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Dudley's industrial heritage

The borough has a unique landscape of steep hills and valleys with a rich supply of mineral resources and a wide variety of associated rock types.

The abundant natural resources were readily accessible at the surface and were uniquely assembled and thrown together by the workings of nature and geological time. This enabled the working of clay and ironstones from roman times using wood and charcoal as fuel.

By the thirteenth century the town of Dudley had coal pits, ironstone mines and forges.

The 17th Century and Lord Dudley

By the seventeenth century serious depletion of forests had occurred and local industrialists turned their minds to finding alternative fuels.

Around 1625, the son of Lord Dudley, known as Dud Dudley, began to experiment with coal as an alternative fuel for iron making. In 1665 he recorded in his book, Metallum Martis, that he had succeeded (after forty years of trials and experiments). He records that this upset the local charcoal workers who destroyed his furnaces.

Dud Dudley has received little recognition in the general scheme of things and until very recently one of the most significant of his works went completely unnoticed. This is that in that same book he provides a map showing Dudley Castle around which he correctly identifies the stratigraphic order and geographic layout of beds of coal and ironstone. This is, we believe, the earliest known geological map and reflects a key point in the development of scientific thinking and information recording and interpretation.

The 18th Century - iron and steel

The English industrialist John Wilkinson built an ironworks at Bradley, near Bilston, in 1767.  It was an area well supplied with ironstone, limestone and coal, if not with water. 

Many other works soon cropped up all over the area creating the heart of the Industrial Revolution and the beginnings of what was to become known as the Black Country

The 19th Century and the new science of geology

In the 1820s and 1830s the leaders of the new science of 'geology' were carving up the history of planet Earth into recognisable periods. One of these early geological pioneers was Sir Roderick Impey Murchison.

He was particularly interested in the fossiliferous rocks of the Midlands of England and Wales. He spent some years travelling and studying these rocks wherever they were exposed by man or nature. He came to Dudley on a number of occasions around 1837. Two years later he published the great pioneering scientific work, The Silurian System, in which he established one of the major time periods in Earth history.

In his book 65% of all of the fossils illustrated and described are from Dudley.
Since this publication Dudley fossils have been illustrated and described in thousands of popular and academic publications. There are now some 600 to 700 species known from the Dudley limestones of which 186 are 'type' specimens and 63 are found nowhere else.

The rocks have been the basis of all development in the Black Country and have provided centuries of wealth, vast quantities of industrial products to Europe and beyond and a truly unique and incredibly important heritage held in trust for the World.

My Dudley

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