In 1784 land was leased from the estate of Lord Dudley,
adjacent to the newly built Stourbridge Canal at The Level, Brierley
Hill, for building blast furnaces. By 1788 Benjamin Gibbons was the
tenant and rolling mills were erected. In 1800 Gibbons built more furnaces,
The New Level Furnaces, on the other side of Level Street.
During 1843 Gibbons moved to a new site at Pensnett and
Lord Dudley took over the furnaces and in 1857 built the Round Oak Ironworks
on the other side of the canal to manufacture wrought iron. The Pensnett
Railway was built to give the works access to Lord Dudley's collieries
and other forges. By the 1970's Round Oak was one of the largest steelworks
in Europe and when it closed in the early 1980's had only recently been
redeveloped and modernised.
The whole site was taken over by the Richardson twins,
and with Regional Development funding the Iron-works to the south of
Level Street were cleared and the Merry Hill Shopping Centre built.
This development mainly covered an area of nearby farm land, and old
The original Round Oak site has more recently been redeveloped
as Phase 2 of the "Richardson's" Waterfront development.
Perhaps a final irony is the closure of the monorail system
in the mid 1990's. Futuristic, smooth and efficient, many passengers
just wanting to try it, the system closed with the link to the proposed
Midland Metro never built. The Metro itself now many years behind schedule
may never reach the area.