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What and where is the Black Country?

Where does the Black Country start and end? Who coined the phrase 'the Black Country'? Read on to learn more about the region.


Where is the Black Country? Where did it get its name from? Use the box, below, to have your say!

It's said that the Black Country gained its name in the mid-nineteenth century from the smoke from the many thousands of ironworking foundries and forges. Other theories mention the abundance of coal in the region - the working of the shallow and 30ft thick seams.


The Black Country is an area of the West Midlands in England, West of Birmingham, including Dudley, Walsall and Sandwell. In the Industrial Revolution, it became one of the most industrialised parts of Britain with coal mines, coking, iron foundries and steel mills producing a high level of air pollution.

The 14-mile (23 km) road between Wolverhampton and Birmingham was described as "one continuous town" in 1785. The first trace of The Black Country as an expression dates from the 1840s and it is believed that name comes from the soot from heavy industries that covered the area, although the 30-foot-thick coal seam close to the surface is another possible reason.

There are many definitions of where the Black Country is

To traditionalists the Black Country is the area where the coal seam comes to the surface - so West Bromwich, Oldbury, Blackheath, Cradley Heath, Old Hill, Bilston, Dudley, Tipton, Wednesfield and parts of Halesowen, Wednesbury and Walsall but not Wolverhampton, Stourbridge and Smethwick or what used to be known as Warley.

The region was described as 'Black by day and red by night' by Elihu Burritt, the American Consul to Birmingham in 1862. Other authors, from Charles Dickens to William Shenstone refer to the intensity of manufacturing in the Black Country and its effect on the landscape and its people.

Today the Black Country is described, by the government, as most of the four Metropolitan District Council areas of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. The term is used as a marketing tool to sell and promote the West Midlands region to the west of Birmingham.

Arts and literature

The Black Country has a long association with the arts and literature. The poet William Shenstone lived in Halesowen as did the writer Francis Brett Young, who celebrated the industrial Black Country and city of Birmingham in his novels. Poet Sir Henry Newbolt was born in Baldwin Street, Bradley.


The Black Country has no defined borders but to traditionalists is defined as "the area where the coal seam comes to the surface – so Brierley Hill, West Bromwich, Oldbury, Blackheath, Cradley Heath, Old Hill, Bilston, Dudley, Netherton, Tipton, and parts of Wednesbury, Halesowen and Walsall but not Wolverhampton, Stourbridge and Smethwick." Today it commonly refers to the majority of the four 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".

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 foods and dialect.

Historical Black Country - Gunpowder links

The region also has its celebrated links with historical events - Moseley Old Hall was where King Charles II hid after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

The Black Country played its part in the Gunpowder plot. On the evening of November 7, 1605, a group of the fleeing plotters arrived at Holbeche House near Dudley.

Holbeche was owned by the Littleton family who had been involved in many of the Catholic uprisings, and it was to be the last stand of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators.

That evening, several of the plotters were injured by an accidental explosion which occurred while they were drying powder in front of an open fire.

Between this evening and morning of the following day, several members of the group fled, while others still tried to rally support from the surrounding area. Just before midday on the 8th of November, the Sheriff of Worcester arrived with a posse of men and surrounded the house.

After several attempts to have the conspirators surrender, a skirmish developed. Several were fatally wounded and the remaining known conspirators were apprehended.

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