartments in a £11.5 million development by former rugby player Liam Wordley’s company. A Sunbeam motorcyle and pushbike will be displayed in the public entrance areas. The new Sunbeam pub and restaurant, located near Wolverhampton station, was named after the illustrious motorcycle and car firm and has an image of John Marston hanging proudly inside.
Frank McEachran - Often known as Kek, the charismatic schoolmaster and author Frank McEachran was born the son of an engineer in Wolverhampton in 1900. He began his teaching career at Gresham’s School, Holt, where among the boys he influenced was future poet W H Auden, who would later write ‘Clearer than Scafell Pike, my heart has stamped on, The view from Birmingham to Wolverhampton.’ Kek also lectured at the University of Leipzig and taught at Shrewsbury School. Historian and Cambridge don Mary Beard remembers being taught by ‘the Dante-mad Italian teacher’ at Shrewsbury High School. ‘He looked like a mad professor... a sort of shaggy figure in his sixties. He had thinning white hair and wore a scarf and a woolly jumper, but he inspired us all to consider that the intellectual life of the mind had a point to it. For one of our classes we used to go to his flat and he always had the most luscious cakes and tea. We would talk about philosophy...’ He would encourage pupils to stand on a chair, around which three chalk lines had been drawn, and recite fragments of poetry, which he called ‘Spells’. He taught and inspired the future communist James Klugmann, journalist Martin Wainwright, Private Eye’s Paul Foot and Richard Ingrams, and the editor of the Independent on Sunday, Stephen Glover. Frank fought in the Spanish Civil War and was the model for Hector in Alan Bennett’s play, The History Boys, a character who insists that knowledge should be sought for its own sake. Kek, who died in 1975, wrote several fine memoirs and anthologies of poems, such as Spells and A Cauldron of Spells.
Ian McMillan - In 2006 the city of Wolverhampton was voted Britain's best unfashionable town or city by viewers of the BBC’s Breakfast News, coming out on top in the programme’s Talk of the Town feature as one of the country’s ‘undiscovered gems’. Wolverhampton's prize was a visit by the Bard of Barnsley, Ian McMillan, who composed a poem celebrating the city. ‘The rival of Paris, the equal of Rome, And to those who give cities like this one much grief, I say stay here a while, take your time, look beneath.’
Hanifa McQueen-Hudson - Raised by Jamaican parents, Hanifa McQueen-Hudson’s African Caribbean culture and heritage strongly influenced her skills and knowledge of Black dance and music. Aged five, she was taught how to play African drums and, when formally known as ‘Bubbles’, started B Boying in 1982 at the age of 12 when she first saw her brothers practicing in the front room of their home and kitchen lino floor. Hanifa rose to fame a year later after being featured in UK’s first ever b boying pop music video, Electro Rock, and was nominated as best female performer in 1985 at age 16. She has made numerous guest appearances on TV and appeared in sportswear commercials for major sponsors such as Adidas and Puma, featured in the historical book of female break dancers, We B Girlz, and a documentary about her titled, Redder Than Red. Hanifa continues to influence B boys and B girls around the world. Her Art Breaker project is a unique and creative way of painting patterns on canvas without the use of paintbrushes or aerosol paint. B-boying is the tool used to create shapes and patterns by applying paint to the hands and feet. Performed to therapeutic and ambient sounds of nature, Jazz and percussion, each break dance step, twist and spin paints an art piece. The 43-year-old mother-of-two from Newhampton Road West, Wolverhampton produces her imaginative artworks by throwing shapes and pulling jackhammers on the canvas, using her feet as paintbrushes to create an amazing and beautiful new art-form. Watch video
John Masefield - Born in Ledbury in 1878, John Masefield was orphaned in 1891 and went to sea on a voyage at the age of 15 to Chile, via the Cape of Good Hope. Bad sea-sicknness forced him to return home, and when recovered he travelled to America and worked in New York in a bar and then in a carpet factory - experiences which instilled in him a sympathy for the underdog. After returning to England he joined the staff of the Manchester Guardian and published his first book of verse, Sea Ballads, which made his name and included the famous poem Sea Fever. When the book was published he was staying in Wolverhampton, living on Tettenhall Road and working as an assistant and secretary to local brewer Laurence W Hodson, who initiated the Wolverhampton Art and Industrial Exhibition of 1902. John Masefield was put in charge of the fine art section and his salary helped him pay to privately publish his Salt Water Ballads. He went on to write many more works, including plays, novels and two autobiographies, and became poet laureate in 1930. He died in 1967 in his ninetieth year, making him the second-longest serving laureate (after Tennyson). In 1930 he opened an exhibition at Wolverhampton Art Gallery of 50 paintings by the late Scottish artist William Strang. Prominent among them was an impressive portrait of the poet, presented to the gallery by Mrs Strang and a few friends.
