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Area Guides - West Midlands  

The West Midlands is one of nine official regions of England at the first level of NUTS for statistical purposes. It covers the western half of the area traditionally known as the Midlands. The region consists of the counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands and Worcestershire. The largest city in the region is Birmingham.

The region is geographically diverse, from the urban central areas of the conurbation to the rural western counties of Shropshire and Herefordshire which border Wales. The longest river in the UK, the River Severn, traverses the region southeastwards, flowing through the county towns of Shrewsbury and Worcester, and the Ironbridge Gorge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Staffordshire is home to the industrialised Potteries conurbation, including the city of Stoke-on-Trent, and the Staffordshire Moorlands area, which borders the southeastern Peak District National Park near Leek. The region also encompasses five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Wye Valley, Shropshire Hills, Cannock Chase, Malvern Hills, and parts of the Cotswolds. Warwickshire is home to the towns of Stratford upon Avon, birthplace of writer William Shakespeare, Rugby, the birthplace of Rugby football and Nuneaton, birthplace to author George Eliot.

Geography

The official region contains the ceremonial counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands and Worcestershire.

There is some confusion in the use of the term “West Midlands”, as the name is also used for the much smaller West Midlands county and conurbation which is in the central belt of the Midlands and on the eastern side of the West Midlands Region. It is also still used by various organisations within that area, such as West Midlands Police and West Midlands Fire Service.

The highest point in the region is Black Mountain, at 703 metres (2,307 ft) in west Herefordshire on the border with Powys, Wales.

The region contains five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), including the Shropshire Hills, Malvern Hills and Cannock Chase, and parts of the Wye Valley and Cotswolds. The Peak District national park also stretches into the northern corner of Staffordshire.

Numerous notable roads pass through the region, with most converging around the central conurbation. The M5, which connects South West England to the region, passes through Worcestershire, near to Worcester, and through the West Midlands county, past West Bromwich, with its northern terminus at its junction with the M6 just south of Walsall. The M6, which has its southern terminus just outside the southeast of the region at its junction with the M1, and which connects the region to North West England, passes Rugby and Nuneaton in Warwickshire, Coventry and Birmingham, and Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire. The M6 toll provides an alternative route to the M6 between Coleshill and Cannock, passing north of Sutton Coldfield and just south of Lichfield. The M40 connects the region through South East England to London, with its northern terminus at its junction with the M42; it passes close to Warwick and Banbury. The M42 connects the M5 at Bromsgrove, passing around the south and east of Birmingham, joining the M40 and M6, passing Solihull and Castle Bromwich, to Tamworth, northeast of Birmingham. The M50 connects the M5 from near Tewkesbury to Ross-on-Wye in the southwest. The M54 connects Wellington in the west, passing Telford, to the M6 near Cannock. The A5 road traverses the region northwest–southeast, passing through Shrewsbury, Telford, Cannock, Tamworth and Nuneaton.

Towns and cities 

Major towns and cities in the West Midlands region include:

Birmingham’s industrial development was triggered by discussions at the Lunar Society of Birmingham at Soho House, Boulton’s house, and products were carried along the BCN Main Line canal. Soho Manufactory was the first man-made-powered factory in world. Chance Brothers of Smethwick built the glass for The Crystal Palace in 1851. Smethwick Engine, now at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, is the oldest working steam engine, made in 1779, and is the oldest working engine in the world. Smethwick was a main centre for making lighthouse lanterns.

Valor Fires in Erdington developed the first radiant gas fire in 1967, a balanced flue fire in 1973, and a natural flame gas fire in 1978. The Erdington site, owned by Iceland’s BDR Thermea, closed in May 2012. The company also built gas cookers; since 2011 the company has been part of Glen Dimplex, who have a site at Cooper’s Bank, south of Gornalwood.

Ditherington Flax Mill in Shrewsbury was the first iron-framed building in the world in 1797. Thomas Bolton & Sons of Froghall, Staffordshire, made the world’s first transatlantic telegraph cable in 1857, having supplied a submarine cable across the English Channel in 1850. GEC Telecommunications was headquartered at the GEC Telephone and Radio Works in Coventry, it has now become the New Century Park, off the A428 north of Stoke Aldermoor in eastern Coventry. On 10 July 1890, a trunk circuit telephone line was opened between London and Birmingham by the National Telephone Company; for the first time this allowed phone calls between the London and the north.[16] The world’s first coaxial cable was laid between London and Birmingham in 1936 to give 40 channels for telephone traffic.[17] and brought into use in 1938, later extended to Manchester in 1940.

Alexander Parkes invented the first man-made plastic (thermoplastic) in Birmingham in 1856. Arthur Leslie Large of Birmingham is credited with inventing the kettle in 1922. Princess Square, Wolverhampton, was the site of Britain’s first traffic lights in 1927. Infrared cameras were developed at the Royal Radar Establishment in Malvern (with EMI Electronics) in 1967. The world’s first Maglev train operated at Birmingham Airport in 1983. The tallest freestanding structure in the region is the chimney of Ironbridge power station at 673 ft. John Baskerville of Birmingham, a former stone carver, largely invented fonts, or typefaces, for printing.

