Saturday, 22 June 2013

Descriptions of the Black Country

The Industrial Landscape of the Black Country
Blast furnaces at Cradley
In his 1936 novel, The Far Forest, Francis Brett Young who was born in Halesowen, describes the Black Country of the 19th century:

"A sunless, treeless waste, within a crescent of mournful hills from whose summits a canopy of eternal smoke was suspended above a slagged desert, its dead surface only variegated by conglomerations of brick surrounding the forges and pit-heads and brick-yards and furnaces in which the smoke was brewed; by mounds on which the mineral and metallic waste of these had been tipped, as on gigantic middens; by drowned clay-pits and sullen canals whose surface appropriately reflected an apocalyptic sky."

On the pursuits of local people, Francis Brett Young says:

"Rat Killing Legers" took place every week in the pubs. Each pub had its private rat-pit, into which as many as thirty rats could be thrown at a time. "Rats for pounds" was the rule: a terrier of nine pounds was expected to kill three rats in a minute; and the smallest dog that could kill the most rats was the winner. Sometimes the dogs fought. Sometimes the owners of the dogs fought each other. They die as they live with a terrific and violent suddenness. Their lives are full-bloodied and lawless. The law of the land - Factory Acts included - rarely runs. Half a century ago the inhabitants stoned strangers at sight. Even now they may fling them black looks that are hard as stones.

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