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Westfield Merry Hill
Location Brierley Hill, Dudley England
Coordinates Coordinates: 52°28′55″N 2°06′36″W / 52.482°N 2.110°W / 52.482; -2.110
Opening date 1985
Developer Richardson Developments
Owner Jointly Owned:
  • Westfield (50%)
  • Queensland Investment Corporation (50%)
No. of stores and services 309[1]
No. of anchor tenants 6
Total retail floor area 148,000m² (1.593m ft²)
Parking 8000
No. of floors 2 (Some shops have extra floors)

Westfield Merry Hill is a shopping centre in Brierley Hill near Dudley, West Midlands, England. It was built by Tarmac Construction. The first businesses moved into the complex in 1985 and the original centre was fully occupied by 1989. Several expansion projects have taken place since then. Originally the centre was owned by the original developers, Richardson Developments, but it has seen a number of other owners, including Chelsfield and Mountleigh. Its current owners are the Australian Westfield Group and the Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC).[2] The centre has around 310 stores[1] and a total retail floorspace of 148,000m² (1.593m ft²),[3] making the centre the fourth largest in the United Kingdom, behind the MetroCentre, Bluewater and Westfield London.

Merry Hill is home to a Odeon cinema, larger shops such as Primark, Next, Marks and Spencer, BHS, Debenhams, supermarkets Asda, Sainsbury's and Eat Central food hall including Pizza Express & Nandos. Adjacent to the main shopping site is The Waterfront, which accommodates offices for HM Revenue and Customs amongst others, and has a marina area providing space for a number of bars and restaurants.

The Dudley No.1 Canal passes though the adjacent Waterfront site and high above the the edge of the shopping centre, before descending Delph Locks.





In the 1980s, the Government created a number of Enterprise Zones which gave incentives to firms wishing to set up business in areas which had been affected by a downturn in the manufacturing industry. The Brierley Hill area had suffered the loss of the Round Oak Steelworks, and it was hoped that other manufacturers could be encouraged to move into the area. Incentives included relaxed planning rules and a ten-year period exempt from business rates. Developers saw the opportunity to take advantage of lack of restrictions by making a shopping centre, rather than industrial units originally envisaged as the mainstay of the Enterprise Zone.

Several square miles of land in a triangular area between Dudley, Brierley Hill and Netherton were designated as an Enterprise Zone in 1981. [1]

Former Merry Hill logo (Before Westfield/QIC ownership)

The Enterprise Zone encompassed both the former steelworks site and a large open green space known as Merry Hill Farm. This was cherished locally as a haven for wildlife. In 1982, the site was bought by Richardson Developments with the intention of constructing a large shopping centre. 1982 also saw the closure of the Round Oak Steelworks after 125 years.

There was much hostility when building of the first phase of the shopping centre commenced on the green space, rather than on the former steelworks site, which itself was incorporated into the enterprise zone in 1984. [2]

Despite protests from local citizens the site was destroyed, and the first retailers moved onto the site in 1985 with the completion of a retail park (phase 1) and shopping mall (phase 2). [3]

In 1986, a second shopping mall was added, opening in the November, to form phase 3. [4]. Phases 4 was added during 1988, and phase 5 was completed in September 1989, at the same time that the existing malls were upgraded. The official opening of the complex took place on 14 November 1989. [5]

On 24 December 1990 [6], the shopping centre was sold to Mountleigh.

The steelworks site was not built on till later stages of the Merry Hill/Waterfront Project. The Waterfront section, which consisted of Phases 6-8, was constructed between 1989 and 1995. Phase 6 saw the construction of 69,700 square metres (750,245 sq ft) of offices, Phase 7 saw the construction of 6,500 square metres (69,965 sq ft) of restaurants and bars and Phase 8 saw the addition of a 15,800 square metres (170,070 sq ft) business park.

Phase 4 was partly remodelled in 1996, just eight years after its completion. [7]

Road access to the complex was improved in 1998 with the completion of alterations to the two access points from the A4036 main road between Dudley and Pedmore.

Merry Hill had brought about the first free-standing Pizza Hut in the UK, the first drive-in McDonald's restaurant and the largest Texas Homecare store.[4]

This is still an issue of contention: in a real-life retcon histories often merely state that the centre was built on the steelworks, and omit mention of Merry Hill Farm; photographs are cropped to show only the steelworks. Planning consent had been granted by Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, some time before the closure of Round Oak Steelworks in December 1982, for the land of the farm to be used for the tipping of steelworks waste and the perimeter of the site had been landscaped with embankments and tree planting to mask the tipping from neighbouring housing. Levelling of the site for the first phase of building not only destroyed the farm, which would soon have been covered by waste in any case, but also removed the new landscaping and threatened the stability of the canal embankment on the hillside above the site. This resulted in the closure of the Dudley Canal to traffic for several years.

