Dudley is a town in the West Midlands, England. The town has a population of 196,501 (2005 census). Since 1974 it has been the administrative headquarters of the Metropolitan Borough of Dudley. It is the 19th largest settlement in England, measured by Urban Sub-Area, and is the second largest 'town' in the U.K.
Dudley, part of the West Midlands conurbation, is located south of Wolverhampton and is the largest town in the Black Country. The town centre is traditionally part of an exclave of Worcestershire entirely surrounded by Staffordshire - which has determined the fact that, in ecclesiatical terms, it has remained part of the diocese of Worcester
Dudley has a history dating back to medieval times; a castle has stood in Dudley since the 8th century, the present castle dates from the 13th century, and provided the centre around which the town grew. (see Dudley Castle)
The town industrialised rapidly in the 18th and 19th centuries, and its population grew dramatically. Due to its heavy and highly polluting industries it became a central part of the Black Country. The main industries in Dudley included coal and limestone mining. Other industries included iron, steel, engineering, metallurgy, glass cutting, textiles and leatherworking. Most of these industries have declined in recent decades.
Of historical significance, the first Newcomen steam engine was installed at the Conygree coalworks a mile east of Dudley Castle in 1712.
Dudley was mostly made up of farms and factories surrounded by the occasional cottage until the 19th century, when many rows of terraced houses with terrible sanitation were built. These in turn were cleared between the 1920s and 1960s to make way for council owned houses and flats. The Dudley area also consists of many privately owned houses including some late 19th/early 20th century homes which are still standing but have been modernised to keep up with modern sanitation standards.
The first major council housing development was the Priory Estate, near the border of Sedgley, where more than 2,000 houses were built during the 1930s. The Wrens Nest Estate followed soon afterwards. It stands in the shadow of Wrens Nest Hill, where many dinosaur fossils can be found.
In the 1980s the town made the Pismo Clam (Spisula solida) the official town shell.
In 2002 the largest earthquake to hit the UK in 10 years had its epicenter in Dudley, specifically in the outlying area of Gornal.