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Forum Home > Blackcountry Factual History. > The Black Country. Where,What,and When.

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

I just knew I would be asked this question again, it pops up on a regular basis, this time in response to a recent Radio Programme. For a start, get it out of your head that it's an actually place, it isn't, it's a discription of something seen through the eyes of a few travellers in the far distant past. That something was the landscape, viewed, as far as the eye could see, which on a day when the wind was absent, wouldn't have been that far anyway. It would be true to say, that in the mid 19th century, there was a great deal of smoke, noise, dirt and grime, and a fiery glow in the sky from all the furnaces of industry. If it was viewed from the lofty heights of the Rowley Hills, this sight would have stretched from Birmingham, to Wolverhampton, taking in all the little towns as far as Walsall. The view from Brierley Hill would have been similar, which gave rise to a rhyme that has been etched into many objects, including a few factory gates. For what it's worth, the discription at the time, as to what could be seen, was pretty accurate, but it's still only a discription. Harold Parsons, one time editor of The Blackcountryman, and the author of several books on the subject, was quite clear on what constituted the area. His list includes, Dudley, Wolverhampton, Bilston, Walsall, West Bromwich, Smethwick, Oldbury, Wednesbury, Darlaston, Willenhall, Old Hill, Cradley and Cradley Heath, Halesowen, Brierley Hill, Kingswinford, Stourbridge, Lye, Sedgley, Coseley, Tipton, and Upper and Lower Gornal. Fair enough you might think, except there are some towns he mentions, that do not fit the discription. He was then, at times, a little narrow minded in his approach, and never took into account the many boundry changes, or the mineral deposits that caused the discription to be applied in the first place.


Trying to fit it all in the boundries of the South Staffordshire Coal Seam doesn't quite work either. It doesn't all stop at the Bentley Fault Line, around Wolverhampton and Willenhall, it's just that the coal level is much further down, and requires deeper Pits, as around Brownhills and Cannock. No, I'm not suggesting that Cannock be included, it's just an example of the difficulties in applying the term, Black Country. No matter which hill the traveller in the past may have stood on, the view would have been almost the same, and more to the point, the discription would have matched what he saw. There are some, who would define the area from the regional accent, this is total hogwash, for every town has a slightly different accent, and uses different words for everyday objects and phrases. It's no wonder then, that it was reported that the natives were a bunch of gobbledegook speaking savages. The fact that they earned very little money, and were forced to dress in rags, only added  the term Barbarians, as well. Now I'm not offering a solution to the question, after all, I have a vested interest, having been born here, I am simply stating what I see as the cause of the problem. Harold Parsons never mentioned, that beyond Smethwick, lies the start of the Industrial revolution, at Matthew Boultons Manufactory, in Handsworth, which, until 1911, was a parish in the County of Staffordshire. Neither does he include, Pelsall, Walsall Wood, Bloxwich, or Wednesfield, in his list, all of whom, made a great many contributions to the fame of the region. I came to the conclusion, many years ago, that the Black Country is more about it's people than any mere places. They were, and still are, far more important than bricks and morter, canals, mines, and Ironworks, for without them, we wouldn't have a Black Country, whether by discription, or an area on a Map. So if you live in the area, and want to call yourselves " black country ", please feel free to do so, it's absolutely fine by me.

--

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

April 6, 2013 at 3:37 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

It seems that the Tribal Taboo's, that some folk carry around like placards, just won't go away. Only last week, I was asked why I persisted with the notion, that Wolverhampton should be included as part and parcel of the Black Country. This question I should add, was posed by some folk from Wolverhampton, who felt a bit insulted, at being down graded, Fair enough, it's a view, but there are some conciderations to take into account first, and a few very good reasons why it should always be included.



When old " Iron Mad " Wilkinson died in 1806, not only had he established a Blast Furnace in Bilston, the idea had spread far and wide. There was an abundance of cheap fuel, ( coal ) a weath of mineral deposits, ( Iron stone and Lime ) and a great deal of cheap labour. The Mars Iron Works was started by George Adams in Parkfields, Wolverhampton, near to another company, The Parkfield Furnaces.



The Chillington Iron Works began even before Wilkinson died, and in the 1860s, had 90 puddling Furnaces, and 6 cold Blast Furnaces at work. The Minerva and Beaver Iron Works, producing springs and other goods, had been in operation since the 1820s, long before the term "Black Country", had ever appeared in word or print. They weren't the only ones either. for a large Chemical Works had sprung up, at Horseley Fields, as had the Galvanising works of Edward Davies. Wolverhampton was producing fine art work in the form of Enamel Boxes, and Toys, while some parts of the Black Country were still hammering nails for a living. Like Birmingham, ( the hub of most of the early coal distribution, and the place where a huge amount of goods were desptached to ) and which rarely gets a good press from the tribal spokespeople, Wolverhampton was a centre of excellent communications, and commerce. Without either of them, the Black Country wouldn't have become what it did, and it's wise to bear that in mind, next time someone blasts off on a subject they have never studied properly. Thats the Galvanising works below. Canal on one side, Railway on the other.



