On the edge of the West Midlands Green Belt, Stourbridge is a market town with long ties to the glassmaking industry.
Glass had been manufactured here since the 1600s, but the trade accelerated in the 18th century with the construction of the Stourbridge Canal and the monumental Red House Glass Cone.
This giant kiln is still standing, and is open as a museum, while the old Ruskin Glassworks have become a craft centre for glassmaking and other trades.
Being in the very south-west of the West Midlands conurbation means that you don’t have to travel far for nature, whether you go west to the sandstone ridge of the Kinver Edge, or south to the lofty Clent Hills.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Stourbridge:
1. Kinver Edge
Just west of Stourbridge is a National Trust site at a sandstone escarpment running roughly north to south.
In the millennium before the Romans arrived the ridge was occupied by two hillforts.
The largest of these, is the Kinver Edge Hillfort to the north, using the natural contours of the ridge for defence, together with a single massive rampart to the south.
There are many miles of footpaths to explore at Kinver Edge, up to the hillfort, or through woods.
heathland and pasture in search of natural landmarks like Nanny’s Rock.
The views from the blustery top of Kinver Edge reach across the counties of Shropshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire.
2. Kinver Edge Rock Houses
The National Trust also maintains the historic Rock Houses, cut from the sandstone further down the slope.
Some of these were the last troglodyte dwellings to be inhabited in England, occupied until the 1960s.
One of the cavities, Holy Austin had been a hermitage until the Reformation in the 16th century.
The National Trust has kept some of the houses furnished as period homes, with crackling fires and staff to explain what domestic life would have been like in the Victorian period and in the 1930s, while another contains a tearoom.
Others have been left bare, allowing you to see the sandstone’s interesting texture and read some historic graffiti.
Around the house’s gardens are working allotments, a heritage orchard and lots of quiet places to picnic.
3. Mary Stevens Park
Stourbridge’s main urban park is in the southernoutskirts and a real asset to the town.
Mary Stevens Park opened in 1931 and has just come through a £3.1m refurbishment, keeping it a valued part of daily life in Stourbridge.
There’s an activity centre/cafe, an enormous play area for juniors and toddlers, a new water play feature, tennis courts, an outdoor gym, a bowling green and even a croquet lawn.
For the littlest visitors one of the best bits is the Heath Pool, flocked by geese and ducks, and you can buy a bag of bird feed for 50p from the cafe.
4. Clent Hills
Although Stourbridge is in the busy West Midlands conurbation it’s easy to break out into open countryside traversing this scenic hill range.
The Clent Hills are just across the border in Worcestershire and are a favourite destination for walkers from the nearby Midlands towns.
The two highest peaks, Clent Hill (315m) and Walton Hill (316m), belong to the National Trust, which looks after a tangle of signposted walks into deep woodland bedecked with bluebells in spring.
If you pick a clear day to climb Walton Hill you’ll be treated to a panorama encompassing the Black Mountains of Wales, the Peak District, Charnwood Forest in Leicestershire and the Cotswolds.
The range is littered with 18th-century monuments, reminders of when the land was on the Lyttelton Estate.
One of these is the Four Stones atop Clent Hill, which looks like a set of prehistoric standing stones but was actually the work of the eccentric George Lyttelton, 1st Baron Lyttelton in 1768.
5. Red House Glass Cone
Raised in 1790, the 30-metre Red House Glass Cone is the best preserved of the four surviving glass cones in the UK.
The firm Stuart Crystal was based here until 1936 when it moved production to a new site.
The Red House Glass Cone is now a museum run by Dudley Council, and you can visit to explore the glassworks’ underground tunnels and climb a platform to get a good look at the cone’s interior and understand how it worked.
The cone also hosts a busy programme of activities, be it glass fusing on every Saturday, or crafts like copper foiling, quilling and decoupage on Fridays.
You can also browse exhibitions on Stourbridge’s glass heritage, and visit a set of craft studios based on site to watch artists, ceramicists, textile artists and more at work, and to purchase a one-of-a-kind gift.
6. Ruskin Glass Centre
The glassworks previously run by the famous Royal Doulton Crystal and Webb Corbett has recently come through a £1.4m refurbishment, becoming a hub for modern glassmaking.
There’s a glassmaking school, a performing arts venue, a cafe and a host of studios.
Based at these studios are renowned glass artists, stained glass makers, engravers, glass decorators, glass repair specialists, as well as artisans in other fields, from textiles to printmaking and woodwork.
There’s a resident glass-blower giving demonstrations, while you can visit the studios to peruse the artists’ wares, learn a little about their techniques and take something special away with you.
7. Hagley Hall
In the Clent Hills on Stourbridge’s southern margins is the 18th-century neo-Palladian Hagley Hall, which has remained home to the Lyttelton family since it was built.
This stately home was designed by Sanderson Miller and is set in rambling parkland, landscaped in the Picturesque style and today open to the public.
Hagley Hall remains a family home for Christopher Lyttelton, 12th Viscount Cobham, but is also rented out for events, and welcomes groups for hour-long guided tours.
