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General information

The Black Country has been synonomous with heavy industry for centuries. Steel has always been its mainstay, with production, engineering and fabricating at its heart.

History:   Industrialisation in the Black Country area goes back a long way. It was already an area where metal working was important as far back as the 16th century, due to the presence of iron ore and of coal in a seam 30 feet (9 m) thick, the thickest seam in Great Britain, which outcropped in various places. Many people had an agricultural smallholding and supplemented their income by working as nailers or smiths, an example of a phenomenon known to economic historians as proto-industrialisation.

Cradley Heath

A part of the West Midlands conurbation, Cradley Heath is located in the south of the Sandwell Metropolitan Borough, approximately 8 miles west of Birmingham. It is situated in a low lying area of the Black Country, south of the limestone ridge that runs through the area, with the River Stour forming the southern boundary with Cradley, and the Mousesweet Brook (a tributary of the River Stour) forming the northern border, between Quarry Bank and Netherton. Both also act as the boundary between the metropolitan boroughs of Sandwell and Dudley.

From the introduction of machine-based nail-making around 1830, Cradley Heath developed two prolific industries - chainmaking and nailmaking - which would remain strong for decades afterwards. Among the metallurgical companies that were active in the area was the British Iron Company and its successor, the New British Iron Company, who operated iron and steel works at Corngreaves from 1825 to 1894. The works subsequently continued under other owners until 1912. It was only during the 1980s recession that the iron-working industries based in Cradley Heath began to decline.

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