- Brierley Hill
The Brierley Hill flats
Brierley Hill shown within the West Midlands
Population 9,631 (Ward), 28,000 approx. (town) OS grid reference Metropolitan borough Dudley Metropolitan county West Midlands Region West Midlands Country England Sovereign state United Kingdom Dialling code 01384 Police West Midlands Fire West Midlands Ambulance West Midlands EU Parliament West Midlands UK Parliament Dudley South List of places: UK • England • West Midlands
Brierley Hill is a town and electoral ward of the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley, West Midlands, England. It is one of the larger Black Country towns with a population of 9,631 and is heavily industrialised, best known for glass and steel manufacturing, although the industry has declined considerably since the 1970s. One of the largest factories in the area was the Round Oak Steelworks which closed down and redeveloped to become the Merry Hill Shopping Centre. Brierley Hill was originally in Staffordshire, but was transferred to the West Midlands metropolitan county upon its creation in 1974.
The name Brierley Hill was formed from three Anglo-Saxon or Old English words; 'brier' meaning the place where the Briar Rose (Rosa rubiginosa) grew, 'leah' or 'ley' meaning a woodland clearing and 'Hill'. The name Merry Hill is derived from the word 'gemeare' which means the boundary, indicating that it was on the boundary of the parish of Kingswinford.
Brierley Hill was established as a settlement in Pensnett Chase, surrounded by woodland. This woodland was cut down in medieval times and were replanted for the production of charcoal. Coppices were produced and by the 18th century, most of the land to the east of the High Street was woodland that had grown as a result coppicing.
The town was first referred to in 1642 when Richard Peirson, a blacksmith of Brierley Hill was mentioned. Brierley Hill continued to expand, and this increased in rate following the enclosure of Pensnett Chase in 1748. Lord Dudley was the dominant land owner in the area and his involvement in constructing the Stourbridge Canal across Pensnett Chase put Brierley Hill on the map, when John Snape mapped the canal in 1785, including Brierley Hill on it for the first time.
The first religious building in Brierley Hill was St. Michael's Chapel, which was constructed in 1765 by public subscription. In 1842, St Michael's became a parish church and a parish was created, covering the areas of Brockmoor, Delph and Quarry Bank. In 1872, construction commenced on St Mary's Church. Designed by E. W. Pugin, it was completed in 1873 and upon completion, consisted of a nave, sanctuary, aisle and side chapel.
The Industrial Revolution had a major impact on Brierley Hill, which soon became heavily industrialised. As well as having a large number of quarries and collieries that supplied the factories in the Black Country with coal and building materials, Brierley Hill too hosted numerous factories. In Fowlers Map of 1822, Brierley Hill had extended to the canal except for a small piece of Level Coppice. The canal was lined with iron works and collieries. The extent of heavy polluting industry inspired the following old verse :
When Satan stood on Brierley Hill
And far around him gazed,
He said, "I never more shall feel
At Hell's fierce flames amazed."
In 1835, a National School was constructed and opened in the town. A market area had developed on the High Street. Amongst the heavy industries at work in the area, Marsh and Baxter's became a major employer in the town, manufacturing meat products and was once the biggest meat processing plant in Europe. They installed the first refrigerating machine erected within the UK and then the first ammonia-refrigerating unit, which was even more reliable than its predecessor. Due to the industrialisation of the town, green land and the coppices began to disappear and so Marsh and Baxter's gave Marsh's Park to the town.
By the start of the 20th century, the raw material deposits began to become depleted. This led to the closure of the quarries and collieries as well as the ironworks, unable to compete with the introduction and increased usage of alternative materials. On 8 December 1979, the Marsh and Baxter's plant closed and was demolished the following summer. The Moor Centre shopping area was built on the site in 1985.
The biggest blow to Brierley Hill came in December 1982, when the Round Oak Steel Works was closed after 125 years. It was around this time too that the towns football team, Brierley Hill Alliance, sold their ground which was situated behind the High Street. The site is now part of the car park for the town's ASDA store which opened soon afterwards.
At its peak, Round Oak had employed some 3,000 people, and by the time of its closure it still employed over 1,200. The actual site of the steelworks remained disused until it was developed as the Waterfront commercial and leisure complex between 1989 and 1995, but the nearby surrounding farmland (known as Merry Hill Farm) formed the bulk of the Dudley Enterprise Zone and by 1985 construction work was under way to develop it into the Merry Hill Shopping Centre, with the first stores occupied by Christmas 1985, joined by a shopping mall and completed retail park during 1986, and by the time of the final phase's opening in November 1989, it was the largest indoor shopping centre in Europe.
This helped revive Brierley Hill's economy and it ended the 1980s in a much better shape than it had begun the decade.
The decline in manufacturing in the town resulted in an unemployment rate of 25% in Brierley Hill by the early 1980s.
Originally part of Staffordshire, Brierley Hill became an urban district in 1894 under the Local Government Act 1894. Previously, it had had an urban sanitory authority. The urban district expanded greatly in 1934 when it took in part of Kingswinford Rural District and the Quarry Bank urban district. It remained an independent urban district until 1966, when it became part of the County Borough of Dudley and then in 1974 the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley. It is in the DY5 postal district.
In recent years, proposals have been drawn up by the local authority to regenerate Brierley Hill, which has suffered as a result of the decline of the manufacturing industry. The Brierley Hill Regeneration Partnership was formed to improve Brierley Hill over a period of 10 years by investing in the infrastructure and increasing the number of homes and job opportunities.
