Stourbridge /ˈstaʊərbrɪdʒ/ is a large town in the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley, in the West Midlands of England. Historically part of Worcestershire, Stourbridge was a centre of glass making, and today includes the suburbs of Amblecote, Lye, Norton, Oldswinford, Pedmore, Wollaston, Wollescote and Wordsley.
Stourbridge is a part of the West Midlands metropolitan county and conurbation, in the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley. Stourbridge is located about 13 miles west of Birmingham, at the edge of the industrial Midlands, located between Kidderminster and Dudley.
Much of the town consists of suburban streets, interspersed with green spaces. Stourbridge borders on green belt land, and is close to unspoiled countryside with rural Shropshire close by to the west. The Clent Hills, Kinver Edge and large areas of farmland lie to the south and west.
The town and surrounding area is at the south western extremity of the Black Country and the majority of the working-class population retain the region's accent and dialect.
Stourbridge was in the ancient parish of Oldswinford, Worcestershire, but the manor of Bedcote (which was probably co-terminous) was a separate manor. This perhaps led to Stourbridge being a separate township for Poor Law and other purposes, distinct from Amblecote (which being in Staffordshire was separately administered) and the rest of Oldswinford. In 1834, the Stourbridge Union was formed consisting of Kingswinford, Amblecote, Stourbridge, Oldswinford, and most of the parish of Halesowen, though not Romsley, Hunnington, or Warley Oldbury.
The town obtained a Board of Improvement Commissioners under an Act of 1825. A further Act of 1866 divided it into three wards and allowed the neighbouring hamlets of Amblecote, Wollaston and Lye to accede to the town if they wished. The Improvement Commissioners were replaced by an Urban District Council in the 1890s. The town subsequently obtained a charter as a municipal borough. This later absorbed Lye and Wollescote Urban District Council, and in 1965 much of Amblecote. Since 1974, it has been part of the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley.
Stourbridge takes its name from the River Stour, which flows through the town and for centuries formed the border between Worcestershire and Staffordshire. But the border was moved a couple of miles north in 1966, when Amblecote Urban District (previously in Staffordshire) was incorporated into the Borough of Stourbridge. This arrangement lasted eight years until the advent of the Local Government Act 1972 in 1974, when Stourbridge was amalgamated into the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley and became part of the wider West Midlands county.
The town gives its name to local glass production, which has been manufactured since the early 1600s. The local glass proved particularly suitable for the industry, taken up predominantly after the immigration of French coal miners in the Huguenot diaspora. However, most of the glass industry was actually located in surrounding areas including Wordsley, Amblecote and Oldswinford. The rich natural resources of coal and fireclay for lining furnaces made it the perfect location for the industry. Glass making peaked in the 19th century, encouraged by the famous glass-making family, the Jeavons.
The 1861 census identified that 1,032 residents of Stourbridge were involved in the glass trade in some way. Of these, 541 were glass workers - an increase from 409 in 1851, believed to be partly caused by the collapse of the glass industry in nearby Dudley in the 1850s. The vast majority of those involved in the glass trade came from Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Shropshire. 9% came from other parts of England and 0.2% had come from abroad. Of particular note are glass cutters, as 8.1% had come from Ireland, believed to be as a result of the decline of the Irish glasscutting industry in the first half of the 1800s. The houses inhabited by glassworkers were of a much better quality in comparison to the slums in which the nailmakers of Lye and Wollescote lived. However, only a few glassworkers owned their own houses.
Stourbridge glass is recognised as amongst the finest in the world and has been used countless times as gifts for royalty and visiting dignitaries. However, in recent years, the industry has been almost obliterated by the effects of globalisation, with the glassmaking companies moving abroad.
The Red House Cone, thought to be the only complete remaining glass cone of its kind, stands on the Stourbridge Canal at Wordsley. It is the site of the Red House Glass Museum and there are regular demonstrations of blowing glass in the traditional way, and a collection of Stourbridge glass can be seen at Broadfield House Glass Museum in Kingswinford.
The other landmark heritage site is that of Tudor Crystal, also standing on the side of the canal, at Amblecote. Tudor Crystal is the last remaining fully functioning glassmaking factory in Stourbridge to be making lead crystal in full production. It is also famous for the fact that it still makes all of its lead crystal in a traditional glass making cone dating back to 1788. Visitors are welcome to take a tour to see the glass being made (mornings only).
General Information The British Glass Biennale exhibition is located in the Lower Glasshouse, Ruskin Glass Centre, Wollaston Road, Stourbridge, West Midlands, DY8 4HF, UK. It takes place every two years and showcases the work being created by contemporary glass artists based in the UK. History In the early days of planning the International Festival of Glass, it was recognised that there was an urgent need for an exhibition that would expose the state of affairs in the UK based glass world. As most artists work within confines of their own studios, it is often hard to know what is going on outside of that environment, or even how many makers there are throughout the country. The exhibition would be an opportunity to demonstrate a regular snapshot or 'slice of now'.
