Netherton is a town in the West Midlands within the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley. It lies around 1.5 miles (2.5 km) south of the town of Dudley and 1.5 miles north of Cradley Heath. Netherton means ‘lower farm’ in Old English (the corresponding ‘upper farm’ may have been the original settlement in present-day Dudley).
For most of its history, Netherton was a small village centred around the point where a brook crossed the Baptist End Road, near the boundary of the former hunting park of Pensnett Chase.Netherton is shown in Joseph Browne’s 1682 map of Staffordshire, although like its larger neighbour Dudley, it lay in a small ‘island’ of Worcestershire completely surrounded by Staffordshire. Netherton is mentioned in legal records dating from 1420 and the first mention of a Netherton nailor, an occupation that became very important locally in later years, is dated 1559 .
The Lords of Dudley once owned a manor house in Netherton. The property is mentioned in documents dating from the 15th-17th centuries. In 1684 King Charles II of England granted a charter to Netherton allowing the village to hold an annual market fair . Following the Enclosure Acts of the late 18th Century, allowing building in Pensnett Chase, the present town centre took shape further up the hill than its original site. Netherton expanded rapidly in the industrial age and the thick seams of coal underlying the region were extensively mined. Blast furnaces were constructed in Netherton for steel making and the area became home to many industries including chain and anchor making, nail making, brick making, enameling, and the construction of boilers.
Netherton’s parish church, St Andrew’s, consecrated in 1830, is situated on Netherton Hill at the highest point in Netherton. It was originally just a chapel-at-ease to St Thomas’s of Dudley, only becoming Netherton’s parish church in 1844. The church is surrounded by the gravestones of many of the former residents of the area. The churchyard also contains the mass unmarked graves of the victims of cholera that struck Dudley in 1831 and 1832. Netherton’s most notable public building is probably the Victorian-era Netherton Arts Centre and Library at the top of Northfield Road. A fire station and a number of police houses were constructed at the same time on an adjacent site. These buildings are being transformed for commercial and community use.
Parks and Recreation
Saltwells Nature Reserve stands on the Netherton – Brierley Hill border, next to Netherton Reservoir. It takes its name from Saltwells Wood, now just part of the reserve, named for its saline springs where people came to bathe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Doulton’s Claypit, a Geological Site of Special Scientific Interest, lies within the reserve.
Netherton Park is located near the town centre and was laid out in about 1900 on an area that had once been colliery waste. Another old industrial area that has been reclaimed for public recreation is the Bumble Hole Local Nature Reserve. This region lies to the east of the town adjacent to the boundary with the Metropolitan Borough of Sandwell.
Shops and Other Amenities
The majority of Netherton’s shops lie along or just off the Halesowen Road (the A459). Most of the shops in the centre of Netherton are fairly small including a bakery and two butcher’s shops. There are also two convenience stores: a Spar and a Costcutters. There are two medium-sized supermarkets to the south of the town centre (an Aldi and a Lidl). A post office and a Lloyds TSB bank also lie on the Halesowen Road. The most unusual shop in Netherton is probably one selling Western (i.e cowboy) outfits.
Netherton’s former triangular-shaped marketplace was situated in the fork of the junction of the Halesowen Road and Northfield Road. Old photographs show it to be still in use at the beginning of the 20th century. The area is now a small public garden.
There are no proper restaurants in Netherton but there are cafs, fish and chip shops. Netherton Health Centre, a clinic, is situated on the Halesowen Road. The Savoy Centre (named after Netherton’s demolished cinema which used to occupy the site), which lies next to the Arts Centre on Northfield Road, provides training, adult education and conference facilities.