Historical accounts of three important industrial towns of the Black Country fill the present volume. West Bromwich, Smethwick, and Walsall are all close neighbours and all former county boroughs. West Bromwich had a domes-tic nailing industry in the 16th century but remained a scattered settlement on the heathland of the coal measures until the development of its mining and iron industry in the mid 19th. Smethwick's growth began with the building of the Birmingham canal in the late 18th century and was particularly marked from the 1830s.Walsall, an early medieval borough with its church standing on a limestone hill at the town's centre, underwent a rapid increase in population from the 1820s. Immigrants to man the indus-tries of the area have included French and Belgians in the early 19th century, and in the mid 20th people from the West Indies and the Indian subcontinent. The pattern of communications feeding the industries is a palimpsest of ancient roads bridging the small streams of the Mid-lands plateau, the successive networks of canals and railways, and the motorways of the 1960s.Household names like Mitchells and Butlers, Chances, G.K.N., and Tube Investments are reminders of the industrial strength and variety of the area, which has also included brick- making, brush-making, chemicals, cloth and clothing, coal-mining, engineering of many types, iron-smelting, ironstone mining, leather trades, limestone-mining, and organ-building.
Along with the large factories and numerous small workshops are remarkable buildings of other kinds, such as West Bromwich manor-house, a classic medieval example, and the former Sand-well Hall, seat of the earls of Dartmouth. Apart from manufacturers many well known people have been connected with the area, including Joseph Chamberlain in politics, Madeleine Carroll and Sidney Barnes in entertainment and sport, and in literature Jerome K. Jerome and Sir Henry Newbolt.