The South Midlands
Some of the Midlands counties that are associated with the region stretch so far south that they are virtually located in the Home Counties. In fact, some such as Herefordshire and Worcestershire are counties that are associated as being part of the West Country. There are no further southern points than some of the areas that lie in Northamptonshire which is found to the south of Leicestershire. The county town is Northampton and has a population of just over 210,000. The county has for many years been famous for the production of boots and shoes.
Sadly, apart from Dr Martens, the shoe industry has disappeared and has been replaced by other lights industries, such as cereal producers. The county now is also famous for the motor racing circuit at Silverstone and this has produced spin off industries plus attracted tourists to the county.
One of the county’s most industrialized towns is Corby which has a population of just over 60,000. Local supplies of iron ore and resulted in small iron industries being present for many years and then in 1934 Stewart and Lloyds opened an integrated steel industry in the area. The population increased dramatically from 1500 as steelworkers came in to the area. The town became known as “Little Scotland” as many of the new workers arrived from north of the border. The steel works at Corby became part of British Steel in 1967 who then closed the plant by the end of 1981.
After becoming one of the Britain’s first Enterprise Zone the town has now recovered. People have been re-deployed in smaller businesses and the town is now benefiting from its excellent location in regard to the rest of the country. Worcestershire is a county that is subdivided with the far northern areas being part of the industrial West Midlands and the rest of the county, which is predominantly rural. The county has always been known for the quality of its agricultural output.
Both the Severn and Avon rivers run through the county and their flood plains have provided the rich soils that the local farmers have utilized over the centuries. The county is especially known for the quality of its Orchards and the Vale of Evesham is home to some of the country’s finest market gardening. The county town is the city of Worcester which has a population of around 100,000. The city is located on the River Severn and this bridging point of the river is a major reason why the city has grown over the centuries. This attracted many garrisons as they saw the importance of being able to control a major transport route-way.
The Industrial Revolution saw the city grow as it gained a reputation for its cloth making, its glove manufacturers and also its local porcelain industries. The famous savoury condiment Lea & Perrins Worcester Sauce is made in the city and the beauty of Worcester is that it always had a good variety of industry so never became over reliant on any particular one. Today Worcester is particularly popular place to live and benefits from the tourists that are attracted to its scenic rural country side. The Malvern Hills are a popular destination, with both Malvern and the county town benefiting economically from the region’s popularity.
Herefordshire is similar to Worcestershire in that it is also very much a rural county. It has also been merged with Worcester as one county, Hereford and Worcester in 1998 but since then it has resumed being a separate county. Its county town is the city of Hereford, with a population of nearly 56,000 and lies on the river Wye. It grew as a market town with much of the county’s agricultural produce being sold in the city. It is famed for its cider, its famous breed of Hereford cattle and all other types of agricultural produce.
Much of the city’s industry is based around what is produced from the agricultural community. The headquarters for Bulmers cider is located in the city, as is Cargill Meats Europe. The other major sources of employment are found in the administrative side of the county council. The South Midlands are quite different form the other industrialized areas of the region.