Dudley facts for kids
From top left: Dudley Town Centre viewed from Castle Hill; Dudley Priory; Dudley Zoo; Dudley Market Place; Dudley Castle; Statue of William Ward, 1st Earl of Dudley.
|Population||79,379 (Built-Up Area)
|OS grid reference|
|• London||108 mi (174 km)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Postcode district||DY1 – 3|
|EU Parliament||West Midlands|
Dudley (i//) is a large town in the West Midlands of England, 6 miles (9.7 km) south-east of Wolverhampton and 10.5 miles (16.9 km) north-west of Birmingham. The town is the administrative centre of the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley and in 2011 had a population of 79,379. The Metropolitan Borough, which includes the towns of Stourbridge and Halesowen, had a population of 312,900. Dudley is sometimes called the capital of the Black Country.
Originally a market town, Dudley was one of the birthplaces of the Industrial Revolution and grew into an industrial centre in the 19th century with its iron, coal, and limestone industries before their decline and the relocation of its commercial centre to the nearby Merry Hill Shopping Centre in the 1980s. Tourist attractions include Dudley Zoo, Dudley Castle, the Black Country Living Museum and the historic marketplace.
Dudley has a history dating back to Anglo-Saxon times, its name deriving from the Old English Duddan Leah, meaning Dudda's clearing, and one of its churches being named in honour of the Anglo-Saxon King and Saint, Edmund.
Mentioned in the Domesday Book as Dudelei, in the hundred of Clent in Worcestershire, the town was listed as being a medium-sized manor in the possession of Earl Edwin of Mercia prior to the Norman Conquest, with William Fitz-Ansculf as Lord of the Manor in 1086. Dudley Castle, constructed in 1070 by William's father Ansculf de Picquigny after his acquisition of the town, served as the seat of the extensive Barony of Dudley, which possessed estates in eleven different counties across England.
Of historical significance, the town was attacked by King Stephen in 1138, after a failed siege of the castle following the Baron's decision to support Empress Matilda's claim to the throne during The Anarchy.
The castle provided the centre from which the town and borough grew, with early coal and iron workings helping establish Dudley as a major market town during the Middle Ages, selling not only agricultural produce, but also iron goods at a national level. Working iron and mining for coal was in practice as early as the 13th century. The first mention of Dudley's status as a borough dates from the mid-13th century, when Roger de Somery, then Baron of Dudley, approved of the establishment of a market in nearby Wolverhampton. An inquisition after his death further established the value and importance of the borough, with mentions to the town's growing coal industry.
Early modern and Industrial Revolution
By the early 16th century the Dudley estate, now held by the Sutton family, had become severely in debt and was first mortgaged to distant relative John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, before being sold outright in 1535. Following Dudley's death, the estate returned to the Sutton family, during which time the town was visited by Queen Elizabeth during a tour of England.
In 1605, conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot fled to Holbeche House in nearby Wall Heath, where they were defeated and captured by the forces of the Sheriff of Worcestershire.
During the English Civil War Dudley served as a Royalist stronghold, with the castle besieged twice by the Parliamentarians and later partly demolished on the orders of the Government after the Royalist surrender.
Dudley had become an incredibly impoverished place during the 16th and 17th centuries, but the advent of the Industrial Revolution began to reverse this trend. In the early 17th century, Dud Dudley, an illegitimate son of Edward Sutton, 5th Baron Dudley and Elizabeth Tomlinson, devised a method of smelting Iron ore using coke at his father's works in Cradley and Pensnett Chase, though his trade was unsuccessful due to circumstances of the time. Abraham Darby was descended from Dud Dudley's sister, Jane, and was the first person to produce iron commercially using coke instead of charcoal at his works in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire in 1709. Abraham Darby was born near Wrens Nest Hill near the town of Dudley and it is claimed that he may have known about Dud Dudley's earlier work.
Dud Dudley's discovery, together with improvements to the local road network and the construction of the Dudley Canal, made Dudley into an important industrial and commercial centre. The first Newcomen steam engine, used to pump water from the mines of the Lord Dudley's estates, was installed at the Conygree coal works a mile east of Dudley Castle in 1712, though this is challenged by Wolverhampton, which also claims to have been the location of the first working Newcomen engine.
Dudley's population grew dramatically during the 18th and 19th centuries because of the increase in industry, with the main industries including coal and limestone mining. Other industries included iron, steel, engineering, metallurgy, glass cutting, textiles and leatherworking.
