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Dudley is a large town in the West Midlands, England, with a population of 194,919. Since 1974 it has been the administrative centre of the wider Metropolitan Borough of Dudley. It is the 19th largest settlement in England, measured by Urban Sub-Area, and is the second largest town in the United Kingdom, behind Reading.
Dudley, part of the West Midlands conurbation, is located south of Wolverhampton and is the largest town in the Black Country. The town centre, for many years, formed part of an exclave of Worcestershire entirely surrounded by Staffordshire - which has determined the fact that, in ecclesiastical terms, it has remained part of the Anglican Diocese of Worcester.
Dudley has a history dating back to medieval times. Dudley Castle has stood in the town since the 11th century, and is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The present castle dates from the 13th century, and provided the centre around which the town grew. The oldest condoms found (rather than just pictures or descriptions) are from 1640, discovered in Dudley Castle in England.
The town industrialised rapidly in the 18th and 19th centuries, and its population grew dramatically. Due to its heavy and highly polluting industries it became a central part of the Black Country. The main industries in Dudley included coal and limestone mining. Other industries included iron, steel, engineering, metallurgy, glass cutting, textiles and leatherworking. Most of these industries have declined in recent decades.
Of historical significance, the first Newcomen steam engine was installed at the Conygree coalworks a mile east of Dudley Castle in 1712.
Dudley was mostly made up of farms and factories surrounded by the occasional cottage until the 19th century, when many rows of terraced houses with terrible sanitation were built. These in turn were cleared between the 1920s and 1960s to make way for council owned houses and flats. The Dudley area also consists of many privately owned houses including some late 19th/early 20th century homes which are still standing but have been modernised to keep up with modern sanitation standards.
The first major council housing development was the Priory Estate, near the border of Sedgley, where more than 2,000 houses were built between 1929 and 1939. The Wrens Nest Estate followed soon afterwards. It stands in the shadow of Wrens Nest Hill, where many Silurian fossils can be found including crinoids, corals and trilobites.
The village of Lower Gornal, just outside Dudley, was the epicentre for the Dudley earthquake of 2002, the largest earthquake to hit the United Kingdom in nearly 10 years.
Dudley became a municipal borough in 1865. In 1889 it became a county borough. The County Borough of Dudley included the town of Dudley and the villages of Woodside and Netherton. In the 1961 census, the County Borough had a population of 62,965.
n 1966, the county borough was expanded to include the majority of the urban district councils of Brierley Hill and Sedgley, approximately half of Coseley along with small areas of Amblecote, Rowley Regis and Tipton, plus a tiny area from the rural district of Seisdon. As the majority of these areas were part of Staffordshire, Dudley was transferred from Worcestershire to the county of Staffordshire. The part of Tividale which existed within Dudley was at this time transferred into Warley County Borough. These changes meant that the population of Dudley County Borough at the time of the 1971 census increased to 185,592; an increase of almost 300% from the 1961 figure.
Dudley's borough boundaries were further expanded in 1974 to become a metropolitan borough, having taken in the boroughs of Halesowen and Stourbridge (both formerly in Worcestershire). This meant a further increase in population, which by the time of the 1981 census was 298,511 - an increase of five times the population of only twenty years before.
Since 1974, Dudley has been part of the West Midlands county.
The town is home to Dudley Zoo, and the Black Country Living Museum. Visitors to the museum may also take a narrowboat trip from the adjacent canal, through the Dudley Tunnel. The ruined Dudley Castle is within the grounds of the zoo, and there is an extensive wooded ridge that runs north from the castle. Dudley Zoo is to be regenerated under proposals by Dudley Zoo in partnership with Dudley Council, St Modwen and Advantage West Midlands, which will see a former freightliner site redeveloped with a tropical dome, Asiatic forest, two aquatic facilities and walkthrough aviaries. It is expected to cost £38.7 million.
