Black Country is a region of the West Midlands in England, west of
Birmingham, and commonly refers to all or part of the four
Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell,
Wolverhampton. During the Industrial Revolution, it became one of
the most industrialised parts of Britain with coal mines, coking, iron
foundries, glass factories, brickworks and steel mills producing a
high level of air pollution.
The 14-mile (23 km) road between
described as "one continuous town" in 1785. The first trace of "The
Black Country" as an expression dates from the 1840s. The name is
believed to come from the soot from the heavy industries that covered
the area, although the 30-foot-thick (10 metre) coal seam close to the
surface is another possible origin.
Although the heavy polluting industry that gave the region its name
has long since disappeared, a sense of shared history and tradition in
the area has kept the term in use. In addition, the regeneration of
the area by local and national government has brought official
recognition to the region and has, to some extent, defined its
1.1 Local government
1.2 Cultural and industrial definition
1.3 Geological definitions
4 Geology and landscape
7 Dialect and accent
10 South Staffordshire Railway
11 See also
14 Further reading
15 External links
South Staffordshire in 1911. The
Black Country region, as indicated on
the map, lies to the west and north-west of the city of Birmingham
Black Country has no single set of defined boundaries. Some
traditionalists have tended to define it as "the area where the coal
seam comes to the surface – so West Bromwich, Oldbury, Blackheath,
Cradley Heath, Old Hill, Bilston, Dudley, Tipton,
parts of Halesowen,
Walsall but not Wolverhampton,
Smethwick or what used to be known as Warley".
There are records from the 18th century of shallow coal mines in
Wolverhampton, however. Others have included areas slightly outside
the coal field which were associated with heavy industry. Today
it commonly refers to the majority or all of the four metropolitan
boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell,
Walsall and Wolverhampton although it
is said that "no two
Black Country men or women will agree on where it
starts or ends".
Official use of the name came in 1987 with the Black Country
Development Corporation, an urban development corporation covering the
metropolitan boroughs of
Sandwell and Walsall, which was disbanded in
Black Country Consortium (founded in 1999) and the Black
Local Enterprise Partnership (founded in 2011) both define the
Black Country as the four metropolitan boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell,
Walsall and Wolverhampton, an approximate area of 138 square
miles (360 km2).
Cultural and industrial definition
The borders of the
Black Country can be defined by using the special
cultural and industrial characteristics of the area. Areas around the
canals (the cut) which had mines extracting mineral resources and
heavy industry refining these are included in this definition.
Cultural parameters include unique or characteristic foods such as
Groaty pudding, Grey Peas and Bacon, faggots, gammon or pork hocks and
Black Country Humour; and the Black Country
Mining the thick coal seam at one of the Earl of Dudley's pits in the
Black Country Society defines the Black Country's borders as the
area on the thirty foot coal seam, regardless the depth of the seam.
This definition includes
West Bromwich and Oldbury, which had many
deep pits, and Smethwick. The thick coal that underlies
not mined until the 1870s and
Smethwick has retained more Victorian
character than most West Midland areas.
Sandwell Park Colliery's pit
was located in
Smethwick and had 'thick coal' as shown in written
accounts from 1878 and coal was also heavily mined in Hamstead further
Dudley Port were described as "a thousand
swarming hives of metallurgical industries" by Samuel Griffiths in
Black Country Society excludes
Midlands conurbation) and
Stourbridge geologically but includes them
culturally, linguistically and in terms of heavy industry as both had
iron and steel works, manufacturing industries and contributed
enormously to the region. Warley is also included, despite lacking
industry and canals, as housing for industrial workers in Smethwick
and Oldbury was built there.
Another geological definition, the seam outcrop definition, only
includes areas where the coal seam is shallow making the soil black at
the surface. Some coal mining areas to the east and west of the
Black Country are therefore excluded by this
definition because the coal here is too deep down and does not
outcrop. The seam outcrop definition excludes areas in North
Worcestershire and South Staffordshire.
