The Wolverhampton family and their new home

Richard and Hannah's son John, born in 1675 settled in Wolverhampton during the early years of the 18th century, and married Mary. They had five sons and three daughters. John became an ironmonger, supplying manufacturers with their raw materials, then selling their finished goods. He became an extremely successful and wealthy businessman. He began by selling Black Country hardware such as brass and iron in Dublin, then returned to Wolverhampton and set himself up as an ironmaster in Horseley Fields, where he had two houses with workshops at the back.

John and Mary’s fifth and youngest son, Benjamin, became an ironmonger like his father, and ran his uncle Daniel’s warehouse in Dublin, where he stored and sold all kinds of goods such as locks, hinges, tools, and saddler’s goods. He also sold Birmingham-made steel toys. At the time, the trade between Britain and the West Indies had greatly increased, and so Benjamin exported many of his goods to that region. He also imported Jamaica rum, and in 1775 opened a Jamaica rum warehouse in Wolverhampton, where he also became a banker. He invested in the local canals, and made many astute loans, becoming one of the most successful businessmen in the area.

Another of their children, Thomas, also became wealthy and built himself a large house in Dudley Street, Wolverhampton, where the Marks and Spencer store stands today. The house, which was built in 1751, had imposing entrance gates, and an ornamental garden that extended to Pipers Row.

Thomas married Margaret Gisborne on the 5th August, 1732, at St. Paul's Cathedral, London. They had nine sons and three daughters, most of whom died in infancy.

The family residence in Tup Street, Wolverhampton, known as Molineux House, came into the possession of the family in 1744 after the death of the original owner, John Rotton, who owed Benjamin Molineux £700. The beneficiaries of his will (his wife, and his business partner Richard Wilkes), agreed to sell the property, and around 8 acres of surrounding land, to the Molineux family to pay off the debt.

Little is known about the original property, which was probably built around 1720. The Molineux family extended the house, and added a fine rear extension, which looks even better than the main façade. It is certain that by 1750 work had finished on the house, and the rear formal garden, because they appear on Isaac Taylor’s map, which was drawn during that year.

Molineux House and grounds in 1750. From Isaac Taylor's map.

Benjamin’s mother Mary died in 1735, and his father John, died on 15th August, 1754. He is buried in St. Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton.

Benjamin and his wife Elizabeth had one son, George, and two daughters, Sarah and Mary. Sarah married Lewis Clutterbuck of Bushbury, and Mary married her cousin, Richard Molineux, a banker in Wolverhampton. In the early 1750s Benjamin contributed towards the building fund for St. John’s Church, which opened in June 1760. Because of his generosity, he qualified as a trustee.

Benjamin had a black servant from Sierra Leone, who was given as a present. He arrived in England in 1766 at the age of 3, and was baptised George John Scipio Africanus at St. Peter’s Church. After his education he worked as a servant in the Molineux household, and later became an apprentice at a brass foundry, before moving to Nottingham. After Benjamin’s death in 1772 he was looked after by Benjamin’s son, George.

It seems that Molineux House became too small for the family because Benjamin soon added north and south wings.

George, the only son of Benjamin Molineux, succeeded his father in the family business, and so became a banker, and an ironmonger, both at Dudley and Wolverhampton. He also became a Staffordshire magistrate, and High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1791. George was a partner in the family banking business of Hordern, Molineux & Company, with James Hordern, and also a shareholder in the ‘Wolverhampton Chronicle’ and the ‘Staffordshire Advertiser’.

In the early 1790s he provided most of the finance for the building of the Wyrley and Essington canal which was built to transport coal to Wolverhampton from the Cannock coalfields.

George Molineux married Jane Robinson, and they had several children; George Fieldhouse, Benjamin, John Edmondson, Richard, William Hamilton, Charles Henry, Harriet, Sarah, and Sophia. George Molineux died at Molineux House on 22nd September, 1820.

George Fieldhouse Molineux went to Christchurch, Oxford, where he did an M.A. and became the curate of Ryton, Shropshire, in 1798, a post which he held for around 40 years. He was also the Prebendary of Wobaston, in the Collegiate Church of St. Peter, Wolverhampton, a Staffordshire magistrate, and one of the trustees of Wolverhampton Grammar School. He died the 30th September, 1840, and is buried at Ryton.

Another of the children, William Hamilton became vicar of Sheriff Hales, Staffordshire, in 1823. He was also curate of Acton and Bednall, Staffordshire, and a prebendary of St. Peter’s Church, Wolverhampton. He died unmarried on 29th September, 1831.

Charles Henry became a banker at Dudley and Wolverhampton, and a Justice of the Peace for Staffordshire and Worcestershire. After his death at Bath on 11th February, 1848, the house passed on to his brother, John Edmondson, who died on 23rd February, 1851.

The Molineux family finally severed its connection with the house in the late 1850s. By then the surrounding area had completely changed. The lovely view across to St. Peter’s Church and the town centre had filled-up with terraced streets and factories, and even the views to the north were not what they used to be.

A 1970s view. Courtesy of David Clare.

Charles Edward Molineux, who was born at Ryton Rectory, became the last family member to own the house. In 1856 he moved to Kilsall, near Cosford, and put the house and gardens up for sale.

From the 1842 Tithe Map.

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