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The West Midlands is a metropolitan county in western central Englandmarker with a population of 2,591,300. It came into existence as a metropolitan county in 1974 after the passage of the Local Government Act 1972, formed from parts of Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshiremarker. The county consists of seven metropolitan boroughs: the City of Birminghammarker, the City of Coventrymarker and the City of Wolverhamptonmarker, plus Dudley, Sandwell, Solihullmarker and Walsallmarker. The West Midlands County Council was abolished on 31 March 1986, and so its districts (the metropolitan boroughs) are now effectively unitary authorities. However, the metropolitan county continues to exist in law and as a geographic frame of reference. The county is sometimes described as the "West Midlands metropolitan area" or the "West Midlands conurbationmarker", although these have different, and less clearly defined, boundaries. The main conurbation, or urban area, does not include Coventry for example. The seven metropolitan boroughs, along with the nearby unitary authority of Telford and Wrekin are starting to collaborate as a non-statutory city region under the name "Birmingham, Coventry and the Black Country". The name "West Midlands" is also used for the much larger West Midlands region, which sometimes causes confusion.

Geography

Map of West Midlands, showing urban areas in grey and metropolitan district boundaries
The West Midlands is a landlocked county that borders the counties of Warwickshiremarker to the east, Worcestershire to the south, and Staffordshire to the north.

The West Midlands County is one of the most heavily urbanised counties in the UK. Birminghammarker, Wolverhamptonmarker, the Black Countrymarker and Solihullmarker together form the most populous conurbation in the UK outside Londonmarker, with a combined population of around 2.27 million. However, the West Midlands is not entirely urban; Coventrymarker is separated from the West Midlands conurbationmarker by a stretch of green belt land roughly across known as the "Meriden Gapmarker", which retains a strongly rural character. A smaller piece of green belt between Birmingham, Walsall and West Bromwich includes Barr Beaconmarker and the Sandwell Valley.

The highest point in the West Midlands in Turners Hillmarker, with a height of 271 m (876 ft). The hill is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Barr Beaconmarker is another hill in the West Midlands, located on the border of Birmingham and Walsall, with a height of roughly .

There are 23 Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the county. One of these SSSIs is Sutton Parkmarker in Sutton Coldfield, which has an area of 900.1 hectares ( ). As a result, it is one of the largest urban parks in Europe and the largest outside of a capital city in Europe. The park also has National Nature Reserve status.

There are numerous rivers that pass through the county, including the River Tame. The river basin is the most urbanised basin in the United Kingdom with approximately 42% of the basin being urbanised. The River Tame is fed by the River Reamarker, River Ankermarker, and the River Blythemarker, which in turn is fed by the River Cole. The River Sowe and River Sherbourne both flow through Coventry. The River Stourmarker flows through the west of the West Midlands county.

Towns and cities

See also: List of places in the West Midlands


* = city

History

Although the modern county has only existed since 1974, the settlements of the West Midlands have long been important centres of commerce and industry. Coventrymarker was one of England's most important cities during the Middle Ages, with its prosperity built upon wool and cloth manufacture. Birminghammarker and Wolverhamptonmarker have a tradition of industry dating back to the 16th century, when small metal-working industries developed. Birmingham was known for its manufacture of small arms, whereas Wolverhampton became a centre of lock manufacture and brass working. The coal and iron ore deposits of the Black Countrymarker area provided a ready source of raw materials. The area grew rapidly during the Industrial Revolution, and by the 20th century had grown into one large conurbation. Coventry was slower to develop, but by the early 20th century, it had become an important centre of bicycle and car manufacture.

1966 saw a substantial reform in the local government of the area as the patchwork of county boroughs with municipal boroughs and urban district councils in between was replaced by a core of county boroughs covering a contiguous area, roughly as follows:

Around the periphery of this area, three other towns remained separate (Halesowenmarker, Stourbridgemarker and Sutton Coldfieldmarker), while Aldridgemarker and Brownhillsmarker joined to form a single unit, called Aldridge-Brownhillsmarker. In the same year, a single West Midlands Constabulary was formed for the Black Country county boroughs, whilst Birmingham retained its Birmingham City Police and Solihull continued being policed by the Warwickshire Constabulary. The West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority was established in 1968.

In 1974, the Local Government Act 1972 came into effect, creating the metropolitan county of West Midlands. This area was based on the seven county boroughs and the other non-county boroughs and urban districts around the fringe of the conurbation. The new area consisted of seven new metropolitan boroughs, with Aldridge-Brownhills added to Walsall; Halesowen and Stourbridge to Dudley and Sutton Coldfield to Birmingham. A new borough of Sandwell was formed by the merger of West Bromwich and Warley. The actual designation of Warley itself was abolished and the three towns of Smethwick, Oldbury and Rowley Regis reinstated as component parts of Sandwell, although these areas formed the Warley postal district. Solihull took in much of the suburban fringe to the east of Birmingham, including the former villages of Chelmsley Woodmarker and Castle Bromwichmarker, also Birmingham Airportmarker, and the area of countryside between Solihull and Coventry, whilst Coventry itself received only small changes and Wolverhampton was unaltered. This led to (apart from in the east, with Coventry and the Meriden Gap) quite a tightly defined metropolitan border, excluding such places as Burntwoodmarker, Bromsgrovemarker, Cannockmarker, Kidderminstermarker, Lichfieldmarker and Wombournemarker which had been considered for inclusion in the West Midlands metropolitan area by the Redcliffe-Maud Report. The 1974 reform created the West Midlands County Council that covered the entire area and dealt with strategic issues. A new West Midlands Police service was formed covering the entire area, with the West Midlands Constabulary and Birmingham City Police abolished, and also taking over responsibility from the county forces.