The first recorded use of the term "the Black Country" may be from a
toast given by a Mr Simpson, town clerk to Lichfield, addressing a
Reformer's meeting on 24 November 1841, published in the Staffordshire
Advertiser. He describes going into the "black country" of
Staffordshire - Wolverhampton,
Bilston and Tipton. In published
literature, the first reference dates from 1846 and occurs in the
novel Colton Green: A Tale of the
Black Country by the Reverend
William Gresley, who was then a prebendary of
He introduces the area as "that dismal region of mines and forges,
commonly called 'the Black Country'", implying that the term was
already in use. Gresley's opening paragraph stated "The scene of
this story lies in that part of Staffordshire to which the constant
exhumation of its mineral resources has long since given the
well-known name of the Black Country", implying that the original
Black Country may not have included
Dudley which was in
Worcestershire. He also stated that the '
Black Country was twenty
miles in length', which is also at odds with the 'restricted
coalfield' version propsed by the
Black Country Society. The phrase
was used again, though as a description rather than a proper noun, by
Illustrated London News
Illustrated London News in an 1849 article on the opening of the
South Staffordshire Railway. An 1851 guidebook to the London and
North Western Railway included an entire chapter entitled "The Black
Country", including an early description:
In this Black Country, including West Bromwich, Dudley, Darlaston,
Wolverhampton and several minor villages, a perpetual
twilight reigns during the day, and during the night fires on all
sides light up the dark landscape with a fiery glow. The pleasant
green of pastures is almost unknown, the streams, in which no fishes
swim, are black and unwholesome; the natural dead flat is often broken
by high hills of cinders and spoil from the mines; the few trees are
stunted and blasted; no birds are to be seen, except a few smoky
sparrows; and for miles on miles a black waste spreads around, where
furnaces continually smoke, steam engines thud and hiss, and long
chains clank, while blind gin horses walk their doleful round. From
time to time you pass a cluster of deserted roofless cottages of
dingiest brick, half swallowed up in sinking pits or inclining to
every point of the compass, while the timbers point up like the ribs
of a half decayed corpse. The majority of the natives of this
Tartarian region are in full keeping with the scenery – savages,
without the grace of savages, coarsely clad in filthy garments, with
no change on weekends or Sundays, they converse in a language belarded
with fearful and disgusting oaths, which can scarcely be recognised as
the same as that of civilized England.
— Samuel Sidney, Rides on Railway
This work was also the first to explicitly distinguish the area from
nearby Birmingham, noting that "On certain rare holidays these people
wash their faces, clothe themselves in decent garments, and, since the
opening of the South Staffordshire Railway, take advantage of cheap
excursion trains, go down to
Birmingham to amuse themselves and make
Joseph Jukes made it clear in 1858 that he felt the
meaning of the term was self-explanatory to contemporary visitors,
remarking that "It is commonly known in the neighbourhood as the
'Black Country', an epithet the appropriateness of which must be
acknowledged by anyone who even passes through it on a railway". Jukes
Black Country on the seat of the great iron manufacture,
which for him was geographically determined by the ironstone tract of
the coalfield rather than the thick seam, running from Wolverhampton
to Bloxwich, to West Bromwich, to
Stourbridge and back to
Wolverhampton again. A travelogue published in 1860 made the
connection more explicit, calling the name "eminently descriptive, for
blackness everywhere prevails; the ground is black, the atmosphere is
black, and the underground is honeycombed by mining galleries
stretching in utter blackness for many a league". An alternative
theory for the meaning of the name is proposed as having been caused
by the darkening of the local soil due to the outcropping coal and the
seam near the surface.
