Historically a part of Staffordshire, and forming part of the metropolitan county of the West Midlands from 1974, the city is commonly recognised as being named after Lady Wulfrun, who founded the town in 985:
The city grew initially as a market town with specialism within the woollen trade. During and after the Industrial Revolution, the city became a major industrial centre, with mining (mostly coal, limestone and iron ore) as well as production of steel, japanning, locks, motorcycles and cars – including the first vehicle to hold the Land speed record at over 200 mph.
Today, the major industries within the city are both engineering based (including a large aerospace industry) and within the service sector.
Wolverhampton is recorded as being the site of a decisive battle between the unified Mercian Angles and West Saxons against the raiding Danes in 910, although sources are unclear as to whether the battle itself took place in Wednesfield or Tettenhall. The Mercians and West Saxons claimed a decisive victory and the field of Woden is recognised by numerous place names in Wednesfield.
In 985, King Ethelred the Unready granted lands at a place referred to as Heantun to Lady Wulfrun by royal charter, and hence founding the settlement.
In 994, a monastery was consecrated in Wolverhampton for which Wulfrun granted land at Upper Arley in Worcestershire, Bilston, Willenhall, Wednesfield, Pelsall, Ogley Hay nearBrownhills, Hilton near Wall, Hatherton, Kinvaston, Hilton near Wolverhampton, and Featherstone.This became the site for the current St. Peter's Church. A statue of Lady Wulfrun, sculpted by Sir Charles Wheeler, can be seen on the stairs outside the church.
In 1179, there is mention of a market held in the town, and in 1204 it had come to the attention of King John that the town did not possess a Royal Charter for holding a market. This charter for a weekly market held on a Wednesday was eventually granted on 4 February 1258 by Henry III.
It is held that in the 14th and 15th centuries that Wolverhampton was one of the "staple towns" of the woollen trade, which today can be seen by the inclusion of a woolpack on the city's coat of arms, and by the many small streets, especially in the city centre, called "Fold" (examples being Blossom's Fold, Farmers Fold, Townwell Fold and Victoria Fold), as well as Woolpack Street and Woolpack Alley.
In 1512, Sir Stephen Jenyns, a former Lord Mayor of London and a twice Master of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors, who was born in the city, founded Wolverhampton Grammar School, one of the oldest active schools in Britain.
From the 16th century onwards, Wolverhampton became home to a number of metal industries including lock and key making and iron and brass working.
Wolverhampton suffered two Great Fires: the first in April 1590, and the second in September 1696. Both fires started in today's Salop Street. The first fire lasted for five days and left nearly 700 people homeless, whilst the second destroyed 60 homes in the first five hours. This second fire led to the purchase of the first fire engine within the city in September 1703.
On 27 January 1606, two farmers, Thomas Smart and John Holyhead of Rowley Regis, were executed on High Green, now Queen Square, for sheltering two of the Gunpowder Plotters, Robert Wintour and Stephen Littleton, who had fled to the Midlands. The pair played no part in the original plot but nevertheless suffered a traitor's death of being hanged, drawn and quartered on butcher's blocks set up in the square a few days before the execution of Guy Fawkes and several other plotters in London.
In Victorian times, Wolverhampton grew to be a wealthy town mainly due to the huge amount of industry that occurred as a result of the abundance of coal and iron deposits in the area. The remains of this wealth can be seen in local houses such as Wightwick Manor and The Mount (both built for the Mander family, prominent varnish and paint manufacturers), and Tettenhall Towers. Many other houses of similar stature were built only to be demolished in the 1960s and 1970s.
The railways reached Wolverhampton in 1837, with the first station located at Wednesfield Heath, now Heath Town on the Grand Junction Railway. This station was demolished in 1965, but the area exists as a nature reserve just off Powell Street.
In the 19th century the city saw much immigration from Wales and Ireland, following the Irish Potato Famine.
In 1866, a statue was erected in memory of Prince Albert the Prince Consort, the unveiling of which brought Queen Victoria to Wolverhampton. The unveiling of the statue was the first public appearance Queen Victoria had made since the funeral of her husband. A 40-foot (12 m) tall archway made of coal was constructed for the visit. The Queen was so pleased with the statue that she knighted the then-mayor, an industrialist named John Morris. Market Square, originally named High Green, was renamed Queen Square in honour of the visit. The statue replaced a Russian cannon captured from Sevastopol during the Crimean War in 1855, and remains standing in Queen Square.
Wolverhampton was represented politically in Victorian times by the Liberal MP Charles Pelham Villiers, a noted free trade supporter, who was also the longest serving MP in parliamentary history.
Wolverhampton had a prolific bicycle industry from 1868 to 1975, during which time a total of more than 200 bicycle manufacturing companies existed there, but today none exist at all. These manufacturers included Marston, Sunbeam, Star, Wulfruna and Rudge.
Wolverhampton High Level station (the current main railway station) opened in 1852, but the original station was demolished in 1965 and then rebuilt.
Wolverhampton Low Level station opened on the Great Western Railway in 1855. The site of the Low Level station, which closed to passengers in 1972 and completely in 1981, is currently undergoing redevelopment.
England's first automatic traffic lights could be seen in Princes Square, Wolverhampton in 1927. The modern traffic lights at this location have the traditional striped poles to commemorate this fact.
In 1974, as a result of local government reorganisation, Wolverhampton became a metropolitan borough.
The United Kingdom government announced on the 18th December 2000 that Wolverhampton would be granted city status.
Many of the city centre's buildings date from the early 20th century and before, the oldest buildings being St Peter's Church (which was built in the 13th century but has been largely extended and refurbished since the 15th century, situated on Lichfield Street)[ and a framed timber 17th-century building on Victoria Street which is now one of just two remaining in the area which was heavily populated by them until the turn of the 20th century. This building was originally a residential property, but later became the Hand Inn public house. It was completely restored in 1981 after a two-year refurbishment project and has been used by various businesses since then – currently as a second hand book shop called Wolverhampton Books and Collectibles
The city's name now is often abbreviated to "Wolvo" or "W'ton". or "Wolves"