The English county of West Midlands could be renamed Mercia after a consultation process was announced today.
The move comes just days after the region was featured in the pages Guardian by journalist and writer Robert Shore, who believes Midlanders struggle with a lack of identity and are too modest about their contribution to British history.
Mercia was originally the name of an Anglo Saxon kingdom that existed between AD600 and 900 in the Midlands before being swallowed up by the burgeoning Kingdom of England. The name survives in a number of places today – most noticeably the West Mercia Police.
The name change has been proposed to bring a “little more glamour to an overlooked area of the country,” said Dave ‘Penda’ Trent, spokesman for the organisation Bring Back Mercia, which was influential in convincing the local authorities to begin the renaming process.
The West Midlands, which includes the Birmingham conurbation, is one of the most heavily urbanised English counties and according to local tourist bodies struggles to draw visitors despite it being one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution. The new county will also include part of South Staffordshire west of Wolverhampton.
“We hope the name change will connect the area’s epic dark age past with its modern place in history and attract sightseers away from places like Cornwall or Dorset,” said Eva Lednor, PR for the newly formed Mercian Tourist Board. “We’re confident that the border might be extended southwards to include the northern edge of the Cotswolds – so that we get some really lovely countryside within Mercia.”
One Midlands man who would have welcomed the change is writer JRR Tolkien. He thought of himself as a Mercian and used what he knew about the Anglo-Saxon kingdom to create the Riders of Rohan in The Lord of the Rings.
“This year marks the 60th anniversary of the first publication of Lord of the Rings,” said Harry Gorn, of the Birmingham Tolkien Mystics “so it seems a fitting tribute to bring one of Professor Tolkien’s dreams to fruition in 2014.”
But for Dave Trent of Bring Back Mercia, the move might not be enough. “Ideally, we’d like to see the whole of Mercia reunited in a single independent kingdom. But the name change is a great start, at least.”