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Forum Home > Beliefs and other Oddities. > Newly discovered first written reference to 'The Black Country'

Nick moss

Posts: 11

In the past week or two, in June 2016, a newly discovered written reference to the Black Country has been found deep in the archives of the Staffordshire Advertiser from 27 November 1841.  editors note; There is no indication as to who submitted the report.

This pre-dates by nearly five years Reverand William Gresley's widely acclaimed first written reference to the Black Country in his 1846 book.   editors note; It was a Childrens Book.

The new discovery is a written report commenting on a leading Liberal reformers meeting held at The Guildhall in Lichfield on 24 November 1841, where the Town Clerk Mr C Simpson Esquire raises a toast to the working classes of the Country. In this speech he speaks of going "into The Black Country - Wolverhampton, Bilston and Tipton".   editors note; Simpson was the election agent for a Liberal candidate, and it was an election rally.  He was educated in Shrewsbury, and spent his entire life as Town Clerk and Coroner in Lichfield.

This is an important find as it further highlights where the core area of the Black Country was considered to be at the time the name and the region first evolved. This backs up the views of other writers of the 1800's Industrial Revolution period such as Samuel Sidney, William White, Samuel Griffiths, and Elihu Burritt, but contradicts the modern popular view perpetuated by the Black Country Society.   editors note; The theory, that Wolverhampton was the central Town of the region, during this period, is entirely the authors idea, and not supported by this website in any way.  Birmingham has a much better claim, which the website doesn't support either.

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July 1, 2016 at 9:16 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Thank you for the news Nick, an interesting, but not very informative piece of reporting by a third party on a so called "speech" that you then say was merely a toast. If it was a " Leading Liberal Reform meeting," surely there should be other reports, which would confirm the actual words used by the Town Clerk, Mr C Simpson. It beggers belief, that the Staffordshire Advertiser's reporter was the only one present for such an "important event". There would have been a lot of " Toasting " at such a meeting, there most always was, so how much alcohol had Mr Simpson consumed, and more importantly, was the reporter sober as well. It's so easy to use the wrong words when reporting such things, and, as you well know, " going into a Black Country ", is not the same as " going into The Black Country. The form of shorthand used, varied from reporter to reporter, and indeed, from that used elsewhere. Just as a thought, Wolverhampton was not concidered, by some at the time, ( indeed, even in modern times, some authors have drawn the line at Bilston )  to actually be part of a heavily industrialised area. Nearby Bilston was, and the area to the south of Wolverhampton, so was Tipton, and quite a few more Mr Simpson seems not to have known about. The term, Black Country, as such, is meaningless, for it was never " Black " anyway. Witness the fact that many parts were still being described as semi-rural, right up until the turn of the century. I can't ever remember The Black Country Society  " perpetrating " as a fact, the view they have formed over many years. It's a view, nothing more, they are fully entitled to it, just as I am to mine. There is nothing in your post, and thank you again for including it, that would even remotely cause me to change my mind, or my rather open views on the matter. I suspect the same would apply to The Black Country Society. Do let me know if you come across any more reports of this " Speech ", for it's rather pointless pushing your own views, when there is no corroborating evidence.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 2, 2016 at 4:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Thank you for the message Nick, sorry I closed the topic, but I needed time to reflect. Sometime ago, you complained that the Industrial activity in and around Wolverhampton, ( especially mining ) had been ignored. You hadn't bothered to read the many articles on the website under the headings, such as Monmore, Parkfield, Ettingshall, Willenhall, or Wednesfield. I haven't even mentioned yet Springvale, or the mines at Bunkers Hill. But for a twist of fate, the Stafford Road Locomotive works would have been the central hub of the Railways in the area. You have every right to be proud of Wolverhampton, and the town fully deserve's the title, The City of Wolverhampton. My definition of The Black Country, includes everything south from Wolverhamton, ( Walsall included ) to parts of Birmingham, ( Handsworth especially, which was also part of South Staffs, and made such a vast and undeniable contribution towards the growth of the region.) and westwards from Stourbridge, to Smethwick. I have taken a rather broader view than most, certainly broader than yours, for the region cannot be solely defined on a Coal Seam, nor just on how many Iron works there are in one area, or how smokey the air looks. The industrial revolution did not begin here, not in Dudley, or in Wolverhampton, or anywhere inbetween. There is no escaping the fact, that the term you are so fondly persuing, did not come into general usage until sometime after 1858. Even then, most  Newspaper reports from, and about the region, named the Towns and County, rather than the much vaunted " Black Country ". Just as an observation, most of them today, still follow the same path. One obscure, and in my view, irelevant mention of the term, does not establish, that the name was in common use in 1841, for it simply wasn't. ( nor in 1846 either ) Your City has grown over the years, it now includes Bilston, etc, much to the dismay of many locals, so wherever possible, I always use the old names and areas, and will continue to do so.


There is no doubt, at least in my eyes, that it was outsiders to this region, who, in order to dramatise the article/s they were writing, made up a false discription of what they saw. Even Burritt mentions pleasent surroundings, and wasn't the book by the Rev Greasley, a Childrens book ? The reported visit of Queen Victoria to Wolverhampton, in 1865, included the information that she had ordered the carriage blinds pulled down, when the train entered " The Black Country " . Totally false as it turns out, but does that mean that the reporter, or the Queen, did not believe, that Wolverhampton was actually in the Black Country? If the term had been in common local use, prior to all this literary activity, I could accept it for what it was. But it wasn't, and as such, I have come to hate all this falseness that now surrounds the subject. There are so many who have jumped on the bandwagon in recent years, probably looking to make a bob or two, or further their own ego, that at times, I feel rather ashamed at the antics. That doesn't mean that I will stop being proud of coming from the Black Country, for we all need an identity of sorts. But I will not take part in any competition to find the answer to what you see as a problem, and what I see as a waste of time. Nor will I ever allow you, or anyone else, to have a pop at any other organisation on this website, just because their views clash with your own. No matter where you live in the region, if you want to call it, or yourself, a part of the Black Country, you have my blessing. The name, at the end of the day, is meaningless, it's the people themselves who define this area, always have done, and God willing, always will.

                    

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

July 3, 2016 at 9:10 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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