Much of the UK’s car industry would be centred in Coventry and Birmingham; most of this has now gone. Midland Motor Cylinder (part of Birmid Industries) of Smethwick was the largest producer of automobile cylinder blocks in Europe. Fort Dunlop was Europe’s largest tyre plant. Metro-Cammell in Birmingham made most of the 1970s and 1980s London Underground trains. MG Rover (a company of Rover) closed in 2005 (from 1885), The Ryton plant, which made the Peugeot 206, closed at the end of 2006, with production moving to Trnava in Slovakia, and some to a plant at Kolín in the Czech RepublicAlfred Herbert of Coventry was the largest machine-tool manufacturer in the UK for many decades; it was brought down in the 1970s by advancing technology overseas, and complacent strategic decisions of the management (caught like a rabbit in the headlights), finally closing in 1982; many Midlands manufacturing companies followed similar fates in the 1970s and 1980s.

Cadbury launched Dairy Milk in 1905, Bournville in 1906, Fruit & Nut in 1928, Whole Nut in 1930, Cadbury Roses in 1938, and the Cadbury Creme Egg in 1971. George and Richard Cadbury built their factory in 1879 and Bournville in 1893, named after the Bourn brookIceland (supermarket) opened its first store in Oswestry in 1970 – heralding the onset of frozen food in the UK. Alfred Bird invented egg-free custard in 1837 in Birmingham – accidentally given to guests at his home, being created as his wife had an allergy to eggs; he then invented baking powder in 1843 as his wife also had an allergy to yeast

Population spread  

 

Ceremonial County

Population

Population density

Largest local authority

Largest settlement

West Midlands (region)

5,267,337

405/km2

Birmingham (1,006,500)

Birmingham (1,006,500)

West Midlands (county)

2,600,100

2,884/km2

Birmingham (1,006,500)

Birmingham (1,006,500)

Staffordshire

1,062,500

391/km2

Stoke-on-Trent (240,636)

Stoke-on-Trent (259,252)

Worcestershire

552,900

318/km2

Wychavon (116,300)

Worcester (93,400)

Warwickshire

522,200

264/km2

Warwick (132,900)

Nuneaton (70,721)

Shropshire

451,100

129/km2

Shropshire (290,900)

Telford (138,241)

Herefordshire

177,800

82/km2

N/A[23]

Hereford (50,400)

The West Midlands’ population accounts for almost 11% of England’s overall population. 49.36% of the region’s population resides in the West Midlands county, 20.17% in Staffordshire, 10.49% in Worcestershire, 9.91% in Warwickshire, 8.56% in Shropshire, and 3.37% in Herefordshire.

Business Link West Midlands[24] was based on the Quinton Business Park in Quinton, next to Highways England and the M5 at the A456 Quinton Interchange. NHS West Midlands, the strategic health authority was on Hagley Road (A456) in Edgbaston. The West Midlands Ambulance Service is on the Waterfront Business Park in Brierley Hill, off the A461, near the headquarters of West Midlands Police, where the Child Support Agency (CSA) was headquartered. The region’s Manufacturing Advisory Service was on Wolverhampton Science Park off the A449 north of the city centre; this function is now represented by Made in the Midlands, off M4 junction 2 at Pendeford north of Wolverhampton.[25]

The DIT West Midlands (previously UKTI) for the region[26] is based at the West Midlands Chambers of Commerce on Harborne Road (B4284), south of NHS West Midlands west of Five Ways; this was previously at the B4100/B4114 junction south of Aston University near the Matthew Boulton Campus of Birmingham Metropolitan College. Most of the region is covered by the Midlands Air Ambulance, except Warwickshire is covered by the Warwickshire & Northamptonshire Air Ambulance, based at Coventry Airport; both are charity-funded. Sir Anthony Bamford of Staffordshire is the richest British industrialist, at around £3.15bn in 2014; Sir James Dyson is second (£3bn).

