Pleasure Gardens

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 time passed.

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, 1857.

 


Wolverhampton Chronicle, 1st September, 1858.


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 David Clare.

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 Exhibition.

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 follows:

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 exhibition hall.


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.

Wolverhampton Chronicle, June 1st, 1870:

Molineux House and Grounds, Wolverhampton

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 July, 1870.


Mr. McGregor, being an astute businessman, was keen to attract sporting clubs, schools, and parties, to visit the grounds.

 

 

 

Wolverhampton Chronicle, 22nd June, 1870.

The popularity and importance of Molineux House and grounds can be seen by the list of distinguished patrons, who were all well-known public figures.

 

 

 

 

 

Wolverhampton Chronicle, 1st June, 1870.

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.


   
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