It was however the American diplomat and travel writer Elihu Burritt
who brought the term "the Black Country" into widespread common
usage with the third, longest and most important of the travel
books he wrote about Britain for American readers, his 1868 work Walks
Black Country and its Green Borderland. Burritt had been
appointed United States consul in
Abraham Lincoln in
1864, a role that required him to report regularly on "facts bearing
upon the productive capacities, industrial character and natural
resources of communities embraced in their Consulate Districts" and as
a result travelled widely from his home in Harborne, largely on foot,
to explore the local area. Burritt's association with Birmingham
dated back 20 years and he was highly sympathetic to the industrial
and political culture of the town as well as being a friend many of
its leading citizens, so his portrait of the surrounding area was
largely positive. He was the author of the famous early
description of the
Black Country as "black by day and red by night",
adding appreciatively that it "cannot be matched, for vast and varied
production, by any other space of equal radius on the surface of the
globe". Burritt used the term to refer to a wider area than its
common modern usage, however, devoting the first third of the book to
Birmingham, which he described as "the capital, manufacturing centre,
and growth of the Black Country", and writing "plant, in imagination,
one foot of your compass at the Town Hall in Birmingham, and with the
other sweep a circle of twenty miles [30 km] radius, and you will
have, 'the Black Country". However he also described a 'Black Country
proper' including Wolverhampton, Dudley, and several smaller
Bilston-born Samuel Griffiths, in his 1876 Griffiths Guide to the Iron
Trade of Great Britain , stated "The
Black Country commences at
Wolverhampton, extends a distance of sixteen miles to Stourbridge,
eight miles to West Bromwich, penetrating the northern districts
Willenhall to Bentley, The Birchills,
Walsall and Darlaston,
West Bromwich and Hill Top,
Brockmoor, Wordsley and Stourbridge. As the atmosphere becomes purer,
we get to the higher ground of Brierley Hill, nevertheless here also,
as far as the eye can reach, on all sides, tall chimneys vomit forth
great clouds of smoke". He also stated that "
considered to be The Capital of the Black Country", as well as "The
Capital of the Iron Trade in the Black Country".
The Oak House, West Bromwich. A Yeoman Farmer's house dating from the
late 16th or early 17th century, it represents a rare surviving
building from the pre-industrial Black Country
Black Country places such as Wolverhampton,
Wednesfield are mentioned in Anglo-Saxon charters and chronicles and
the forerunners of a number of
Black Country towns and villages such
as Cradley, Dudley, Smethwick, and
Halesowen are included in the
Domesday Book of 1086. At this early date, the area was mostly
rural. A monastery was founded in
Wolverhampton in the Anglo-Saxon
period and a castle and priory was built at
Dudley during the
period of Norman rule. Another religious house, Premonstratensian
Abbey of Halesowen, was founded in the early 13th century. A
Black Country villages developed into market towns and
boroughs in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, notably Dudley,
Walsall and Wolverhampton. Coal mining was carried out for several
centuries in the Black Country, starting from medieval times, and
metalworking was important in the
Black Country area as early as the
16th century spurred on by the presence of iron ore and coal in a seam
30 feet (9 m) thick, the thickest seam in Great Britain, which
outcropped in various places. The first blast furnace recorded in the
Black Country was built at
West Bromwich in the early 1560s. Many
people had an agricultural smallholding and supplemented their income
by working as nailers or smiths, an example of a phenomenon known to
economic historians as proto-industrialisation. In 1583, the accounts
of the building of Henry VIII's
Nonsuch Palace record that nails were
supplied by Reynolde Warde of
Dudley at a cost of 11s 4d per
thousand. By the 1620s "Within ten miles [16 km] of Dudley
Castle there were 20,000 smiths of all sorts".
In the early 17th century, Dud Dudley, a natural son of the Baron of
Dudley, experimented with making iron using coal rather than
charcoal. Two patents were granted for the process: one in 1621 to
Dudley and one in 1638 to Dud
Dudley and three others. In his
work Metallum Martis, published in 1665, he claimed to have "made Iron
to profit with Pit-cole". However, considerable doubt has been cast on
this claim by later writers.
An important development in the early 17th century was the
introduction of the slitting mill to the Midlands area. In the Black
Country, the establishment of this device was associated with Richard
Foley, son of a
Dudley nailer, who built a slitting mill near Kinver
in 1628. The slitting mill made it much simpler to produce nail
rods from iron bar.
Another development of the early 17th century was the introduction of
glass making to the
Stourbridge area. One attraction of the region
for glass makers was the local deposits of fireclay, a material
suitable for making the pots in which glass was melted.