The British Glass Biennale was set up to be a part of the inaugural International Festival of Glass in 2004. Prior to this show, there had been no major review of the British glass scene since the 1993 Crafts Council touring exhibition 'The Glass Show' (a retrospective of 30 years of studio art glass - see Andrew Brewerton essay in 2004 catalogue). The British Glass Biennale was to show 'the pulse of recent achievement in contemporary British glass, and to display this wide range of creativity'.
The Ruskin Glass Centre The Ruskin Glass Centre is situated in Stourbridge's historic glass quarter; located within the industrial heartland of the West Midlands; on the site of the former Webb Corbett/Royal Doulton glass factory. It is also the site where the British Glass Biennale exhibition and the International Glass Festival are hosted.
The Ruskin Glass Centre Ltd is a subsidiary of the Ruskin Mill Educational Trust, a charity pioneering in specialist education for young people with learning difficulties. The Trust promotes culture, arts and special needs education within the context of social regeneration and is inspired by the ideas of John Ruskin, William Morris and Rudolf Steiner.
Aims of the British Glass Biennale Each British Glass Biennale is a landmark juried exhibition of contemporary glass by artists working and living in the UK and working in glass. The 2004 Biennale displayed the work of 80 artists, in 2006 101 artists were selected, and in 2008 the work of 81 artists were exhibited, including 11 students.
Artists submit work for selection that has to have been made in the last two years and be available to purchase. Makers have to have been living and working in the UK for the last two years – i.e. showing a commitment to being based in Britain. Each jury consists of five panel members selected from a range of backgrounds. Each British Glass Biennale features a completely new jury. The juries view all the images anonymously, judging each piece on its own merit. The objective is to give each contributing artist an equal opportunity to have work selected and create as level a playing field for all artists as possible.
The Biennale does not aim to establish an historical survey but to take the pulse of the current British glass scene; to observe, reflect and catalogue trends and influences emerging each year. It also aims to put makers in the UK on an international platform, and celebrate what is being achieved in this country with glass.
Stourbridge has a railway station called Stourbridge Junction on the Birmingham to Kidderminster line, with a frequent and efficient train service and the town is also served by the shortest (half a mile) railway line branch line in Europe, the Stourbridge Town Branch Line, with a shuttle service from Stourbridge Junction on the Birmingham - Kidderminster line to Stourbridge Town railway station in the town centre.
There is also a complex network of bus routes, both interurban and local.
Stourbridge lies on the River Stour and is linked to the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal and the Dudley No. 1 Canal by the Stourbridge Canal. This places the town on the Stourport Ring, a popular route with holidaymakers and is navigable by narrowboat.
The town is served by National Route 54 of the National Cycle Network.
Stourbridge Junction is on the former Oxford-Worcester-Wolverhampton Line. Just to the north of the station is Stambermill Viaduct over the River Stour and the A458 road. The railway towards Dudley closed to passengers in 1962 and is now used solely as a freight line.
The railway formerly continued to an interchange basin with the Stourbridge Canal. The old Stourbridge Town station, when demolished, was recovered and materials used for buildings at Tyseley Locomotive Works. Until recently, on Sundays, as part of a pilot scheme, a gas-powered Parry People Mover operated on the line. This ceased but it was thought it may restart when the UK rail franchise for the local train operating company Central Trains expired and was rebid. There was a coach service in operation between Stourbridge Junction and the town, in place of the train service but the train service has now resumed.
The famous Stourbridge Lion locomotive, was built in Stourbridge at the foundry of Foster, Rastrick and Co. in 1828. The shell of the building still stands and has been incorporated into the Lion Health Centre, which opened in October 2014. The Lion arrived in New York City on 13 May 1829, becoming the first steam locomotive to run on a commercial line in the United States. The locomotive is quite famous in the USA, although few people in Stourbridge have heard of it. It is currently on display at the B&O Railroad Museum Baltimore, Maryland, on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.. A clock has recently been unveiled in the town to celebrate the engine.
The Midland Metro is a tram that is planned to run to Stourbridge from Walsall via Wednesbury and Dudley on the South Staffordshire Line, the business plan of which was submitted to Network Rail for approval in March 2011. Trams would share the line with freight trains. However it is unclear where in Stourbridge the Midland Metro would terminate. It may follow the South Staffordshire Railway Line to Stourbridge Junction and then onto Stourbridge Town to Stourbridge Bus Station for bus train and tram interchange. Though recent plans have suggest this but then divert onto a street section crossing the ring road onto the pedestrianised Foster Street before turning right and running into the heart of the town along High Street past the Ryemarket and Wilkinson's which may give a possible stop before carrying along the street for a terminus at the junction of High Street, Lower High Street and Crown Lane adjacent the newly developed Crown Centre, creating the Stourbridge terminus. These are unconfirmed plans and probably the least favoured route but would get good usage and take the stress off the train and bus station, plus boost the local economy.
