The old town centre lies in the small valley of the Anger, a brook which rises nearby and flows through the town. The newer parts of the town are built on the valley slopes.
In 875 the hundreds (Honnschaften) and present suburbs of Flandersbach (Flatmarasbeki, i.e., Flattmar's brook) and Rützkausen (Hrotsteninghuson, i.e., the houses of Hrotse's people) are named in a description of the places owing tithes to Werden Abbey on the Ruhr. In around 1100 the placename Wülfrath (Wolverothe) itself is at last mentioned in a document written in a monk's hand at the religious house at Kaiserswerth.
The boundaries are given in a deed of grant of the Emperor Henry VI dated 16 October 1165 as the courses of the Rhein, Ruhr and Düssel (Tussella) rivers. The eastern boundary was the old highway of the "Kölnische Straße" (strata colonensis), which ran from the bridge over the Ruhr at Werden via Velbert and Wülfrath along the Düssel towards Cologne. The centre of the mediaeval village was a demesne farm or manor (Mollmershof), which as part of the lordship of Hardenberg was sold to the Counts of Berg. Possession of this manor, to which an extensive group of scattered farms belonged, particularly in the hundreds of Erbach and Püttbach, also gave control of the advowson of the church, that is, the right to appoint the priest.
As early as 1265 the presence of a smith can be demonstrated from the tax and rent register. The estate of Puttbach in the hundred of the same name was in the possession of the Teutonic Knights in 1392. It became the administrative centre for the order's scattered properties, where every year the manorial court was held.
In 1578 the village was destroyed by a great fire, which also burnt the roof and tower of the church. To help mitigate the severe losses of the inhabitants, the local prince, Duke Johann Wilhelm IV of Jülich-Kleve-Berg, granted them in 1579 a charter of market rights, permitting his village and parish of Wulfrod four free markets a year. But exactly one hundred years after the first fire, another destroyed the entire village centre with more than 70 houses.
After the transfer of the Duchy of Berg to the French and the establishment of the Grand Duchy of Berg, out of the hundreds Erbach, Püttbach, Obschwarzbach, Niederschwarzbach (all previously Amt Mettmann), Flandersbach, Rützkausen (previously Amt Angermund) and Oberdüssel (previously in the lordship of Schöller) was formed in 1808 the municipality (mairie) of Wülfrath. In 1809 Obschwarzbach and Niederschwarzbach were added to Mettmann, in return for which, the hundred of Unterdüssel with the village of Düssel were given to Wülfrath.
After the wars of liberation the place came to Prussia, as part of the newly created Rhine Province. By an ordinance of 1827 Wülfrath was entitled to representation as part of the estate of towns in the Rhine Provincial Parliament. In 1856 it finally received full municipal rights with the passing of the town ordinance for the Rhine Province.
The surrounding houses remain for the most part in their original state and are protected buildings, although others have been rebuilt. Each of them had (and still has) a name as well as a house number: Auf'm Keller (1678), Hamels (1678), Melanders (1678), Op der Ley (about 1600 - refurbished 1911), Auf'm Haus (1678), Großer Klaus (1686 - rebuilt 1964), Kleiner Klaus (1678), Scholle (1678), Hinter'm Turm (1678), Jostenhaus (refurbished about 1738), Hechtsteinhaus (1678), Op de Trapp (1678) and Leonhards (rebuilt 1955).
In 2001 a part of the historic Old Town yet again fell victim to the flames. During the night of 21 January 2001 a fire broke out which destroyed three of the old half-timbered houses. They had to be demolished, and have been replaced by modern buildings.
Of particular significance was the arrival of quarrying in Wülfrath, with the establishment of the Rheinisch-Westfälische Kalkwerke Dornap in 1887, and the Rheinische Kalksteinwerke Wülfrath in 1903. Wülfrath now has the largest chalk and limestone quarries in Europe. These undertakings have been a decisive influence on the development of the town, and have remained the principal component of Wülfrath's industrial life until now.
There continued to be numerous home-based weaving enterprises, as well as businesses involved in finishing leather and many other small firms. A branch of the Ford works at Cologne was founded here, rising out of the coachwork company Josef Hebmueller Soehne, established 1889, and still extant as (Visteon).
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