There are many canals in and around Dudley, the main one being the Dudley Canal. These are popular with walkers, cyclists, fishermen, and narrowboat users. Many of the canalside towpaths have been upgraded for cycling, and some sections are part of the National Cycle Network.
The Wren's Nest National Nature Reserve is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) considered to be one of the most notable geological locations in the British Isles. Dudley Museum and Art Gallery has a large collection of its well-preserved Silurian coral reef fossils, plus numerous displays relating to the history of the town.
Established in 1260, Dudley Market in Dudley town centre is a major shopping area for the town. It has undergone numerous developments in its history. One major development was in the 1980s when the area was pedestrianised and the 12th century cobblestones were removed. Other developments have included the addition of a new roof and new toilet facilities.
Dudley is covered by two parliamentary constituencies, Dudley South and Dudley North, which also represent some other towns within the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley. The current MPs elected from these seats to the House of Commons are both from the Labour party.
Law enforcement in Dudley is carried out by the West Midlands Police and fire and rescue by the West Midlands Fire Service.
The nearest railway stations are all a mile or more from Dudley town centre; Tipton railway station and Dudley Port railway station are served by local services operated by Central Trains, and Sandwell and Dudley railway station which is served by both local Central services and Virgin Trains West Coast services from London Euston to Wolverhampton.
Dudley railway station, in the town of Dudley itself, opened in 1850, and closed under the Beeching Axe in 1964. In its heyday it was a hub of services east to Birmingham (via a junction at Great Bridge), Walsall and Lichfield; north to Wolverhampton, Tipton and Coseley; and south-west to Stourbridge, as well as a line that served the small communities on the way to Old Hill and Halesowen. This site was then used as a Freightliner terminal by Freightliner UK until an unpopular closure on the 26 September 1989.
Dudley is currently England's largest town that is not served by passenger trains. Both of the town's railway stations (Dudley and Blowers Green) were closed in 1962 under the Beeching Axe, although the line through Dudley remained open to goods trains until 1993. In 2010, the town is set to regain a rail link for the first time in almost half a century when an extension to the Midland Metro opens between Brierley Hill and Wednesbury, although the Midland Metro is a Light Rail system, and does not feature through ticketing to the national rail network.
The bus station also sees limited service from National Express, whose services call at the bus station mostly for London or Wolverhampton. Other places served include holiday destination Blackpool and London Heathrow and London Gatwick Airports. There is also a bus station at Russells Hall Hospital.
The nearest international airport is Birmingham International Airport, around 25 miles to the south. The nearest local airport is Wolverhampton Airport, which is about 10 miles to the west of the town.
Dudley is served by a range of primary schools. Several of these are Church of England primary schools. For example, Jessons Church of England Primary School, St Chads Roman Catholic School, St Edmund's and St John's Church of England Primary School and Netherton Church of England Primary School are all Church of England primary schools.
Other primary schools in the town include Priory Primary School, Kates Hill Primary School, Sledmere Primary School, Russells Hall Primary School, Milking Bank Primary School, Highgate Primary School, Northfield Road Primary School, Dudley Wood Primary School, Netherbrook Primary School and Blowers Green Primary School. Many of these schools are named after the housing estates they are located within.
Wrens Nest Primary School
Wrens Nest Primary School is a primary school that was built during the late 1930s to serve the new council housing estate which was being built at the time. The school expanded in September 2006 to accommodate pupils transferred from the nearby Sycamore Green Primary School, which had closed due to falling numbers on the school roll. The school's headteacher is Mrs R. Wylie.
There are four secondary schools in Dudley. Castle High School is a visual arts college and secondary school. It was formed as a result of a merger between The Dudley School, Sir Gilbert Claughton School and The Blue Coat School. It also occupies the buildings which once consisted of Dudley Boys Grammar School and land that was once used for Dudley Girls High School. It is one of the newest schools in the town.