Stourbridge is home to two colleges - the King Edward VI College, founded in 1552 (becoming a sixth form college in 1976); and Stourbridge College of Further Education. Both of these colleges attract students from a wide area.
GCSE results achieved by pupils in Stourbridge are consistently among the best in the Dudley borough. Old Swinford Hospital school is currently the highest performing school in the area.
Stourbridge is the only town in the Dudley borough to still operate a traditional school system with 5–7 years of age for infants, 7-11 for junior pupils and 11-16/18 for secondary students.
Stourbridge's shopping centre lies on or near the High Street. Here can be found branches of many banks and building societies as well as big retailers such as Wilkinson, The Co-operative and Specsavers. There is also a Wetherspoons pub and a number of food outlets and cafes. Off the High Street is the Ryemarket shopping centre which houses a number of shops including a Waitrose and WH Smith. Located at the bottom of the High Street is the Crown Centre, which includes a mix of retail and community facilities and includes an underground car park.
Stourbridge Football Club and Stourbridge Cricket Club both share the War Memorial Athletic Ground in Amblecote, and Stourbridge Rugby Club play at Stourton Park in nearby Stourton and Redhill Volleyball Club play at Redhill School.
During the 1980s and the early 1990s, four Stourbridge bands - Diamond Head, The Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself and Ned's Atomic Dustbin - all enjoyed chart success. Other notable musicians include Clint Mansell, the 80s Doom Metal band Witchfinder General and Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin) who attended the then King Edward VI Grammar School for Boys (now King Edward VI College, Stourbridge)
From the 1860s until the early 1980s, the area was covered by the County Express newspaper. Archives are now on microfilm in Stourbridge Library. Today, Stourbridge is covered by the Stourbridge News, the Express & Star and the Stourbridge Chronicle.
The Stourbridge area is served by commercial stations broadcasting from Wolverhampton and Birmingham as well as three BBC Local Radio stations broadcasting from Worcestershire, Shropshire and Birmingham: BBC Hereford and Worcester, BBC Radio Shropshire and BBC WM.
Stourbridge used to be served by four cinemas. The "Danilo" at the end of the Hagley Road is now the site of the Picture House nightclub. The oldest and smallest (The Scala, later known as the Savoy) was to be found at the top of Lower High Street. A third on the High Street (The Odeon) was incorporated into the Owen Owen store, which closed in about 1990. This was discovered when demolition began to create the new Wilkinsons store in the mid-1990s.
The Odeon possessed a large pipe organ. A mosaic from the cinema floor was rescued and moved to the crown centre nearby. The fourth and largest cinema was the "Kings" halfway down New Road, nearly opposite the Methodist church. Originally the old "King's Hall" it was rebuilt and much enlarged as the "Kings" around 1938. Stourbridge FM was established in March 2001 to campaign for a commercial radio station broadcasting to and from the Stourbridge area. Stourbridge FM Radio Ltd carried out three experimental 'trial' broadcasts in November 2001, May 2002 and January 2003 from studios in the centre of the town and was sponsored by Stourbridge College. The station received a great deal of support from listeners and business people alike within the community, including numerous letters of support and a petition. By February 2004, Stourbridge FM had disbanded due to official information that there were no immediate plans for a small-scale commercial radio licence in the Stourbridge area, nor would the up-and-coming commercial radio licence in Kidderminster receive an area extension. The volunteer force of Stourbridge-FM established a new steering group known as the Stourbridge Radio Group to apply for a non-profit making community radio licence for the area.
The group won a community radio licence in September 2005, called 102.5 The 'Bridge. Test transmissions began on 102.5FM on 4 December 2007, with full programming launching on 1 January 2008 at 10.25am. On 14 September 2015, the station merged with Black Country Community Radio to become Black Country Radio. The station is also available on a small-scale DAB multiple in Birmingham.
Places of worship include:
The recent £50m rebuilding of the Crown Centre shopping mall, which originally opened in 1985 has regenerated a large section of the town centre. It included the creation of a 60,000 sq ft (5,600 m2) Tesco anchor store, a two-level underground car park, six retail stores and a central food court. Work on demolishing the original Crown Centre and Bell Street multi-storey car park took place in the spring of 2012 and the project was completed by autumn 2013. Development of the new centre was completed in late October 2013 in which Tesco opened its doors to new customers in the same period. Other tenants in the centre included Subway, Timpsons and Explore Learning.
A long-running cafe, The Well, closed in early 2013 after 22 years of service in the High Street. It has now been replaced by a restaurant called Vines.
Stourbridge Bus Station has undergone redevelopment and re-opened as Stourbridge Interchange in April 2012. Consultation for the new station first began in 2006 but construction did not begin until late 2010.
- James Joyce Finnegans Wake, part 1, Episode 6. Page 184.
- Ezra Pound, Canto LXVI, line 30, Page 380.
Stourbridge Golf Course is also mentioned by P. G. Wodehouse.
- P. G. Wodehouse, Money for Nothing, Chapter 5.
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