Scott Matthews - Born in Wolverhampton in 1976, Scott Matthews attended Highfields School (Beverley Knight is also an ex-pupil) and started playing guitar when he was seven, going electric aged eleven. ‘Jimi Hendrix was a massive influence in those early days. I remember my dad playing me Are You Experienced, feeling completely captivated by this otherworldly sound. Throughout my teens, growing up in the West Midlands, I was trying to fit in at school with all the cool kids who were into The Stone Roses while I was bringing in mix tapes full of all these old blues guys!’ After leaving Highfields he continued to practice guitar and played in bands in and around the city, worked in a warehouse, and completed a graphic design course at Stourbridge Art College. From there he went on to perform music for Zip Theatre in Wolverhampton, put on music workshops in schools and began to concentrate on writing his own songs. Often compared to Jeff Buckley, Scott has been influenced by folk and blues as well as the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. His acclaimed first album, Passing Stranger, reached the number one spot on BBC 6 Music’s chart in 2006 and his ground-breaking single, Elusive, won an Ivor Novello Award for ‘Best Song Musically and Lyrically’ (beating the Arctic Monkeys). Sell-out tours followed, including shows alongside the Foo Fighters, Bert Jansch and Rufus Wainwright, as well as a supporting spot on the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss Raising Sand tour. With his backing band and producer Gavin Monaghan he made his second album, Elsewhere, and recorded his third, What The Night Delivers, in his own garden shed studio with Jon Cotton, who also produced Passing Strangers. His fourth album, the brilliant Home Part 1, is reviewed here Watch video Scott Matthews’ website
Henry Meadows - The Henry Meadows company was born in 1919 at a meeting of a group of Wolverhampton business men in the Little Swan Hotel, Horseley Fields. A resolution was passed establishing the name of the company as Henry Meadows Ltd and a well known Wednesfield manufacturer, Sydney Ellard was appointed Chairman. Henry Meadows, who had previously been Works Manager with the Clyno Engineering Company, The National Fuse Factory Tipton and Harper Bean, was made managing director. A factory was established backing on to Sydney Guy’s works in Park Lane, Fallings Park, to manufacture gearboxes for Guy and other thriving Wolverhampton and Birmingham motor manufacturers. When Sydney Guy produced the first British designed V8 motor car engine in the 1923 Guy car, he presented gave one to his friend Henry Meadows, who used this vehicle up to his death. The Guy was garaged at Henry’s home in Copthorn Road, where a 1930s guest was T E Lawrence, who was working with the company on the design of a twin engined Air/Sea rescue launch. The rapidly expanding Meadows had by then become a major marine engine manufacturer and Henry Meadows Junior raced Meadows powered speed boats at international events. They made engines for Frazer Nash and Lea-Francis during the 1920s and 30s, and a 4½-litre 6-cylinder engine used as the power unit for Invicta and Lagonda cars. By the time Henry Meadows died in 1937, the works employed over 1200 people and occupied a 16 acre site. His funeral in Penn Fields saw his coffin borne by staff and the road outside was lined two deep with mourners. Meadows went on to make tank engines during World War II and afterwards resumed making advanced diesel engines and also worked with Colin Chapman’s Lotus on the Elite and M67. They also made the gull winged Meadows Frisky microcar, designed by Giovanni Michelotti and built by Vignale of Turin, which caused a sensation when launched at the 1957 Geneva motor show. The car was re-launched the same year at the Earls Court show as the Frisky Sport, which enjoyed a brief success before the Mini came along. In the early 1960s the company was taken over by Leyland and the Park Lane factory closed, though many still talk affectionately about working at the Medus!
Mensa - The largest and oldest high IQ society in the world has its national headquarters in St John’s Square, Wolverhampton. Mensa was founded in 1946 by Roland Berrill, a barrister, and Dr Lance Ware, a scientist and lawyer, who had the idea of forming a society for bright people. The only qualification for membership is to have an IQ in the top two per cent of the population. Mensa’s aims are ‘to identify and to foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity; to encourage research into the nature, characteristics, and uses of intelligence; and to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members.’ Sir Clive Sinclair was Chairman for 15 years and other celebrity members have included Carol Vorderman, Bill Buckley, former Miss Rochdale Laura Shields, Isaac Asimov and Geena Davis.
