Wren's Nest

Wren's Nest

Wren's Nest is an area of Dudley, West Midlands, England. Located to the north west of Dudley town centre, it comprises the Wren's Nest NNR (National Nature Reserve) and the Wren's Nest housing estate.

Wren's Nest National Nature Reserve

The Wren's Nest National Nature Reserve is world famous for its well-preserved Silurian coral reef fossils. It was the UK's first National Nature Reserve for geology, being founded in 1956. More than 700 types of fossil have been discovered here, with 86 of those found nowhere else, including the "Calymene blumenbachi" trilobite nicknamed the "Dudley Bug" or "Dudley Locust" by 18th century quarrymen.

An outcrop of Wenlock Group limestone, Wren's Nest Hill was extensively quarried during the Industrial Revolution for building stone and lime production. When quarrying finished in the early 20th century, the site was left with a network of underground caverns. The site was originally studied by the Scottish paleontologist Roderick Murchison, whose work in defining the Silurian System was mainly based on fossils and rock formations found at sites in Dudley.

Today, apart from the geological interest, the site is home to a number of species of locally rare flora, as well as birdlife; the caverns also support large roosting populations of bats.

In 2004, Wren's Nest and the nearby Castle Hill were declared Scheduled Ancient Monuments as they represented the best surviving remains of the limestone industry in Dudley. The most impressive part of this is the last remaining surface opening limestone cavern in the world - formerly reaching more than 100 m underground - which is known as the Seven Sisters. The workings were originally connected by underground canal to the Dudley Tunnel complex.

The Wren's Nest is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) considered to be one of the most notable geological locations in the British Isles.cite web|url=http://www.english-nature.org.uk/special/sssi/sssi_details.cfm?sssi_id=1004000|title=Wren's Nest Site of Special Scientific Interest]

Wren's Nest Estate

The Wren's Nest Estate was originally council housing and was mostly built during the 1930s to relocate people from town centre slum clearances. In more recent times, the poor quality of the housing, together with numerous forms of crime including anti-social behaviour, burglary and joyriding, helped to push the area into a seemingly irreversible decline. Some families on the estate had even abandoned the decaying upstairs bedrooms and were sleeping in downstairs rooms, few of which were in a much better condition. The plight of people living in squalor on the Wren's Nest was highlighted in February 1985, in the second edition of the Dudley News.

However, more recently the estate has been significantly improved due to regeneration in the 1990s. Over £10m of new government money, via the Single Regeneration Budget, was invested into the area. This saw the introduction of youth worker activities, education programmes, community capacity initiatives managed by the council's Housing Department, green environmental improvements by Groundwork Black Country (including a vineyard at the rear of Meadow Road), and the creation of local newspapers and social enterprises via Co-operation Black Country. However, the most significant improvement was to the council-owned properties, which received new boundary walls, driveways, double glazing, and major heating and insulation works.

A primary school was built on the estate shortly after the houses were constructed, and a local secondary school was opened in 1966 to replace the decaying Wolverhampton Street School in the town centre. The new school, Mons Hill, was initially very popular, but soon developed a reputation as one of the most troubled secondary schools in Dudley and became extremely unpopular with people living beyond the estate's borders. Falling numbers on the school roll made it no longer viable, and it was closed in July 1990 to be converted into an annexe of Dudley College. Most local students between 11 and 16 years now attend Castle High School, although some attend schools in other local areas.

The most famous person from the Wren's Nest estate is Sam Allardyce, former manager of Newcastle United Football Club, who was born at a recenty-completed council house on Ash Green in 1954. His mother lived on the estate until her death during the 1990s.

Another notable resident is Tony Harlow (born 1962), a criminal known to the media as the 'Laughing Cavalier' due to his resemblance to the 17th century painting. He went on a shooting spree on the estate during May 1986, causing damage to several properties before hiding in the nearby caverns. He was finally arrested and charged with possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life. In December that year, Harlow was sentenced to life imprisonment at Stafford Crown Court, and 21 years later he is still in custody. Harlow has escaped prison at least twice and has so far spent longer in prison than most convicted murderers. In May 2004 he was sentenced to 18 months in prison as punishment for escaping custody; one month after being caught at a house in Coseley, having spent 11 months on the run from Sudbury Open Prison in Derbyshire.

Photographed below is a 1998 scene of Wrens Hill Road, which links the Wren's Nest Estate with the upper end of the Priory Estate, which was built at around the same time.


External links

* [http://www.dudley.gov.uk/environment--planning/countryside/nature-reserves/wrens-nest-national-nature-reserve/wrens-nest Dudley Council - Wren's Nest Nature Reserve]
* [http://www.wrensnest.org.uk/ Wren's Nest Primary School]
* [http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/dudleynorth/n5.asp Wren's Nest Community Policing]

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