These take in the lavish state rooms, rich with masterful Rococo stuccowork and interesting pieces from busts of Roman emperors to a salvaged Elizabethan fireplace, beautiful 18th-century tapestries, Meissen porcelain and Louis XV furniture.
8. Wychbury Hill
The closest of the Clent Hills is the 224-metre Wychbury Hill in Hagley, only a couple of miles south of Stourbridge town centre.
There are a few reasons to make the trip, not least because the summit is a great vantage point for the Severn Valley and Malverns on a clear day.
Wychbury Hill is also topped with the Hagley Obelisk, a memorial monument for the Lyttelton family, dating to 1758. Graffiti has occasionally appeared on the obelisk, reading, “Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?”. This refers to a mystery in which the decomposed body of a woman was found on the Lyttelton Estate in the Second World War.
There’s also a mysterious ancient yew grove, made up of 28 trees, and the earthwork double ramparts of an Iron Age hillfort called the Wychbury Ring.
9. Stourbridge Canal
In the late 18th and 19th century the Stourbridge Canal went arm in arm with the town’s glassmaking industry, serving glassworks, but also brick manufacturers, ironworks and tinplate works.
At just over five miles, the canal is open to this day, and joins the Staffordshire and Worcestershire Canal with the Dudley Canal, effectively linking the River Severn with Birmingham and the wider Black Country.
You can walk all five miles on the newly relaid towpath.
Just by the Red House Glass Cone you’ll find the canal’s highlight, a lovely flight of 16 locks, along with an iron split bridge, a lock cottage and a timber warehouse by the canal basin.
10. Stambermill Viaduct
There’s another imposing industrial artefact in Stourbridge, where the old Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway crosses the Stour River and the A458. From this road it’s difficult to gauge the true size of the Stambermill Viaduct, but off Stamford Road, a little way west, you can walk out into the river valley to and see this structure in all its beauty.
The viaduct was built in 1850 and has ten arches.
Passenger services haven’t passed over since 1964 (although the South Staffordshire Line will reopen in the 2020s), but freight trains do still use the viaduct on the way to and from Brierley Hill.
11. Sadler’s Brewery
Lye, next door to Stourbridge, is the home of Sadler’s, a brewery with a heritage going back to 1861. There was an 80-year hiatus until brewing began again 2004, with a range of signature craft beers and seasonal specials.
Sadler’s rebirth has been such a success that it had to move into larger premises in 2015, complete with visitor centre and bar.
On Saturday’s you can visit for a tour to learn in detail how Sadler’s brews ales and beers like its Mellow Yellow honey lager, the golden ale Worcester Sorcerer, the Hoppers Hut IPA, and many more.
Every stage in the process is explained, from mashing through brewing and fermentation to packaging.
You can even get involved, adding and weighing malts, hops and yeast.
You’ll get four tokens (one per half pint), and can try almost every beer in the range on draught.
12. Bonded Warehouse
The cobblestone Canal Street at the start of the Town Arm of the Stourbridge Canal has a scruffy historical charm, with gaslights and a clutch of brick industrial monuments including the three-storey Bonded Warehouse.
This building was completed around the time the canal opened in 1779 and is distinctive for its semi-circular east end greeting you on Canal Street.
It was saved from demolition in the 1980s and today is rented out for function, while its position on the wharf makes it a departure point for narrowboat trips on the canal.
From April to September Black Country Man Boat Trips schedules 2.5-hour cruises to Stourton Locks, and also hosts regular fairs and markets on weekends.
13. Stourbridge Town Hall
One of the finest buildings in the town centre is the neo-Renaissance Town Hall on Market Street, completed in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and dominating Stourbridge’s skyline with a tower adorned with pediments, friezes and a cupola.
As a live music venue in the 1960s the Town Hall booked some of the biggest acts of the period, like The Who, The Walker Brothers, Cream, The Small Faces, The Hollies and The Moody Blues.
There’s still a lively programme of theatre productions, shows by the UK’s top comedian, classical and popular music, as well as matinee movies on Mondays for critically acclaimed new releases.
14. The Falconry Centre
In Hagley, The Falconry Centre is dedicated to birds of prey, with more than 80 individuals from over 30 species.
There are numerous species of buzzard, owl, kite and falcon, as well as an American Kestrel, a bald eagle, griffon vulture and golden eagle, to name a small few.
The Falconry Centre is somewhere to come for memorable handling experiences with birds of prey, holding and flying a host of majestic birds for anything from an hour to half a day with experiences available for children.
The attraction also doubles as a more conventional zoo, where you can look around the aviaries, meet birds at close quarters and watch impressive flying demonstrations scheduled at 13:00 every day of the week.
15. Stourbridge Golf Club
In rolling parkland on the south edge of town, Stourbridge Golf Club has been going since 1892 and is rated among the best in the West Midlands.
The signature hole of this 18-hole par 69 is the testing 2nd, a par 4 dog-leg left with a green defended by bunkers to the front and sides.
The course is immaculately tended and despite its age has up-to-date facilities and a well-stocked pro shop.
Green fees are reasonable, at £32, and the club scores well for the hospitality and menu at its clubhouse.