Dudley has been since 1974 a large town in the county of the West Midlands in England. It is located 6 miles (9.7 km) south-east of Wolverhampton and 8 miles (13 km) north-west of Birmingham. The town is the administrative centre of the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley and in 2011 had a population of 79,379. However, this figure excludes areas such as Sedgley and Gornall which under previous methodology were included in the town. The Dudley urban sub-division up area has a population of 194,919, while the wider metropolitan borough has a population of 312,900 (see Demography in the Wikipedia article). Dudley is sometimes called the capital of the Black Country.
For many years the town (but not the castle, which was outside the boundary in Staffordshire) formed part of an exclave of the county of Worcestershire. The change to include Dudley in Staffordshire only occurred in 1966. Wikipedia includes a map of 1814 illustrating the placement of the county border at that time. Despite the more recent changes in county boundaries, the town and borough still remain part of the Anglican Diocese of Worcester. There are further notes on Dudley Castle below.
Period of the Middle Ages
Dudley Castle, constructed in 1070 by Ansculf de Picquigny after his acquisition of the town, served as the seat of the extensive Barony of Dudley, which possessed estates in eleven different counties across England.
The castle provided the centre from which the town and borough grew, with early coal and iron workings helping establish Dudley as a major market town during the Middle Ages, selling not only agricultural produce, but also iron goods at a national level. Working iron and mining for coal was in practice as early as the 13th century. The first mention of Dudley's status as a borough dates from the mid-13th century, when Roger de Somery, then Baron of Dudley, approved of the establishment of a market in nearby Wolverhampton. An inquisition after his death further established the value and importance of the borough, with mentions to the town's growing coal industry.
Early modern and Industrial Revolution
By the early 16th century the Dudley estate, now held by the Sutton family, had become severely in debt, and was first mortgaged to distant relative John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, before being sold outright in 1535. Following Dudley's death, the estate returned to the Sutton family, during which time the town was visited by Queen Elizabeth during a tour of England.
During the English Civil War Dudley served as a Royalist stronghold, with the castle besieged twice by the Parliamentarians and later partly demolished on the orders of the Government after the Royalist surrender.
Dudley had become an incredibly impoverished place during the 16th and 17th centuries, but the advent of the Industrial Revolution began to reverse this trend. In the early 17th century, Dud Dudley, an illegitimate son of Edward Sutton, 5th Baron Dudley, devised a method of smelting iron ore using coke at his father's works in Cradley and Pensnett Chase, though his trade was unsuccessful due to circumstances of the time. His techniques were later refined by his distant relative Abraham Darby, who established his works in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire.
Dud Dudley's discovery, together with improvements to the local road network and the construction of the Dudley Canal between 1779 and 1792, made Dudley into an important industrial and commercial centre. The first Newcomen steam engine, used to pump water from the mines of the Lord Dudley's estates, was installed at the Conygree coal works a mile east of Dudley Castle in 1712. This is challenged by Wolverhampton, which also claims to have been the location of the first working Newcomen engine.
Dudley's population grew dramatically during the 18th and 19th centuries because of the increase in industry, with the main industries including coal and limestone mining. Other industries included iron, steel, engineering, metallurgy, glass cutting, textiles and leatherworking.
19th and 20th centuries
During this time living conditions remained incredibly poor, with Dudley being named 'the most unhealthy place in the country', which led to the installation of clean water supplies and sewage systems, and later the extensive development of council housing during the early 20th century to relocate the occupants of local slum housing.
Following parliamentary reforms in 1966, Dudley was expanded to include the majority of the former urban districts of Brierley Hill and Sedgley, along with parts of Coseley, Amblecote and Rowley Regis; an area in the eastern section of the town was also transferred into the new borough of Warley. At this time Dudley commenced its 8-year sojourn in Staffordshire before transferring to the West Midlands in 1974.
Dudley Castle is a ruined fortification in the town of Dudley, West Midlands, England. Dudley Zoo is located in its grounds. The location, Castle Hill, is an outcrop of Wenlock Group limestone that was extensively quarried during the Industrial Revolution, and which now along with Wren's Nest Hill is a Scheduled Ancient Monument as the best surviving remains of the limestone industry in Dudley. It is also a Grade I listed building. The Dudley Tunnel runs beneath Castle Hill, but not the castle itself.
Quoting from Wikipedia
In 1889, the extra-parochial place of Dudley Castle, formerly in Worcestershire, became a detached part of Staffordshire, surrounded by the county borough of Dudley, itself a detached part of Worcestershire. In 1894, [on the establishment of rural districts], the area became the only parish in Dudley Rural District. In 1929, it was absorbed by the civil parish and county borough of Dudley, Worcestershire.
Dudley Castle Hill was also considered to be part of Dudley Rural District.
Dudley Archives and Local History (Link revised.)
Staffordshire Research Tips
Reminder: Staffordshire today covers a much smaller area than formerly. The West Midlands now governs the southeastern corner of pre-1974 Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent, although ceremonially still part of Staffordshire, is a unitary authority covering a large well-populated part of the north of the county.
Further Research Tips
Refer to Wikipedia for sources for the above article.