Later Years

Games continued to be played in the grounds, including football, cricket, croquet, and lacrosse, but they were never as popular as the cycle races. The popularity of the grounds diminished, and in 1889 the gardens were removed, and the Molineux football ground was built over the site of the trees, bandstand, and ornamental boating lake.

Although the hotel had now lost most of the land at the back, the bowling green still survived, to become one of the best in the country. Sporting activities continued inside the house, with the installation of 12 billiard tables.

By the early 1900s the hotel still catered for visitors, and became a popular public house. A number of local cycle clubs, Wolves Football Club, and the Staffordshire Bowling Organisation had their headquarters there, at one time or another. The wolves even used the house for their changing rooms until suitable facilities were available at the football ground. In 1901 the hotel was acquired by local brewer, William Butler & Company. The football club purchased their ground at the back of the house, from the brewery in 1923.

The hotel remained popular, and in 1926 more bedrooms were added. By the 1930s however, the hotel was in decline and so the public house became the main part of the business.

An article from Butler's magazine, November, 1928:

Molineux House

Molineux House is admirably situated on the Western slope of an eminence which at different times has been called “The Hill of Hantune” and Wadham's Hill, from the crest of which towers the beautiful Collegiate Church of St. Peter. That particular portion of the hill upon which Molineux House is built slopes gently to the Waterloo Road and commands a fine view westward over a rich and variegated landscape extending for many miles in the direction of Shrewsbury.

The original house was built in the reign of Queen Anne and was a fine example of the domestic style of architecture then prevailing. It is three storeys high and although the entrance front is good it is not nearly so fine as the back, or north-west front, which looks over the bowling greens and football ground. Much has been done in recent years by the company in the way of improvement and adornment, and alterations of some magnitude have recently been carried out.

The original entrance, from what is known as Molineux Fold, gives access to a handsome lounge hall, on the right of which is a charming room called the oak room, from the beautiful oak panelling round all the walls and extending from floor to ceiling. This delightful panelling, which must be seen to be appreciated, was until comparatively recently thickly coated with paint, a striking commentary on the "taste" of some former owner.

Behind the entrance hall is the staircase hall containing a fine example of an oak staircase with some exceptionally fine balusters. This hall gives access to the smoke room, also panelled, and, on the right, to a noble dining room. The walls and ceiling in this room are delicately enriched in plaster work, and it also contains a beautifully carved mantelpiece. The house, indeed, was richly endowed with mantelpieces, and it may be interesting to note in passing that one of the best, recently removed in consequence of alterations, has been re-fixed in the assembly room of the Golden Eagle, a new house erected by the company in Hordern Road.

The approach to the building was obscured by some dilapidated cottages, which were removed some years ago by the company, who also recently gave the Corporation a considerable slice of land, which has enabled a much-needed street improvement to be effected.

The hotel is now well adapted for its purpose of a licensed house with accommodation for visitors. There is every opportunity for travellers to throw aside temporarily their business cares and realise the poet Shenstone's idea of inns:

“Whoe'er has travelled life's dull round has ever found his warmest welcome at an inn.”

From the windows of the dining room previously mentioned one can overlook the two large bowling greens, the football ground and the distant prospect, and if one is imaginative reconstruct for oneself the beautiful grounds that once made Molineux grounds a delight to the eye. For these grounds were laid out at a time when there was a revolt against the primness and formality of the Dutch style, with its trimmed hedges, its clipped yews cut in the grotesque shapes of peacocks, foxes, crowns, etc., and a return, under the influence of William Kent, the famous landscape gardener, to the natural style of flowing lines, winding walks and blending of floral designs with lakes and fountains. There are several photographs of Molineux grounds in existence showing some traces of the lost glories of this little paradise, but they only increase one's regret that we have no complete representation.

This map from 1938 clearly shows how the garden was dominated by the football ground. There were two bowling greens, one in front of the house and one at the rear.

The rear bowling green, which is clearly marked on the map was at a higher level than the football ground and so offered a grandstand view on match days.

The bowling greens. From Butler's magazine, November, 1928.


The oak room, and the rear of the building. From Butler's magazine, November, 1928.

The hall.

From Butler's magazine, November, 1928.

The assembly room.

From Butler's magazine, November, 1928.

From Butler's magazine, June, 1931.

In 1949 the importance of the building was recognised when it became grade II listed. By the 1950s the house, in particular the interior, had greatly changed. The following description was written by John Roper, and appears in his book ‘Historic Buildings of Wolverhampton’ published in 1957.

Internally the house retains several original features, including what is probably the best preserved panelling left in the town, and a staircase, with fluted balusters, which may have come from the same hand as the magnificent staircase in Giffard House. The panelling in the dining room has been stripped of its many coats of paint by the present owners and restored to something like its original state. The fluted pilasters, with Corinthian capitals and moulded bases, indicate a fairly high level of craftsmanship, hitherto found only in Wolverhampton in the late 17th century Deanery. The panelling clearly belongs to the earlier portion of the house and is probably contemporary with the building.

A view of the hotel from the 1950s.

In 1958 the westernmost building that ran alongside Molineux Alley, and housed the billiard hall, was demolished when it fell into a bad state of repair.

In 1969 the hotel became partly cut-off from the town when the ring road was built close to the front of the building. This deprived the pub of much of its passing trade, and so it rapidly went into decline, finally closing in 1979 after the expiry of the lease.   

A final view of the hotel in the early 1970s. Courtesy of David Clare.

In 1976 the hotel was acquired by Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club, which soon applied for permission to demolish the building. The application was strongly opposed, and refused by the council on the grounds that:

The intrinsic value of the building is such that its loss would be detrimental to the character and heritage of the town centre.

This failed attempt to demolish the building highlighted its plight, and in 1977 resulted in an upgrading of the listing to grade II*. In 1982 the owners again applied for permission to demolish the building, and again permission was refused, thanks to the listing.

The sad looking derelict building in the 1980s. Courtesy of David Clare.

The building in 2002.

Another view from 2002.

The recent history of the building is well known. Following years of neglect by several owners, the hotel suffered greatly at the hands of an arsonist in June 2003.

The resulting fire greatly damaged the building, which was acquired by Wolverhampton City Council, with financial support from Advantage West Midlands, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and English Heritage.

A full restoration project soon got underway.

After the fire in 2003.

 The building has now been carefully, and faithfully restored to its former glory. The most historically significant areas were the Rococo Room, the Oak Room, and the main staircase. The project also included the construction of an archive building for the new occupier, Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies.

After years of dereliction and decay, the building, one of the most well-known and significant landmarks in the City, has been saved for posterity, so that it can continue to be enjoyed by generations yet to come.


Gerald P. Mander and Norman W. Tildesley, A History of Wolverhampton to the Early Nineteenth Century, Wolverhampton B.C., 1960.

John S. Roper, Historic Buildings of Woverhampton, Wolverhampton B.C., 1957.

Chris Upton, A History of Wolverhampton, Phillimore, 1998.

Frank Mason, The Book of Wolverhampton, Barracuda Books Limited, 1979.

Norman W. Tildesley, A History of Willenhall, Willenhall Urban District Council, 1951.

Various copies of the Wolverhampton Chronicle, and Butler's magazine.

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