Black Coun­try an­ces­tors

The best re­sources for Mid­lands kin

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - FRONT PAGE -

Al­though we have sam­pled the her­itage of the wider West Mid­lands, as well as Stafford­shire, Worces­ter­shire and last year Birm­ing­ham, this is the first is­sue in which we have fo­cused solely on the Black Coun­try, which com­prises Dudley, Sandwell, Wal­sall and Wolver­hamp­ton.

This in­dus­trial hub is a com­pli­cated re­gion in which to re­search, as Dudley’s Lo­cal Stud­ies Li­brar­ian Diane Matthews ex­plains. “Sandwell, Wal­sall and Wolver­hamp­ton ar­chives ser­vices all share a bound­ary with us and their col­lec­tions com­ple­ment our own,” she says. “Whilst Dudley was tra­di­tion­ally in Worces­ter­shire, other ar­eas now in the bor­ough – such as Sed­g­ley, Cose­ley, Bri­er­ley Hill and Kingswin­ford – would have been in the county of Stafford. So both the Stafford­shire and Worces­ter­shire record of­fices have ma­te­rial re­lat­ing to the bor­ough. There might also be ma­te­rial at Birm­ing­ham City Ar­chives re­lat­ing to Hale­sowen, and Here­ford Ar­chives house the Fo­ley Col­lec­tion, which may hold ma­te­rial re­lat­ing to Stour­bridge.”

The new pur­pose-built home for Dudley’s ar­chives opened in Jan­uary 2014 next to the Black Coun­try Liv­ing Mu­seum. Along­side two miles of ar­chives, from parish ma­te­rial to records of lo­cal busi­nesses, there’s a Lo­cal Stud­ies Li­brary boast­ing some 17,000 printed works, more than 22,000 pho­to­graphs and 3,000 slides, as well as lo­cal news­pa­pers, jour­nals and pe­ri­od­i­cals, maps, posters, sound and film record­ings. They also have printed MIs, trade di­rec­to­ries, pedi­grees, bi­ogra­phies and Rolls of Hon­our.

Diane adds: “We try to en­cour­age users to in­ves­ti­gate deeper into the so­cial his­tory of the re­gion to find out about what their an­ces­tors lives would have been like.”

One unique col­lec­tion here is the Dudley Es­tate Ar­chive com­pris­ing around 9,000 doc­u­ments, 350 vol­umes and 2,000 maps and plans. It in­cludes deeds, mano­rial court rolls, leases and rentals and spans eight cen­turies of his­tory. “The Earls of Dudley owned land in Worces­ter­shire and Stafford­shire en­com­pass­ing Dudley, Him­ley, Bel­broughton, Broome, Kingswin­ford, Row­ley Regis, Sed­g­ley, Tip­ton, Wom­bourne, Great Witley and Kid­der­min­ster and the col­lec­tion gives a unique in­sight into the chang­ing land­scape and in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment of the Black Coun­try,” says Diane.

The Cen­tre also holds lo­cal govern­ment records back to 1791; records of solic­i­tors Slater & Camm (and pre­de­ces­sors) back to the 13th cen­tury; ma­te­rial re­lat­ing to drap­ers and fur­nish­ers FW Cook Ltd (c1880-1980); Dudley Her­ald glass neg­a­tives (1930s-1972); Dudley Gram­mar School records (1533-1974); and Oldswin­ford Hos­pi­tal [School] records back to the 12th cen­tury.

The dom­i­nant in­dus­tries in Dudley were coal and lime­stone min­ing, iron and steel, glass­mak­ing, brick­mak­ing, nail and chain­mak­ing, but­ton man­u­fac­tur­ing and en­gi­neer­ing. Sur­viv­ing records in­clude com­pa­nies such as N Hin­g­ley & Sons, Wal­ter Somers, Royal Bri­er­ley Crys­tal, Pen­snett Col­liery, but­ton­mak­ers James Grove and Sons, glass­mak­ers Thomas Webb & Sons and many more. In­deed, col­lec­tions are ex­pand­ing all the time – in 2014 new ac­ces­sions in­cluded the Bag­geridge Brick Works Col­lec­tion (1920-87) as well as the Am­ble­cote Scouts Col­lec­tion (1920-2011).

One of the more com­plete col­lec­tions re­lates to the iron­mak­ers Cannon In­dus­tries of Cose­ley, whose baths, lava­to­ries and sinks be­came widely used in pub­lic build­ings, schools, ho­tels, and pri­vate res­i­dences dur­ing the 19th cen­tury, be­fore the com­pany started pro­duc­ing gas cookers

from 1895. The col­lec­tion con­tains minute books, let­ters, ti­tle deeds and as­so­ci­ated pa­pers re­lat­ing to land and prop­erty, ac­counts/fi­nan­cial records, pho­to­graphs, ap­pren­tice­ship and per­son­nel records, even cook­ery and recipe books for use with Cannon cookers.

Wal­sall Lo­cal His­tory Cen­tre looks af­ter the likes of GRO in­dexes, census ma­te­rial, parish and non­con­formist records, ceme­tery records, elec­toral reg­is­ters, di­rec­to­ries, an ex­ten­sive pho­to­graph col­lec­tion, quar­ter ses­sions from 1825, coroners records from 1910 and lo­cal news­pa­pers from 1856 on­wards. Plus, among some of the more un­der­used sources, there are records of the Wig­more Schools, a lo­cal or­phan­age serv­ing West

Who Do You Think You Are? Locks on the Stour­bridge Canal near the Red House Glass Cone

at Word­s­ley, Dudley

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