Sunday, 27 May 2012

History of Dudley

The History of Dudley

Dudley has its origins in the Anglo-Saxon 'Duddah's leah' which translates as 'woodland clearing owned, or lived in, by Duddah'. Duddah or Dud, depending on the version, is believed to be the Saxon lord behind the construction around 700AD, of a wooden castle on the site of today's ruinous remains.
In the nineteenth century Dudley was known as the Capital of the 'Black Country' in reference to the notorious smog that was an unhealthy by-product of the region's industrial revolution. Today that unofficial geographical boundary incorporates Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton and a population of two million.

Dudley Metropolitan Borough was formed in 1974 and includes the former county borough of Dudley and municipal borough of Halesowen and Stourbridge.

Castle and Priory
Until 1928 these came outside the boundaries of Dudley and were formerly in Staffordshire. As previously mentioned, it is believed a wooden castle was the first construct followed in the twelfth century by a more impressive castle of stone. 

The original barons were Norman: Fitz Ansculf and Paganel, and it was Gervase Paganel who founded the Cluniac Priory of St James around 1160-80 whose remains we see today. In the Middle Ages the Sutton family inherited the title and estate of Lord Dudley, hence the name change, and thereby setting in motion a number of historical connections. 

One relative Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was a particular favourite of Elizabeth I. And it was John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, who besides overseeing the renovation of considerable portions of the castle, married his son Guildford to the teenage Lady Jane Grey in a bid to prevent Mary Tudor from becoming queen; this unwise move resulted in the young couples' beheading and also his own in 1553.

In 1575 Queen Elizabeth stayed at the castle, and in 1585 it was considered as a possible prison for Mary Queen of Scots. In 1647, during the English Civil War, Cromwell's army demolished the fortress; what remained of the living quarters was destroyed by fire in July of 1750.

Photos of Dudley Castle

Dudley Zoo
Opened in 1938, the zoo is set in fifty acres of parkland surrounding the remains of Dudley Castle. It is home to more than two hundred species and heads a prestigious conservation programme. Percy Shakespeare (1906-43) a local artist killed by a bomb during World War II, used the zoo as a subject for one of his most famous works: 'Bird Cage at the Zoo.'

Dudley's stake in the iron trade was a considerable with John Wilkinson constructing the magnificent feat of Ironbridge on the River Severn in 1779. Nails made in Dudley were used in the building of Nonesuch Palace and Hampton Court, and one of the best known families in the trade were Foley's. Thomas Foley was a close friend of diarist Samuel Pepys and is mentioned several times.

Titanic Anchor
Made by N Hingle and Sons Ltd of Netherton and taken by train from Dudley in 1911 to its final destination as part of the doomed vessel this anchor, at sixteen tons, was the largest in the world. Castings and patent still survive.

The industry dates back to the seventeenth century when gentlemen glassmakers from Lorraine settled in the area attracted by Black Country resources of clay and coal used in their melting pots. World Famous names surviving, and flourishing, today include Royal Brierly Crystal, Royal Doulton and Stuart Crystal.

The Broadfield House Glass Museum 
Presents a celebration of this local industry with examples dating as far back as Roman times. 

The Red House Glass Cone 
Occupies the same site as Stuart Crystal and it's one hundred foot cone was part of the original glass works and is one of only four remaining in the country. 

Black Country Living Museum
This award-winning museum established in 1975, covers an impressive twenty-six acres with a faithful reproduction of life in a Victorian industrialised town. Brick-by-brick condemned buildings from around the Black Country have been dismantled and transported here to recreate the life and times of ordinary working folk from the past. 

The site comprises a working boat dock, canal, school, fairground, shops, a cinema, agricultural displays, metal workings, even a colliery called the 'Racecourse' so named because it is built on the site of the old racecourse closed down following the opening of a rail link between Dudley and Wolverhampton in 1846. The project boasts an expanding collection of over forty thousand items.

Merry Hill
Nearly three hundred top names under one roof including twenty- six places to stock up on refreshments while you browse, this is the ultimate shopping experience. In the lower mall discover the Amphitheatre and its ever-changing exhibitions, fashion shows and demonstrations. Call 01384 481141 for details of what to see and when.

Outside there is parking for ten thousand vehicles and, if you are looking for somewhere to stay while you spend a few days on retail therapy, why not try the prestigious Copthorne Hotel.

Nearby is the Waterfront Business Park with offices set into landscaped grounds bordering the leisurely canal system. 

Photos of Dudley and the Black Country Living Museum

Content and research by Karen-Jayne Blewitt

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