--

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

March 25, 2014 at 3:16 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Nick moss

Posts: 11

Excellent article.

Wolverhampton (even excluding Bilston, Willenhall, Wednesfield) had at least 30 Coal and Ironstone Colleries on its eastern side, and the extensive foundries around Horseley Fields and Monmore Green emplyed thousands during the Industrial revolution. Its not the Capital of the Black Country, but it is "Of the Black Country". Its industrious contribution to the Black Country should not be forgotten or so conveniently airbrushed away through what is sadly sheer ignorance or lack of knowledge.

October 1, 2014 at 7:22 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Pedro
Member
Posts: 25

Alaska. at April 6, 2013 at 3:37 PM

I just knew I would be asked this question again, it pops up on a regular basis, this time in response to a recent Radio Programme. For a start, get it out of your head that it's an actually place, it isn't, it's a discription of something seen through the eyes of a few travellers in the past. That something was the landscape, viewed as far as the eye could see, which on a day when the wind was absent, wouldn't have been that far anyway. It would be true to say, that in the mid 19th century, there was great deal of smoke, noise, dirt and grime, and a fiery glow in the sky from all the furnaces of industry. If it was viewed from the lofty heights of the Rowley Hills, this sight would have stretched from Birmingham, to Wolverhampton, taking in all the little towns as far as Walsall. The view from Brierley Hill would have similar, which gave rise to a rhyme that has been etched into many objects, including a few factory gates. For what it's worth, the discription at the time was pretty accurate, but it's still only a discription. Harold Parsons, one time editor of The Blackcountryman, and the author of several books on the subject, was quite clear on what constituted the area. His list includes, Dudley, Wolverhampton, Bilston, Walsall, West Bromwich, Smethwick, Oldbury, Wednesbury, Darlaston, Willenhall, Old Hill, Cradley and Cradley Heath, Halesowen, Brierley Hill, Kingswinford, Stourbridge, Lye, Sedgley, Coseley, Tipton, and Upper and Lower Gornal. Fair enough you might think, except these are actual places, some of which don't fit the discription. He was then, at times, a little narrow minded in his approach, and never took into account the many boundry changes, or the mineral deposits that caused the discription to be applied in the first place.


Trying to fit it all in the boundries of the South Staffordshire Coal Seam doesn't quite work either. It doesn't all stop at the Bentley Fault Line, around Wolverhampton and Willenhall, it's just that the coal level is much farther down, and requires deeper Pits, as around Brownhills and Cannock. No, I'm not suggesting that Cannock be included, it's just an example of the difficulties in applying the term, Black Country. No matter which hill the traveller in the past may have stood on, the view would have been almost the same, and more to the point, the discription would have matched what he saw. There are some, who would define the area from the regional accent, this is total hogwash, for every town has a slightly different accent, and uses different words for everyday objects and phrases. It's no wonder then, that it was reported that the natives were a bunch of gobbledegook speaking savages. The fact that they earned very little money, and were forced to dress in rags, only added to the term Barbarians.  Now I'm not offering a solution to the question, after all, I have a vested interest, having been born here, I am simply stating what I see as the cause of the problem. Harold Parsons never mentioned, that beyond Smethwick, lies the start of the Industrial revolution, at Matthew Boultons Manufactory, in Handsworth, which, until 1911, was a parish in the County of Staffordshire. Neither does he include, Pelsall, Walsall Wood, Bloxwich, or Wednesfield, in his list, all of whom, made a great many contributions to the fame of the region. I came to the conclusion, many years ago, that the Black Country is more about it's people than any mere places. They were, and still are, far more important than bricks and morter, canals, mines, and Ironworks, for without them, we wouldn't have a Black Country, whether by discription, or an area on a Map. So if you live in the area, and want to call yourselves " black country ", please feel free to do so, it's absolutely fine by me.

2016 may see the Black Country as a GeoPark.

Just looking at a couple of the Geosites they may raise a few eyebrows, but I'm with Alaska that it should not be a rigid idea.

Most Northery is Brownhills Miner.

Southerly is Wychbury Hill.

Easterly is Galton Valley.

Westerly is Bantock House.

Brownhills Anyone?


