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Wolves' lair was home to French refugees and a pleasure garden

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: August 31, 2014

By Dan Shaw

Molineux in the 1950s, viewed from the South Bank

Molineux in the 1950s, viewed from the South Bank

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HOW many of our readers have stood on these terraces to see their football heroes performing on the pitch below? It is, of course, Molineux, home of Wolverhampton Wanderers, and this picture was taken in the early 1950s, before the installation of floodlights. The site dates back to the 18th century and has had many interesting tenants.

The photograph comes to us from the picture postcard collection of Arthur Gunter of Merry Hill, Wolverhampton, who has amassed quite an array of historic cards showing scenes in and around his home town.

The Wolves have had their lair at the Molineux since 1889. Prior to that they played at their Dudley Road ground and also at John Harper's Field and Windmill Field.

The distinctive name comes from the Molineux family, who settled in the England when Isabella of France crossed the channel with her new husband, Edward II, in 1308.

In 1744 Benjamin Molineux bought the land on which he built Molineux House. In the 1790s a family of French refugees moved into the house and the grounds were developed into public pleasure gardens by A.J. Brewster.

In 1860 O.E. McGregorbought the grounds and developed them further, with a boating lake, bowls green, cycling and athletics tracks, ice rink and football pitches.

Wolves played their first game at Molineux on March 20, 1886, three years before it became their official home, in a local cup tie with Walsall Town. The Northampton Brewery then bought the grounds, but not the house, which later became the Molineux Hotel.

The brewery built a grandstand, office and changing rooms and Wolves began renting the facility in 1889. Their first official game there was a friendly against Aston Villa on September 2, 1889, which the Wolves won 1-0.

In 1923 Wolves bought the freehold and began to redevelop the grounds. Archibald Leitch designed the Waterloo Road grandstand, which opened in 1925. Then the North Bank was rebuilt and the Molineux Street stand was opened in 1932. Finally, the massive South Bank was partially roofed.

In this array Molineux remained largely unchanged until the John Ireland Stand was built in 1979.

Wolves' difficulties on and off the pitch in the 1980s saw a sad decline of the Molineux and new safety legislation following the 1985 Bradford City fire meant the ground had to be redeveloped.

Between 1991 and 1933 the stadium was rebuilt, completely transforming the grounds from the scene in our photograph.

In August 2012 the rebuilt Stan Cullis Stand was opened but further redevelopment plans have been put on hold.

Were you a spectator on these famous terraces? Please share your Molineux memories, contact dshaw@blackcountrybugle.co.uk or write to 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.

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