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Bradshaw’s Guide

Dudley

Dudley is a borough town in the county of Worcester. It received its name from a celebrated Saxon chieftain, who, as early as the year 700, built the Castle which commands the town.

The night view from Dudley Castle of the coal and iron districts of South Staffordshire reminds the spectator of the Smithy of Vulcan, described by Homer. The lurid flames that issue from the summits of the huge columnar chimnies light up the horizon for miles around, and impart to every object a gloomy aspect. On whichever side the view is taken in open day, the evidences of mining industry present themselves, in the vast number of smoking, fiery, and ever active works, which teem in this part of South Staffordshire. Taking Dudley Castle as a centre, we have to the north, Tipton, Gonial, Sedgley, Bilston, Wolverhampton, Willenhall, and Wednesfield. More easterly we find Great Bridge, Toll End, Darlaston, Wednesbury, West Bromwich, and Swan Village, which is a similar group to the former, and marked with precisely the same features – mining perforations, red brick houses, and black smoke. Turning towards the south, we find the iron towns fewer and wider apart, and lying, as it were, confusedly in four counties – Birmingham, for instance in Warwickshire; Smethwick, Dudley Port, Rowley Regis, Wordsley, and Kingswinford in Staffordshire; Oldbury, Hales Owen, Dudley, and Stourbridge, in Worcestershire. So singular, indeed is the intersection of these four counties that in going from Birmingham to Dudley Castle, by way of Oldbury – a distance of about eight miles by coach-road – we pass out of Warwick into Staffordshire, thence into Worcester, and a third time into Staffordshire, for although Dudley town is in Worcestershire, Dudley Castle and grounds are in Staffordshire. These several towns belong to the mining and manufacturing district, known by the name of the South Staffordshire coalfield district, because it has a layer of coal running, so far as is known, beneath its surface.

Dudley Castle belongs to Lord Ward, who is also proprietor of a considerable portion of Dudley and its mines. It is situated in a large and highly picturesque park and, with its warders’ watch and octagon towers, triple gate, keep, vault and dungeon, dining, and justice halls, and chapel, though in a state of dilapidation, must be considered as a fine old ruin. The view from the summit of the keep is wide – spreading and singularly interesting; to the north-east you have Lichfield cathedral; to the east, the busy hive of Birmingham; whilst to he south-west, nature has formed the Malvern Hills. These objects are all visible, and form an interesting background to the environs of Dudley.

As the eye sweeps the horizon from the summit of the keep, to discern the precise character of each object and locality, the mind is struck with one particular fact, that almost every town, village, house, man, woman, child, every occupation and station, are more or less dependent on, and are at the mercy of, lumps of coal and iron, and that the human race will mainly owe their moral regeneration to these two materials. The miner digs, the roaster calcines, the smelter reduces, the founder casts, the blacksmith forges, and the whitesmith files; these are but parts of the vast hive, whose busy hum of industry is heard far and wide, and whose skilful handiworks find a ready reception in every quarter of the globe. Leave Birmingham to itself, and direct your eye to West Bromwich – which has sprung up as it were but yesterday – and there you will perceive the best puddlers at work – the converters of pig-iron into its barred state – by far the most important of all the processes in the manufacture of that metal. Wolverhampton, Wednesbury, Bilston, and Dudley, have each their respective industries, and carry the division of labour to the minutest degree. Bloxwich, is almost exclusively employed in making awl-blades and bridle-bits; Wednesfield keeps to its locks, keys, and traps; Darlaston its gun-locks, hinges, and stirrups; Walsall its buckles, spurs, and bits; Wednesbury its gas-pipes, coach springs, axles, screws, hinges, and bolts; Bilston its japan-work and tin-plating; Sedgley and its neighbourhood, its nails; Willenhall its locks, keys, latches, curry-combs, bolts, and grid-irons; Dudley its vices, fire-irons, nails, and chains; Tipton its heavy iron-work; while Wolverhampton includes nearly all these employments in metal work. Looking further south, there may be descried Oldbury, Smethwick, Rowley Regis, Hales Owen, and Stourbridge – all of which are engaged in some form or another, in the manufacture of iron. We have not space to enlarge upon these facts, which are only a few in the vast multitude that are comprised in the area over which the view from the Castle extends, and therefore must content ourselves with laying a single one before the reader. The quantity of cast-iron produced throughout England and Scotland in 1851, amounted to nearly three millions of tons, and the share in that production by this district may be estimated at about one-third of that quantity, or five millions in value. Assuredly this limited area presents the most remarkable concentration of industry of which the world can boast.

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