Birmingham dominates the West Midlands, being
Britain’s second largest city. The area is traditionally associated with the bustling energy of the Industrial Revolution and museums today
commemorate its 19th century role as one of the great workshops of the world.
Most of the scars of industry have now healed, enabling today’s
visitors to appreciate Birmingham’s many noble buildings and beautiful parks.
grew again after its fierce blitzing in the Second World War;
the ruins of its old cathedral stand beside Sir Basil Spence’s
impressive recent building.
Much of the West Midlands was once covered by the Forest of Arden, where Shakespeare set “As You Like It”.
Patches of attractive country survive, providing homes for wildlife not far from the city streets and
Sutton Park houses an interesting Visitor Centre with displays of
On a sunny day the peace of Shropshire’s rolling hills is beguiling, but they conceal a wild history. Buildings
such as Clun Castle, Shrewsbury
Castle and Ludlow Castle had to guard the borderlands
against attacks by the Welsh. Many abbeys and monasteries
such as Buildwas and Wenlock suffered grievously at the hands of Henry VIII, though the ruins still evoke
something of the grandeur they must once have possessed.
Country houses such as Boscobel and Benthall had to survive battle and siege as the Civil War ebbed and flowed
Evidence of more peaceful times can be seen in the exquisite
Georgian streets of Ludlow (one of the prettiest cities of the
West Midlands) or houses such as Wilderhope or Attingham Park.
Tranquil landscaped parks and gardens abound, as at
Hodney, Burford and Dudmaston.When upheaval came again it was of
a different kind: the Severn Gorge, with its coal and iron,
was the birthplace of the industrial revolution and today commemorates its past in a huge complex of museums and
reconstructions centred on Iron Bridge.
At the heart of Staffordshire is one of Britain’s
oldest industrial conurbations – The
Today the grimy face of the past is disappearing, as factories are
transformed into living and working museums of nearly 300 years of china
At the Gladstone Pottery
Museum in Longton craftsman display their traditional
skills, while the Wedgwood Group has a gleaming modern
factory set amid green fields.Only a half hour’s drive east of
Stoke on Trent lie the scenic wonders of the Manifold Valley and south east is the ancient cathedral city of
Lichfield, birthplace of Samuel Johnson.
Other country highlights are as diverse as Shugborough, its garden filled with monuments; Cannock Chase, one of the largest leisure areas in the West Midlands; the Gothic
ruin of Alton Towers, with its huge pleasure park and
the little cottage at Shallowford used by
Izaak Walton, author of “The Compleat Angler”.
The sinuous ridge of the Malvern
Hills divide what between 1974 and 1998 was the county of Hereford and Worcester, now
divided into two separate counties. The Malverns and the countryside around them were loved by the composer
Sir Edward Elgar, who wrote his two great symphonies
here.The musical theme is continued in the cathedral cities of Hereford and
Worcester, which share the annual Three Choirs Festival with Gloucester. They both stand in rich farmland which contains, in the
Vale of Evesham, one of Britain’s main fruit growing and market
Each city has its own special associations: Hereford is famed for its breed of cattle and its cider
industry; Worcester is noted for its porcelain and spicy sauce. The River
Severn flows down from the north and one of its prettiest stretches is followed by the steam
powered Severn Valley Railway.
The West Midlands also include the county of
Warwickshire, which is at the very heart of England and whose attractions span the centuries.
Warwickshire has appropriately at its own heart a county town with
one of England’s greatest medieval castles, some fine timber framed buildings and a wealth of handsome
Only a few miles to the north of Warwick stands
Kenilworth Castle, its crumbling sandstone walls still
beautiful on its grassy knoll. Kenilworth suffered during the Civil War, whose opening Battle of Edgehill is commemorated at Farnborough Hall.
Throughout this county there are great houses, ranging from Elizabethan elegance of
Charlecote Park and Arbury
Hall to the Georgian grandeur of Farnborough
Hall and Stoneleigh Abbey.
But Warwickshire’s most famous building is a humble dwelling in
Stratford upon Avon where, according to tradition in 1564,
William Shakespeare was born.
More recent studies suggested that Shakespeare, who has managed to remain
a very mysterious figure, was actually an Italian writer called Michelangelo
Florio Crollalanza, escaped from Italy with his family due to religious believes. Having read about
the arguments, it doesn't seam right to define him as an Englishman. Having said this, arguments are still open and
a conclusion has yet to be made. It is interesting to read the arguments though.
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