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Black Country Day: Six reasons you should love the Black Country

By Mark Andrews | Entertainment | Published:

What’s so great about the Black Country? Here’s six points for starters:

Gracie Sheppard and Black Country Museum demonstrator Ray Franklin outside the Newcomen Engine in Steam building

From the Norman Conquest to the English Civil War the history of Britain has been shaped by the goings on at Dudley Castle.

Dudley Castle

In 1553 its owner John Dudley had his daughter-in-law Lady Jane Grey installed as queen of England and Ireland, although her reign would last for only nine days. When Mistress Dorothy Beaumont, wife of Royalist leader Lt Col John Beaumont, died at the castle, the Roundheads outside even stopped fighting to allow her funeral procession to make its way around the town. Now that’s what you call history.

We’re the only people who still speak proper English.

Our dialect is the closest to Old English

According to academic Ed Conduit, the Black Country dialect is the closest thing we now have to Old English. While other areas of the country allowed their language to be corrupted, first by the Vikings, and later by the Normans, we refused to slip into the sloppy mish-mash of English, Norse and French which blighted the rest of the country. More than anywhere else, Black Country folk fought to retain the established standards of grammar and pronunciation, and we still speak better English than anybody from the Home Counties – no matter what those southern softies might say.

Humour.

Frank Skinner

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From Billy Dainty to Josie Lawrence, from Aynuk and Ayli to Frank Skinner, not forgetting Tommy Mundon, Lenny Henry, Lizzie Wiggins and Norman Pace, the Black Country has produced some of the greatest comedians the world has known – and they do it without having to resort to smut or foul language. Black Country folk just have a better sense of humour than anybody else, it’s as simple as that.

We built the modern world.

Abraham Darby

The first working steam engine was built in Dudley, and Abraham Darby, considered by many to be the father of the Industrial Revolution, was also born in the town. West Bromwich was well known for its small arms, and Willenhall led the world when it came to making locks. And not forgetting giant steelworks such as Stewart and Lloyds in Bilston, Patent Shaft in Wednesbury and Round Oak in Brierley Hill which produced the metal which transformed our lives.

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Our fittle’s just bostin’.

Faggots, peas and mash - yum!

The Black Country is the world leader in all things food and drink. If you’re not convinced, just try eating a packet of pork scratchings that is not made in Tipton, and you will know exactly what we are talking about. They just don’t taste the same, do they? The Campaign for Real Ale was founded by former Express & Star journalist Michael Hardman, and in the 46 years that followed it has transformed our beer industry from one dominated by a handful of brewing giants churning out bland, gassy beers, to today’s thriving market made up of thousands of craft ales. And imagine a world without faggots, grey peas and Grorty Dick pudding. Doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

There is so much to see and do.

The Black Country Living Museum

Dudley Zoo, which celebrates its 80th birthday this year, is home to around 1,000 animals spanning more than 200 different species, ranging from snow leopards to giraffes. And when you have finished looking around the animals, you can then explore more then 900 years of history at the castle. If that’s not your thing, the Black Country Living Museum recreates a bygone era with its old-fashioned village which has been used as the setting for several television series, most notably Peaky Blinders.The Lock Maker’s House in Willenhall takes you back to a time when the area led the world in the security industry, while The Oak House in West Bromwich is a fine example of an Elizabethan timber-framed yeoman’s house with lantern tower and wood-panelled rooms furnished with authentic 17th century furniture.and of course, don’t forget Himley Hall, a popular retreat for the Royal Family when they fancied getting away from the hustle and bustle of London, and where King Edward VIII reputedly wrote his abdication speech.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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