That particular articulation of social relations which we are at the moment naming as… Doulton Brook

A break from the Irish this week. I've been mostly reading Doreen Massey this week - if you're not familiar with her she's an urban geographer of major importance, who died earlier in the year (2016 striking again). She was a radical, a feminist, an unorthodox Marxist, and one of the best at problematising what …

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Birmingham’s furthest outpost: Michel de Certeau and the strategies of Elan Village’s builders

 I was very fortunate recently to get to camp in one of the most beautiful spots in the country, in the Elan Valley, Powys. It's among the most sparsely-populated parts of the UK, falling within what John Henry Cliffe described as 'that great desert of Wales' as far back as 1860. Despite that descriptor, it's far from …

The Other immigrants of Carribee Island: Wolverhampton’s Jewish community 1

My PhD research focuses on a small section of Wolverhampton town centre in the nineteenth century that was well-known - perhaps notorious, even - for it's substantial Irish immigrant population. "Carribee Island" and the "Stafford Street district" became by-words when any sort of unrest occurred amongst Wolverhampton's Irish. My cursory go at statistics so far …

Naming spaces: the Kingsbridge passageways

Somewhere out there, there's a project waiting to be written on modern seasonal transhumance - the annual trek of the scattered to the lands of their fathers during the Christmas holiday, like Joseph returning to Bethlehem. In both my and OH's cases though, our kin have left the homelands themselves for the South-West, and so it's at this time …

“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 …

“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: Town End Bank, Walsall

Class distinction, democracy and proper drains. John Betjeman, In Westminster Abbey The protagonist of Betjeman's satirical poem unwittingly summarised the approach of mid-Victorian society to many issues. As we've seen, poor drainage is one of the emblematic signifiers of a unsanitary area, and was the consistent complaint of the Post's correspondent. It almost goes without saying that the areas poorly drained …

“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 …