A-Z

A List of Distinctive Landscape Features
These are all features which exist or have existed in the local environment of the Black Country which are thought in some way to be distinctive or unusual to the area, part of what makes the Black Country different.

Do you agree? Do you have others to suggest? Do you have more information you would like to add under these headings? Features are listed alphabetically and you can add your own suggestions or comments by using the comment box here.

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V   W   X   Y   Z



ANCHOR MAKING
Add your comment here

BRIDGES, CANAL
Add your comment here

BRICK MAKING
More than 200 locations in the Black Country have, at some point in their history, been the location of a brick works—in part because the area provided easy access to both the clay as raw material and coal used to fire the brick kilns. Black Country brick works were different to those in some other areas (Birmingham, for example) in employing mainly women—as many as three in every four workers in the industry in the late 19th century.  Where can I find it?  The legacy of the brick industry can be seen in the buildings and structures of the area, and in local street names—using  words like ‘Brickkiln’, ‘Brickfields’ or ‘Brickyard’.  The restored Harris and Pearson building near Brierley Hill is an example of a surviving structure. See its location in Google Maps here.
> Read our post ‘History only half baked’
> Read our post ‘Beehives, so nineteen sixties’
Add your comment here

BREWERIES
Add your comment here

BREWHOUSES
Add your comment here

CANALS
Since their construction more than two hundred years ago, the Black Country landscape has included one of the densest networks of artificial waterways in Britain.  During that time more than 250km of canal has existed, and more than half of this length is still navigable today.  Where can I find them?  British Waterways’ website Waterscape includes an interactive map of the Black Country canals (www.waterscape.com/in-your-area/west-midlands/map).
Add your comment here

CHAIN MAKING
Add your comment here

CHIMNEYS
Add your comment here

CLAY EXTRACTION
Add your comment here

CLINKER (-BRICK) WALLS
These use bricks made from a waste product of smelting metal (see slag) to create retaining or foundation walls, often connected with either with 18th or 19th centrury transport infrastructure or industrial buildings.
Where can I find it? The examples in the picture can bee seen (clockwise from top left): next to the Birmingham canal in Wolverhampton; Corngreaves Road, Cradley Heath; Ivyhouse Lane, Coseley; and The Uplands, Smethwick. It can also be seen at the Black Country Living Museum in a wall on Station Road, and on local heritage trails such as the All Saints Trail in Wolverhampton.
> See also Slag
Thanks to Stephen Howard at the Black Country Living Museum for suggesting this entry.
Add your comment here

COALFIELD
The part of the South Staffordshire Coalfield which lies below the Black Country consisted of a seam known as the ‘Thick Coal’, sometimes referred to as the ‘Thirty Foot’ or ‘Ten Yard’ seam (in fact this broad seam comprised several different seams overlaid on each other).  This rich source of coal either outcropped or lay close to the surface over a large area.  It is believed that the availability of an abundant source of the mineral so close to the surface played a critical role in the development of several modern Black Country towns.  Where can I find it?  One place where you can still see the legacy of the exploitation of the coalfield is in Moorcroft Wood Local Nature Reserve at Moxley.
Add your comment here

COLLIERIES
Coal is no longer mined in the Black Country but collieries were part of the local landscape for centuries. The earliest record of coal mining in the area is more than 700 years old but collieries were most common in the 1800s–in 1861 for example there were more than 300 in the area bounded by Wolverhampton, Walsall, West Bromwich and Brierley Hill (see image). Some of the last mines were those which exploited the deeper coal beyond the edges of this area. Baggeridge, Hamstead, Sandwell Park and Walsall Wood collieries for example all closed in the 1960s.
Location of Baggeridge Colliery; Location of Hamstead Colliery; Location of Sandwell Park Colliery; Location of Walsall Wood Colliery
        Add your comment here

COUNCIL HOUSING
The Black Country is a particularly high concentration of council housing (i.e. residential accommodation rented from a local authority).  In 2001 for example, it was host to a total of 439,000 households who rented their home from the Council, one in every four in the area.  By the same measure, within England only Inner London, South Yorkshire and Tyne & Wear were comparable in size but denser groupings of families living in council accommodation (Source).  Where can I find it?  Large parts of the modern Black Country contain Council-built properties.  Possibly the earliest example was on Green Lane (now Birmingham Road), Wolverhampton.  Now demolished, these cottage tenements were built in 1902 by the Borough of Wolverhampton.  See the archive picture.
Add your comment here


DERELICT LAND
Derelict land, or land which has fallen into disuse, has been a characteristic feature of the Black Country’s history, especially after the mining and quarrying of the 19th century started to decline. Large areas of abandoned mines and quarries persisted long into the 20th century.  A survey of Birmingham and the Black Country in 1948 for example estimated that there were more than 8,500 acres (about thirteen square miles) of land not in use in the Black Country.  Brierley Hill and Coseley alone accounted for more than 2,000 acres of this.
At this point in the middle of the last century the Black Country’s particular problem of dereliction had already been the subject of parliamentary debate and national government reports.
> Four thousand holes in Bilston Staffordshire
Add your comment here


EARLY INDUSTRY
Early industry or ‘proto industry’ are terms used to refer to manufacturing activities which took place before the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries. It was common in the Black Country and as elsewhere and relied on small units of production (often a simple ‘shop’ in the back yard of a house) and the use of hand tools.  Where can I find it? There are renants of early industry surviving in different parts of the Black Country.  One example is Bourne Pool in Streetly which is the remnant of a system used to power an iron mill in the 15th century.
Add your comment here