Jed Mercurio - Born in Nelson, Lancashire, in 1966 and brought up in Cannock, Jed trained in medicine at Birmingham University, worked as a junior doctor at New Cross hospital in Wolverhampton, and drew on his own experiences to write Cardiac Arrest under the pseudonym ‘John MacUre’. This controversial 1994 television drama series took an unflinching, albeit humorous, look at the NHS. Bodies, based on his novel of the same name, earned him two BAFTA Television Award nominations and two RTS nominations. Other novels include Ascent and American Adulterer, focusing on the life of US President John F Kennedy. Jed is also a TV and film producer and wrote and directed for The Grimleys. Set on a council estate in Dudley, this starred Noddy Holder as music teacher Neville Holder (Noddy’s birth name). Jed created the sci-fi miniseries Invasion: Earth (1998) and his exciting BBC TV series, Line of Duty, was a gritty drama that lifted the lid on modern policing. Set in an unnamed Midlands city, this compelling series was filmed in Birmingham with a former bank on Broad Street taking the part of the main police station. It averaged over four million viewers in 2012 - BBC2’s highest-rated drama for ten years at the time. Second and third series of Line of Duty were broadcast to even greater acclaim in 2014 and 2016 and more are planned. Jed also created Sky1’s major medical drama series, Critical, and adapted D H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover for BBC Television in 2015.
Maria Miller - Born in 1964 in Wolverhampton, Maria Frances Lewis Miller grew up in Bridgend in Wales. She attended Brynteg Comprehensive and went on to study at the London School of Economics before working in advertising and the oil industry. She began her political career in 1983 when she joined the Conservative Party. Having contested the Wolverhampton North East seat in the 2001 general election, she was defeated by the incumbent MP, Labour’s Ken Purchase. As Member of Parliament for Basingstoke since 2005 she has been Minister for Disabled People and was appointed to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Minister for Women and Equalities. In 2013 she was assessed as the 17th most powerful woman in the United Kingdom by Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. The following year, Maria Miller apologised to parliament and repaid £5,800 following an inquiry into her expense claims during which she breached the MPs’ code of conduct by failing to fully co-operate. Widespread criticism and a highly critical report from the Commons standards commissioner led to Maria Miller’s resignation.
Mil Millington - The Guardian named Wolverhampton author Mil as one of the five best debut novelists in 2002. The son of a storeman at the Lucas factory in Wolverhampton, Mil left Ward's Bridge Comprehensive School in Wednesfield, played in a group called Total Stranger and worked for McAlpine and Goodyear’s before gaining a history degree at the then Wolverhampton Polytechnic, where he met his German girlfriend Margret. He first came to prominence as a writer by creating a cult website, Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, which featured anecdotes about arguments and misunderstandings between Mil and Margret, now mother of his two sons. The site was hosted on the servers of Wolverhampton University, where he was a humble IT manager, but was removed when it was pointed out that some people might fail to spot the intended humour. Such was the site’s popularity that Mil was offered a publishing deal and wrote a novel using the same title but with new material. He has since gone on to write A Certain Chemistry, Love And Other Near death Experiences, and Instructions For Living Someone Else’s Life, as well as scripts for the BBC radio series, The Adventures of Sexton Blake. He is co-creator of another cult website www.TheWeekly.co.uk.
John Molyneux - The founder of the Molineux family fortune sold Black Country hardware in Dublin before setting up as an ironmaster in Horseley Fields. In 1744 John bought land and a house on Tup (now North) Street for £700 from John Rotton, thought to be a local bucklemaker. John gave the house, which at that time had impressive views over Staffordshire countryside, a new facade. His youngest son, Benjamin Molyneux (later known as Molineux), inherited the mansion and added substantial wings. Like his father, Benjamin made money exporting ironware to Dublin. He also imported Caribbean rum, invested in canals, made astute loans and became one of the most respected businessmen in town. Benjamin’s son, George, was a town commissioner and became the first Wolverhampton man to be appointed high sheriff of Staffordshire. The family sold the house in about 1860 and the new owner created a public pleasure park on the grounds. The house later became a hotel and the park was leased to Wolverhampton Wanderers FC. The hotel closed in 1979 and after years of neglect the beautifully restored building now houses the City of Wolverhampton Archives.