In 1642 at the start of the Civil War, Charles I failed to capture the
two arsenals of Portsmouth and Hull, which although in cities loyal to
Parliament were located in counties loyal to him. As he had failed to
capture the arsenals, Charles did not possess any supply of swords,
pikes, guns, or shot; all these the
Black Country could and did
Stourbridge came shot, from
Dudley cannon. Numerous
small forges which then existed on every brook in the north of
Worcestershire turned out successive supplies of sword blades and pike
heads. It was said that among the many causes of anger Charles had
Birmingham was that one of the best sword makers of the day,
Robert Porter, who manufactured swords in Digbeth, Birmingham, refused
at any price to supply swords for "that man of blood" (A Puritan
nickname for King Charles), or any of his adherents. As an offset to
this sword-cutler and men like him in Birmingham, the Royalists had
among their adherents Dud Dudley, now a Colonel in the Royalist army,
who had experience in iron making, and who claimed he could turn out
"all sorts of bar iron fit for making of muskets, carbines, and iron
for great bolts", both more cheaply, more speedily and more excellent
than could be done in any other way.
In 1712, a Newcomen Engine was constructed near
Dudley and used to
pump water from coal mines belonging to Lord Dudley. This is the
earliest documented working steam engine.
Black Country scene from the 1870s including coal mines, mineral
railways, furnaces and factories.
An important milestone in the establishment of
Black Country industry
came when John Wilkinson set up an iron works at
Bradley near Bilston.
In 1757 he started making iron there by coke-smelting rather than
using charcoal. His example was followed by others and iron making
spread rapidly across the Black Country. Another important development
of the 18th century was the construction of canals to link the Black
Country mines industries to the rest of the country. Between 1768 and
1772 a canal was constructed by
James Brindley starting in Birmingham
through the heart of the
Black Country and eventually leading to the
Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal.
The iron industry grew during the 19th century, peaking around
1850-1860. In 1863, there were 200 blast furnaces in the Black
Country, of which 110 were in blast. Two years later it was
recorded that there were 2,116 puddling furnaces, which converted
pig-iron into wrought iron, in the Black Country. In 1864 the
Black Country plant capable of producing mild steel by the
Bessemer process was constructed at the Old Park Works in
Wednesbury. In 1882, another Bessemer-style steel works was
constructed at Spring Vale in
Bilston by the Staffordshire Steel and
Ingot Iron Company, a development followed by the construction of an
open-hearth steelworks at the Round Oak works of the Earl of
Brierley Hill, which produced its first steel in 1894.
By the 19th century or early 20th century, many villages had their
characteristic manufacture, but earlier occupations were less
concentrated. Some of these concentrations are less ancient than
sometimes supposed. For example, chain making in
Cradley Heath seems
only to have begun in about the 1820s, and the Lye holloware industry
is even more recent.
The ironworks of W. Barrows and Sons, Tipton. Canals were of crucial
importance in the development of
Black Country industry.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, coal and limestone were worked
only on a modest scale for local consumption, but during the
Industrial Revolution by the opening of canals, such as the Birmingham
Stourbridge Canal and the
Dudley Canal (the Dudley
Canal Line No 1 and the
Dudley Tunnel) opened up the mineral wealth of
the area to exploitation. Advances in the use of coke for the
production in iron enabled iron production (hitherto limited by the
supply of charcoal) to expand rapidly.
By Victorian times, the
Black Country was one of the most heavily
industrialised areas in Britain, and it became known for its
pollution, particularly from iron and coal industries and their many
associated smaller businesses. This led to the expansion of local
railways and coal mine lines. The line running from
Dudley Port and
Wednesbury closed in the 1960s, but the
Wolverhampton line via
Tipton is still a major transport
The anchors and chains for the ill-fated liner
RMS Titanic were
manufactured in the
Black Country in the area of Netherton. Three
anchors and accompanying chains were manufactured; and the set weighed
in at 100 tons. The centre anchor alone weighed 12 tons and was pulled
through Netherton on its journey to the ship by 20 Shire horses.
