Although the metropolitan county
of the West Midlands
has only existed since 1974, the settlements within its borders have long been important centres of commerce and industry. The area straddles the historic border between the counties of Warwickshire
(Birmingham and Coventry), Staffordshire
(the north), Worcestershire
was one of England's most important cities during the Middle Ages
, with its prosperity built upon wool and cloth manufacture. Birmingham
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 Country
area provided a ready source of raw material. 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 had become an important centre of bicycle and car manufacture.
During the 20th century a number of attempts were made to improve the local government of the area.
The West Midlands was one of five "Special Review Areas" named in the Local Government Act 1958
. The Local Government Commission for England
established by the Act was charged with:
- the duty of reviewing the organisation of local government... and of making such proposals......