Effect on surrounding towns

When the Merry Hill Centre opened, a number of large retail chains decided to move their stores from surrounding towns into the new shopping centre. These included Marks & Spencer, C&A (C&A closed in early 2001 and the store is now occupied by H&M) and Littlewoods (which closed down around the same time as C&A in Merry Hill). These left a number of large empty premises behind, which in turn meant many shoppers abandoned town centres for the Merry Hill Centre, which led to a large downturn in trade for those shops remained, affecting their viability.

Carrefour were among the first tenants at the centre when Phase 1 opened in 1985, the store being taken over by Gateway and then in 1989 by Asda, who already had a store in Brierley Hill town centre as well as several others in the wider Black Country area, but surprisingly, the Brierley Hill store remained open.

WH Smith opened a store on two levels near Marks & Spencer in 1989; it relocated to a new ground floor unit in the same phase of the centre in 2006 and the original store was taken over by Primark. The opening of the WH Smith at Merry Hill did not result in the closure of any of its stores in the nearby towns.

Most affected was Dudley, the largest nearby town, whilst Halesowen and Stourbridge were also hit. The Marks & Spencer stores in this towns all closed to be replaced with the Merry Hill store that opened in July 1989. Marks & Spencer opened a second store in 1996 when it took over the Littlewoods store - this new store specialises in furniture and menswear.

As well as offering the advantages of an enterprise zone to businesses, the Merry Hill Centre has therefore also given businesses the opportunity to expand as well as relocate.

A further blow came when the local council, Dudley Metropolitan Borough, announced that it was bringing in parking charges throughout its area; this turned more shoppers away from local towns, and towards the Merry Hill Centre, where parking remains free.

Dudley Council have nonetheless announced large increases in car parking charges in the rest of the Borough, including Brierley Hill where some charges have increased by over 100%, resulting in continuing rumours that parking charges may be soon introduced at the Merry Hill Centre.

After more than 20 years, local towns have still not been able to compete with the centre, and have become increasingly run-down, though schemes to improve things are occasionally mooted.

The Merry Hill Centre continues to draw most of its trade from local towns. The developers did plan that the Centre would attract visitors from across the country. Coach parks have now had apartments and houses built on them.


Merry Hill Monorail
Continuation to right Unknown route-map component "eBHFq" Continuation to left
Round Oak (South Staffordshire Line) - Proposed Metro link
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Waterfront West (planned extension)
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Dudley Canal N° 1.
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Waterfront East
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Maintainance Depot
Urban station on track
Grand Central
Urban station on track Bus station
Times Square (for Merry Hill Bus Station)
Unknown route-map component "uKBFe"

An elevated monorail opened at Merry Hill in June 1991, but this closed in 1996 as a result of a combination of technical problems and safety concerns (especially the difficulty of evacuation), exacerbated by a dispute between the owners of Merry Hill and The Waterfront which at this time were owned separately. The infrastructure was later removed, leaving only one disused monorail station and part of the old railings visible—on top of the Marks and Spencer store roof.

The monorail cost £22 million to build. There were to be five stations, with the system extending over the canal and terminating close to the site of the former Round Oak railway station: Where an interchange with a Midland Metro extension was proposed. However, only the first four stations were completed.

The system was officially opened on 1 June 1991. But the actual opening to the public was delayed by Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate investigating evacuation procedures. After operating for a short while, the monorail was temporarily closed again in 1992,[5] but ran sporadically until 1995[6].

The cars were manufactured by Von Roll[6] (later Adtranz, then Bombardier) to their Mk III Series specification; each carrying up to 70 passengers and providing a throughput of 1,800 passengers per hour per direction.[5] The track was a combination of single- and double-track(single- and double-beam) connected with rotary switches (points) with running on the left-hand side of the doubled section.[6]

After the system was put up for sale in 1996,[5] the trains and track were transferred in 2001 to the Oasis Shopping Centre, in Broadbeach, Queensland, Australia, to enable expansion of its own monorail system.


AMC Cinemas opened a cinema at Merry Hill in 1988 which subsequently changed to a UCI Cinemas location when the AMC pulled out of the UK in 1990. It also incorporates an amusement arcade and was refurbished in 2006 following a merger with the ODEON cinema chain. There are 10 screens at the cinema, which was the first multiplex cinema in the Dudley borough and the first new one to have been built for some 50 years.

In almost 20 years since Merry Hill cinema was built, just one other new cinema has been built in the Dudley borough - a Showcase cinema at Castle Gate, four miles away, in 2001.

On 9 October 1988, Merry Hill staged the first drive-in film in the entire West Midlands, when E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was shown on the centre's extensive car parks.