Glass cones where glass was made and worked were once a common sight
Dudley and Stourbridge. This example, now a museum, is situated
In 1913, the
Black Country was the location of arguably one of the
most important strikes in British trade union history when the workers
employed in the area's steel tube trade came out for two months in a
successful demand for a 23 shilling minimum weekly wage for unskilled
workers, giving them pay parity with their counterparts in nearby
Birmingham. This action commenced on 9 May in Wednesbury, at the Old
Patent tube works of John Russell & Co. Ltd., and within weeks
upwards of 40,000 workers across the
Black Country had joined the
dispute. Notable figures in the labour movement, including a key
proponent of Syndicalism, Tom Mann, visited the area to support the
workers and Jack Beard and
Julia Varley of the
Workers' Union were
active in organising the strike. During this confrontation with
employers represented by the Midlands Employers' Federation, a body
Dudley Docker, the Asquith Government's armaments programme
was jeopardised, especially its procurement of naval equipment and
other industrial essentials such as steel tubing, nuts and bolts,
destroyer parts, etc. This was of national significance at a time when
Britain and Germany were engaged in the Anglo-German naval arms race
that preceded the outbreak of the First World War. Following a ballot
of the union membership, a settlement of the dispute was reached on 11
July after arbitration by government officials from the Board of Trade
led by the Chief Industrial Commissioner Sir George Askwith, 1st Baron
Askwith. One of the important consequences of the strike was the
growth of organised labour across the Black Country, which was notable
because until this point the area's workforce had effectively eschewed
The area had earlier gained widespread notoriety for its hellish
appearance. Charles Dickens's novel The Old Curiosity Shop, written in
1841, described how the area's local factory chimneys "Poured out
their plague of smoke, obscured the light, and made foul the
melancholy air". In 1862, Elihu Burritt, the American Consul in
Birmingham, described the region as "black by day and red by night",
because of the smoke and grime generated by the intense manufacturing
activity and the glow from furnaces at night. Early 20th century
representations of the region can be found in the Mercian novels of
Francis Brett Young, most notably
My Brother Jonathan (1928).
Chain making, once a major
Black Country industry, as demonstrated at
Black Country Living Museum.
Carol Thompson the curator "The Making of Mordor" at
Gallery in the last quarter of 2014 stated that J. R. R. Tolkien's
description of the grim region of
Mordor "resonates strongly with
contemporary accounts of the Black Country", in his famed novel The
Lord of the Rings. Indeed, in the Elvish
Mor-Dor means Dark (or Black) Land. It is also claimed by one
Black Country scholar (Peter Higginson) that the character of Bilbo
Baggins may have been based on Tolkien's observation of Mayor Ben
Bilston in The Black Country, who was a Communist and Labour
Party member from the Lunt in Bilston. But the scholarly evidence for
this is still questionable.
The 20th century saw a decline in coal mining in the Black Country,
with the last colliery in the region –
Baggeridge Colliery near
Sedgley – closing on 2 March 1968, marking the end of an era after
some 300 years of mass coal mining in the region, though a small
number of open cast mines remained in use for a few years
As the heavy industry that had named the region faded away, in the
1970s a museum, called the
Black Country Living Museum
Black Country Living Museum started to take
shape on derelict land near to Dudley. Today this museum demonstrates
Black Country crafts and industry from days gone by and includes many
original buildings which have been transported and reconstructed at
Geology and landscape
A dark seam of coal is clearly visible on the sides of Doultons Clay
Pit, in Saltwells Wood to the south of Netherton
The history of industry in the
Black Country is connected directly to
its underlying geology. Much of the region lies upon an exposed
coalfield forming the southern part of the South Staffordshire
Coalfield where mining has taken place since the Middle Ages.
There are, in fact several coal seams, some of which were given names
by the miners. The top, thin coal seam is known as Broach Coal.
Beneath this lies successively the Thick Coal, Heathen Coal, Stinking
Coal, Bottom Coal and Singing Coal seams. Other seams also exist.
