The Black Country is situated in Central England in an area of the West Midlands. This area may have been the earliest industrial area of it’s size and scope in the world. Industry from the 18th century onwards included coal mining, tube manufacture, anchor forges, ironwork, chain making, making locks and keys, and more. The three anchors and chains used on the Titanic came from this region, the entire collection weighed more than 100 tonnes. The heaviest piece, one 12 tonne anchor, took 20 horses to transport it to the ship.
The term “Black Country” is seen to have been used since the 1840’s. Heavy industry in the area polluted the air with soot and darkened the skies, hence the term. Industry situated here naturally due to the existence of Britain’s largest coal seam running through the area.
The coal industry contributed mostly to the creation of the vast canal network to ship this heavy, cumbersome commodity in great bulk on barges pulled by horses. The horses were tethered to the barges and walked along the “tow paths” which are now fantastic areas for cycling and walking all throughout Great Britain.
Today Black Country is no longer black. The heavy industries and mining that created that dark environment have all but gone and anti-pollution laws control discharge from the little that does remain.
I have also written separately about my visit to Walsall to be posted soon, and this is one of the main towns in the Black Country. I did not notice that this town had an industrial past, I did not know that until after my visit. Today, it seems a quaint, modern, nearly-suburb of Birmingham.
A replica of the world’s first steam engine. The original was built in the Black Country in 1712. It was not very efficient in it’s coal usage so it was only feasible for use near a coal mine source, which it was. In fact, it’s original use was pumping water out of coal mines. Sometime later it was improved upon to the point of being mobile and more efficient to be able to create the locomotive.
Some artefacts from the entry of a coal mine.
A little Black Country home.
Another little home in the Black Country.
I’m not sure, I guess it’s a scrapyard for scraps of centuries past.
I stopped for a lunch break in a civic hall.
The recommended Black Country dish to be tried was quite hardy. “Faggots and peas”, the peas mushy and in that too-green colour. Faggots are essentially meatballs made from pig’s heart, liver, and belly or bacon with added spices and cooked in a gravy. To me it tasted like a spiced meatball that had pate mixed-in. I don’t know how these got their name. I understand the term faggot used for cigarettes in the UK, because it refers to something that is burned. It became applied to gay people when the Nazis decided that homosexuals were also something to be burned. Alive. Little trivia for you.
Although we may think of this as a more modern development, the movement towards equality was long and of course still continues.
High street shopping as it was before the advent of the supermarket, a change made possible by the common use of motorcars. (More people can travel from further away to one large store, and they can carry more items away from it.)
It was raining all day and all these places felt cold and damp. I think life might be a bit more comfortable now than it was.
This is the inside of a traditional pub. (Public House)
A raising bridge over the canal. Notice how the platform lifts completely up rather than tilting.
The creation of canal networks facilitated the industrial revolution making transport of coal and finished goods much more feasible. Later there was very strong competition between the canals and the railroads for the transportation of goods. Railways eventually operated much faster than barges which were pulled by horses and were very much slowed by land gradations (many labour-intensive and time-intensive locks needed to take a boat uphill or downhill). Canals were eventually rendered obsolete.
It is still popular for amusement park features today to be decorated in this style.
Although much of it is no longer in operation, the auto making industry of Britain naturally centred in the midlands.
The previous photos were taken at the Black Country Living Museum. This is a large open-air museum set in Dudley, 35 minutes from Birmingham. Covering 26 acres, the reconstructed canal-side town with costumed inhabitants is a fascinating place to visit. Plan to go in the morning so that you can enjoy having lunch there as nice break.