History of Worcestershire

The area now known as Worcestershire has had human presence for over half a million years. Interrupted by two ice ages, Worcestershire has had continuous settlement since roughly 10,000 years ago. In the Iron Age, the area was dominated by a series of hill forts, and the beginnings of industrial activity including pottery and salt mining can be found. It seems to have been relatively unimportant during the Roman era, with the exception of the salt workings.

The North West View of the City of Worcester.

During the Anglo-Saxon era, Worcestershire was an important base of Church power and learning. The county as a named political entity dates to this time, being formed in 918.

From the Middle Ages, the role of the city of Worcester becomes particularly important in the county. The city's merchants, Church, aristocracy and gentry become the main power brokers, and tensions between them can be seen.

The county had an important role in the English Civil War, being part of the Royalists' front line, and already important for metal working and small arms. It was later the site of Charles II's defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, and local Catholic aristocrats aided his escape. Northern Worcestershire produced a number of prominent religious leaders, many of whom left the Anglican church in the Great Ejection.

The northern part of Worcestershire, including the Dudley and Netherton enclave, was one of the major centres of the British Industrial Revolution. Dudley specialised in iron and coal production, Kidderminster in carpet production, Stourbridge in glass, Bromsgrove and areas of southern Birmingham in nail making, Redditch in needles and fish hooks. Canals and later railways aided export of local goods. Further south, Worcester's glove and porcelain industries became less important than manufacturing.

Worcestershire is still important for agriculture, particularly in the Vale of Evesham.

Local government reorganisations meant that the Dudley enclave and the King's Norton area of southern Birmingham are no longer in Worcestershire. Other smaller boundary changes have taken some parishes out of the county and added others.

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