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Answer to Black Country boundaries is in the rocks

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: March 01, 2014

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IN reply to the article in The Bugle asking about the Black Country boundaries (January 16 edition).

I suspect that we shall never know for certain when and by whom the name Black Country was first used – despite a variety of claims.

However, it seems that Walter White's book, All Round the Wrekin, first used the name Black Country.

But we can be certain that the reason for this name was the almost permanent pall of smoke which hung over this beautiful region during the late 18th, the whole of the 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as the bleak, worked over and desolate appearance of much of the countryside.

The smoke came from the numerous hearths, furnaces, boilers and fires, in countless workshops and factories both large and small, all burning coal, as the metal making and metal bashing industries flourished, in this the world's first modern industrial region.

The basis for all this growing primary heavy industry, and the innumerable secondary industries was the unique geology of the region.

Structurally, the Black Country developed on a gigantic lozenge-shaped blister in the earth's surface, called a "block mountain", or, "horst", which pushed a rich diversity of ancient rock strata to the surface, where it very conveniently outcropped.

On either side, to the east and west, are the boundary faults, along which, and between which, vertical earth movements raised the horst hundreds of metres higher up.

Subsequent erosion exposed the ancient Palaeozoic rocks of Silurian (at least 428 million years ago), and Carboniferous age (363 -290 million years ago).

These contain the crucial minerals which were exploited to create our beloved Black Country coal, iron ore, limestone, clay and sand.

One definition of the Black Country, is, therefore, the region in the West Midlands which is underlain by rocks of the Carboniferous period or older.

Wolverhampton: The city owes much of its wealth and growth to the industry developing on the coalfield in the Black Country.

This is especially true of the eastern side – constructed on carboniferous rocks - which now incorporates the undoubted Black Country towns of Bilston, Darlaston, Willenhall and Wednesfield.

Listen to the local dialect – it's Black County through and through!

Stourbridge (part of Dudley now) – is almost entirely on carboniferous rocks. Once again the locals' dialect is undoubtedly Anglo Saxon.

Halesowen: It is a nonsense to assert that because the town is not on the exposed part of the South Staffs Coalfield, it is, therefore, not part and parcel of the Black Country.

The town (now part of Dudley), is almost entirely located on carboniferous rocks, and is a fairly typical Black Country town.

Listen to the locals speak, with a variation of Anglo Saxon differing somewhat from that of Old Hill, and Cradley, both only a stone's throw north.

Oldbury: Entirely on the Carboniferous rocks, it developed an important chemical industry, British Industrial Plastics, in 1894.

Smethwick: Once again almost entirely on Carboniferous Period rocks.

West Bromwich: Entirely on Carboniferous rocks.

Walsall: Only a narrow eastern margin around Barr Beacon is not located on Carboniferous rocks.

For many generations outsiders denigrated our culture. They have either been dismissive, or they have relegated us to the realms of uneducated, coarse peasants.

It is also in part due to some educated B.C. folk and the last thing many of them would ever do is to admit to outsiders that they hail from the Black Country.

The Black Country Society and the Black Country Bugle have laboured assiduously to reverse attitudes over the last few decades, and it gladdens my heart to hear B.C. folk declare their pride in this marvellous region.

Gordon Hensman,


See Page 22

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