Herefordshire and Shropshire , Staffordshire

The brewing companies such as Coors Brewers are in Burton on Trent, as well as Marmite, Marston's Brewery, GNC UK (health supplements), and Doncasters (aerospace components and steel forging, founded by Daniel Doncaster of Sheffield). Conder Structures is a structural steel company next to Marmite on the A5121, and further south Johnson Controls make seats for Toyota in Branston. Spirit Pub Company (which demerged from Punch Taverns in August 2011, and owns Chef & Brewer, Flaming Grill and Fayre & Square) is near the A5121/A38 junction, with Punch Taverns slightly further north. Marley Eternit (part of the Belgium Etex Group), who make Eternit fibre cement roofing (often seen on industrial buildings) are based on the west side of the A38 in the south of Branston, (with another large plant at the A525/A531 junction in Madeley near the M6 at Keele); next door in Dunstall, Lanxess UK (former W. Hawley) make pigments. Michelin Tyres are made at Sideway in Stoke-on-Trent, next to Stoke's only grammar school in the south of Trent Vale. Royal Doulton and Wedgwood are/were based at Burslem and Barlaston respectively. Emma Bridgewater make pottery on the A50 in Hanley. Walkers' Nonsuch makes toffee on the A5007. Portmeirion Pottery, which owns the Royal Worcester brand, is on the B5041 in Stoke. Steelite International (pottery) is based at Middleport, in west Burslem, next to the Trent and Mersey Canal. Dudson (pottery) is on the A50 in the north end of Burslem, towards Tunstall. Wade Ceramics is at Etruria to the east of Wolstanton, near the A53/A500 junction off the A53, near the HQ of the Sentinel newspaper (Harmsworth Printing). Premier Foods make Mr Kipling slices and Cherry Bakewells at Trent Vale in the south of Stoke-on-Trent. Bet365 is situated at Festival Park in Etruria, off the A53, and is Stoke-on-Trent's largest private sector employer. Goodwin Steel Castings makes steel castings in the east of Stoke on the A52. The Co-operative Pharmacy National Distribution Centre is on the A50 at Meir, on the former site of Cookson Ceramics (later Johnson Matthey until its closure in 2003). Dechra Pharmaceuticals makes veterinary pharmaceuticals at Talke, off the A34. Churchill China is at Sandyford near Tunstall at the A50/A527 junction. Sumitomo Electrical Wiring Systems (Europe), which supplies wiring for the automotive industry, is at Silverdale, not far from Keele University. At Kidsgrove off the A34, Converteam (former GEC) make variable speed drives (VSDs); AAH Pharmaceuticals has its Enterprise and Trident divisions in Talke, in the west of Kidsgrove, off the A5011. Phones 4u was at Knutton in the north of Newcastle-under-Lyme until it went bankrupt in 2014. Andritz UK (engineering) is at Wolstanton, off the A34 in the north of Newcastle.

West Midlands county In Central Birmingham  

Car Manufacturers

Secondary education

Selective schools are in low numbers as follows: Birmingham (8), Walsall (2), Wolverhampton (1), Warwickshire (6), Stoke-on-Trent (1), and Telford and Wrekin (2). The highest proportion per head therefore is Warwickshire (its population is between 550,000 and 600,000 people). The other counties and metropolitan boroughs have none, their public education systems are comprehensive in intake. The grammar and independent schools tend to produce pass-rate examination results among the top twenty ranked regionally. Many pupils compete for entrance examinations to attend such long-established Grammar Schools and most have significant parent sponsorship. In 2016 two of the top ten such schools nationally were in Warwickshire, where in the CV37 postal district prices were 34% higher than the county as a whole.[85] The top 20 schools at A-level rarely change from year to year; slightly lower in the table pass-rate boosts and top grades regularly occur among the schools receiving industrial funding, with similar frequency to London, the North East, and the North West, particularly in schools and academies which have some of the most advanced facilities. Around 275,000 secondary schools are in the region, the greatest number after the South East, Greater London and North West.

Universities

The University of Birmingham is the main university in the region[91] and has the most funding. It has a large research grant, as does the University of Warwick, which is the next largest in terms of funding. Birmingham and Warwick are members of the Russell Group of public research universities. Keele and Aston have a moderate research grant, but none of the other universities do. Keele, although having the largest campus in the UK (by area), is one of the smallest universities in the region. There are medical schools at Warwick, Keele and Birmingham. Birmingham and Warwick receive more than twice as much total income than any other university in the region – around £400 million each. Around 45% of students are from the region, and 35% from other parts of the UK, while 20% are from overseas. The region attracts students from South East England owing to good access via the M40 and the West Coast Main Line, but there is a good mix from other regions too, except the North East (especially) and Yorkshire. Students native to the West Midlands are most likely to study in the region (40%), then the East Midlands (12%), the North West (11%), and then Yorkshire (9%). Very few go to the East of England or the North East. The region has a net export of university students to other regions. At time of graduation in 2010 almost 60% of graduates remained in the West Midlands, with 10% going to London, 7% to the South-East, and around 5% to the East Midlands. Very few go to Yorkshire, the North-East, or even (neighbouring) Wales.

Football 

Rugby

In rugby union, the region is home to professional Premiership teams Wasps RFC and Worcester Warriors. In rugby league, Coventry Bears play in the third tier League 1.

Tennis

Britain's first tennis club was founded in 1872 in Leamington Spa. The modern rules of lawn tennis were developed in 1874 by Leamington Tennis Club. Tennis was pioneered in Edgbaston in 1859, and Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Society also claims to be the oldest tennis club in the world, where tennis was invented by Major Harry Gem and the Spaniard Augurio Perera