Righteous Among The Nations

I often walk the dog in Mary Stevens Park, in Stourbridge, and walk through the grand, now-restored gates. This morning though, it was a plaque on the wall to the right of the gates that caught my eye. There's a tribute there to one Frank Foley, a Devonian by birth but one who died in …

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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 …

“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: 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 …

Observatory Mansions – a history of a bedsit

As a geography student at Kings College London, it's difficult to get very far without studying gentrification. It's a huge topic, worthy of a post in itself, but suffice to say the economic drivers that push social change like gentrification are not often present in the unusual landscapes of decline found in the Black Country. …

Empty space

Warning again: I'm going to be talking Black Country history a little further down, but I've been interested in what maps do and don't show, so the preamble is a bit... vague and theoretical. Maps are complex beasts. They show what they show, for reasons their makers choose, and the inclusions and omissions can define a district. …

Bricks

Based on my sample of three and a half months, a PhD is mostly reading. Now, I love reading, but there's only so much academic-style concentration one can take in a stretch so I've been breaking it up with some preliminary data collection, downloading census reports at my local library (free in Dudley!). Even in the barest …

Wordsley glass

The map of the Stour Valley in 1750 posted by Distinctly Black Country last week is another excellent example of the differentiation between BC towns that made it such a distinctive environment (compared to say, Burnley, which like the rest of the region around it were massively dominated by one industry). The glass quarter in Stourbridge (well, …