The Black Country is a region within the West Midlands, although the exact area has always been a subject of contention. Having no officially defined borders, over time the area has been defined by numerous means including the people, dialect, geology, culture and industry. Some traditionalists define it as ‘the area where the coal seam comes to the surface’ - Britain’s thickest and richest seam of coal - so this extends to towns such as Wednesbury, Darlaston, Wednesfield, Bilston, Coseley, Tipton, Dudley, Brierley Hill and Halesowen, as well as nearby smaller townships and parts of West Bromwich, Oldbury and Smethwick. Others claim that it is anywhere within a five-mile radius of Dudley Castle, or within ‘an hour’s weary trudge’ of Dudley. Today it commonly refers to the majority of the four Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. One thing is for sure, though; it definitely does not include Birmingham.
There are several reasons explaining how the area got its name, the most common being from its industrial heritage. It is said that the Black Country got its name in the mid-nineteenth century from the intense coal and iron production in the area. After the industrial revolution it became one of the most industrialised regions in Britain with coal mines, coking, iron foundries, glassworks, brickworks and steel mills producing high levels of smoke and soot. The name is also linked to the South Staffordshire coal seam, as it comes to the surface in this area and is said to make the soil black.
Many people living in the Black Country are fiercely proud of where they come from and are keen to retain their local identity and distinguish the area from Birmingham. Although it is often confused with the Birmingham ‘Brummie’ accent due to the sing-song like qualities, the Black Country has its own dialect and vocabulary as opposed to just a different accent. People living in Birmingham often refer to Black Country folk as Yam Yams because they say ‘yow am’ or ‘yow’m’ instead of ‘you are’, whereas the term ‘Brummie’, used to refer to people from Birmingham, is derived from ‘Brummagem’ - traditional Black Country speak for Birmingham.
Black Country Day is officially celebrated every 14 July, a date that was chosen to mark the region’s industrial heritage, as it is the anniversary of the invention of the world’s first steam engine, the Newcomen Engine, built in 1712 at the Conygree Coalworks near Dudley.