The Thick Coal seam was also known as the "Thirty Foot" or "Ten Yard"
seam and is made up of a number of beds that have come together to
form one thick seam. Interspersed with the coal seams are deposits
of iron ore and fireclay. The
Black Country coal field is bounded on
the north by the Bentley Fault, to the north of which lies the Cannock
Chase Coalfield. Around the exposed coalfield, separated by
geological faults, lies a concealed coalfield where the coal lies at
much greater depth. A mine was sunk between 1870 and 1874 over the
eastern boundary of the then known coal field in
Smethwick and coal
was discovered at a depth of over 400 yards. In the last decade of
the 19th century, coal was discovered beyond the western boundary
fault at Baggeridge at a depth of around 600 yards.
A broken ridge runs across the
Black Country in a north-westerly
Rowley Regis through Dudley, Wrens Nest and Sedgley,
Black Country into two regions. This ridge forms part
of a major watershed of
England with streams to the north taking water
to the Tame and then via the Trent into the North Sea whilst to the
south of the ridge, water flows into the Stour and thence to the
Severn and the Bristol Channel.
Dudley and Wrens Nest, limestone was mined. This rock formation was
formed in the Silurian period and contain many fossils. One particular
fossilized creature, the trilobite Calymene blumenbachii, was so
common that it became known as the "
Dudley Bug" or "
Dudley Locust" and
was incorporated into the coat-of-arms of the County Borough of
At a number of places, notably the Rowley Hills and at Barrow Hill, a
hard igneous rock is found. The rock, known as dolerite, used to
be quarried and used for road construction.
The Flag of the Black Country, with colours representing Elihu
Burritt's description of the region as "black by day and red by
night", adopted July 2012
In recent years the
Black Country has seen the adoption of symbols and
emblems with which to represent itself. The first of these to be
registered was the
Black Country tartan in 2009, designed by Philip
Tibbetts from Halesowen.
In 2008 the idea of a flag for the region was first raised.
After four years of campaigning a competition was successfully
organised with the
Black Country Living Museum. This resulted
in the adoption of the
Flag of the Black Country
Flag of the Black Country as designed by Gracie
Sheppard of Redhill School in
Stourbridge and was registered with the
Flag Institute in July 2012.
The flag was unveiled at the museum on 14 July 2012 as part of
celebration in honour of the 300th anniversary of the erection of the
first Newcomen atmospheric engine. Following this it was agreed by
the museum and
Black Country society for 14 July to be recognised as
Black Country Day to celebrate the areas role in the Industrial
Revolution. The day was marked by Department for Communities and
Local Government in 2013 and following calls to do more in
2014 more events were planned around the region.
Black Country Day takes place on 14 July each year, originally
organised by Steven Edwards. Originally in March, the day was later
moved to 14 July - the anniversary of the invention of the Newcomen
The heavy industry which once dominated the
Black Country has now
largely gone. The 20th century saw a decline in coal mining and the
industry finally came to an end in 1968 with the closure of Baggeridge
Colliery near Sedgley. Clean air legislation has meant that the Black
Country is no longer black. The area still maintains some
manufacturing, but on a much smaller scale than historically.
Chainmaking is still a viable industry in the
Cradley Heath area where
the majority of the chain for the Ministry of Defence and the
Admiralty fleet is made in modern factories.
Much but not all of the area now suffers from high unemployment and
parts of it are amongst the most economically deprived communities in
the UK. This is particularly true in parts of the metropolitan
boroughs of Sandwell,
Walsall and Wolverhampton. According to the
Government's 2007 Index of Deprivation (ID 2007),
Sandwell is the
third most deprived authority in the West Midlands region, after
Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent, and the 14th most deprived of the UK's
Wolverhampton is the fourth most deprived district in
the West Midlands, and the 28th most deprived nationally.
the fifth most deprived district in the West Midlands region, and the
45th most deprived in the country.
Dudley fares better, but still has
pockets of deprivation. Overall
Dudley is the 100th most deprived
district of the UK, but the second most affluent of the seven
metropolitan districts of the West Midlands, with
Solihull coming top.