Holly Hall School is comprehensive school in Dudley and has computing and mathematics college status. Bishop Milner Roman Catholic School is a Roman Catholic secondary school in Dudley. Constructed in 1958, it became one of the first Roman Catholic secondary schools in the region and is the oldest existing school in Dudley. Hillcrest School is another secondary school in Dudley.
There are three special schools within Dudley. Old Park School serves pupils from the age of 3 to 19. Rosewood School also caters for children within the age range.
The Sutton School, built 1962, caters only for pupils from 11-16.
As well as The Dudley School, Sir Gilbert Claughton School and The Blue Coat School which merged to form Castle High School which also occupies the land and buildings of Dudley Boys Grammar School and Dudley Girls High School, other defunct schools in the town include Rosland Secondary School, which became part of The Blue Coat School in 1970, and Park Secondary School. Mons Hill School also shut down as a result of falling pupil numbers.
Primary schools that no longer exist include St John's Primary School and St Edmund's Primary School which both merged together to form St Edmund's and St John's Church of England Primary School in the 1970s. The St Edmund's Primary School building still exists and is currently used as Dudley Central Mosque.
Sycamore Green Primary School shut down in July 2006 following a consultation period which ended in the decision that it was no longer necessary to keep the school open as a result of falling pupil numbers. Staff and pupils were transferred to the Wrens Nest Primary School and the school buildings are currently used as a Pupil Referral Unit for students studying at Key Stage 3.
Dudley College is a college of further education and lies mainly to the north of the town centre, with a further campus at Wren's Nest. It is Dudley's only college of further education.
Prior to 2002, there was a campus of the University of Wolverhampton within the town.
In October 2006, Dudley Beacon and Castle Primary Care Trust and Dudley South Primary Care Trust merged to become Dudley Primary Care Trust. It is chaired by Mark Cooke.
Dudley is served by two major NHS health facilities. Dudley Guest Hospital was the first to be constructed however began as a charity to accommodate blinded local miners in 1849. The charity did not become popular and it was taken over by a local chainmaker who turned it into a hospital in 1871. As a result of the loss of the Emergency department, the hospital has become a less important facility compared with the Russells Hall Hospital, also in Dudley.
Russells Hall Hospital was constructed in 1976 but immediate problems meant that it could not open until 1983. A major expansion of the hospital was completed in 2004 following the downgrading of Wordsley Hospital, Dudley Guest Hospital and Corbett Hospital. Another hospital serving Dudley is Bushey Fields Hospital.
Dudley is served by a number of local newspapers. The town has its own version of the Express & Star, published daily Monday to Saturday. There are also Dudley News, which is published weekly, and the Black Country Bugle, which looks at the history of Dudley and the rest of the Black Country. Dudley was also served by the Dudley Evening Mail until its absorption into the Birmingham Evening Mail in late 1986. Televised local news is provided through Midlands Today and Central Tonight, which also serve the wider area of the West Midlands.
BBC Radio WM, 100.7 Heart FM, Kerrang! 105.2 FM, and Saga 105.7 FM are some of the local radio stations that can be received in Dudley, also serving the wider West Midlands. MXR West Midlands also serves Dudley, as well as the rest of the West Midlands region.
The front and inner photographs for the 1971 Led Zeppelin IV album were taken in the Eve Hill area of town; the main tower block, shown side on, is Butterfield Court, off Salop Street, and still stands today. There were two other blocks in the Eve Hill area, all constructed during the 1960s, but they were both demolished in controlled explosions on 18 July 1999. Private housing, in a development known as Squire's Gate, was constructed on the site of the flats in 2002.
The borehole in local author Hugh Walter' juvenile science fiction story The Mohole Mystery was sited in Dudley.
The television comedy series The Grimleys, though set in Dudley was filmed in Salford, Greater Manchester.
Dudley is the largest town in England never to have had a league football club. The town's key football team, Dudley Town F.C, has never progressed beyond the Southern Premier League.