Around 4,000 years ago the Bronze Age came to these shores, a crucial period in history linking the Stone Age with the Iron Age, when it seems new people were migrating from continental Europe to try their luck on British soil.
The Bronze Age was to last for almost 1,500 years, but before its arrival in the British Isles it had already been in full swing on the Continent, and the island of Crete was at the centre of a bronze trade that eventually expanded all over Europe. It is widely thought, although not certain, that bronze was first brought across the Channel by the Bell Beaker folk, so named because of their distinctive bell shaped pottery drinking vessels. They probably gradually ventured north over a period of time from the south-west which was an area rich in deposits of copper and tin (bronze is 10% tin and 90% copper), and were able to mix quite readily with any new peoples they encountered, including Neolithic farmers. It would appear that although totally opposite in culture and origins, both the new stone age farmers and the Bell Beakers had something to offer each other.
Until recently, Bronze Age settlements in the Black Country had never been officially confirmed, although it's fairly reasonable to expect these ancient people would have lived here at some time.
But archaeology is a science that needs to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that findings are authentic before it can declare its hand to the world, and therefore the Bugle is excited to have been given the chance to reveal an exclusive story that confirms Bronze Age people once made their home here in the Dark Region.
Over recent weeks we have been in contact with John Hemingway, Dudley's former chief archaeologist, who first talked about making an important archaeological discovery near Stourbridge in March last year. But it wasn't until now that John has been able to compile all the evidence and tell us the full story of the Bronze Age settlement in Pedmore Pass.
It was on a freezing cold morning in the winter of 2009 when John uncovered evidence to confirm the existence of the first recorded Bronze Age site in the Borough of Dudley, and as far as he is aware, in the Black Country too. But before John begins his description of this exciting discovery, he has made it clear that both the location of the site and the landowner's name must remain a secret.
Discovery "The discovery of the settlement was made in a field in Pedmore Pass, between Wychbury Hill and Buckbury Hill,” John told us, “and it was there I spent a good five months of my time excavating the site. The area is a natural pass and the two roads that run through it, Hagley Road and Worcester Lane, are of great antiquity. I believe the iron age fort on Wychbury Hill was built to guard these two important roads, which were the main gateways of access to the upper Stour Valley from the south. The lands to the east were the Clent Hills group, and those to the west were a line of hills, the Stour itself and Kinver Edge.
“The work started in November 2009 after a colleague of mine, Martyn Cole, found a feature at the site that made him very excited.
He reported it to me and I couldn't wait to get out and have a look for myself. Unfortunately when we arrived the feature in question had disappeared, but it didn't take long for us both to get excited once again after we began to discover burnt stones all over the field. (Archaeologists recognised a while ago that burnt stones signify prehistoric occupation sites).
“We realised immediately we'd found something very special and a small team of amateur archaeologists were quickly assembled to walk the whole area looking for items that could date the occupation. The team for the excavation included myself, Martyn Cole, Mike Smith, Steve Casey, Rob Webber from Halesowen, and occasionally we had extra help from another Dudley colleague of mine, Rob Lloyd- Sweet.
(Read the rest of this exclusive story in Bugle 1031 published 31-05-12)