As with many urban areas in the UK, there is also a significant ethnic
minority population in parts: in Sandwell, 22.6 per cent of the
population are from ethnic minorities, and in
Wolverhampton the figure
is 23.5 per cent. However, in
Walsall 84.6 per cent of the population
is described as white, while in
Dudley 92 per cent of the population
is white. Resistance to mass immigration in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s
led to the slogan "Keep the
Black Country white!".
Black Country suffered its biggest economic blows in the late
1970s and early 1980s, when unemployment soared largely because of the
closure of historic large factories including the Round Oak Steel
Brierley Hill and the Patent Shaft steel plant at Wednesbury.
Unemployment rose drastically across the country during this period as
a result of Conservative Prime Minister Thatcher's economic policies;
later, in an implicit acknowledgement of the social problems this had
caused, these areas were designated as Enterprise Zones, and some
redevelopment occurred. Round Oak and the surrounding farmland was
developed as the Merry Hill Shopping Centre and Waterfront commercial
and leisure complex, while the Patent Shaft site was developed as an
Brierley Hill peaked at more than 25% – around
double the national average at the time – during the first half of
the 1980s following the closure of Round Oak Steel Works, giving it
one of the worst unemployment rates of any town in Britain. The Merry
Hill development between 1985 and 1990 managed to reduce the local
area's unemployment dramatically, however.
Black Country Living Museum
Black Country Living Museum in
Dudley recreates life in the Black
Country in the early 20th century, and is a popular tourist
attraction. On 17 February 2012 the museum's collection in its
entirety was awarded Designation by Arts Council
Designation is a mark of distinction that celebrates unique
collections of national and international importance.
The four metropolitan boroughs of the
Black Country form part of the
Birmingham metropolitan economy, the second largest in the UK.
In 2011, the government announced the creation of the Black Country
Enterprise Zone. The zone includes 5 sites in
Wolverhampton and 14
in Darlaston. The i54 business park in
Wolverhampton is the largest of
the 19 sites; its tenants include Jaguar Land Rover. The largest site
Darlaston is that of the former IMI James Bridge Copper Works.
Dialect and accent
Black Country dialect
Black Country dialect, known as "
Black Country Spake"
(as in "Where's our Spake Gone" a 2014-16 lottery funded project to
preserve and document the dialect) preserves many archaic traits of
Early Modern English
Early Modern English and even Middle English and can be very
confusing for outsiders. Thee, Thy and Thou are still in use, as is
the case in parts of
Yorkshire and Lancashire.
"'Ow B'ist," or "Ow b'ist gooin" (How are you/ how are you going), to
which typical responses would be "Bostin ah kid" (Bostin means
"Bursting", and implies being filled with good, and "Ah Kid" (our kid)
is a term of endearment) or "'Bay too bah," ("I be not too bad"/ I'm
not too bad).
Ain't is in common use as when "I haven't seen her" becomes "I ay sid
Black Country dialect often uses "ar" where other parts of
"yes" (this is common as far away as Yorkshire). Similarly, the local
version of "you" is pronounced /jaʊ/ YOW, rhyming with "now."
The local pronunciation includes "goo" (elsewhere "go") or "gewin'" is
similar to that elsewhere in the Midlands. It is quite common for
Black Country speakers to say "'agooin'" where others say
"going." A woman is a "wench", a man is a "mon", a nurse is a "nuss"
and home is "wom". An apple is an "opple".
Other examples are "code" for the word cold, and "goost" for the word
Ghost. A Sofa becomes a "sofie", and a Fag (cigarette), a "fake". Seen
becomes "Sid". Put together, "I just sid a Goost, so I bist gooin to
sit on ma sofie and have a fake" (I have just seen a ghost, so I am
going to sit upon my sofa and have a cigarette)
Some idioms link to local landmarks, some quite recent, such as saying
a woman of loose morals is "a wench what goos up t'back a Rackhams"
("a woman who goes behind the Rackham's Department Store in
Birmingham"), as this area was once connected with prostitution.
Food may be called "fittle" (after victuals or "vittles"), so "Bostin
fittle" is "good food".
