The town had been a manorial borough from the end of the 13th century, and from at least the 16th century until the passing of the Dudley Town Act of 1791, was governed by the Court Leet of the Lords of Dudley.
In 1853 the Town Commissioners were superseded by the Board of Health, before the town was eventually incorporated into a municipal borough in 1865.
By the early 16th century the Dudley estate, now held by the Sutton family, had become severely in debt and was first mortgaged to distant relative John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, before being sold outright in 1535.
During the English Civil War Dudley served as a Royalist stronghold, with the castle besieged twice by the Parliamentarians and later partly demolished on the orders of the Government after the Royalist surrender.
The development of the Merry Hill Shopping Centre between 19 also saw the loss of most of the town centre's leading name stores, which relocated to take advantage of the tax incentives offered by Merry Hill's status as an Enterprise Zone.
The financial crisis and recession resulted in even more of the retail units in the town centre becoming vacant, with the Woolworths store on Market Place closing in December 2008 when the company went bankrupt, Dudley is the administrative centre of the Dudley Metropolitan Borough, and is governed by the Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council.