(UK) Staffordshire and West Midlands – understanding the region

The texts providing insight into Staffordshire and West Midlands include policy documents, project descriptions, project evaluation reports and websites with resources and documentation.


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Staffordshire is a landlocked county in the West Midlands region of England. Part of the National Forest lies within its borders. It adjoins Cheshire (to the north west), Derbyshire (to the east), Leicestershire (to the east), Warwickshire (to the south east), West Midlands (to the south), Worcestershire (to the south), and Shropshire (to the west).

The largest city in Staffordshire is Stoke-on-Trent, which is administered separately from the rest of the county as an independent unitary authority. Major towns include Stafford (the county town), Burton upon TrentCannockNewcastle-under-LymeLeek and Tamworth.

In the north and in the south the county is hilly, with wild moorlands in the far north and Cannock Chase an area of natural beauty in the south. In the middle regions the landscape is low and undulating. Throughout the entire county there are vast and important coalfields. In the southern part there are also rich iron ore deposits. The largest river is the Trent. The soil is chiefly clay and agriculture was not highly developed until the mechanisation of farms. Staffordshire is home to the highest village in Britain, Flash.

The city of Stoke-on-Trent is situated about half-way between Manchester and Birmingham and adjoins the town and borough of Newcastle-under-Lyme, which is administered separately and is situated to the west. To the east is the Peak District, which includes part of the Staffordshire Moorlands District. Stoke on Trent is fondly known as The Potteries boasts visitor centres, world class ceramic museums including the Wedgwood Museum, factory tours, pottery cafes and over 25 pottery factory shops. Leisure and entertainment facilities including Alton Towers, the unique Trentham Monkey Forest and the 800 acre Trentham Estate. The city is also host to the unique Staffordshire Hoard the most valuable collection of Anglo-Saxon treasure ever found. Stoke-on-Trent (often abbreviated to Stoke), forms a linear conurbation stretching for 12 miles (19 km), with an area of 36 square miles (93 km2). The conurbation continues to be polycentric, having been formed by six separate towns and numerous villages in the early-20th century. The settlement from which the federated town (it was not a city until 1925) took its name was Stoke-upon-Trent, where the administration and chief mainline railway station were located. After the union, Hanley emerged as the primary commercial centre in the city, despite the efforts of its rival, Burslem. The three other component towns are TunstallLongton and Fenton.

Since the 17th century, the area has been almost exclusively known for its industrial-scale pottery manufacturing. Companies such as Royal Doulton, Dudson Ltd, Spode, Wedgwood and Minton were established and based there. The local abundance of coal and clay suitable for earthenware production led to the early development of the local pottery industry. The construction of the Trent and Mersey Canal enabled the import of china clay from Cornwall together with other materials and facilitated the production of creamware and bone china.

North Staffordshire was a centre for coal mining. The first reports of coal mining in the area come from the 13th century. The Potteries Coalfield covers 100 square miles (300 km2).  Striking coal miners in the Hanley and Longton area ignited the nationwide 1842 General Strike and its associated Pottery Riots. When coal mining was nationalised in 1947, about 20,000 men worked in the industry in Stoke-on-Trent.  The Stoke mining industry set several national and international records.  Wolstanton Colliery, when modernised, had the deepest mining shafts in Europe at 3,197 ft. In 1933, Chatterley Whitfield Colliery became the first Colliery in the country to mine one million tons of coal. In 1992 the combined Trentham Superpit (Hem Heath and Florence) was the first mine in Europe to produce 2.5 million saleable tonnes of coal. However, 1994 saw the last pit to close as the Trentham Superpit was shut.

The scars of mining still remain on the landscape. Slag heaps are still visible on the skyline, now covered with flora and fauna. The Chatterley Whitfield site reopened as a museum two years after its closure in 1976 but closed in 1991 and the site became a local nature reserve. It was declared a Scheduled Ancient Monument by English Heritage in 1993.

Based on the 2001 census, the total population of the city is 240,636 in 103,196 households. 94.8% of the population identified themselves as white, 2.6% as Asian British Pakistani, 0.5% Asian British Indian and 0.3% as Black Afro Caribbean. Regarding religion, 74.7% described themselves as Christian, 3.2% Muslim and 13.4% had no religion. In the same census, 19.9% were identified as under 15; 21.0% were over 60. The average age of residents was 38½. A total of 24.2% of non-pensioner households were recorded as having no working adults.

About 9,000 firms are based in the city. Amongst the more notable are bet365, and Phones4U, a large retailer of mobile phones. The Michelin tyre company has a complex in the city, Sainsbury’s supermarket and The Co-operative Pharmacy have large warehouses in the city. Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, are the largest employers. KPMG’s Competitive Alternatives 2004 report declared Stoke-on-Trent to be the most cost-effective place to set up a new UK business.

Staffordshire Oatcakes (very different from the Scottish version and traditionally made in corner-shop style oatcake bakeries) are a much-loved local culinary speciality. Stoke on Trent has a local dialect called “Potteries”. Famous local people include Reginald Mitchell designer of the Spitfire fighter plane, Stanley Matthews footballer, Robbie Williams pop singer, Arthur Berry artist, Clarice Cliff and Susie Cooper ceramics designers and Arnold Bennett author.

WolverhamptonWalsallWest Bromwich and Smethwick were in Staffordshire until local government reorganisation in 1974, but are now within the West Midlands County in the West Midlands Conurbation.

Walsall is a large industrial town located northwest of Birmingham and east of Wolverhampton and part of the Black Country. Walsall is the administrative headquarters of the Metropolitan Borough of Walsall, though it has changed its name to Walsall Council. In the 2001 census, the town had a population of 170,994 with the wider borough having a population of 253,500. Neighbouring towns in the borough include Brownhills, WillenhallBloxwich and Aldridge.

The Industrial Revolution changed Walsall from a village of 2,000 people in the 16th century to a town of over 86,000 in approximately 200 years. The town manufactured a wide range of products including saddles, chains, buckles and plated ware. Nearby, limestone quarrying provided the town with much prosperity. Walsall underwent modernisation in the 1970s with a new town centre being built at the expense of some medieval properties. Walsall is currently undergoing a new era of urban regeneration with many brownfield sites being replaced with modern houses, flats and offices.

The religious distribution of Walsall urban area can said to be roughly, 60% Christian, 25% Muslim, 12% Sikh, 6% Hindu and 2% other.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staffordshire

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoke-on-Trent

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walsall

Key texts:
  1. Regional policies and general information about the region

     

  2. Projects and organisations
  3. Tourist Information

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