Dairy farming dominates the agriculture of the Trent valley, but mining and manufacturing are economically far more important. The Potteries, in the north-west of the county, occupies an area about 10 miles from north-west to south-east, and about a mile and a half wide, centred on the city of Stoke-on-Trent. This city was unusual in being created in 1910 by the amalgamation of five smaller towns, and it almost surrounds the separate town of Newcastle-under-Lyme. As the name implies, pottery making is the dominant industry, but there is also some metal manufacturing.
Outside the two main manufacturing areas, the major towns are Burton-on-Trent, noted as a brewing centre, the small cathedral city of Lichfield, the county town of Stafford which has for many years been an important centre for the making of boots and shoes (although this has now almost ceased), and the ancient Mercian capital of Tamworth.
County boundaries have been changed many times, especially in the Black Country area, which can cause problems both in finding and in interpreting historical documents. Particularly confusing is the detached part of Worcestershire in the south of the county containing the town of Dudley and a number of smaller places, with a tiny detached part of Staffordshire (just Dudley Castle) within it. In 1974 the whole of the Black Country was combined with Birmingham and Coventry to make a new West Midlands metropolitan county, while in 1998 the county also lost Stoke when it became an independent local authority.
The Stoke-on-Trent area was long a major centre for pottery making, but the importance of the county really developed with the Industrial Revolution, from the late eighteenth century onwards. Iron had been mined and used for manufacturing in a smaller way for some time, using charcoal made from local forests, especially in the area which came to be known later as the Black Country, but it was only with the discovery of how to use the plentifully available coal for the purpose that the industry expanded to become one of the greatest manufacturing centres in the world by the mid-nineteenth century.
Like other counties, the GENUKI Staffordshire page should be the resource of first resort for any genealogist interested in the county. This site is maintained by local expert Mike Harbach.
Birmingham & Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry is the family history society covering the area, and has many invaluable resources.
Surnames interest list for Staffordshire
Staffordshire Lookup Exchange is a list of volunteers willing to do free lookups, as and when they have time, in resources they happen to have available to them.
R. Plot: The Natural History of Staffordshire (1686) has two chapters on local history.
J. Nightingale: The Beauties of England and Wales: Staffordshire (1813)
W. Pitt: A Topographical History of Staffordshire (1817)
R. Garner: The Natural History of the County of Stafford (1844)
N. Pevsner: Buildings of England: Staffordshire (1970)
R. Sims: Bibliotheca Staffordiensis (1894) is a thorough bibliography of papers, etc.
Victoria County History - Staffordshire - 1 general volume published 1908.
J. Browne: a map dated 1682, published 1684 (3 versions), 2 inches: 1 mile, based on a new survey by G. King.
Staffordshire History - a journal published from 1984
Journal of South Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society (founded 1957)
Journal of Black Country Society (founded 1967)
However, for completeness sake, if the place meets the first criterion but fails on one or more of the others, then it will at least appear here as a heading, so the reader will have some idea which places may "get the treatment" at some time in the future.
This map (4,264 bytes) of the south and central parts of the Black Country shows the location of Blackheath (near the south-east corner).
Until 1841 there was nothing of significance at Blackheath (the name is a corruption of "Bleak Heath") except a few farms and a road junction. Then glebe lands belonging to the church at Rowley Regis were sold, roughly corresponding with the expansion of mining in the area of rich deposits of coal, and ironstone. Blackheath quickly became a boom town, rapidly overtaking Rowley Regis village in size and prosperity. The expansion in population came partly from local agricultural labourers turning to industry and partly from immigration of miners and others, especially from south Wales.
Other related industries, especially brick-making, also sprang up. The largest factory was the nut and bolt works of Thomas William Lench Ltd., called Excelsior Works, in the Ross district on the north-west side of the town.
On 13th July 1869 a separate ecclesiastical parish was formed, most of its area being taken from Rowley, plus parts of two townships from Halesowen in Worcestershire. Civil boundaries did not follow suit, so Blackheath was for civil purposes split between the urban district council of Rowley Regis and the Worcestershire parish councils of Hill and Cakemore.
The parish church, St. Paul's, was built in 1869, but is located in the township of Cakemore, on the east side of the main town and separated from it by the railway line.
Blackheath poor law administration became part of the Dudley Union in 1834, so records relating to the workhouse and other aspects of Poor Law administration from that date are held with those of Dudley.
This map (4,264 bytes) of the south and central parts of the Black Country shows the location of Rowley Regis (near the south-east corner).
Rowley Regis lies about 3 miles south-east of Dudley, at the southern end of the ridge of limestone hills which runs from north-west to south-east through the Black Country, in the narrow part of Staffordshire separating the detached part of Worcestershire from the main body of that county (in terms of the pre-1974 county boundaries). The parish, with a population then of about 14,000, consisted in the mid-nineteenth century of the village of Rowley Regis together with 20 hamlets around it. By the time of the 1901 census the parish had grown to over 43,000 people. Nowadays the hamlets and village have all merged, not only with each other but with Birmingham, Dudley, Halesowen, Sandwell, Sedgley, Solihull, Stourbridge, Sutton Coldfield, Walsall, Wolverhampton and many smaller places to form a single conurbation about 20 miles from east to west and 15 from north to south.
Nineteenth century industry consisted primarily of mining for coal and iron ore, smelting of iron and steel, and associated manufacturing of such things as nails and chains.
The parish church of St. Giles stands on a hill above the old village. It was built in 1923 to replace a series of older buildings, which were successively demolished in 1840 and 1900 and burnt down (arson by suffragettes was suspected) in 1913. In 1844 the parish was split for ecclesiastical purposes, the western part, containing the growing villages of Cradley Heath and Old Hill forming a new parish of Reddal Hill. Blackheath also became an independent ecclesiastical parish in 1869. The original parish registers, which date from 1539, are at Sandwell Community History and Archives office, but those prior to 1912 have been damaged by fire. Bishops Transcripts from 1606 to 1874 are in the Worcestershire Record Office. A transcript of the registers up to 1812 has been published by the Staffordshire Parish Registers Society. In addition to the Anglican registers, there are a number of registers of nonconformist churches in the parish also held at Sandwell, including that for Rowley Regis Wesleyan Methodist baptisms from 1863 to 1969.
Rowley Regis poor law administration became part of the Dudley Union in 1834, so records relating to the workhouse and other aspects of Poor Law administration from that date are held with those of Dudley.
Anyone with an interest in Sedgley, and especially its history, should visit Ian Beach's excellent site, The Ancient Manor of Sedgley.
C.R.J Currie and C.P.Lewis A Guide to English County Histories (Sutton Publishing Ltd., 1994), ISBN 0-7509-1505-6.
A. Room: Dictionary of British Place Names (1988), ISBN 1 85605 1775.
A.D. Mills: A Dictionary of English Place-Names (Oxford University Press, 1991, revised 1995), ISBN 0-19-869156-4.
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