King Edward VI Grammar School © David M Lear [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The historic glass-producing town of Stourbridge is in the West Midlands
, 13 miles west of Birmingham
Changing local boundaries have seen Stourbridge move from Worcestershire to the West Midlands which has been fiercely protested by locals.
Stourbridge was recorded on the Worcestershire assize roll of 1255 as Sturesbridge. Its name clearly came about as it was a crossing point over the River Stour.
Towpath and Canal © Roger Kidd [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Glass manufacturing started in the early 1600s in the area around Stourbridge. With local supplies of fireclay and ample coal for the furnaces it was the perfect location for the industry.
The Stourbridge and Dudley canals were built around 1775 primarily to carry coal. The Stourbridge Canal eventually linked up with the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal, the Dudley Canal and the River Severn.
In the 19th century canal transport allowed the import of sand from Ireland and by 1861 all the glass factories had relocated to the canal side. The local census at that time showed over a thousand Stourbridge residents were employed in the glass trade.
Town Hall © Annette Randle [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Many skilled glasscutters immigrated from Ireland as the Irish glass industry declined. Stourbridge crystal was recognized as being among the finest in the world and pieces were often commissioned by dignitaries and royalty.
In later years the glass industry began to decline as cheaper labour costs abroad drew glass producers to relocate their factories to be more competitive.
Stourbridge Shuttle © Whatlep [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The area also had iron foundries. The Stourbridge Lion locomotive was built at Stourbridge in 1828 and became the first locomotive to run on a commercial railway line in America. It now belongs to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.
Present Day Stourbridge
With a population of over 55,000 Stourbridge is a pretty town of character surrounded by a green belt of glorious countryside.
Railway Station © By mattbuck (category) (Own work by mattbuck.) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Described as typically "Middle England" the town has an old quarter of nicely kept Victorian Houses
and other areas, some more affluent than others.
Church of St Mary Stourbridge © By Tony Hisgett (Flickr: Parish Church of St Mary Stourbridge) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Close to the high street is the Ryemarket Shopping Centre along with banks, supermarkets and national retailers.
There are several local cafés and pubs.
Stourbridge has a station on the Birmingham to Kidderminster line and it also has the shortest branch line in Europe at 0.8 miles (1.3km) long.
It runs from Stourbridge Junction into the town centre along the Stourbridge Town Branch Line.
Things to Do Around Stourbridge
The Clent Hills and Kinver Edge are two local beauty spots which are ideal for hiking, cycling and picnicking.
At the top of Clent Hill are four standing stones.
Old Library Clocktower © Richard Rogerson [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Kinver Edge is a sandstone edge which is best known for its caves and rock carved houses.
It is now managed by the National Trust.
The Red House Glass Museum is a great place to see the craftsmen working with molten glass, blowing it into shape during demonstrations.
A fine collection of Stourbridge Glass can be seen at Broadfield House Glass Museum in Kingswinford, six miles away.
The Lace Guild in Stourbridge celebrates the local lace industry.
The fine displays celebrate the local heritage of lace manufacturing during the 18th century and 19th century.
File Locks And Canalside Pub © Roger Kidd [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Stourbridge is on the Stourport Ring of canals and is popular for narrowboat holidays and scenic walks.