The North Midlands
There are a number of counties in the Midlands which border the northern counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire. One such county is Derbyshire, and although it is often referred to as being part of the East Midlands, northern cities like Sheffield are only a stone’s throw away from the county. Derbyshire lies just to the west of Nottinghamshire and is very much a rural county, with the majority of the Peak District being located in the county. The county town is Derby which has a population of nearly 250,000 and originally grew as a result as being one of the first towns to have a railway link. Its first major industries were textiles and it is home to Derwent Valley Mills which is now a world heritage site. It has a long association with transport and is the home to Rolls Royce aero engines, Litchurch Lane Works, the train manufacturers, and Toyota, UK.
One of Derbyshire’s most famous settlements is the town of Bakewell that is located in The Derbyshire Dales. Although it only has a population of just over 4,000 it is known around the world for being home to the Bakewell pudding. The county town of Nottinghamshire is Nottingham and today the city has a population of over 320,000. The famous geographical feature of the county is Sherwood Forest and its historical association with Robin Hood. The forest used to cover a quarter of the region and today it has “Royal Forest” status, being a huge attraction for tourists visiting the region.
The county flourished during the industrial revolution as a result of the South Yorkshire coal mine spreading down into the area. It was also home to a thriving textile industry with some of the most successful lace producing companies in the country. Many of the older industries have now fallen into decline and have been replaced by more modern and lighter industries. The city is home to one of the country’s top universities and has one of the best public transport systems in England.
A county that prides itself with the whole of its boundaries being in the North Midlands is Staffordshire. Part of its southern area is Wolverhampton but the local government reorganization in 1974 has made it part of the West Midlands. Stafford is the county town of Staffordshire with a population of just 63,000. Stafford was first settled as it a provided a crossing point of the River Sow in its marshy valley. The castle at Stafford was built by the Normans in 1090 and it was seen as an important fort to hold due to its accessibility in an otherwise marshy area.
The building of the its railway station in 1837 attracted a number of lines and its role as a junction attracted industries during the industrial Revolution to locate there. Many small industries are still located in the town, but most people are employed in administrative role as a result of the County Council’s headquarters being located in the town.
The largest settlement in the County is the City of Stoke-on-Trent. The city is situated on the River Trent and is the amalgamation of the six local towns, Hanley, Burslem, Stoke, Tunstall, Longton and Fenton. It has a population of over 260,000 and is now a unitary authority area which means that it governs itself and is separate from the rest of the county.
The city is famously known as the Potteries. Local supplies of china clay and coal enabled pottery to have been produced since the 17th century. As production increased during the industrial revolution local clay started to run out, so the local firms imported it from Cornwall using the Trent and Mersey Canal to transport from the docks at Liverpool.
The other industries of the city included coal mining and the production of Steel. As these industries have declined they have been replaced by service industries and service centres. The old industrial region is some of the most deprived areas in the country and Stoke is constantly being regenerated. The nearby Alton Towers Resort which is located just outside of the city is a good example of how the area is trying to create a new image for itself.