EXTRACTIVE INDUSTRIES
Add your comment here

FACTORIES
Add your comment here

FASTENER INDUSTRY
Add your comment here

FORGES
Add your comment here


FOUNDRIES
Dozens of sites in the Black Country have either been or continue to be the location of a foundry (a building where metal is melted and made into different objects), and the area is known for metal casting.  Iron foundries have historically been the foremost local type, but other materials such as brass have also played a role. They have made a range of objects—from the iron bridge shown at the top of this page to an array of parts for other industries such the railways or, more recently, the motor trade.  One of the oldest surviving is the Soho Foundry in Smethwick which was built more than 200 years ago and was a centre of steam engine production—a  number of parts being cast on site.  The presence of foundries has also had an impact on the social landscape, being one of the prime reasons for immigration to areas like Smethwick in the 20th century.
Location of the Soho Foundry
                  Add your comment here

FURNACES
Once a common part of the local landscape, blast furnaces in particular propelled the Black Country iron industry to international prominence in the 19th century. This map shows how they were spread across the area between Wolverhampton, Walsall and Brierley Hill in the 1820s.
> the blast furnaces are gone but the slag remains;
> Black Country mother buried in playing field;
> Darwin and the extinction of the giants.
Add your comment here

GLASS MAKING
Add your comment here

INDUSTRY
Add your comment here

IRON EXTRACTION
Add your comment here

IRON MAKING
Add your comment here

KILNS
Add your comment here

LEATHER WORKING
In the second half of the 19th century Walsall became the country’s leading centre for saddlery and harness making.  By 1900 about 10,000 men and women were employed in the various leather trades.  With the coming of the motor car the demand for horse equipments declined and many Walsall manufacturers moved into making light leathergoods such as bags, wallets and belts.  About 40 leather firms remain in business. (Thanks to Mike Glasson for this contribution)
Add your comment here

LIME MAKING
Add your comment here

LOCKS, CANAL
Add your comment here

LOCK MAKING
Add your comment here

LOW DENSITY SUBURBS
Add your comment here

LOINERY
Add your comment here

MINERAL RAILWAYS
Add your comment here

MINING
Add your comment here

MOTORWAYS
Add your comment here

NAIL MAKING
Add your comment here

QUARRIES
Add your comment here

RAILWAYS
Add your comment here

SAFE MAKING
Add your comment here

SAND & GRAVEL EXTRACTION
Add your comment here

A watercolour of a man with slag heap by Harry Eccleston. Image reproduced with permission of the Black Country Living Museum

SLAG
One of the by-products of the many local sites smelting iron (and later steel) was slag—i.e. impurities which rose to the surface of the molten metal during processing. Tonnes of it were either dumped in the environment or used as a construction material, and its legacy remains in the landscape today in what are sometimes called ‘clinker’ walls. Where can I find it? Visible slag heaps have largely disappeared from the modern Black Country, but there are a few places where can be found in the landscape, particularly in what are now Local Nature Reserves such as Moorcroft Wood and Bumble Hole (The slag heap in Boshboil pool has been photographed as part of the Bumble Hole audio trail).
> See also Clinker (-brick) walls
Thanks to Stephen Howard at the Black Country Living Museum for suggesting this entry.
Add your comment here

SPOIL BANKS
Add your comment here

SUBURBS
Add your comment here

SWAGS
Swags are shallow, water-filled hollows produced by subsidence, resulting from underground mining (Source: Dictionary of Mining, Mineral, and Related Terms.   Where can I find them? Swags have been part of the Black Country landscape for a long time but many have been drained and filled. Rocket Pool and Ladymoor Pool are believed to be two surviving swags.
Add your comment here

TERRACED HOUSING
Add your comment here

TOWNS
Add your comment here

TRANSPORT INTERCHANGES
Add your comment here

VICTORIAN TERRACED HOUSING
Add your comment here

4 responses to “A-Z

  1. In the second half of the 19th century Walsall became the country`s leading centre for saddlery and harness making. By 1900 about 10,000 men and women were employed inthe various leather trades. With the coming of the motor car the demand for horse equipments declined and many Walsall manufacturers moved into making light letahergo0ods such as bags, wallets and belts. About 40 leather firms remain in business .

  2. Perhaps you should add Nature reserves to this list of land uses. The Midlands Reafforestation Society was planting up spoil tips to create recreational woodlands over a hundred years ago, and there’s along history of further work, especially since about 1980.

  3. There is lots to see in the Black Country. I’m thinking of going to Sandwell Valley today and looking for the pool in Redhouse park. There is also a bridle way where the River Tame is quite wide near Hamstead road and Forge Mill Farm and Swan Pool are worth a visit.

    The canals around the Black Country are worth exploring and photographing as as the parks. My local parks are King hill Park in Darlaston and Brunswick Park in Wednesbury and they are good to photograph on a sunny day. Even in winter you can get spectacular photos. I photographed the Milky Pool yesterday, near the Old Mill pub. Millfields, Wednesbury. We also took photos of the 18th century bridges at Bentley Mill Way, in Walsall.

    Merrion’s Wood in Walsall is also worth a visit, my photograph from there was in the final of a photo competition and is on display.

    So much to see, so much to photograph! I’ll visit the Black Country Living Museum this summer.

  4. The last coalpit in the Black Country was at Baggeridge, just outside Sedgley. It closed in 1968, a few years after the closure of Coombswood on the Halesowen/Rowley Regis border.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s