During this time living conditions remained incredibly poor, with Dudley being named 'the most unhealthy place in the country', which led to the installation of clean water supplies and sewage systems, and later the extensive development of council housing during the early 20th century to relocate the occupants of local slum housing.
Following the Reform Act of 1832, Dudley returned one Member of Parliament, a privilege first enacted in the Parliament of 1295. The town was re-incorporated as a Municipal Borough in 1865, later becoming a County Borough in 1889.
Dudley was developed substantially in the early 20th century, with the construction of many entertainment venues including a theatre and cinemas, with two indoor shopping centres being added later in the century. Dudley Castle, which had fallen into ruin following a fire in 1750, was converted into a zoo in 1937 by the Earl of Dudley, with buildings designed by architect Berthold Lubetkin. A reported 250,000 people attempted to visit the site upon the first day of opening.
In World War II, Dudley was bombed on several occasions. On 19 November 1940 a Luftwaffe bomb demolished a public house in the town centre and damaged several nearby buildings including St Thomas's Church and the new Co-Operative department store, but there were no fatalities. However, on the same night a landmine was dropped in the Oakham area of the town and demolished a section of council houses in City Road, resulting in the deaths of 10 people and injuring many others. On 12 August 1941, four people were killed when another landmine was dropped in nearby Birch Crescent. These were the only fatal air raids on Dudley.
Following local government reforms in 1966, Dudley was expanded to include the majority of the former urban districts of Brierley Hill and Sedgley, along with parts of Coseley, Amblecote and Rowley Regis; an area in the eastern section of the town was also transferred into the new borough of Warley. Most of this land had been held by the Lords of Dudley, and contained within the Dudley registration district and parliamentary borough. In 1974, further reorganization led to the creation of the present-day metropolitan borough, which included the nearby towns of Stourbridge and Halesowen.
The declining industry in Dudley has given rise to high unemployment, resulting in the closure of many businesses in the town. The development of the Merry Hill Shopping Centre between 1985 and 1990 also saw the loss of most of the town centre's leading name stores, which relocated to take advantage of the tax incentives offered by Merry Hill's status as an Enterprise Zone. The financial crisis and recession resulted in even more of the retail units in the town centre becoming vacant, with the Woolworths store on Market Place closing in December 2008 when the company went bankrupt, and Beatties closing its store – the last department store in the town – in January 2010, after more than 40 years due to falling trade.
The 13th century ruins of Dudley Castle overlook the town, and is a Grade I listed structure. Dudley Zoo is built into the castle grounds, and houses a large collection of endangered species, and also the largest collection of Tecton buildings in the world. Under proposals by Dudley Zoo, in partnership with Dudley Council, St. Modwen, and Advantage West Midlands, the zoo is to be regenerated, which will see a former freightliner site redeveloped with a tropical dome, Asiatic forest, two aquatic facilities and walkthrough aviaries. It is expected to cost £38.7 million.
There are many canals in and around Dudley, the main one being the Dudley Canal – most of which passes beneath the town in the Dudley Tunnel and is accessible only by boat because there is no towpath.
The open sections of canal are popular with walkers, cyclists, fishermen, and narrowboat users. Many of the canalside towpaths have been upgraded for cycling, and some sections are part of the National Cycle Network.
St James's Church at Eve Hill had a church school from the mid-19th century, but this was closed during the 1970s and was used as a community centre for several years before being transferred to the Black Country Museum in 1989. The site of the school remained undeveloped until 2008, when work began on a new health centre.
There are 11 scheduled ancient monuments in Dudley and the surrounding district, and 260 listed buildings, including 6 Grade I listed and 19 Grade II* listed buildings.
Dudley is home to a multiplex Showcase Cinema and Tenpin bowling alley, located in the Castle Gate complex north-east of the town centre.
The town was formerly home to a number of cinemas and theatres, including the Criterion, Gaumont, Odeon, and Plaza. The Hippodrome theatre was one of the largest and most modern in the West Midlands, built along with the adjacent Plaza Cinema just before the Second World War in 1938. The 1,700-seat Hippodrome had many Art Deco features and was built on the site of the Dudley Opera House, which burned down in 1936, and after its closure in 1964 was in use as a bingo hall until 2009. Dudley Council had initially planned to demolish the theatre as part of regeneration efforts, but after a long public campaign the building was leased to campaigners in December 2016, with the intent to restore it to theatre use.
