The Black Country where I was born and grew up was the creation of the Industrial Revolution, and it is hard to think of any area of England which better typifies the results of that careless, greedy rape. Welsh pits, Lancashire cotton mills, Tyneside shipyards have produced their grim working-conditions and their grimmer living-conditions, but nothing, I think, quite equals the berserk ravaging of the land which went on in the area to the immediate north of Birmingham. Even today the sprawling conurbation spilling out from Birmingham towards West Bromwich, Walsall and Wolverhampton bears the scars and is a planner's nightmare. To a Victorian guidebook writer it looked like this:
The whole district round about here is a mass of apparent disorganisation, confusion and ruin. By day we see nothing but the remains of the disembowelling of the earth; heaps of stones, clay, coal, cinders and ashes, as if a volcano had burst out and covered the country with its lava; furnaces, chimneys, forges and iron works, beds of burning coal, coal pits with their engines and apparatus, and waggons conveying loads of stone and coal in every direction. . . . The whole is constantly enveloped in the gloom of one perpetual cloud of smoke, which bedims and darkens the country for miles around.