October 1, 2015 at 4:58 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

The first part of the topic heading, Where?, I should think by now, you have all have worked out for yourselves. While the general consensus suits many, there will still be a few who disagree. Well thats life for you. The second part, What?, ( is it ) comprises a history of the industries, Mining, Iron Making, etc,etc, of which most will already be familiar with. It's the second part that gave rise to the name associated with the region, not applied I should add, by it's inhabitants, but by travelling writers and scribes, all of whom adopted a bit of dramatic jargon in order to sell a book/pamphlet. Some of the discriptions, are, to say the least, a bit off target, but this didn't stop all those that followed, from giving the name to almost every town, ( unfairly ) within the region. Elsewhere on the website, I have settled for a time period of around the late 1850s for the application of the term, "The Black Country". ( This is the third part of the topic heading, When? )  Mainly because, about this time, capital letters were used by the Newspapers, turning it from a mere discription, into something of a difinate article. As a feature on a Map, it doesn't exist, for there are no actual boundries, thus making the term almost entirely pointless. You can wave that flag as much as you like, because no matter what, it will still be comprised of, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, and Wolverhampton. ( please note: in alphabetical order )  Posted  in this Topic, ( Oct 2014 ) was an item by a member, who complimented me on what I had included, and then went into a mild rant about proper recognition of the place he loves, Wolverhampton. Please read it, for the stance now adopted, 21 months later, in a recent post, is vastly different. I don't know what bought about the change, but I suppose the news he announced may have a lot to do with it.


The Black Country Society, a well respected organisation, have a view that the term " The Black Country, " can be traced to an item that appeared in 1846. Having looked at it closely, and like many others, it has not changed my view, because the term was certainly not in general use at that time, but it is an interesting bit of history. They have a view on the subject, so do others, but when push come's to shove, it's only a view after all. They also have a view, shared by a great many, that the key town in the region is Dudley, and once again, it's merely their view, which of course they are perfectly entitled to state. I am not going to argue about it. There are other towns, during periods of the developement of the region, of which it could be said, also made a major contribution. Once again, I am not going to comment. What I am going to comment on, is some slightly misleading information that arises from what has already been written, and now used in a theory to nominate another town, ( now a City ) into the Key Town of the region. Wolverhampton. 


The bit of news, was the unearthing, from the depths of the old Staffordshire Advertiser archives, a report of a political meeting in Lichfield, in 1841. The term, " the black country " was used by the Town Clerk in a toast to a Liberal Candidate. Now thats another interesting bit of history. It is not however, proof that the term was in general use, and it's unclear in what context the Town Clerk used the words. Reform was in the air, given the appalling conditions in which the mass'es found themselves, and he may have meant to take the new ideas to enlighten those in a black country. There's no evidence he ever went near Wolverhampton, which is the second part of  the posted item I now have on the website. That the town was an important link in the region in undeniable, for the main Railway line from London/ Birmingham to Manchester, ran into it, but to suggest it was the key to the regions success, is a bit presumptive to say the least.


Included in the post, are some alleged facts and figures. One is the stated fact that there were 160 coal mines in Wolverhampton. This is a bit misleading, for the earliest recorded named mine I have found, was in 1818, and the last around 1920. The history of Wolverhamptons mining then, is just over a hundred years, which then puts the figure into a better perspective, for there were never 160 operating at one time, as the sentence implies. A better way, is to state that " over a period of 100 years, as many as 160 mines, worked the Wolverhampton Coal fields ".  They were not large coal deposits either, being situated in Parkfields, Rough Hills, Monmore Green, Horseley Fields and Ettingshall, the extracted Coal and Iron Ore, being sold to the many Iron Works which sprang up in the early part of the 1800s. The main bulk of the coal production was actually in Bilston. ( Ironicaly, now part of Wolverhampton ) There is another quote in the post, " that Wolverhampton had more miners than Dudley. "  This is also misleading, for the writer had no knowledge of the nature, methods, and manning levels of these mines, most of which seldom had more than 40 workers, and some as low as a handfull of men and boys. At an Inquest on one mining disaster, the Mines Inspector reported that the total workforce was just 25. One area, in which it could be said Wolverhampton did excell, was the production of Iron, but not to the point of being dominant in the trade.


Now don't get me wrong, I am not knocking Wolverhampton, it's just that we have other towns in the region, that may feel they have a better claim to the title of " Queen of the Black Country ".  I am not putting forward any I mention from now on, they are just a few thoughts, How about Smethwick, situated next to an area that produced some of the most inventive brains of the industrial revolution, Boulton, Watt, and Murdoch. It was at one time, and still is, a centre of varied industry. from Glass production, ( Chance Bros ) to Heavy Motor vehicles, ( Morris Commercial ) the whole area was a hive of activity from the 18th, to the 20th century. Then there is our big brother, the town of a thousand trades, and where most of the items produced in the Black Country ended up, Birmingham. The City has, in the past, as now, been long described as the Capital of the region. Most of my correspondents are very fond of quoting Burritt in support of several theories, but how many have actually read his Book??,  especially Chapter two, which is a real eye opener.  If anyone wishes to debunk what Burritt wrote in this piece, then they will also have to debunk the rest, for you can't have it both ways, can you? But, as a final thought, do we really need the title bestowed on any town, for the collective effort of all, has made the region what is once was, what it is today, and possibly what it will be become in the future.

--

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

July 6, 2016 at 10:18 AM Flag Quote & Reply

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