Dudley

View of Dudley Castle from the Market place

Even in the middle ages Dudley was the centre of a large area. From Dudley Castle the barons ruled over a sizeable proportion of the West Midlands. The most long lasting of their creations was the Market Town of Dudley itself.

The castle was in existence by the time of the 'Doomsday Book' of 1086. Legend states that a wooden castle was constructed in the year 700AD by a Saxon Lord called Dud or Dado. It's believed that the castle was first constructed from stone in the early 12th Century. Its existence as a fortress came to an end in 1647 after the English Civil war.

The domestic range of the castle remained in use until it was destroyed by fire in 1750. The castle has received several royal visitors throughout the centuries. It was even considered as a possible place of imprisonment for Mary Queen of Scots. Today the castle is at the centre of Dudley Zoo.

The earliest recorded use of the plentiful mineral supply was also in the middle ages. Later Dud Dudley, an illegitimate son of one of the barons, was one of the first ironmasters to forsake charcoal to use coal (coke) for smelting iron ore. This was taken up by another Dudley man - Abraham Darby who perfected the process in Coalbrookdale.

It is no coincidence that the town of Dudley is in fact built on an abundant bed of limestone which was also used in the process of of smelting iron ore. The rock, more correctly known as Silurian limestone, is also renowned for being rich in fossil deposits as Dudley once lay at the bottom of the sea. The most famous prehistoric creature found in these deposits is the Calymene Blumenbacci, known all over the world as the Dudley bug.

The industrial history of the area can be experienced in the Black Country Museum which was built on old coal pits and at a junction of the canal system.