The coal mining, chain making and brick making that made Cradley famous are now in the past, and most of the other iron-based trades have declined to a shadow of their former selves.
The High Street was renamed Colley Lane, when Cradley and Halesowen merged with Dudley in 1974, most of its shops were demolished and Huntington Gardens built, these have now made way for private housing in Little Hill Crescent and Bethesda Gardens. Many of the shops in Colley Gate and Windmill Hill have also closed down, being replaced by convenience stores and takeaways. For many people, journeys by car or bus to the Merry Hill Shopping Centre near Brierley Hill have replaced the walk to Cradley Heath or bus trip to Halesowen, Stourbridge or Dudley for shopping in the bigger shops.
There are fewer public houses in Cradley now, some of those remaining have been given new names e.g. the Chop House, formerly Ye Olde White Lion, the Talbot Hotel became the Chainmaker, but has recently taken on a new identity as Rainbow Street a children’s role play centre.
Not all the changes are for the worse. The site of the former Anvil Yard has been for many years a beautiful tree-lined memorial park to the people who once lived there.
The remains of Cradley Colliery was bought by Halesowen Urban District Coucil in 1934 and with land bought by Ben Hodgetts and sold to the council became Homer Hill Park, enjoyed by young and old.
Homer Hill Secondary Modern School, became Cradley middle school, then Cradley High School, which closed in July 2008, now replaced by Lime Gardens an extra care facility service for people aged 55 and over.
Cradley still has its own Branch library opened in 1936, a Community Centre which has recently taken on a new lease of life and a new place in the community, three primary schools, and eight churches, including the Parish church of St Peter and two Ragged schools operating as independent churches possibly the last two in the country.
Cradley in 2020
In place of the factories and workshops many new housing developments have arisen, bringing an influx of new people, but probably at no greater rate than people arrived from the surrounding villages and countryside 150 years ago. Many families who can trace their ancestors in Cradley back for one, two or more centuries have now dispersed, in some cases back to the villages and countryside whence they came. However, the nineteenth century too was a period of outward as well as inward migration, as workers left for Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Canada, and closer to home - to Birmingham, Bristol, Barrow-in-Furness and Ulverston.
So Cradley is changing at a fast rate, but this is nothing new. Some "old" families remain steadfastly put in streets familiar to their grandparents, other people return frequently to visit friends and family. Throughout the world people are looking for records and other traces of their Cradley ancestors. There is a strong interest in local history - of industry, places, sportsmen (well, Steve Bloomer anyway). Organisations and publications such as the Black Country Society and The Black Country Bugle keep the name of Cradley well-known to thousands of people.
The Cradley Then & Now historical group which started over twenty years ago, and had to move from its original meeting place in Colley Lane Library because the building could not hold the regular gatherings of 70 or more people, to the church hall at Park Lane Unitarian Church, has recently moved again to try and recruit new members to High Town Ragged School in Mapletree Lane. Keeping memories and traditions alive and providing a forum for speakers on many subjects.