Wolverhampton, previously called Wulfrun is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands, England. According to the 2011 census, the city had a population of around 250,000. Wolverhampton is historically a part of Staffordshire, and it was founded in 985.
The name Wulfrun comes from the Anglo-Saxon Wulfrūnehēantūn which means Wulfrun´s high or principal enclosure or farm. Wulfrun was considered to be the founder of the city. However, many believe that the city may have earned its original name comes from the Mercer King – Wulfereēantūn meaning Wulfhere’s high or principal enclosure or farm. According to some sources, the King established an abbey in 659, even though no evidence of an abbey has ever been found. The variation on the name was first seen in medieval records where we can find Wolveren Hampton.
The city was significant as a market town with specialisation in the woollen trade. However, during the Industrial Revolution, the city became a major centre for coal mining, as well as steel production, lock making and the manufacture of cars and motorcycles. Even today, the economy of the city is still mostly based on engineering, with the great aerospace industry, and the service sector as well.
Wolverhampton is situated northwest of its larger neighbour Birmingham, and it is a second largest part of the West Midlands conurbation. To the north and west lies the Staffordshire and Shropshire countryside.
Wolverhampton city centre is just outside of the area which is known under the name the Black Country. Districts such as Bilston, Heath Town and the Willenhall side of Wolverhampton are within the Black Country coalfields. Therefore, it is unable to say if consequently, the whole city falls within the region. Nevertheless, today people tend to use the term West Midlands country to refer to the western part with an exclusion of Birmingham, Solihull, and Coventry.
The city lies at 163m or 535 ft above the sea level upon the Midlands Plateau. Wolverhampton has no major rivers in the city, but there are tributaries of River Trent – the River Penk and River Tame which rise in the city, as well as Smestow Brook, which is a tributary of the River Stour.
Art and Culture
From the 18th century, Wolverhampton was famous for the production of the japanned ware as well as steel jewellery. The most recognized 18th- and 19th-century artists were Joseph Barney, Edward Bird, and George Wallis. They were all from Wolverhampton and initially started their training as japanned ware painters.
In the 1850’s the School of Practical Art was opened. Over the time this school became a close associate of the Art Gallery. During this period, the school had many notable students and teachers like Robert Jackson Emerson, Sir Charles Wheeler, Sara Page and many other artists and sculptors.
Wolverhampton Art Gallery was founded in 1884, and the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre was opened ten years later.
Wolverhampton today has a Creative Industries Quarter which is located just off Broad Street. This part of the city has newly opened Slade Rooms; the art house cinema called the Light House Media Centre and the Arena Theatre.
Besides, Wolverhampton has a long history in the ornate cast iron safe painting industry which lasts from the Victorian era. There are many companies, such as Chubb Lock and Safe Company, which today enjoy the international reputation. They learnt and expanded their artistic abilities, and their safes became masterpieces with a fine script and hand-painted designs. Today, these safes are highly collectible and popular, especially in the USA.
Since the wealth and influence of Wolverhampton started rapidly growing during the 19th century, the city took part in some notable exhibitions, and also hosted them. For instance, The Great Exhibition of 1851, at The Crystal Palace, presented products manufactured in Wolverhampton such as locks, japanned ware, enamel ware as well as papier-mâché products.
Wolverhampton also hosted an exhibition devoted to the brain child of George Wallis. It was held at the Mechanics’ Institute in Queen Street, and it presented his fine art, but also furniture, beautifully decorated trays, as well as a variety of his ironwork, locks and steel toys, which were popular at the time.
However, the greatest and most ambitious exhibition was the Arts and Industrial Exhibition from 1902. That was the biggest exhibition of the time, which cast a shadow on all previous shows, because of the scope and the scale of exhibited works. The Arts and Industrial Exhibition featured several halls with examples of machinery and industrial products, a concert hall, two bandstands, a restaurant, and a fun fair as well. Nevertheless, some say that the exhibition like this was not visited as the organizers hoped. The cold and ugly weather had its fingers to it. Therefore, the exhibition had a loss of £30,000, which is almost £2M today.