One participant in the "Where's our Spake Gone" project related the
following: "Day say yom call oos rabbits up ere. I say We day, dey say
yow say "Tah rah rabbits". Weem say Tah-Ra a bit, un to dem, it sound
like weem calling dem rabbits." ("They say you call us rabbits there,
I said we don't, (but) they say you say "Tah Rah Rabbits". We say "Tah
Rah A bit" (Tah Rah for a little while) and to them, it sounds like we
are calling them rabbits.")
The dialect has local differences, and sounds and phrases differ
across the towns; often people can mishear a word or phrase and write
it down wrong as in "shut charow up," which actually is "shut ya row
up," so one has to be careful when hearing words and phrases.
See also: List of breweries in the Black Country
Black Country is notable for its small breweries and brewpubs
which, unlike most in Britain, continued brewing their own beer
alongside larger breweries which opened in the Industrial Revolution.
Small breweries and brewpubs in the
Black Country include Bathams in
Brierley Hill, Holdens in Woodsetton, Sarah Hughes in
Sedgley and the
Old Swan Inn (Ma Pardoe's) in Netherton. They produce light and dark
mild ales, as well as malt-accented bitters and seasonal strong ales.
Black Country is home to one television station Made in Birmingham
and three region wide radio stations –
BBC WM, Free Radio and Free
Radio 80s. Both Free Radio (formerly Beacon Radio) and Free Radio
80s (formerly Beacon 303, Radio WABC & Gold) have broadcast since
1976 from transmitters at
Turner's Hill and Sedgley, with the studios
which were previously located in
Wolverhampton being moved to Oldbury
The area also has three other radio stations which only officially
cover part of the region.
Black Country Radio (born from a merger of
102.5 The Bridge and BCCR) who are based in Stourbridge, Signal 107
who broadcast from
Wolverhampton and Ambur Radio who broadcast from
Express and Star
Express and Star is one of the region's two daily newspapers,
publishing eleven local editions from its
and its five district offices (for example the
Dudley edition is
considerably different in content from the
Wolverhampton or Stafford
editions). It is the biggest selling regional paper in the UK.
Incidentally, the Express and Star, traditionally a Black Country
paper, has expanded to the point where they sell copies from vendors
Birmingham city centre.
Black Country Mail – a local edition of the
Birmingham Mail –
is the region's other daily newspaper. Its regional base is in Walsall
Established in 1973, from a site in High Street, Cradley Heath, the
Black Country Bugle
Black Country Bugle has also contributed to the region's history. It
started as a fortnightly publication, but due to its widespread
appeal, now appears on a weekly basis. It is now located above the
Dudley Archives and Local History Centre on
Tipton Road, Dudley.
South Staffordshire Railway
Main article: South Staffordshire line
Pays Noir (in French meaning "Black country"), referring to Sillon
industriel, a similar early industrial region in Belgium.
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Industrial Enlightenment: Science, technology and culture in
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^ "RR Angerstein's Illustrated Travel Diary 1753-55"
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is not, and primarily, by its residents, in opposition to the
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^ a b "Enterprise Zones: only one piece of the economic regeneration
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BBC NEWS, 12 January 2009
^ Reference: WR3278 Scottish
Tartan World Register
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 February 2014.
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Black Country Dialect ("Ow we spake")
Black Country Slang Database A interactive website dedicated to the
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1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
BBC website for Dudley, Sandwell,
Black Country History Catalogue of Museums and Archives in the Black
Black Country Living Museum
Black Country Living Museum Website
Black Country Society
Ceremonial county of West Midlands
City of Birmingham
City of Coventry
City of Wolverhampton
Metropolitan Borough of Dudley
Metropolitan Borough of Sandwell
Metropolitan Borough of Solihull
Metropolitan Borough of Walsall
See also: West Midlands
Birmingham Canal Navigations
Shropshire Union Canal
Staffordshire & Worcestershire
Worcester & Birmingham
Population of major settlements
Grade I listed buildings
Grade II* listed buildings
Coventry/Bedworth Urban Area
Transport for West Midlands
West Midlands conurbation
West Midlands Combined Authority
Mayor of the West Midlands
Dialects and accents of
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Varieties by common name
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