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Brierley Hill High Street Heritage Action Zone

The High Streets Heritage Action Zones is a government funded project aimed at helping the recovery of local high streets.

In May 2019 the High Streets Heritage Action Zones was launched. It is a £95m government funded project, being delivered by Historic England which aims to help with the recovery of local high streets, from regenerating historic buildings to helping to engage local communities through art and cultural projects.

In September 2019 it was confirmed that Dudley Council’s application for the Brierley Hill High Street Conservation was successful and that it was to be one of 60 High Streets across England to receive a £1.8m share of the funding. In September 2021 the overall grant award was increased by an additional £242,171 in order that extra funding could be provided for Brierley Hill War Memorial.

The project will run from 2020 to 2024 and will focus on the Brierley Hill High Street Conservation Area and proposes a series of building projects (repair, architectural reinstatement and the bringing of vacant property back onto use) and public realm improvements to the gateways into the Conservation Area (around the Brierley Hill Civic Hall and the Grade II listed Brierley Hill War Memorial). 

Running alongside the project there will be a cultural programme which will be coordinated/led by Brierley Hill Community Forum and there will be a programme of activities designed to engage with the local community. 

The Brierley Hill High Street Heritage Action Zone (HSHAZ) will complement the wider regeneration programme proposed for Brierley Hill which includes the Metro and the Future High Street Fund and the HSHAZ will play a key role in the economic and social recovery of the town centre following COVID-19. 

If you have any enquires about the Brierley Hill High Street Heritage Action Zone email the HSHAZ Project Manager.

You can also continue to look for further updates posted both here, and on the Regeneration Projects page.

How will the Funding be Used?

Delivered Projects

Bells of Brierley Hill

With the help of Brierley Hill High Street HAZ funding a 'School of Bell Ringing' has been established at St Michael's Church by the Brierley Hill Bell Ringers.

It is working with the Worcestershire and Districts Change Ringing Association, Birmingham School of Bell Ringing and Association of Ringing Teachers to provide training for all those wishing to get the 'silent churches' in the West Midlands ringing again.

St Michael's Church has a set of 8 historically significant church bells which are perfect for this training. Thanks to funding from the High Street HAZ a sound control system has been provided which silences the bells thereby enabling bell ringing practice to take place any hour of the day.

Round Here - The Beauty of Brierley Hill

On the 14 January 2022 an Expression of Interest was submitted to Historic England by Dudley Council and Brierley Hill Community Forum/Cultural Consortium for Brierley Hill to be the host of a national music commission in the summer of 2022.

It was confirmed late January that the submission had been successful, and that Brierley Hill was to be one of 6 High Streets selected to participate in the ‘Round Here’ event.

Chris Roberts along with Zachary Lowe worked with pupils at Brockmoor Primary School to write and compose a brand-new song about the High Street in Brierley Hill called 'The Beauty of Brierley Hill'. It was born out of workshops between the musicians and members of the local community, celebrating aspects of Brierley Hill's heritage: the steelworks, the cinema, the hill and the High Street.

On 10 July, the song was premiered at Civic Theatre.

Marsh Park – Centenary

Marsh Park occupies a large area in the south-west of the Brierley Hill High Street Heritage Action Zone. It was created by the owners of the Marsh and Baxter bacon factory in the early 20th century, using the site of a former fire clay pit and brick works.

Marsh Park is an Archaeological Priority Area (APA) and retains remnants of the clay works, including a large oval hollow, which reflects the shape of the former shaft.

The park was conveyed by a Deed of gift to Brierley Hill District Council to be used as a public park in 1921 with 2021 being its centenary year. The park furniture included a bandstand, bowling green, two avenues of trees and a circular track.

The park provides an important area of green open space and is a visible reminder of the former landscape of extraction and the importance of Brierley Hill to the supply of fire bricks, important to the local glass and metal working industries.

In its centenary year, September 2021, a ‘Picnic in the Park’ was hosted by Brierley Hill Community Forum to celebrate this important public green space.

