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The Worcestershire Hundreds[edit]

Until 1889, the main form of Local Government structures in England were the Hundreds which were divisions of a shire or county for administrative and judicial purposes under common law. All of Worcestershire's Hundreds were split into at least two Divisions depending on geographical size and/or population, except Oswaldslow which was split into three divisions.

Worcestershire's Hundreds were known as the following:

The exceptions were Worcester which gained the status of County corporate in 1622, in effect a county of itself. This status gave the city autonomy to make its own laws and run it's own judicial and millitary systems separate from Worcestershire. Worcester was known as The City and County of Worcester. This status continued following the Local Government Act 1888, which designated Worcester a County Borough until 1974, when the city became part of the County of Hereford and Worcester. The modern equivilant to a County Corporate is a Unitary Authority. Dudley became a Municipal Borough in 1865 and gained autonomy from the Halfshire Hundred, although the town had a certain amount of historical independence through the seats of the Earl of Dudley and the Bishop of Dudley within the Anglican Diocese of Worcester. This status of autonomy was confirmed following the Local Government Act 1888, when Dudley was designated a County Borough. Another exception was Halesowen and Oldbury, which was a detached part of Shropshire until October 1844, when the Parish was reunified with Worcestershire due to the Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844

Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844 and Local Government Act 1888[edit]

Worcestershire County Council came into existence following the Local Government Act 1888 and covered the historic traditional county, except for the two county boroughs at Dudley and Worcester. The county also had many exclaves and enclaves, which were areas of land cut off from the main geographical area of Worcestershire and completely surrounded by the adjoining counties of Warwickshire, Staffordshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Oxfordshire. The most noticeable were Dudley and the area around Shipston-on-Stour. In return, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Shropshire had their own exclaves within Worcestershire. These were found at Clent, Tardebigge and Halesowen/Oldbury (or the Halesowen Parish area) respectively and were transferred to or rejoined Worcestershire in October 1844 following the Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844. This Act of Parliament was designed to eradicate the issue of 'islands' or 'exclaves', however Shipston-on-Stour remained associated with Worcestershire until April 1931 and likewise Dudley until 1966. The southern boundary of the county was also confusing, with parish boundaries penetrating deep into Gloucestershire and vice-versa. This was also eventually resolved following the Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844.

The Conurbation Issue[edit]

The West Midlands Conurbation's continuous expansion due to the Industrial Revolution has been a large contributory factor to Worcestershire's fluid boundary changes and associated housing issues. In November 1909, Quinton Urban District was ceded to Birmingham and was followed by Yardley, Northfield and Kings Heath in November 1911. As a consequence of the transfer to Birmingham, these areas were no longer part of Worcestershire and became associated with Warwickshire. The Local Government Boundary Commission (1945 - 1949) first muted the idea of an amalgamation between Herefordshire and Worcestershire as it felt that these councils were too small to exist as effective local government authorities. This Commission also wished to expand Dudley's administrative area and form part of a proposed Stafford South county, along with Oldbury which would amlgamate with Smethwick County Borough. These plans were never implemented, due to an announcement in the House of Commons that no comprehensive legislation on local government reconstruction was to be enacted and the 1950 general election. Some of the plans were reinvented at a later date and helped pave the way for such creations such as the counties of Hereford & Worcester and West Midlands.

The Local_Government_Commission_for_England_(1958–1967) was appointed to review the structure of Local Government, particularly within the urban areas. The first review concerning the Birmingham and Black Country conurbation was proposed during the Local Government Act 1958, which established the West Midlands Special Review Area. This was a long term review designed to reform local government structures within the area and create unified structures for co-operation. The long term affect of this Act of Parliament and ongoing review was felt when the Metropolitan county structure were established following the Local Government Act 1972, although by that time some of the county borough Police forces were merged following the Police Act 1964 which gave foundation to the West Midlands Constabulary and the Transport Act 1968 which established the West Midlands Passenger Transport Executive. A considerable part of Worcestershire was placed under the West Midlands Special Review Area and various proposals started to emerge. There would be five enlarged County Borough's that would administrate the Black Country conurbation; these would be Wolverhampton, Walsall, Dudley, West Bromwich and Smethwick. These proposals would affect the status of Urban Districts and Boroughs including Bilston, Tipton, Aldridge etc which would be amalgamated into the five County Borough's. Dudley was proposed to expand beyond its historical 'island' boundaries and take in the surrounding Staffordshire areas of Sedgley, Brierley Hill and Coseley. A newly enlarged Smethwick would take in Oldbury and possibly Halesowen. Stourbridge would still remain under Worcestershire County Council's administrative area, but expand out of its historic boundary at the River Stour and take in Amblecote Urban District from Staffordshire. These proposals became part of the The West Midlands Order 1965 bar some minor adjustments.

