Hydrogen molecules are excited in a molecular beam to Rydberg states around n=17-18 and are exposed to the inhomogeneous electric field of an electric dipole. The large dipole moment produced in the selected Stark eigenstates leads to strong forces on the H2 molecules in the inhomogeneous electric field. The trajectories of the molecules are monitored using ion-imaging and time of flight measurements. With the dipole rods mounted parallel to the beam direction, the high-field-seeking and low-field-seeking Stark states are deflected towards and away from the dipole, respectively. The magnitude of the deflection is measured as a function of the parabolic quantum number k and of the duration of the applied field. It is also shown that a large deflection is observed when populating the (17d2)1 state at zero field and switching the dipole field on after a delay. With the dipole mounted perpendicular to the beam direction, the molecules are either accelerated or decelerated as they move towards the dipole. The Rydberg states are found to survive for over 100 micros after the dipole field is switched off before being ionized at the detector and the time of flight is measured. A greater percentage change in kinetic energy is achieved by initial seeding of the beam in helium or neon followed by inhomogeneous field deceleration/acceleration. Molecular dynamics trajectory simulations are presented highlighting the extent to which the trajectories can be predicted based on the known Stark map. The spectroscopy of the populated states is discussed in detail and it is established that the N+=2, J=1, MJ=0 states populated here have a special stability with respect to decay by predissociation.