Newest Review: ... the workshop of the world and Britain's industry was centred in the Black Country, Wolverhampton was a very wealthy place: entreprenurs gi... more
Wolverhampton: Better than you thought! Probably better than where you live!
Author Name: Wulfrunian
Advantages: The salubrious western half of the city
Disadvantages: The grotty rest of the city that visitors only ever seem to see
Interesting to read these reviews about Wolverhampton.
Wolverhampton like most places is a town of two halves. It was somewhat unfairly listed by one travel guide as the 5th worst city in the world. I have been to some far worse cities. Wolverhampton has its problems: rough industrial, dirty areas; it has ugly 1960's tower block architecture; it has a big crime and drug problem; a big unemployment problem; the city centre has beggars and some of the shops are very poor. Frankly as a resident of Wolverhampton I don't go into the city centre at night and I avoid it during the day. The heyday of Wolverhampton's nightclub scene has been and gone. I won't dwell on the bad points because they are well known.
Now to the good points. Not all of Wolverhampton is like that. Take the example of Tettenhall, which has its own public school, village green (with summer fete), medieval church, several manor houses, golf course, tennis and squash club, cricket club, shopping arcade, small police station. Tettenhall is so upmarket that the residents won't let takeaways open in the area and oppose having a bus route (because anyone on the bus shouldnt be in the area). In the 1930's Tettenhall was called by Country Life the finest suburb outside London with the exception of Clifton in Bristol - its no longer as good as that but is still a very respectable upmarket area. When the UK was the workshop of the world and Britain's industry was centred in the Black Country, Wolverhampton was a very wealthy place: entreprenurs gifted schools, hospitals, parks, an art gallery and various other public works to the city they lived in. A lot of West Midlands industrialists moved to Tettenhall in victorian times and built very large houses, which set the tone for the area. Tettenhall Towers became the public school Tettenhall College 100 or so years ago (and educated a Nobel prize winning chemist), The Mount where Lloyd George called a general election from became an upmarket hotel where you can pay £13 for a burger, and Wightwick Manor became one of the first National Trust properties in the 1930s. Most of the other grand houses were knocked down in some acts of 1960's architectural vandalism. The remaining grand houses were smaller and turned into apartments, their grounds were turned into "executive" housing estates. Some other Wolverhampton suburbs like Penn and Codsall are almost as snooty as Tettenhall. Pattingham is even snootier.
Outside of Tettenhall, Wolverhampton maintains two other public schools and the girls high school which is regularly in the top 10 schools in the country. The local university has some mickey mouse courses it also has some excellent courses - despite its low reputation the teaching training, legal and business courses are supposed to be very good.
Wolverhampton Civic Hall is a top music venue, having hosted Blur, Ocean Colour Scene, Willie Nelson and ZZ Top in the past few years. If a band is visiting the UK to play 3 gigs they are frequently just King Tuts in Glasgow, Brixton Academy and Wolverhampton Civic Hall. Wolverhampton Grand Theatre is a large regional theatre (in the shadow of Birmingham Rep though) which hosts some of the latest plays - presently the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Hairspray is playing there. The Art Gallery is not large but you can spend a few hours looking round, it has one of the largest (and best) collections of Popart in the country - its a shame if like me you aren't into Popart!
There are some good gastropubs just outside Wolverhampton - the Red Cow and Woodman are very good with quite reasonable prices (I have paid the same price for a burger in London as I have a ribeye steak at the Red Cow). Wolverhampton has some of the finest curry restaurants in the country, again these are well priced for what they are. In terms of proper restaurants that cost a £100+ for a couple to eat your choice is limited, maybe Bella or the Cowshed but you would have to get a bottle of dessert wine to go with pudding to take the bill past a £100.
Wolverhampton has premiership football, motorcycle speedway, all weather horse racing and a dog track. It also several cricket, rugby, football, hockey, tennis, badminton, squash etc clubs. The sports fan is very well catered for.
Wolverhampton has several parks, West Park in Wolverhampton was once upon a time Wolverhampton Race course, the victorians turned it into a park and it has recently won a few national awards. They also built their own crystal palace here and held a great exhibition, the crystal palace was however dismantled soon after. The park has a boating lake, acres of gardens, a bandstand, tennis courts and a playground. The area around the park is fairly mixed, venture a 1/4 of a mile the wrong way and you could be on some mean streets. Wolverhampton has I think 3 other large parks, I believe West Park is the best but I haven't been to the others.
Not far away from West Park is the Newhampton pub which is well known for its real ales, it has a bowling green at the back (once again a pity about the area). Wolverhampton as you might expect for a brewery town has plenty of real ale pubs, it also has plenty of grotty pubs though.
45 minutes from my door in Wolverhampton I can be in the centre of Birmingham, Wales, Ludlow, the outskirts of Manchester or halfway to London. The motorway connections on the west half of the city aren't great but the overall location of the city is quite convenient for getting round the UK.
For those people who live on the Western side of the city and avoid the city centre apart from for the train station, concerts and plays a high quality of life can be had. The rest of the city is not (all) as bad as the media makes out, but there are some very bad pockets.
Summary: Wolverhampton: a city of two halves.