For anyone who has not heard of the Black Country, it can seem a little confusing because it is an unofficial name that does not appear on any map. The 'Black Country' is now part of the West Midlands County, which was created in 1974 and also includes Birmingham. However, the Black Country has always been entirely separate to Birmingham and although it is partnered with Birmingham under the West Midlands County, many people still consider the two to be separate. For the purpose of this website, I will not include anything relating to Birmingham because I wish to concentrate on the 'old' Black Country parishes which were Dudley, Tipton, Sedgley, Himley, Kingswinford, Oldswinford, Halesowen, Oldbury, West Bromwich, Smethwick, Wednesbury, Darlaston, Walsall, Willenhall, Wednesfield, Bilston and Wolverhampton. These areas are now split into four Metropolitan Districts - Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton.
Although the photo below is of the potteries in Stoke-On-Trent, it gives some idea of the pollution that was emitted into the atmosphere of the Black Country in the 19th and early 20th centuries by the furnaces, collieries, lime kilns and backyard chainmaking and nailmaking industries. The smoke and soot, as evident from this photo, caused the skies to be dark even during the daytime and at night, the skies were red from the glow of the fires in the furnaces which burned into the night as men worked round the clock. In fact, in a book entitled 'Walks in the Black Country and its Green Borderland', written by Elihu Burritt and published in 1869, the area was described as "black by day and red by night". By the early 19th century, the Black Country had already been described as poisoned and desecrated with few redeeming features by writers and artists who portrayed it in prints.
Whilst it is commonly believed that the Black Country derived its name from the pollution caused by the heavy industries that covered the area in soot, it has been suggested that it is more likely the name existed before the Industrial Revolution due to the 30 foot deep coal seam that extended under parts of South Staffordshire and North Worcestershire. The location of industry was determined by these coal deposits and as a result, industrial settlements developed on the coalfield. One can therefore assume that the original boundary was defined by this geological feature.
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