Sandwell is one of the four Black Country Boroughs, neighbour to Walsall, Wolverhampton and Dudley. It’s famous for its football team, country park and Blast furnaces. The six towns of Sandwell are; Oldbury, Rowley Regis, Smethwick, Tipton, Wednesbury and West Bromwich.
Once known poetically as ‘the town of four moons’ for the light pollution of its industry, Oldbury has brought us comedian Frank Skinner, Time Team’s Mick Aston and the classic song It’s a long way to Tipperary written by Jack Judge.
Oldbury once had a drinking fountain at its centre, surmounted by a life sized iron statue of Europa, known affectionately as Polly On The Fountain. One Christmas Eve, some revellers attempted to woo her, leading to her being pulled down and broken.
Smethwick is traditionally a town of innovation – it has an exceptional cast iron bridge built by Thomas Telford in 1829, and The Chance Brothers Glassworks made huge breakthroughs in glass manufacture, including the opalescent glass which fronts Big Ben. Smethwick is also the location of Warley Woods, one of Sandwell’s forested areas covering over a hundred acres.
Smethwick is one of the most culturally diverse towns in the UK. It’s a longstanding neighbourhood of Irish, Sikh, Muslim Afro-Caribbean and White British communities. This is reflected in the choice of food available in the town.
Rowley Regis was built on volcanoes and has a peculiar local stone known as Rowley Rag. Local attractions include Haden Hill House, a wonderful museum set in several acres of beautifully landscaped park and a nature reserve. Warrens Hall nature reserve also offers amazing walks in a huge green space that leads onto the canal system.
Rowley has some excellent and historic eateries, not least The Bell and Bear with a view from its secret garden that’s not to be missed!
Tipton is home to two genuine legends – Mad O’Rourke’s Pie Factory and the Tipton Slasher. At the pie factory they have seasonal and topical pies on offer together with an equally special regular range – The Desperate Dan is their most famous creation.
The Tipton Slasher was the nickname of boxer William Perry, who reputedly rose to fame bare knuckle boxing for priority over the use of canal locks. He went on to win the World Championship belt, retaining it into his retirement until losing a final fight to Tom Sayer. The Fountain Inn, one of his favourite haunts, is still serving to this day.
Another ancient Black Country town, Wednesbury appears in the Domesday Book and was one of five sites fortified by Æthelflæd, known as the Lady of Mercia. She was the de-facto ruler of the region, defending her own territories and even minting her own currency, something unheard of for a woman at the time. Today a church stands on the site where her defences were built.
The Museum and Art Gallery is housed in a glorious red brick building and hosted the first public exhibition of Stuckism, while being the permanent home of a large collection of locally produced Ruskin pottery.
West Bromwich is synonymous with its football team, West Bromwich Albion. At an altitude of 551 feet (168m), it’s the highest ground of all of the 92 Premier League and Football League clubs. Not far from the town centre is Oak House, a timber framed building dating from the sixteenth century.
West Bromwich is celebrated for its indoor and outdoor markets where you can buy everything from handbags, fabrics and Caribbean foods whilst meeting the wonderful market traders and enjoy the familiarity of a place that is centred around a human connection. Built in 1874, is the West Bromwich Town Hall of Gothic design, home to a Grand Organ and the Multistory offices.