Hug your Hi! Street

Hug your High Street event took place on Saturday 5th March and was organised by the Brierley Hill Cultural Consortium working closely with Brierley Hill Market, local traders and our High Street HAZ Team.

It consisted of an all day family entertainment with vintage theme including sideshows, penny farthings, creative workshops and vintage style entertainers and a Peaky Blinder event at the Market.

The Midland Fretted Orchestra held a concert on the Civic Green (one of the spaces proposed for public realm improvements through the main HAZ programme). It was the first-time permission has been granted to use this space for an event so it was a really good pilot project for future events.

The highlight of the day was when a large crowd of members of the public were invited to show their love of Brierley Hill High Street by gathering in Marsh Park to create a giant heart shape.


Brierley Hill War Memorial

For years one and two of the High Street HAZ programme the priority was works to the Grade II listed Brierley Hill War memorial. The works were divided up into two phases.

Phase 1 commenced on-site in August 2021 and focused on installing lighting, repairs and architectural reinstatement works to the Brierley Hill War Memorial and its immediate setting and was completed in time for its centenary event where cascades of knitted poppies were able to be installed, all hand created by an army of local community volunteers coordinated by Top Church Training and Dudley ACL.

Phase 2 commenced on-site late November 2021 and focused on the War Memorial Garden where significant stabilisation works to the embankment had to be undertaken, along with structural repairs to the intermediate walls that run through its centre plus the laying out of a soft landscaping scheme which included installation of 4 planters in the 4 inset bays and the laying of the new tablet for the Delph War Memorial.

The project was completed in-time of the 24 July for the Queen’s Baton relay. In support of the launch of Brierley Hill in Bloom and the Queens Jubilee, a cascade of knitted flowers was installed at the War memorial.

The Brierley Hill Songbook

Thanks to funding through the Cultural Programme, the people of Brierley Hill took part in workshops and writing sessions with the celebrated Black Country singer/songwriter Dan Whitehouse. Together they captured the stories of Brierley Hill in Song, celebrating the colourful heritage of the town, from the canal to boxing, and pots and pans to pints of Wobble!  The songs composed through the workshops are known as the 'Brierley Hill Song Book' and were performed live on Wednesday 13 September 2023. 

Memories of Round Oak Steel Works.

Standing on land now occupied by the Merry Hill Shopping Centre, was, as it was initially known, Round Oak Ironworks. Starting operations in 1855, the plant was designed and built to the highest standards and rapidly established a reputation for itself of producing some of the highest quality iron. Round Oak’s product commanded a price about £1 per ton higher than other makes.

Later in the nineteenth century it became known as Round Oak Steelworks. In 1891, the erection of a basic open-hearth steelworks was commenced alongside the iron works, and the new equipment came into operation in 1894. The plant consisted of three 17-ton open-hearth furnaces, one 30-inch cogging mill, and one 28-inch finishing mill.

Many people employed at Round Oak worked there for their entire lives; certificates awarded to individuals celebrating fifty years and more of service being common. Some of the jobs people did would by their very nature have been dirty and dangerous, but through the heat and the steam, one can sense a considerable degree of pride in the work that was done here.

In the middle of November 1982 workers were informed that the plant would be closing. A month later in December of 1982, the last shift left; the furnaces were left to run cold, ending well over a century of operations. Vast, empty buildings spanning an area of over 1 square kilometre stood empty; a silent shadow and ghostly, empty shell of their former glory.

In 1984, demolition to clear the former plant buildings commenced and by 1989 all trace of their existence was gone as the new Merry Hill Shopping Centre was opened. It was the beginning of a new chapter in the life of Brierley Hill.

Though Round Oak Steelworks may have gone, it is far from forgotten.

Further information

If you want to know about what is a High Street Heritage Action Zone and why is the focus on high streets or what can the money be spent on, Historic England have set up a Frequently Asked Questions page.

Public realm enhancements documents

Self-Guided Trails around Brierley Hill

Brierley Hill Heritage Day