The West Midlands, is the western part of central England in the United Kingdom.
This central area borders North West England, the East Midlands, South East England, the West Country and all three parts of Wales (south, central and north). It is the only region of Britain and Ireland to lack access to the sea. While being heavily populated and industrialised, it retains much natural beauty in the rural areas surrounding the cities. Its main city, Birmingham, is the second largest of the UK.
The West Midlands region includes several traditional English counties as well as a central urban county called, confusingly enough, The West Midlands County:
|Herefordshire - sparsely populated (by English standards) pastoral hills centred on the cathedral city of Hereford|
|Shropshire - hosts the birthplace of the iron industry - the quaint villages of Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale - Shrewsbury with many mediaeval buildings, and the Shropshire hills|
|Staffordshire - Stoke-on-Trent, the area's main industrial centre, is known as "The Potteries" for its most famous industry; further south, historic Lichfield has a gothic monster of a cathedral|
|Warwickshire - home of Shakespeare's home in Stratford-upon-Avon, attractive spa town Leamington Spa and Warwick Castle|
|West Midlands County - urban hub containing the conurbation of Birmingham, Wolverhampton and several other towns; also in this area is Coventry|
|Worcestershire - the Malvern Hills form scenic countryside near the cathedral city of Worcester|
Cities and towns
- Birmingham (West Midlands)
- Coventry (West Midlands)
- Hereford (Herefordshire)
- Lichfield (Staffordshire)
- Stoke-on-Trent (Staffordshire)
- Wolverhampton (West Midlands)
- Worcester (Worcestershire)
- Shrewsbury (Shropshire)
- Warwick (Warwickshire)
From around the 1870s until the 1970s, the region was "the workshop of the world", especially known for engineering, metal industries, beer production (due to the waters), and pottery from Stoke-on-Trent. There was also extensive coal mining. The centre of the industrial region, Birmingham, was known as "the city of a thousand trades" due to a vibrant free market in skills and an independent-minded population of workers. For complex reasons, this industrial base began to collapse from the 1960s onwards. Although much industry still remains, 100,000's of industrial factory-based jobs have been lost over the last 30 years.
The English counties that surround the urban core are still some of the most beautiful in England, especially Warwickshire, Worcestershire, most of north Staffordshire, and certain parts of Shropshire.