As of 2009 ODEON Merry Hill began showing 3D films

Recent developments

The owners and local council leaders have stated their aim to better connect and integrate Merry Hill with the traditional town centre of Brierley Hill. The Dudley Canal was re-routed in the late 1990s, and between 2002 and 2005 housing has been developed around the complex (several apartment blocks opposite the cinema as well as apartments and houses overlooking Pedmore Road). A new line of the Midland Metro tram system will reach the site in 2011. A new Primark store opened on 4 May 2007. The newest multi-storey car park at Merry Hill has also been given a high rating by the AA, which means it is one of the best car parks in the United Kingdom. Sainsbury's has had a refit in early 2006 which includes a pharmacy. Asda and HMV were both refitted in 2007.

One of the main entrances at Merry Hill with statue of John Northwood.

In addition, the cinema near to multi-storey car park has recently received a major rebrand into an ODEON Cinemas. The refit, costing over £1 million, has seen the inside of the cinema completely modernised throughout, with brand new seating in all auditoriums.

A new £24 million food court, Eat Central, has been completed. It comprises of 16 food court units and restaurants Pizza Express and Nandos its located at the heart of the centre. It faces a new centre entrance and car park, which has themed with street side dining and landscaping.


Bus station

Merry Hill has been served by a bus station since the early 1990s, which gives a direct connections to towns including Dudley, Halesowen, Stourbridge, West Bromwich and Cradley Heath, as well as the cities of Birmingham and Wolverhampton. Similarly, the bus services connect the centre to Cradley Heath railway station, for local services to Birmingham Snow Hill and Kidderminster via Stourbridge Junction.

Routes include National Express West Midlands's Routes 222 and many others. National Express routes 246, 311 and 311A stop in nearby Brierley Hill and then a journey on a local bus to Merry Hill or a short walk is necessary

Midland Metro link

The Merry Hill Centre will receive a light-rail link, probably in the mid 2010s, when the second phase of the Midland Metro is completed. It will terminate a short distance south of the centre in Brierley Hill town centre, and will give direct light-rail links to the towns of Dudley, Tipton and Wednesbury. The final phase of the line will run on a new route around the edge of Merry Hill, though most of the rest of it will make use of the South Staffordshire Line trackbed.

Future Development

As part of Dudley's Unitary Development Plan Process, Merry Hill along with the Waterfront and Brierley Hill will be integrated to form the enlarged town centre of Brierley Hill. Westfield, the owners of Merry Hill, is working closely with Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council to assist with this project.

The integration programme is part of a major urban regeneration project and will see the creation of a new mixed usage town centre through the physical and social integration of the areas.

There is talk of John Lewis being built at a later stage. Westfield have also signed up for US retailer Best Buy to open a store in 2010


Celebrity visits


In February 2008 at the green car park, a stabbing occurred. This caused major disruption in Merry Hill, while the largest car park, the multi storey, was closed for the investigation. The victim survived; however, no one has been charged with the stabbing. As a result of the incident, security at the centre has been improved, with guards being located at nearly all exits in the centre.[8]

In culture

Working at Merry Hill gave Catherine O'Flynn the inspiration for the fictional Green Oaks centre, the main location in her successful novel What Was Lost.


  1. ^ a b "Westfield Group - Westfield Merry Hill (Customer Site)". The Westfield Group. Retrieved 2006-12-18.  
  2. ^ "Express & Star Newspaper - Sell-off at Merry Hill". Midland News Association (Express & Star). Retrieved 2007-01-02.  
  3. ^ "Westfield Group - Westfield Merry Hill (Corporate Site)". The Westfield Group. Retrieved 2006-12-01.  
  4. ^ David Lawson (1996). "Real estate twins do nothing by halves". David Lawson. Retrieved 2008-05-24.  
  5. ^ a b c "Portsmouth's Monorail - Privately Financed". Fact Sheet No 128. Light Rail Transit Association - UK Development Group. 2001-11. Retrieved 2008-10-09. ""Merry Hill train terror" was the headline as 20 shoppers waited to be rescued from the monorail jammed 50 feet above ground. [..] this monorail, Von Roll Mark III, was opened on the 1st of June 1991 at a cost of GBP22m. With its claim of 70 standing passengers per train, a maximum flow of 1800 passengers per hour per direction [..] opening of the monorail was delayed [..] In 1992 the line closed for essential maintenance and in 1996 was reported as being up for sale."  
  6. ^ a b c Williams, Andy (2005). "Andy Williams railway photos - Miscellaneous". Retrieved 2008-10-09. "[..] running over what [..] is called a rotary switch. [..] the south end of the line was double-tracked [and] left-hand running was the normal practise. The monorail was operational from 1991 to 1995, when it succumbed to a mixture of technical and safety issues. [..] I seem to recall that the monorail wasn't always operating, [..] it didn't really go anywhere useful, and you had to pay to ride it. [..] This monorail was a Von Roll system. It had been out of use for six years when it was dismantled in 2001. The equipment was sold to the operators of the Broadbeach system in Australia [..] there's now little or no evidence that a monorail ever existed"  
  7. ^
  8. ^ Teen stabbed at Merry Hill : Express & Star:

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