The Black Country is a region of Southern Staffordshire in England defined not so much by places as by people: the Black Country is where a Black Country man or woman says it is! The town of Wednesbury is in the heart of the region and plays a central role in the novel ‘Two Trees’. Many of the locations in the story are based on real places in the town, some of which exist today despite many physical changes over the intervening years.
The Black Country is not part of Birmingham but is a distinct area with its own identity. This area obtained its name because of the mining of coal, the indigenous heavy industry and the smoke from factory chimneys that dominated its economy from the period of the Industrial Revolution of the 18th Century. Up until the 1970’s Wednesbury was essentially an industrial town where many of its inhabitants worked in the steel or related occupations. Since the 1980’s many of these original workplaces have disappeared and the town has had to reinvent itself.
In ‘Two Trees’ the Brownleader family live in Brunswick Park Road, the road running around part of the boundary of the park itself. Ada Bailey lives in Rooth Street and writes letters to Berlin in the Town Library (Chapters 14 and 15). Fred the cabbie refers to St. Bart’s Church in Chapter 24 and George remembers going to watch the troops parade in the Market Place in Chapter 32.
In Chapter 11 Tom is keen to take John to the Olde Leathern Bottel pub. The pub predates the industrial character of Wednesbury and dates from the 16th century; during the Zeppelin raids over the town in the Great War, the local people used the cellars of the Leathern Bottel to protect themselves from possible attack. The pub is still in use today.
The Black Country Living Museum
The Black Country Living Museum, Tipton Road, Dudley, West Midlands, DY1 4SQ, UK, (www.bclm.com) provides an excellent introduction and explanation of Wednesbury and the Black Country area.
The Black Country Society
The Black Country Society was founded in 1967 and its regular meetings aim to enhance the history and heritage of the Black Country area. Through its excellent journal ‘The Blackcountryman’ members are kept informed of lectures, research, stories and characters of the region. Members can be found in the Black Country itself, in other parts of the country and worldwide.
For more details see: https://www.blackcountrysociety.com