post-1974 pre-1974
Metropolitan county Metropolitan borough County boroughs Non-county borough Urban districts Rural districts

West Midlands is an amalgamation of 14 former local government districts, including eight county boroughs.

Birminghammarker Birmingham Sutton Coldfield - -
Coventrymarker Coventry - - Meridenmarker
Dudley Dudleymarker Halesowen • Stourbridge • - -
Sandwell Warleymarker • West Bromwichmarker • - - -
Solihullmarker Solihull - - Meridenmarker • Stratford-on-Avon •
Walsallmarker Walsall - Aldridge-Brownhillsmarker
Wolverhamptonmarker Wolverhampton - - -


Margaret Thatcher's government abolished the metropolitan county councils with the Local Government Act 1985, in March 1986, causing the seven metropolitan boroughs to become de facto unitary authorities with most of the county councils' functions given to the district councils.

Local government

Metropolitan boroughs

The West Midlands is divided into seven districts called metropolitan boroughs, these are: Birminghammarker, Coventrymarker, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihullmarker, Walsallmarker and Wolverhamptonmarker (see map). Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton have city status. Coventry is a city by ancient prescriptive usage; Birmingham was granted city status in 1889; and Wolverhampton in 2000 as a "Millennium City".

Between 1974 and 1986, the county had a two-tier system of local government, and the seven districts shared power with the county council. However, when the county council was abolished in 1986, most of its functions were devolved to the districts which effectively became unitary authorities, with responsibility for most local authority functions.

County-wide services

Although the County Council was abolished, some local services continue to be run on a county-wide basis, administered by joint-boards, of the seven districts. These are:

These joint-boards are made up of councillors appointed from each of the seven West Midlands district councils. In addition to this, the West Midlands Joint Committee exists as a joint body of the seven districts to co-ordinate matters such as roads and planning. The seven West Midlands councils jointly produce a county-wide Local Transport Plan.

The boroughs jointly own a share in Birmingham International Airportmarker, which used to be owned by the county council.

Boundary changes



Places of interest





Education

The West Midlands contains six universities. Aston Universitymarker, the University of Birminghammarker and Birmingham City Universitymarker are all located in Birmingham. Coventry Universitymarker and the University of Warwickmarker are located in Coventry whilst Wolverhampton University is located in Wolverhampton with campuses in Telfordmarker and Walsall. It also had a campus in Dudley.

The Birmingham College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studiesmarker and Newman Collegemarker, both in Birmingham, received university college status in 2008 and 2007, respectively. The colleges changed their names as a result and both pledged to become Birmingham's fourth university. University College Birminghammarker, formerly Birmingham College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studies, purchased a site in the Jewellery Quartermarker area of Birmingham to expand it's student capacity from 3,500 to 4,000 which would make it legible for University status.

In August 2009, Matthew Boulton College and Sutton Coldfield College merged to become Birmingham Metropolitan Collegemarker, one of the largest further and higher education institutions in the country. Plans are afoot for the construction of a new campus in the Perry Barrmarker area of Birmingham.

Sport

The West Midlands is home to numerous sports teams. In football, there are six Football League teams in the county of which three, Aston Villa, Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, play in the Premiership. Aston Villa, West Bromwich Albion, Birmingham City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Coventry City and Walsall are often referred to as the West Midlands "big six".

The West Midlands is also home to Warwickshire County Cricket Club, who are based at Edgbaston Cricket Groundmarker, which also hosts Test matches and One Day Internationals. The Birmingham Panthers basketball team replaced the Birmingham Bullets and are currently based at a facility provided by the University of Wolverhampton in Walsall. In rugby, West Midlands is home to Moseley Rugby Football Club, Birmingham & Solihull RFC, Dudley Kingswinford RFC, Stourbridge RFC, Walsall RFC and Coventry RFC.

See also



References

  1. Office of National Statistics - Gazetteer of the old and new geographies of the United Kingdom, p48. URL accessed 10 March 2007.
  2. Metropolitan Counties and Districts, Beginners' Guide to UK Geography, Office for National Statistics, 17 September 2004. URL accessed 10 March 2007.
  3. West Midlands Counties, The Boundary Commission for England. URL accessed 10 March 2007.
  4. Region's Black Country title www.expressandstar.co.uk, 1 September 2006. URL accessed 10 March 2007.
  5. Written answer to the House of Commons from the Head of the Royal Parks Service, 7 February 2002
  6. Home Office List of English Cities by Ancient Prescriptive Right, 1927, cited in


External links




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