Molineaux is one of the great stadia of football. I last visited to see Wolves Championship game against Blackpool a few years ago. This was shortly after the owner, Sir Jack Hayward, passed away. I was really touched by the send off that the fans gave him. There is now a statue in his honour.
I have always enjoyed visiting the Wolves. The fans are amongst the friendliest going. I have felt welcomed into the family. I love the history and the traditions of the club, such as the chap that sells bags of homemade pork scratchings before the games.
If you ever get a chance to go to the game, I would highly recommend that you take this up .
Origins The Molineux name originates from Benjamin Molineux, a successful local merchant (and a distant relative of the now extinct Earls of Sefton) who, in 1744, purchased land on which he built Molineux House (later converted to the Molineux Hotel) and on which the stadium would eventually be built. The estate was purchased in 1860 by O.E. McGregor, who converted the land into a pleasure park open to the public. Molineux Grounds, as it was titled, included a wide range of facilities including an ice rink, a cycling track, a boating lake, and, most crucially, an area for football.
The grounds were sold to the Northampton Brewery in 1889, who rented its use to Wolverhampton Wanderers, who had previously played at Dudley Road. After renovating the site, the first-ever league game was staged on 7 September 1889 in a 2–0 victory over Notts County before a crowd of 4,000.
Wolves bought the freehold in 1923 for £5,607 (£303,338.70 in 2018 prices) and soon set about constructing a major grandstand on the Waterloo Road side (designed by Archibald Leitch). In 1932, the club also built a new stand on the Molineux Street side and followed this by adding a roof to the South Bank two years later. The stadium finally now had four stands, which formed Molineux for the next half-century. The South Bank Stand terraces were one of the largest goal stands in Britain. In 1953, the club became one of the first in Britain to install floodlights, at a cost of around £10,000 (£274,000 in 2018 prices). The first-ever floodlit game was held on 30 September 1953, as Wolves won 3–1 against South Africa. The referee for this match was Mr. F Read of Willenhall. The addition of the floodlights opened the door for Molineux to host a series of midweek friendlies against teams from across the globe. In the days prior to the formation of the European Cup and international club competitions, these games were highly prestigious and gained huge crowds and interest, the BBC often televising such events. A new taller set of floodlights were later installed in 1957, at a cost of £25,000 (£595,000 in 2018 prices), as the stadium prepared to host its first European Cup games.
Further redevelopment and decline In 1958, plans were unveiled to rebuild Molineux into a 70,000 capacity stadium during the early 1960s, but these were rejected by the local council and there were no major changes at the stadium for another 20 years.
The Molineux Street Stand (by now all-seater) failed to meet the standards of the 1975 Safety of Sports Grounds Act. The club set about building a new stand behind the existing one, on land where housing had been demolished. The new stand, designed by architects Atherden and Rutter, had a 9,348 capacity, equipped with 42 executive boxes, although sporting red seats in contrast to the club's traditional colours. When the construction was complete, the old stand lying in front was demolished, leaving the stand some 100 ft from the touchline. This new stand, named the John Ireland Stand (after the then-club president), was opened on 25 August 1979 at the start of a First Division game against Ipswich Town. This was intended as the first phase of a complete reconstruction of the ground, which would have given it a 40,000 capacity by 1984 and made it the first completely rebuilt stadium in postwar league football. However, the John Ireland Stand was the only phase of this project which would become reality. Further redevelopment was still a decade away. In 1981, plans were unveiled for further redevelopment at the stadium which would have cost more than £4million and involved five-a-side football pitches, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, and an eight-lane running track. However, these were soon scrapped due to rising debts. The John Ireland Stand (renamed as The Steve Bull Stand in 2003), completed in 1979, had cost £2.5 million (£13,675,000 in 2018 prices) and had been one of the most expensive developments at any football ground in the U.K. The cost of the stand's construction plunged Wolves deep into debt and the club narrowly avoided liquidation in 1982, when it was taken over by a group fronted by former player Derek Dougan.
By the time Wolves slid into the Football League Fourth Division in 1986, the John Ireland Stand and the South Bank terrace were the only sections of the ground in use, after new safety laws implemented following the Bradford City stadium fire forced the closure of the North Bank and Waterloo Road Stand, which had become very dilapidated. Additionally, attendances had fallen due to the club's on-the-field decline.
The club's perilous financial situation meant the stadium fell into ruin, with no funding either for repairs or to move the pitch. The club was saved from folding in August 1986 when Wolverhampton Council bought the ground for £1,120,000 (£3,236,800 in 2018 prices), along with the surrounding land, while Gallagher Estates, in conjunction with the Asda Superstore chain, agreed to pay off the outstanding debt – subject to building and planning permission for a superstore being granted. Although the stadium continued in use, the disused sections were never reopened.
Present-day stadium The takeover of the club and stadium by Sir Jack Hayward in 1990 paved the way for redevelopment, which was further prompted by legislation following the Taylor Report that outlawed terraces which affected Premier League and Division One stadiums from the 1993–94 season. The North Bank terrace was demolished in October 1991 and the new Stan Cullis Stand was completed in August 1992, in time for the 1992–93 season. Next came the demolition of the Waterloo Road Stand, with the new Billy Wright Stand opening in August 1993. The final phase of the redevelopment came in December 1993, when the new Jack Harris Stand was opened on the site of the South Bank terrace.
The newly renovated stadium was officially opened on 7 December 1993, in a friendly with Honvéd, the Hungarian team who had been beaten in one of Molineux's most famous original floodlit friendlies.
In 2003, the John Ireland Stand was renamed the Steve Bull Stand (in honour of the club's record goalscorer) and, at the same time, the south-west corner of the ground was filled with 900 temporary seats, known as the Graham Hughes Stand, which, until their removal in the summer of 2006, raised the Molineux capacity to 29,400. This seating area – now officially named the Wolves Community Trust Stand – was again added on the club's return to the top flight in 2009, which lifted the capacity to 29,195 before the club began its redevelopment of the stadium in summer 2011. In August 2015, the Jack Harris Stand was renamed the Sir Jack Hayward Stand in honour of Steve Morgan's predecessor as the club's owner, who had died earlier that year. The record attendance for the stadium in its current configuration is 31,746, which was achieved against Liverpool on 23 January 2020 in the Premier League.