A recent article showing that the accents of people from different parts of northern England are becoming more similar is, I believe, descriptive of a general trend relating to areas losing their distinct dialects.
My own experience of joining university, whereby I expected to hear an array of accents coming from other students, supports this claim. Apart from the obvious difference in speaking with students who have come from places other than in England, it is actually quite hard to identify different ways of speaking.
Exceptions can, of course, be made; Scousers or those from the Black Country come to mind. But even in these areas, it is likely that towns or villages have lost different ways of talking. We still have a number of different accents across the nation, but it is safe to say it is not as diverse as it once was.
The same turns of phrase and mannerism are used across the board; English dialects seem to have blended into a small number of groups. General categories such as northern and southern, or urban and country, could describe in sufficient detail the accents of many modern Englishmen.
Accents, however, are only one part of the cultural package which we are losing. Also included are the different turns of phrase, mannerisms and customs that attach an Englishman to a specific patch of land; one where his family has lived for many years, perhaps centuries, with each generation passing on to the next the folk tales and traditions of their village or town. In speaking the way your ancestors did, you preserve a rich identity and unique way of viewing the world.
Of course, age-old stigmas attached to class and education still pressure people to “get rid of their accents”. However this likely pales in comparison to the effects of both mass movement and communication, which have both, inevitably, pushed people into speaking in similar ways.
Dialects have also suffered from the way towns have expanded to blend separate places into one and because it is less likely for people to work in the area they grew up in. These occurrences have eroded the identities of certain places, making it even easier for their residents to lose their accents.
All is clearly not lost and things may be reversed, but if the trend described here is continued then another rich vein of English culture may be lost forever.