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Black by day and red by night

10/24/2009

Bilston, Blackheath, Brierley Hill, Brownhills, Coseley, Cradley, Darlaston, Dudley, Gornal, Great Bridge, Halesowen, Kingswinford, Lye, Netherton, Oldbury, Quarry Bank, Rowley Regis, Sedgley, Smethwick, Stourbridge, Tipton, Walsall, Warley, Wednesbury, Wednesfield, West Bromwich, Willenhall and Wordsley.

Why were these towns collectively called the Black Country?

Some say it was because of the coal that lies just under the surface staining the earth black.

Gouache drawing of factory chimneys pouring out black smoke.

Black Country by Edwin Butler Bayliss

Others that it was because of the black smoke belched out by the chimneys that covered the area.

In Charles Dickens’s novel The Old Curiosity Shop, written in 1841, describes how the area’s local factory chimneys “Poured out their plague of smoke, obscured the light, and made foul the melancholy air”.

Furnaces by Edwin Butler Bayliss

Furnaces by Edwin Butler Bayliss

Whilst in 1862, Elihu Burritt, the American Consul to Birmingham, described the region as “black by day and red by night” because the local furnaces gave out smoke and grime during the day and glowed at night.

What do you think. Please tell us why you think it is called the Black Country?

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