The Black Country was an area of small towns and villages until Industry arrived -- and Industry arrived because of the district's geology. Dudley Castle is built of limestone and the 'Seven Sisters' caverns beneath it are quarried from limestone. Where the Black Country isn't limestone, it's basalt, streaked with rust from the iron in it. Alongside enormous quarries there were enormous 'marl-holes': holes from which marl, or clay had been dug. And through the Black Country ran the massive thirty-foot coal seam. It was said to be the only place in the world where ladders were needed to cut coal.
It's the setting of my book, The Ghost Wife.
The pit bonk wenches you did not mess with. They were muscular and they came mob-handed. Old photographs usually show them dressed in skirts, bonnets and big boots
and grimy as anyone would be who worked loading coal all day. I think they'd dressed in their best for these photos, though, as the tales I was told as a child always described them as wearing an
old flat cap that had once belonged to a male relative and often one of his old jackets too. Sometimes a shawl or sack was draped around the head and shoulders with the flat cap on top. And a
pipe in the corner of the mouth.
I've never seen photos of them wearing trousers but they did. They often rode astride on the horses that pulled the carts and were climbing on and off carts all day. It was easier to wear trousers.
The Ghost Wife herself is not inspired by the Black Country at all. She stems from my reading of sinister Icelandic folk-tales about 'followers' -- a kind of
ghost which attaches itself to a particular family and follows them relentlessly through generations. This is usually said to have happened because of a curse inflicted by a witch. The witch --
who was as often male as female -- created the ghost by murdering some luckless beggar and then sends the ghost against his or her enemy, to torment them or spy on them.
In the book a 'Methody' farming family had a rather less religious ancestor who drowned a beggar girl in order to create for himself a witch's familiar. The witch died -- but his familiar continues to haunt the farm-house and attaches herself to some unfortunate young man in every generation. As the Dudham Devil remarks, the classical writers would have called her a succubus. That is, a ghostly or demonic lover.