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Mines and steelworks defined Black Country

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: February 01, 2014

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THE question has been asked about the geographical area of the Black Country. The answer lies in The Bugle archives.

I have hundreds of copies of The Bugle and since 1972 there has hardly been one industrial accident, one heavy industry location, one canal, one subsidence and one mine that has not featured in stories and maps published in the pages of The Bugle.

One aim of mine was to plot all the mines and steelworks on a few Ordnance Survey maps and this would have shown exactly where the 'Black' Country actually was. Not only did it refer to the black coal but to the black faces of the miners when they left work.

Not plotable is the black smoke, but suffice it to say that German bombers failed to find the vast steel factory of Stewarts and Lloyds which was covered in a thick layer of smoke. So desperate were the Germans that one pilot got lost and my father, who was on fire-duty at Elwells in Elbow Street, saw him looking down and swore that their eyes met for a half a second.

There was a flurry of protest letters in the press when a Wolverhampton council leader decided that the then town was in part of the Black Country. Travelling between Dudley and W'ton by bus, through almost 'rural' Sedgely for example, there's no obvious indication of the kind of industrial might and hardship of what we natives of Cradley Heath, Cradley, Brierley Hill, Netherton, Blackheath, Smethwick and so on.

The flats on Riddins Mound, Old Hill are built on concrete rafts because there were too many old shafts to fill in and the developers were warned by old workers at the time that not every pit was recorded!

It would be a great contribution to our knowledge if someone could do what I failed to do, and consult The Bugles in the local library and plot the mines and steel works on a map.

This, I believe, would help to provide the answer, thanks to the hundreds of Bugle contributors, of where the 'black' of how the name of the area arose. To identify an area by an illusory united common outlook is plain silly – the hard-nosed, fair, no-nonsense 'spirit' stemmed from the hard graft.

Ivor Morgan,

ludovicus@btinternet.com

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