An advert for the sale of the house and grounds.
From the Wolverhampton Chronicle 6th April, 1859.
In the late 1850s when the house
and grounds were still on the market, the ornamental
terraced gardens continued to be well tended. A number
of fetes were held in grounds, which in effect became
Wolverhampton’s first public park.
Attractions included balloon
ascents by Henry Coxwell and others, concerts, dancing,
and firework displays.
During the time that the building
and grounds were up for sale, a large number of events
were held in the grounds, which became more frequent as
Local promoters would organise
entertainments of almost every kind, to attract a large
number of visitors. The festivities were mainly held in
the summer months between early May and late September,
and became increasingly popular, until they came to a
temporary end when the house and grounds were sold.
Wolverhampton Chronicle, 27th May,
Wolverhampton Chronicle, 1st
Wolverhampton Chronicle, 15th September, 1858.
|The Molineux Hotel
and public park
In 1860 Molineux House and grounds
were purchased by Oliver Edgar McGregor, a tobacco
importer who decided to capitalise on the successful
summer events. In the mid 1800s parks and recreation
grounds were seen as an important amenity for the
working classes in the large towns and cities. As a
result the ‘People’s Park Movement’ was formed to
campaign for the building of public parks and recreation
grounds. By the late 1850s the movement was actively
campaigning in Wolverhampton.
Mr. McGregor must have realised the
significance of the gardens, known locally as Molineux’s
Grounds. Such events could be extremely profitable, and
so he began to organise grander and more varied events
than ever before. There were highland games, tightrope
walkers, and firework displays galore. He described the
events in his early advertisements as follows:
Mr. McGregor aims to afford
innocent, healthful and exhilarating exercise for all,
and he is determined to have the management so good that
all classes may thoroughly enjoy themselves.
The rear of the house. Courtesy of
|He invested over £7,000 on renovating the house and
gardens, which included the installation of the clock
tower on the main roof. He also enlarged the lake that
had been built by the Molineux family, and in 1871
opened the house as a hotel.
The opening ceremony of the South
Staffordshire Industrial and Fine Arts Exhibition.
In 1869 Mr. McGregor decided to
capitalise on the large number of industries that had
brought wealth and prosperity to the region, by hosting
the South Staffordshire Industrial and Fine Arts
The event opened on 11th
May and ran until 30th October, during which
time over 222,000 people visited the house and grounds.
The Wolverhampton Chronicle described the event as
The main object of the
exhibition is to illustrate the productions of this busy
manufacturing district... and would also ...give its teeming
population an opportunity of witnessing and studying
close to their own doors, works of an artistic character
which, experience tells, have a powerful effect in
elevating the minds and softening the manners of those
who are brought under its influence.
130 local manufacturers displayed
their wares, and 150 private owners lent paintings and
works of art to the exhibition. A large temporary main
hall, 150 ft. x 80 ft. was erected at the rear of the
house. It was constructed in cast iron, and corrugated
steel, at a cost of £2,376. The exhibition was
officially opened by Lord Granville.
|Another view of the main
Visitors enjoying the gardens during the
exhibition. The main hall is in the background.
Another view of the exhibition. From Butler's
magazine, November 1928.
Chronicle, June 1st, 1870:
Molineux House and Grounds,
Under the Distinguished
Patronage of The Mayor, T. Bantock, Esq.; the
Borough Members, Right Hon. C. P. Villiers, M. P. ;
T. M. Weguelin, Esq., M.P., and other Gentlemen.
Opening Molineux House and Grounds for the Season on
Whit Monday and Tuesday, June 6th and 7th, 1870,
when a Cricket Match will be played between the
Wolverhampton and Bridgnorth Tradesmen's Clubs.
Bicycle Contests for Cups and Medals. Quoits,
Football, and many other sports in the field; also
Boating on the Pool.
Mr. McGregor aims at affording
innocent, healthy and exhilarating exercise for all,
and he is determined to have the management so good
that all classes may thoroughly enjoy themselves.
||The pleasure grounds became
extremely popular, admission from 9 a.m. until dusk cost
two pence. On Tuesdays and Fridays, admission until 4
p.m. was sixpence.
Visitors could promenade around the
flower garden, go boating on the lake, or play games
such as football, cricket, croquet, and quoits.
Wolverhampton Chronicle, 27th
Mr. McGregor, being an astute businessman, was keen to
attract sporting clubs, schools, and parties, to visit
Wolverhampton Chronicle, 22nd
||The popularity and importance of
Molineux House and grounds can be seen by the list of
distinguished patrons, who were all well-known public
Wolverhampton Chronicle, 1st
Wolverhampton Chronicle, July 26th, 1871:
Molineux House, Wolverhampton
This House (so well adapted)
Will be opened shortly as a
Family and Commercial Hotel.
O. E. McGregor, Proprietor.
|The Molineux Hotel, grounds,
and boating lake in 1871.
The rear of the hotel in the 1970s. Courtesy
of David Clare.