The Plaza Cinema remained open until October 1990. The building was then taken over by Laser Quest, until its closure and demolition in 1997. As of January 2017 the site remains undeveloped.
The Odeon Cinema was converted into a Kingdom Hall for Jehovah's Witnesses in 1976. A present-day Odeon currently exists at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre.
Until 2011, the JB's nightclub was situated on Castle Hill, after relocating from an earlier site in the 1990s. Claimed to have been the longest-running live music venue in the UK, the club hosted early performances by acts such as U2, Dire Straits, and Judas Priest. It closed after going into administration and has since reopened as a banqueting centre.
Museums and galleries
The museums in Dudley celebrate the geological and industrial heritage of the town and the surrounding Black Country region, and its role in the Industrial Revolution. The Black Country Living Museum is an open-air living museum, which consists of reconstructed buildings from the surrounding area forming a living replica of an industrial village, with demonstrators portraying life in the region from that time.
The Dudley Museum and Art Gallery was formerly located in the town centre, having first opened in 1912, but was closed by Dudley Council in 2016 as part of cost-cutting measures, despite widespread public opposition. Some exhibits are planned to be moved to the Dudley Archives Centre in 2017.
The nearest railway stations are all at least a mile outside Dudley town centre, with the closest stations of Tipton and Dudley Port located in the neighbouring Borough of Sandwell. The nearest station within the Dudley borough is Coseley, and is served by local services operated by London Midland. The nearest intercity services run from the Sandwell and Dudley railway station in Oldbury, which was rebuilt in 1984 to serve the two boroughs.
The Dudley railway station was closed under the Beeching Axe in 1964. It opened in 1860 on the junction between the South Staffordshire and the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton lines, and in its heyday was a hub of services east to Birmingham (via a junction at Great Bridge), Walsall and Lichfield; north to Wolverhampton, Tipton and Coseley; and south-west to Stourbridge, as well as a line that served the small communities on the way to Old Hill and Halesowen. The site was later used as a Freightliner terminal by Freightliner UK, until an unpopular closure on 26 September 1989.
A proposal to re-open the segment of line between Dudley and Dudley Port was unveiled in December 2014, to allow for a light rail link from the town centre to the main line, but this plan was scrapped in May 2016 as Dudley Council favoured keeping the line available for the proposed Midland Metro extension to Brierley Hill instead.
Dudley bus station is in the town centre and has many connections to surrounding towns, cities, and communities, including Birmingham, Halesowen, Smethwick, Stourbridge, Walsall, West Bromwich, and Wolverhampton, amongst others. The bus station also has coach services run by National Express, mostly to and from London or Wolverhampton. Other places served include holiday destination Blackpool, and London Heathrow and London Gatwick Airports. There are also small bus stations located at Russells Hall Hospital and the Merry Hill Shopping Centre.
Dudley town centre has been served by a bus station at the junction of Birmingham Street and Fisher Street since 1952. The original bus station was cleared in 1984 and replaced by the current bus station, which became fully operational in 1987.
Midland Red used to operate bus services in the town, mostly from its own bus depot, which opened in 1929. This depot was located on Birmingham Road and passed to West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive in 1973, along with operation of all bus services in Dudley. The depot was closed in 1993 and demolished a year later to make way for the Castle Gate roundabout, at the eastern end of the town's new southern by-pass. The island was built in 1997 and the bypass opened on 15 October 1999.
Dudley is served by main roads which give a direct route to neighbouring towns. The longest of these roads are the B4176 (which runs to Wombourne, Bridgnorth and Telford) and the A461 (which passes through Wednesbury and Walsall, finally reaching Lichfield).
The nearest international airport is Birmingham Airport, around 19 miles to the east. The nearest local airport is Wolverhampton Airport, which is about 10 miles to the west of the town.
Dudley was the terminus point of two tram routes which opened in the later part of the 19th century. The first route, linking the town with Tipton and Wednesbury, opened on 21 January 1884 operating steam trams, the route being electrified in 1907 before being closed in March 1930 and replaced by Midland Red buses along the route. The second route opened a year later, linking the town with Birmingham and heading through the centre of nearby Tividale village on the Dudley-Tipton border. This line was electrified in 1904 and remained open until 30 September 1939, when it too was replaced by Midland Red buses.
A proposed extension of the Midland Metro line, which would run from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill via Dudley, would re-instate a tram service through the town centre, and is awaiting approval.
