The question created much amusement for my American visitors. It was asked by a man in the welcome short film, at the Black Country museum. It was really his response which prompted the laughter.
Vehemently stated, in the broadest local tones, he answered his own query, "It's wherever a Black Country man says it is!"
True enough as it goes. I once asked around and got as many different answers, as there were people in my survey. But the council maintains its official position. It's any place lying within the metropolitan boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton.
That's cleared that one up then. Until you ask that bloke from Burntwood, who swore that Brownhills was Black Country, always was and always would be, despite sitting firmly within South Staffordshire.
The local legend goes that Queen Victoria was once travelling by train (or coach) through the area. She witnessed first hand what an American traveller had already described. 'Black by day, red by night' read his report. The factories, foundries and pits would do that, burning through the night with their furnaces and kilns; vast chimney stacks pumping out dark smoke regardless of the hour.
The monarch was not amused. "Close those curtains on this black country," she instructed her lady-in-waiting. Thus the window's view was obscured and she never got to see my gt-gt grandparents waving back at her.
It's only recently that the Black Country has been awarded its own flag. The black and red recalls that Victorian description. The chains touch upon the chain-making industries dotted around Dudley and Sandwell especially. The whiteness in the centre is in the shape of a glass kiln chimney. It and the chain are representative of how the Industrial Revolution arrived and hit hard in the Black Country.
It's our heritage and our pride.