During the Local Government reorganisation of April 1966, the newly enlarged Dudley County Borough was finally transferred from Worcestershire and became associated with Staffordshire. In return, Worcestershire gained the new county borough centred around Oldbury. This new authority was known as Warley and was an amalgamation of Oldbury Urban District, the Staffordshire urban districts of Tividale and Rowley Regis and the County Borough of Smethwick, which was also associated with Staffordshire. Warley County Borough became part of Worcestershire and remained until abolition in April 1974, although it was never administrated by Worcestershire County Council.

During the Local Government reorganisations of the nineteen sixties, Worcestershire County Council's expansion was limited to Stourbridge and the designation of Redditch in 1964 as a New Town which saw expansion into Matchborough in Warwickshire. This coincided with a considerable programme of social and private house building in Droitwich, Worcester, Bromsgrove, Kidderminster and along the Birmingham City boundary at Frankley, Rubery and Rednal.

The Redcliffe-Maud Proposals and the Local Government Act 1972[edit]

The Redcliffe-Maud Report 1966-1969 recommended a new structure of local government to replace the Local Government Act 1888 and subsequent reorganisations. The broad outline of this Royal Commission were the creation of unitary authorities to replace the county, district and county borough structures and the establishment of Metropolitan Counties centred around large cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham and Provinical (or regional) Council's.

This report would have seen the county split into several authorities

Redcliffe-Maud Reccommendations affecting Worcestershire

Proposed County Authority Proposed Division Former County Borough Former District or Borough
Herefordshire & South Worcestershire None Worcester Pershore Evesham Droitwich Malvern Martley Upton-upon-Severn
West Midlands North Worcestershire None Kidderminster Kidderminster Foreign Bewdley Stourport-on-Severn Bromsgrove Urban Bromsgrove Rural Redditch
Dudley Dudley Stourbridge Kinver
West Bromwich-Warley Warley West Bromwich Halesowen

The Conservative Party won the 1970 General Election and was committed to the existing two-tier structure and carried out a new review which led to the Local Government Act 1972. Most of the proposals put forward by the Redcliffe-Maud Commission never made law, but the prinicple of the Metropolitan Counties remained. A new West Midlands County Council centring around the County Borough's of Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Solihull, West Bromwich and Coventry was created and consisted of a considerably smaller area than the Redcliffe-Maud recommendations. However some of the Recliffe-Maud Commission's recommendations relating to Worcestershire were implemented in the Local Government Act 1972. Firstly the amalgamated 'Herefordshire and South Worcestershire' authority was back on the agenda, merging most of Worcestershire with Worcester and Herefordshire. The Local Government Act 1972 proposed that the new authority should also include Kidderminster, Bromsgrove and Redditch, but not Stourbridge and Halesowen. These two borough's would form part of a new Dudley Metropolitan District under the County of West Midlands. Warley joined with West Bromwich and surrounding areas such as Wednesbury to form Sandwell Metropolitan District.

From 1974 to 1998, The County of Hereford & Worcester existed as a single non-metropolitan county and ceremonial county. This new authority would be part of a two-tier system, which saw the creation of enlarged District Council's.

In Hereford & Worcester; the new districts affecting Worcestershire included:

  • Wyre Forest (Kidderminster, Stourport-on-Severn and Bewdley)

Note: Frankley remained in Hereford & Worcester until 1 April 1995 where it was transferred to Birmingham, becoming part of the West Midlands County.

The West Midlands County Council existed for only a short period before abolition in April 1986, where the existing Metropolitan Districts became autonomous Metropolitan Borough's and absurbed the key roles undertaken by the county. Although there are still some countywide functions still in place and these include: West Midlands Police, West Midlands Passenger Transport Authority and Waste Disposal.

The West Midlands still exists as a Ceremonial County and a Metropolitan-category county despite the abolition of the County Council.

1998 until Present Day[edit]

In the 1990s UK local government reform, the decision was taken to abolish Hereford and Worcester, with the new non-metropolitan county or shire county of Worcestershire regaining it's historic border with Herefordshire. The new county still excluded towns such as Stourbridge, Halesowen, Dudley and Oldbury, due to the reorganisation's remit of dealing with only non-metropolitan counties in England. The new County of Worcestershire came into existence on 1 April 1998 as an administrative county and ceremonial county, although some cross-boundary organisations and resources are shared with the Herefordshire unitary authority, these include waste management and the youth offending service.

The post-April 1974 Hereford & Worcester districts of Redditch, Worcester, Bromsgrove, Wychavon and Wyre Forest were retained with little or no change. However the Leominster and Malvern Hills districts crossed over the historic border, so a new Malvern Hills district was constituted which straddled the Pre-April 1974 county boundary to the west, south west and north west.

See also:

List of Worcestershire boundary changes

Hereford and Worcester


County Borough of Dudley

Warley County Borough


West Midlands

Local Government Act 1888

Local Government Boundary Commission (1945 - 1949)

Local Government Act 1958

Local Government Act 1972