Caitlin Moran - Broadcaster, best-selling writer, television critic and columnist at The Times, Caitlin attended a Methodist primary school in Wolverhampton and after three weeks at Wolverhampton High School for Girls was then educated at home from the age of 11. She describes her parents as ‘the only hippies in Wolverhampton’ and her education as ‘throwing mud and watching television’. At the age of 15 in 1990, she won The Observer’s Young Reporter of the Year, began her career as a journalist for Melody Maker aged 16, and by 1992 she was hosting the Channel 4 TV music show, Naked City. Her novel, The Chronicles of Narmo, written when she was 14, is about being born into a family of eight home-educated children in Wolverhampton. The ever witty Caitlin is one of the funniest women in the country and was named British Press Awards Columnist of the Year for 2010, and both BPA Critic of the Year and Interviewer of the Year in 2011. Her book, How To Be A Woman, won Book of the Year in the Galaxy Book Awards and has sold hundreds of thousands of copies in the UK and around the world, and was followed by a sell-out theatre tour. In 2015, Caitlin was named Columnist of the Year in the Glamour Women of the Year awards. Working with her sister Caroline, Caitlin wrote the well-received pilot for a TV comedy called Raised By Wolves, based around their life in a large family at home in a three-bedroom council house in Enville Road, Penn. Watch video Raised By Wolves has now been made into a six part series that was broadcast by Channel 4 in March 2015, starring Rebekah Staton from Penkridge as straight-talking mother Delia and the brilliant Helen Morris (Birmingham’s first young Young Poet Laureate) as wonderfully self-confident Germaine. Caitlin said of the commission: ‘It was foretold in ancient legend that when two sisters from a council-estate in Wolverhampton - one brunette and over-sharey, one ginger and angry - would, one day, write a sitcom for Channel 4, and finally popularise the local sayings of ‘To be fair,’ ‘I don’t reckon’, ‘Alright babba’ and ‘Ahhhhhh, binners’. That day has now come. We now go and eat faggots and peas, to celebrate.’ Raised by Wolves returned for a second series in 2016 and is being adapted for US television by Diablo Cody, the Oscar-winning writer of Juno. The comedy is expected to be transferred from Wolverhampton to midwest America and executive producers will include Caitlin and Caz Moran. Caitlin has said in the past that living in Wolverhampton gives you an object in life - to get out as soon as possible. Still, the city has left a lasting impression on her work and she now speaks fondly of growing up happily here in a place that treated her well. In Caitlin Moran’s first novel for adults, How To Build A Girl, 14-year-old Johanna Morrigan lives with her large, skint, eccentric family in a Wolverhampton council house, before escaping through writing to London in the early 1990s to work in the music press. ‘My life is basically The Bell Jar written by Adrian Mole.’
Jimmy Mullen - Newcastle born Jimmy was one of the most talented and popular players ever to grace Wolverhampton Wanderers. In a career which lasted for twenty years (1938-1959) he made a total of 486 appearances and scored 112 goals. He also played 12 times for England. After being granted a testimonial by Wolves, which he shared with Billy Wright in 1962, Jimmy opened a sports shop in the town and ran that until he retired in 1987. Sadly, Jimmy died the following year, leaving the town, and football in general, mourning the man known as Gentleman Jim - a title which applied both on and off the pitch.
Susan Murray - Comedian Susan Murray was raised in Willenhall by her Scottish family. Winner of the first ever Jongleurs competition and a seasoned regular on the circuit, Susan has emerged as one of the best female stand-ups around, working nationally including appearances at the Comedy Store, Jongleurs and Comedy Café as well as internationally in places such as China, Indonesia, Germany and the Middle East. Her versatility means that as well as corporates, Susan has handled biker festivals and music festivals inc. Glastonbury, Bestival and Reading. Acting credits include starring in the TV comedy drama Love, Lies and Lipstick and Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen. As well as writing and performing for BBC Radio 1 she has writen and performed solo shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. susan was one of the main writers on Touch Me I’m Karen Taylor for BBC 3 and is currently writing for Laura Solon’s Talking And Not Talking and It’s That Jo Caufield (both Radio 4). She is has also started an all girl sketch troop Flip The Bird who are currently performing on the London circuit. Her debut show, The Glottal Stops Here, reveal Susan’s hilarious obsession with the history and quirks of accents. Billed as ‘Frankie Boyle meets Julie Walters’, her unique brand of comedy strikes a chord with people from all over the West Midlands. Watch video
Wolverhampton people, A-B, C-E, F-J, K-M, N-S, T-Z