The History of the Midlands

Every country in the world has a middle area, but England is the only one that has a region that is known as the midlands. The Midlands has its own culture, its’ own accent, there are typical foods, and there is even typical music.

Spaghetti Junction at Gravelly Hill in Birmingham

It is quite natural that the Midlands separates the north of the country from the south, but it does not do the same with the east and the west. Shropshire and Herefordshire mark the western edge of the country and Suffolk is the eastern border, and theses counties count as being in the Midlands. Within the Midlands there are subdivisions of areas. People from Stafford regard themselves as being from the North Midlands, people from Leicester think they are from the East Midlands, people from Birmingham are from the West Midlands and people from Banbury from the South Midlands.

Birmingham is the largest city in the region and is the centre of most of the economic activity of the area. It is certainly at the centre of the transports routes. With a number of main roads meeting at “spaghetti junction” it is one of the biggest nodal points of roads in the UK. Birmingham is also well served by rail and is home to Birmingham Airport.

The Midlands is famous for the agriculture in the region and many of the counties have some of the most productive farms in the country. The Midlands are drained by a number of major rivers and their tributaries, the Trent, the Severn, the Avon, the Derwent and the Nene all flow into the area, and over the years have created flood plains that have left behind rich agricultural soils. However, it was during the country’s industrial revolution that the area really came to prominence. As early as the 16th century there were iron works in Birmingham. The Midlands had ready supplies of coal and iron ore, and as the industrial revolution developed the area of the Black Country became synonymous with the industrial activity of this area.

A typical 19th century image from the Black Country

The fourteen miles between Birmingham and the Black Country, to the north of the city, was a hive of heavy industry. From this point lighter industries spread into the heart of Birmingham, and the rest of the Midlands. Minerals were also found in many areas around the region with the Nottingham coal mines being some of the largest in the country. The supplies of china clay in the northern part of the region resulted in the growth of “the Potteries” around Stoke-on-Trent. This early industrial activity needed heavy goods to be transported long distances and the cheapest way to do this was by water.

This resulted in the building of many canals in the region. This was particularly useful with the pottery industry as the journey by canal was far smoother than a similar route on the roads that were being constructed in these early, pre-tarmac, years.

Today nearly all of the mines have closed, and many of the old industrialized areas have been closed and regenerated. The canals are no longer used for industrial use but have been cleaned and are now used by the tourist industry for boating holidays. The area is still home to many industries, but the area has had to move with the times. The industries are now lighter, there are now more electronic and research industries. Industrial parks have been created in the region on land that was once the home to heavy industry. The region is still home to the home of British manufacturing, but it is a lot different to the era of the industrial revolution. The Midlands now has a number of cities which have spread the wealth of the area evenly across the region and it is still seen as having a major influence on the British economy.

 

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