British Industry, Past & Present.

I am very proud of my Black Country heritage. In the heart of the United Kingdom, criss-crossed with the canals which acted as an effective transport system, the area is so called because in the past the buildings were stained black with smoke from the many factories in the region.

Photo by koushik das on Unsplash

When I was young there were still lots of steel works, traditional hand blown glass making workshops and more. From my bedroom as a teen I could see sparks from the local foundry and hear the whistle signalling the end of the day and it was easy to imagine the Black Country and other industrial regions powering the success of our great nation. Many of the buildings were still quite blackened too although during a recent visit I noticed many have been cleaned up.

Of course it wasn't all waving Union Jacks and singing Jerusalem during the industrial revolution. There was great poverty and none of the mod cons we take for granted.

 If you want to get a realistic look at life back then you really should visit the Black Country Museum in Dudley, West Midlands or the multi-site Ironbridge Gorge Museum in Shropshire. They are "living" museums where you can walk along realistic streets of houses, shops and other buildings rescued or recreated from times past, and learn more about everyday life including transport, leisure and work.
Photo by Tommy Mason on Unsplash

I used to love going along to the Black Country Museum with my parents where I used to help "leg" the canal boat through the tunnels, drink Dandelion and Burdock at the restored Victorian pub there and drool over the smells of the lard-cooked chips.

I was less keen on the idea of living in the small cold homes, attending the school where learning through play was definitely not a thing or working in the foundries, glass blowing cones or mines from an early age. Health and safety was also not a thing back then.

Living as I do now in a small rural village in the south it's hard to remember that although the industrial revolution is over, Britain is still a manufacturing force to be reckoned with.

Take JPS Machinery for instance which supplies metalworking machinery and boasts "probably the largest dealer team in the UK" demonstrating that Blake's dark satanic mills may have made way to clean engineer-led premises but they are still driving industry from England's green and pleasant land with their machinery being bought by clients all over Europe and beyond.

Thankfully no 13 year olds work the machines like they might have in Victorian factories.  At JPS Machinery they have highly skilled experts who make, sell, train and maintain their products with not an orphaned urchin in sight.

It astounds me that in 150 years we have moved forward so much. From human rights and living conditions to technology and working conditions our country is almost unrecognisable from the world my Grandad knew when he worked in a  Black Country factory.

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