'Shabby Towns of Smother Amid Smother'



The Black Country made a significant contribution to the national economy through its extractive and metal-working industries, but the reports of visitors in the nineteenth century focused on the grim appearance of the area. Even its name invoked a negative picture.

Before industrialisation, the Black Country was an upland farming district of rolling hills and small fields within Shropshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire. Livestock farming, small farmsteads, hamlets and villages characterised the area.

During the industrial revolution, swathes of countryside vanished beneath a landscape of slag heaps, mines and manufacturing waste as small villages were transformed into industrial towns. To the outsider the towns appeared to be meshed together to form an interminable village of houses interspersed with blazing furnaces, forges and engine chimney stacks. Atmospherically, a pall of smoke hung over the district.

Green spaces disappeared, and the name ‘Black Country’ was coined. With industrial growth came pollution, a factor that was to change the landscape and the lives of the people.

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