Cannock was a small rural community until mining increased heavily during the mid-to-late 19th century. The area then continued to grow rapidly with many industries coming to the area because of its proximity to the Black Country and its coal reserves. Cannock's population continued to increase steadily in the 20th century and its slight fall since the 1981 census has been more than compensated for by house-building in the adjoining village of Heath Hayes. The last colliery to close in the town was Mid Cannock in 1967, and the last remaining colliery to close in the Cannock Chase area was Littleton (in Huntington) in 1993. There is now no heavy industry in the area, and Cannock is home to many commuters working in the surrounding towns and cities.
Cannock has a reasonably sized town centre which includes some well known high street names. It also has outdoor and indoor markets and a shopping centre, however some of Cannock's other shopping facilities are to be found in out of town locations such as Longford Island Retail Estate and the Orbital Retail Park.
Cannock has a choice of nightclubs and bars, including Missoula (Used to be called Stones), Silks, Bank Bar & Lounge, Piques, Courtyard (used to be called Academy), Bar 77, Ubar, and Bar Sport, as well as several traditional pubs dotted around the town centre including the White Hart, The Royal Oak and Wetherspoons. There are also many restaurants, gastro pubs, and fast food establishments offering a wide choice of food.
Once the hunting ground of ancient royalty, Cannock Chase is today a picturesque area of woodland walks, wildlife and superb scenery. Some 3 million people live within 20 miles of the Chase.
At only 26 square miles the Chase is the smallest area to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in mainland Britain. Much of Cannock Chase is owned by Staffordshire County Council and Forestry Commission, which manage part of it as a commercial forest.