musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Dropping in on Dudley

This fine morning I had an interview in Dudley, which is North West of Birmingham, and about 45 minutes away from Lichfield by train. This was also my first tentative step towards exploring the “Black Country”. To reach Dudley I had to catch a train to Birmingham New Street and then a different train to Wolverhampton, bailing out at Dudley Port. 
 
The Class 323 running from Lichfield is quite a comfortable, if somewhat noisy beastie, and oddly enough my train journey was quite mundane, although I was really hoping to pick up some interesting stuff at Birmingham New Street Station. 
 
The Dudley Canal runs alongside the station, and an aqueduct runs over the road close to where I had to catch my bus, called the Ryland Aqueduct, canal barges would have been a major way to transport goods in the period before the railway became dominant, and the truck dominated the railway. The first bridge in the picture is the railway bridge. 
 
The name Dudley Port emerged during the 19th century, due to the extensive number of warehouses and wharves emerging around the Birmingham Canal to serve industries in Dudley. Dudley city centre is not served by train courtesy of Dr Beeching and his axe. It is a bit of an odd situation though, but the future may seen things change.

During my navigation exercise, I spotted a castle on a hill; this is Dudley Castle, and I mentally added it to my list if I had time to spare. I had allowed two possible train arrivals which would either give me an hour to find my destination from the station, or 90 minutes. I had my camera in my bag “just in case”.

The bus dropped me off at the bus station, which was over the road from my destination, and next to the Church of St Edmund the King and Martyr which just happened to have a handy graveyard for me to explore.

 

Feeling much better after a bit of gravehunting, I paused at the statue of?  I was not able to read the inscription, so decided to rather look that one up when I got home.

It turns out that this is the statue of William Humble Ward, 11th Baron Ward of Birmingham, Viscount Ednam and Earl of Dudley. He died of pneumonia on the 7th of May 1885 at Dudley House in London. That could explain why I did not find him in the two graveyards I visited. I often wonder how relevant a statue like this is, especially in the light of the furor going on in South Africa about the statue of Cecil John Rhodes at Cape Town University. 

There are two churches in the area of the city where I was, St Edmunds is known as the “Bottom Church”, as opposed to St Thomas’s parish church in High Street which is known as “Top Church”.  Naturally I did not know this at the time. I was hoping to make the trek up the road to more or less where they would have placed a war memorial if there was one. With a bit more time on my hands I could afford myself the luxury of a bit of a look around. The hill where Dudley Castle was really dominated the area, and effectively it meant everything had to go around it. I could see part of the Castle on the hill, and managed to zoom into into.

It really did look intriguing, but at the moment there was an even more intriguing statue in the Market Square. I do not know if this was the war memorial or not because there was major construction going on in the area and parts of the statue/fountain were obviously being restored. It must have been very impressive though, whatever it was.

From here I could see the “Top Church” and time was still on my side so I headed in that direction.

Called “The Church of St Thomas“, the building is almost 200 years old, and the graveyard dates even further back than that. It is a very impressive building, and the graveyard was even more of a surprise.

 

 
I have not seen a such a small church graveyard with so many large headstones in ages, it was really a surprise. The presence of many large concrete slabs was puzzling though, and reading between the lines (and on the graves), the church has vaults underneath it. Unfortunately the information board of the church was almost illegible, but there was enough on it to be able to read about a Medieval crypt or chapel on the premises. The church was open too, although there were some people praying in it so I did not stay very long. It was very impressive inside.

Time was marching and I headed off down the road to my interview. It had been a productive day so far, and I was feeling smug that I had been able to see these two beauts.
Once my interview was over I headed across to the Castle, which is on the property of the Zoo (or is it the other way around/). Unfortunately, to see the former you needed to pay for the latter and frankly 15 pounds was not something I would pay to see the castle, especially when the zoo has no interest for me.  I decided to head for home instead.  I found this image on Wikipedia, and am going to use that in lieu of a personal visit.

Image I am using in this post is By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons) (Image size is 1280×529.
Dudley Castle Courtyard

Dudley Castle Courtyard

I could also see part of a tower sticking out over the hill, but there was no real way I was going to see this castle so I headed for the bus station. I still had two trains to catch and time was marching and weather was gathering. 
  
The only exciting thing I saw at Birmingham Station was a Virgin Trains Pendolino. I was hoping to spot one of these because it was on one of them that I had had my first experience of train travel in the UK when I was in Manchester on business in 2008.

The wheel had come a full circle since then and I have travelled on a number of different trains since I arrived here in 2013. 

When I got back to Lichfield we ended up making a detour at the village of Hammerwich to take a look at the Church of St John the Baptist. 

It was a very pretty building with a surprisingly large graveyard, the oldest headstones that were legible dated from the 1780’s.

And that was my day. It had been an excellent one from a gravehunting point of view, and I had managed to get to Birmingham, or at least gone through it. Weather and time permitting I do want to do a day trip to the city if possible, as it too is full of history. And I really like history. As for the interview? never heard from them again.

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