Banner

Back to the English Counties Page
Facts

WEST MIDLANDS

Owlbut

Owlbut

Break
FUN FACTS

West Midlands is the 42nd largest county or metropolitan borough in England.
West Midlands has the 2nd highest population in England.
West Midlands is in 3rd place for density of population.

  1. The Royal Connection
  2. During the English Civil War, Birmingham was most definitely on the side of Parliament, the Puritans and Oliver Cromwell. Already a manufacturing area, it is said that the town's main mill had manufactured 15,000 swords all for the sole use of Parliamentarian forces. What is more the local townsfolk ambushed some royalist troops as they marched to join up with Charles I near Shrewsbury prior to the Battle of Edgehill. In return for these ambushes, Prince Rupert, Charles' nephew, returned with some 1,200 cavalry, 700 infantry and 4 guns and overran the town burning 80 houses and killing 15 townspeople.

    John Fox, a parliamentarian colonel recruited a group of 220 men and carried out some daring raids during the latter stages of the war. Fox had a background as a tinker. A tinker was in those days a person who made a living by travelling from place to place mending pans and other metal utensils. He became known as John "Tinker" Fox, seems normal, but although Parliament's leaders appreciated his victories, he was seen as a bit of a loose cannon over whom they had little control. It was said that his troops would not only fight but also rob and pillage.

    However he became so notorious that some people thought he was the man who swung the axe which executed Charles I. Most historians agree he wasn't but............the executioner wore a false wig and beard so no one actually knows who it was.

  3. West Midlands Eats
  4. Godcakes were sold in Coventry from the Middle Ages. They were traditionally handed out by godparents to their godchildren at christenings and also at New Year when the godchild would ask the godparent for a blessing and, alongside that blessing, be given a cake.

    The cake is a crispy puff pastry filled with sweet mincemeat, not unlike a mince pie, but triangular in shape and with three slits across the top. Both the three sided isosceles triangle shape and the three slits are said to represent the Holy Trinity. The finished cake is then dusted with sugar. Some people add a sweeter filling of currants, orange peel, spices and maybe a drop of rum.

    In 2008 the bakery which had been producing the cakes closed down but in 2012 the Coventry God Cake was officially re-launched at a celebration event at Coventry Transport Museum, attended by the Lord Mayor and guests.

  5. West Midlands VIPs
  6. Seven random people who were born in the West Midlands in the last 100 years:-
    Lenny Henry (Comedian), Cat Deeley (TV Presenter), the late Duncan Edwards (Manchester United footballer killed at Munich 1958), Felicity Kendall (Actor), Julie Walters (Comedian), Denise Lewis (Athlete and Olympic Gold Medalist) and Noddy Holder (Musician).

  7. Now That's Weird
  8. Imagine, if you will, that you are an 11th century Earl of Mercia. Your name is Leofric. You have vivid imagination I must say. You are happily married to Godgifu, your imagination is good on names. By the way, or BTW but unlikely this was used in the 11th century, her name means gift of God. You have nine children but not wanting to tire out your imagination we won't bother with their names. You and your wife give generously to many churches and monasteries in your area.

    However you have been taxing the people of Coventry very heavily and your wife is not happy with this. She keeps pestering you about it and just goes on and on. Eventually, fed up with this nagging, you turn to her and say that you will lower the taxes if she will ride naked on a horse through the streets of Coventry. Godgifu, who we call Godiva, finally leaves you alone.

    Unbeknown to you she issues a proclamation that everyone should stay indoors and shut their windows. At this stage your imagination shuts down too. It is said that Lady Godiva did indeed ride through the streets of Coventry naked, clothed only in her long hair. It was not a windy day.

    No one knows if the story is true nor the extra bit about a tailor who looked out and saw her. His name was Tom and is where we get the phrase "peeping Tom". Certainly there are records of Leofric and Godgifu. Neither do we know whether, if it was true, Leofric kept his side of the bargain. Maybe it is all just a myth, a story made up over many years. Nevertheless there is an annual Godiva procession in Coventry each year. I think this tends to stick to another idea from the past which is that naked meant you were still wearing your undergarments, your shift. There is a statue to the Lady in Coventry, interestingly photographed between two churches.

  9. It Happened Here
  10. In one of those strange coincidences that just seem to happen, we are uploading this page on 13th November 2020. On 14th November 1940, eighty years ago, the German Air Force launched the most devastating bombing raid of WWII uptil that time. The target city was Coventry in the West Midlands. The reason, presumably, was that Coventry was a manufacturing city.

    449 German bombers dropped over 30,000 bombs and incendiary devices on the city. 568 people were killed, 71 factories were damaged as were 41,500 homes, of which 2,306 were totally destroyed.

    Most significantly the 14th century Gothic cathedral was severely damaged. Rather than being repaired it was left in ruins and a new one built nearby. This contains a tapestry by Graham Sutherland on the wall of the north end of the cathedral. The tapestry measures 23 metres by 12 (75 ft by 39 ft) and is said to be the largest tapestry made in a single piece. The tapestry took 12 years to complete.



  11. Richard Remembers
  12. I'm rapidly learning that I don't remember much, if anything, about the non-coastal counties of England. My three trips around our country have all been coastal ones and so these inland counties are just ones I have driven through on the way to someone else. There again I could fill a book with my memories of England's coast and maybe I should; one day.

    Sometime in the nineteen nineties I spent a day in Birmingham while working with the NHS on a book of some sort. I drove up to a hospital in the Midlands, spoke to some staff, took notes and came away with material for the book I had been asked to work on. At the time, Birmingham just seemed like another big city, I'd lived and worked in London for many years. I lived and went to school in the centre of Leeds for three years. Wait till we get to West Yorkshire for an interesting revelation about my school; unless I forget.

    I have to say that whatever some people may think about the hardship of living out of a suitcase for a year, only seeing family and friends every six weeks or so and having to work every day whatever the weather, seeing the places I've not yet seen far outweighs all of those. I really can't wait, although it is unlikely I will have this view of Birmingham from the air.

  13. Owlbut's Birdwatch
  14. The House Sparrow is a noisy little bird. They will eat almost anything and can be seen around rubbish and on farmland. They have been declining in England but there are still over 5 million breeding pairs around. They prefer lowland areas and can be found in towns and villages all year round.

    They are 14 cm in length, have a wingspan between 21 and 25 cms and can weigh from 24 to 38 grams. There is a slight difference in feather colour between males and females with the males having more black and white while both sexes have brown, grey and cream feathers. The beak is black and brown, short and chunky.

We have asked the local Tourist Board(s) for a small contribution (50 pounds) to the cost of running this project and, in anticipation of their agreement, we are providing a link to their site(s) for the next five years. I can assure you we won't see anywhere near everything when we are there, so, if you fancy taking a trip into the West Midlands check it (them) out for some great information. Apart from anything else it will get you out in the fresh air, walking around and one day you might be over 70 and still enthusiastically mobile.

All figures the latest available as at July 2020