“Slums” of the Black Country: Anvil Yard, Cradley Heath

Not far from the Lye Waste lies the ancient manor of Cradley. At the first talk I gave at Wolverhampton Art Gallery in the summer, somebody mentioned to me that I ought to check out Anvil Yard. It turns out, the history of this little yard has already been comprehensively written on the excellent Cradley Links site, so …

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“Slums” of the Black Country: Waste Bank, Lye

The South Staffordshire coalfield defines the Black Country for many purposes, but as a culturally-defined region, its borders are highly porous. Wolverhampton is in or out, depending on who you ask; Walsall preferred to be out, at least in 1866. The coalfield knows no political boundaries either, stretching well into Worcestershire in the South (see this map Bob …

“Slums” of the Black Country: Gold’s Hill, West Bromwich

The Black Country is constructed not just upon topography but upon geology. Mines can only be built where there's something to mine; other sorts of works require proximity to those materials; infrastructure is built around, and to meet the demands of, the geology. The communities that build up around such environments therefore tend to be ad hoc, at the …

“Slums” of the Black Country: Eel Street, Oldbury

The Post's next community is one I'm loathe to try and explain in detail. Oldbury was infamous as one of the most polluted towns in the country - so much so that Dr Janet Sullivan recently completed a top-notch PhD thesis on the environmental and biological costs of industrialisation in the town. For a quick overview of …

“Slums” of the Black Country: a tour of Willenhall

It comes as no surprise that our loquacious correspondent was a fan of the eminent art critic, writer and proto-environmentalist John Ruskin, whose prose was classically Victorian (read, excessively wordy). In his Birmingham Daily Post article of 11th June 1866, we are introduced to Willenhall via quotes from Ruskin's newly-released The Crown Of Wild Olive, whose preface describes the …

“Slums” of the Black Country: Quarry Lane, Bilston

If there's been some research into Carribee Island in the past, and a little into the Mambles in Dudley, there's almost nothing to be googled on another of the Birmingham Daily Post's 'low-lights' of the Black Country, the next in a series of exposées on the shocking sanitary conditions of the Black Country. Quarry Lane in Bilston …

The Planner’s Eye

Heath Town Estate, Wolverhampton, by Smileyface on the Skyscraper City website. Click the pic for a link to some truly frightening pictures of the estate at its worst. Multi- and inter-disciplinary research is a major part of academia these days, and the benefits it can bring are clearly profound - to see something anew, in a …

Taking the waters

The eighteenth century was, for many of the new middling sorts and gentry, the era of leisure. If you were very well-heeled of course, you had nothing to do but leisure, and the historical traces of Pensnett Chase, for instance, hark back to the royal hunting grounds that once covered large swathes of the Black Country …

Great Dodford

In 2009 I cleverly broke my hip while cycling home from work. My recuperation was aided by a boxset of the first series of The Wire, a gift from work; we quickly purchased all the following series, essentially because it's amazing. I was soon seeing evidence of its accuracy everywhere: watch your managers at work …