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Dudley, Worcestershire

Historical Description

Dudley, an important manufacturing and market-town, a municipal and parliamentary borough, a county borough under the Local Government Act of 1888, the head of a county-court district and poor-law union, and a parish in Worcestershire and partly in Staffordshire. The town stands in a detached part of Worcestershire, on a ridge of the Pennine Hills, at the Dudley Canal, 5 miles NE of Stour-bridge, 6 S of Wolverhampton, 8½ WNW of Birmingham, and 122 distant by rail from London. It has stations on the G.W.R. and L. & N.W.R. Its name is derived from Dudo the Saxon, who built a castle at it in 7 GO. The castle stands on a high elevation north of the town; was given by the Conqueror to William Fitz-Ansculph; passed to Ralph Paganel, who held it for Queen Maud; was demolished in 1175 by Henry II.; was rebuilt in the time of Henry III.; and passed by marriage to the de Somereys, to the Suttons, Lords Dudley, and by marriage to the Wards, whose descendant is the present Earl of Dudley. It suffered several sieges and final dismantlement in the wars of Charles I., was afterwards fitted up as a residence, but was destroyed by fire in 1750. The keep still stands, is a remarkable specimen of old military architecture; and commands a panoramic view of about 300 miles in circuit, and numerous roofless fragments of walls, windows, and doorways partly surround a green which was once the courtyard. Famous limestone caverns and quarries are in the Castle Hill, and were the scene of a lecture to the British Association in 1849, and of a fete attended by upwards of 30,000 persons, under management of the Geological Society in 1850. Extensive grounds, open to the public, surround the ruins, and are thickly planted with trees and traversed in all directions by paths and drives. A Cluniac priory was founded to the west of the castle in 1161 by Gervase Paganel, and became a cell to Wenlock Abbey; slight remains of the convent church still exist.

The town originally consisted of one long street with a church at each end, but now comprises many other streets, and is well-built and well-drained, and has a good supply of water. The town-hall, in Priory Street, is a handsome modern erection in the Gothic style. In the market-place is a fountain in the Renaissance style by Forsyth, given by the Earl of Dudley. The Geological Museum at the public liall is very rich in local fossils, and particularly in Silurian trilobites, which abound at the Castle Hill. The parish church of St Thomas was erected in 1819 on the site of an older edifice, and was restored in 1862 and again in 1883; it is a fine building with a tall graceful spire. St Edmund's Church, near the castle, was rebuilt in 1724, the previous church having been destroyed when the castle was dismantled. There are four other district churches-St James, St John, St Luke, and St Augustine-and a mission chapel. 'The Roman Catholic chapel was built from designs by Pugin. There are Congregational, Primitive and New Connexion Methodist, Unitarian, Baptist, and Presbyterian chapels, and a meeting-house for the Society of Friends. The Unitarian .chapel was burnt during the Sacheverel riots in 1715, and rebuilt immediately afterwards at the expense of Government. The free library and school of art was erected in 1884. The Guest Hospital was originally erected by the Earl of Dudley as an asylum for workmen who had lost their eyesight in the quarries; it was subsequently converted into a general hospital, and endowed by the liberality of a townsman, Thomas Guest, who left £20,000 for this purpose. The dispensary was erected at the expense of the same gentleman. There is also an hospital for infectious diseases. The mechanics' institution is a fine building in the Italian style. There is a fine statue by Birch of the late Earl of Dudley in front of the castle gate; it was erected by subscription in 1888 in recognition of the Earl's services to the town. There are also public baths, a workhouse, and a cemetery. The town has a head post office, two railway stations, two banks, is a seat of petty sessions, and publishes four newspapers. Markets are held on Saturdays, and fairs on the first Monday of March, May, and Oct., and the second Monday in Aug. Dudley relies chiefly for its prosperity on the coal, iron, and limestone with which the neighbourhood abounds. In addition glass making, iron and brass founding, brewing, and malting are carried on, and there are manufactures of bagging, nails, boilers, gasometers, &c., and brick, tile, and cement works. The town sent two members to Parliament in the time of Edward I., was reconstituted a borough by the Act of 1832 and made an incorporate town in 1864, and now sends one member to Parliament. The parliamentary borough includes part of the parishes of Kingswinford and Rowley Regis. The municipal borough has a commission of the peace, and is governed by a mayor, 10 aldermen, and 30 councillors, who form the urban sanitary authority. Acreage of the municipal borough, 3615; population, 45,740; acreage of the parliamentary borough, 7881; population, 90,252.

The parish includes the villages of Netherton and Darby End. Most of the land belongs to the Earl of Dudley. Little of the area lies north of the watershed, and great part is rich in productive strata of coal, ironstone, limestone, and fire-clay. The head living or St Thomas' is a vicarage, and the livings of St Edmund, St James, Sc John, St Andrew, Netherton, and St Luke also are vicarages, and that of St Augustine a perpetual curacy, in the diocese of Worcester; net value of St Thomas, £510 with residence; gross value of St Edmund, £256 with residence; net value of St James, £320 with residence; net value of St Juhn, £320 with residence; gross value of Netherton, £300 with residence; gross value of St Luke, £200; net value of St Augustine, £180. Patron of St Thomas, the Earl of Dudley; of the others, the Vicar of St Thomas. Populations of the ecclesiastical parishes-St Thomas, 6832; St Edmund, 5318; St James, 6557; St John, 6009; St Andrew, Netherton, 12,418; St Luke, 3945; St Augustine, 4661.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyWorcestershire 
Poor Law unionDudley 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Dudley from the following:

Land and Property

The full transcript of the Worcestershire section of the Return of Owners of Land, 1873.


Online maps of Dudley are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Worcestershire papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Worcestershire 1569 is available on the Heraldry page.

RegionWest Midlands
Postal districtDY1
Post TownDudley