Places of interest
The Merry Hill Shopping Centre was built in the 1980s on the grounds of the last working urban farm within the Midlands and the Round Oak Steelworks. Also built on the site of the steelworks is the Waterfront office complex, with most of the offices opening between 1990 and 1995, and a railway steel terminal opening on the nearby railway in 1986.
From 1850 to 1962, Brierley Hill was served by a railway station for passengers on the Oxford-Worcester-Wolverhampton Line, when passenger services were withdrawn. This was before Richard Beeching brought the axe down on many local railway lines. The railway line from Stourbridge through Brierley Hill is still in use for goods trains but since 1993 it has been closed beyond Round Oak Steel Terminal, although that section of line is set to reopen in the 2010s as an extension to the Midland Metro that will run to Wednesbury. Goods trains will also be allowed to use the full length of the line to Walsall.
Brierley Hill Town Hall, situated on Bank Street in the town centre, hosted several of Slade's first gigs during the early 1970s, although none of the members were actually from Brierley Hill.
The town's police station was built during the mid-1960s as the future local council offices, however when Brierley Hill became part of the Dudley borough, the plan was shelved.
Situated to the immediate north of the town centre. On the border with Wordsley was the Bottle and Glass Inn, erected on the bank of the Dudley Canal in about 1800 as The Bush. It remained at this location until 1980, when it was transferred to the Black Country Living Museum as a centrepiece of the then new village.It is also home to Brockmoor Primary School,which has existed at its current site in Belle Isle since 1994.The original school was built in the late 19th century, as an infant school for 5-7 year olds and a junior school for 7-11 year olds, become a first school for 5-8 year olds and a middle school for 8-12 year olds in September 1972. However, the two schools merged in September 1989 to form Brockmoor Primary School and a year later the age range was altered to 5-11.
Withymoor Village lies to the south of the town centre towards the border with Stourbridge, and was mostly developed in the 1970s and 1980s, following open cast coalmining.
Chapel Street Estate
Chapel Street Estate was developed during the 1960s with predominantly multi storey flats on the site of a Victorian residential area.
Hawbush Estate stands one mile to the west of the town centre and was developed in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
On the border with Wordsley and Brockmoor was the Bottle and Glass Inn, erected on the bank of the Dudley Canal in about 1800 as The Bush. It remained at this location until 1980, when it was transferred to the Black Country Living Museum as a centrepiece of the then new village.
- Industrialist John Corbett was born in the town.
- Don Richardson, the man who developed the Merry Hill Shopping Centre, was born in the town, just streets away from the land that he developed for mass commercialisation more than 50 years later.
The town currently has 10 primary schools and two secondary schools, although Thorns Community College in the Quarry Bank area will soon be the town's only secondary school due to the forthcoming closure of Pensnett High School.
Brierley Hill runs a system of 5-7 infant, 7-11 junior and 11-16 secondary schools, in accordance with the rest of the Dudley borough and the majority of schools in other areas.
However (along with Dudley, Sedgley and Coseley) it ran a system of 5-8 first, 8-12 middle and 12-16 secondary schools from 1972 until 1990, before reverting to the traditional age ranges.
- Brierley Hill Primary School
- Brockmoor Primary School
- Hawbush Primary School
- Mount Pleasant Primary School
- Quarry Bank Primary School
- St Mark's Primary School
- St Mary's RC Primary School
- Bromley-Pensnett Primary School
- Thorns Primary School
- Withymoor Primary School
Peters Hill Primary School
The school serves the Quarry Bank area which is situated approximately one mile south of the town centre, and there are currently around 175 pupils aged 5-11 on the roll. The current head teacher is Mr David Priestley.
- Thorns Community College, a dual specialist Arts College and ICT College
- Pensnett High School, which is set to close in July 2010 after more than 70 years, although its future is secured for another two years as a learning centre for the oldest two age groups in the school.
- ^ "About Brierley Hill". Brierley Hill Regeneration Partnership. Archived from the original on 2008-04-05. http://web.archive.org/web/20080405142153/http://www.brierleyhill.org/subpage.php?page_id=26. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
- ^ a b c d e f g Hemingway, John (2005-12-22). "A History of Brierley Hill". Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council. http://www.dudley.gov.uk/community-and-living/town-centre-management/brierley-hill-town-centre/a-history-of-brierley-hill. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
- ^ O'Donnell, Roderick (2002). "Gazetteer". The Pugins and the Catholic Midlands. Gracewing Publishing. pp. 76. ISBN 0-85244-567-9.
- ^ Raven, Jon (1986). Stories, Customs, Superstitions Tales, Legends & Folklore of the Black Country & Staffordshire. Broadside. ISBN 0946757038.
- ^ a b "History of Brierley Hill". Brierley Hill Regeneration Partnership. Archived from the original on 2008-04-05. http://web.archive.org/web/20080405152203/http://www.brierleyhill.org/subpage.php?page_id=27. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
- ^ "Our vision". Brierley Hill Regeneration Partnership. Archived from the original on 2008-04-06. http://web.archive.org/web/20080406040601/http://www.brierleyhill.org/subpage.php?page_id=3. Retrieved 2008-08-05.
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Ceremonial county of West Midlands Metropolitan districts Major settlements
- Brierley Hill
- Cradley Heath
- Rowley Regis
- Sutton Coldfield
- West Bromwich
See also: West Midlands
Rivers Canals Topics
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