- See also: Wren's Nest
Dudley covers an area of the South Staffordshire Coalfield, which contributed heavily to its growth and industrialisation during the 18th century Industrial Revolution.
North-west of the town centre lies the Wren's Nest Nature Reserve, the first British nature reserve in an urban area and a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), considered to be one of the most notable geological locations in the British Isles. A part of the Much Wenlock Limestone Formation, it was heavily mined for centuries because of its large limestone deposits, and is also the location of one of the largest fossil sites in England. The town lends its name to the "Dudley locust", a trilobite with the scientific name Calymene blumenbachi that was found in these limestone pits in 1749 by Charles Lyttleton.
In the 1830s, Scottish geologist Sir Roderick Murchison visited the Wren's Nest to collect fossils as part of his research. 65% of his palaeontological evidence featured in the 1839 publication "The Silurian System" was from Dudley. Some of these fossils are still on display in the local Dudley Museum and Art Gallery.
|2011 UK Census||Dudley
(Built-up area subdivision)
|Dudley (Borough)||West Midlands region||England|
|Source: Office for National Statistics|
The current figure for the population of Dudley is 79,379. This figure differs considerably from that given at the 2001 census (194,919), which led to it being considered one of the largest towns in Britain without city status. However, this change is not due to large population movements but to a redefinition of the town's boundaries (for example, Kingswinford with a population of over 50,000, included as Dudley in the 2001 census, is now considered a separate town ). In addition, the 2001 Urban Subdivision included Brierley Hill, which the local authority considers a separate town. It also included other local centres such as Sedgley and Gornal.
A detached part of the Anglican Diocese of Worcester, Dudley has its own Archdeaconry and suffragan bishop. The town is served by numerous parish churches, including the Church of St. Edmund, Church of St. James, and Church of St. Thomas within the town centre. In the Kate's Hill area of Dudley, one can find St John's church, whose graveyard contains the burial place of William Perry a 19th-century Prizefighter, known as the Tipton Slasher.
The oldest church in the town is St. Edmund's, dating back to Anglo-Saxon times, although the present building was not constructed until 1724, following its demolition during the English Civil War. St. Thomas' church dates from the 12th century, and was rebuilt in the 1815 after the original building was declared 'unsafe'. Both sites are now Grade II* listed.
Dudley Priory was a Cluniac priory founded circa 1160 by the Lord of Dudley, Gervase de Paganel, and controlled several churches in the surrounding area. After its initial dissolution in 1395, it reopened as a denizen priory, and remained in use until the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Today the ruins form part of the surrounding Priory Park.
The Archdeacon of Worcester, inducted in November 2014, was Vicar of St. Francis Church in Dudley for eight years.
Catholics in the town are served by a church dedicated to Our Blessed Lady and St Thomas of Canterbury situated in St Joseph Street near the bus station. The church, designed by architect Augustus Pugin, dates from 1842 and has been Grade II listed since 1949.
There are two Methodist Churches in Dudley: Central Church is at Cross Street near the town centre and there is another church at Dixon's Green. Dudley Baptist Church is on Priory Road in the centre of town.
Dudley also has places of worship for other religious groups and Christian denominations, including a Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall, two Sikh gurdwaras, and a Hindu temple. The old St Edmund's Church School, which closed in 1970 on a merger with St John's Church School, was converted into a mosque for the town's growing Islamic community, with an additional mosque also opening in the Queen's Cross area of the town.
In 2003, plans were unveiled for the construction of a new mosque (which become known as the "Super Mosque" locally) in Hall Street, as site that had been leased by Dudley Council to the Dudley Muslim Association, in exchange for a site impacted by a proposed bypass. The mosque proposals were scrapped in May 2010, after a long dispute, in favour of an expansion to the existing Dudley Central Mosque in Castle Hill, an appeal was made by the Dudley Muslim Association against the High Court ruling, and failed in February 2014.
In popular culture
- The front and inner photographs for the 1971 Led Zeppelin IV album were taken in the Eve Hill area of the town; the main tower block, shown side on, is Butterfield Court off Salop Street, and still stands today. The two other blocks were demolished in 1999.
- The borehole in local author Hugh Walters' juvenile science fiction story The Mohole Mystery was sited in Dudley.
- The television comedy series The Grimleys was set in Dudley, but was filmed some 80 miles away in Salford.
Dudley is twinned with:
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