Friday, 20 June 2014

Black Country Living Museum

For quite some time now, Sally has been saying that we should go to the Black Country Museum. She had been there on a works corporate thing a few years ago, and had quite enjoyed it, and thought i would too.

It had always been on the "things to do" list for this holiday, and today was the day that had been penciled in for it. Thankfully, the weather seemed to be acceptable - it was overcast, but the forecast was for no rain, and it did in fact brighten up nicely as the day wore on.

We got there around 11:20am - the journey taking about 45 minutes from Coventry. We were rather surprised that there were not more road signs for it, and were very thankful for the satnav. We had read online that there was a big corporate event going on today, and that certain parts of the museum would not be open to the general public. It turned out that it was not a major problem for us, and we hardly noticed this. The carpark WAS almost full though, and if we had left it much later we may well have struggled to park.

The first thing we had a look at was the "Newcomen Steam Engine", which was actually working today. This is a replica of one of the original steam engines for pumping out the old coal mines. They have it set up so that you can go into the basement and see the way the pump actually works.

We then walked down into the "village" itself, and had a walk around the shops and houses they have set up there. It was a bit strange being able to walk into peoples houses and wander around them, have a look in their back gardens, and see how their lives would have been. Some of them had members of staff dressed in period clothing, all of whom were very happy to talk to you and tell you all about who's house it would have been, what kind of a life they led and what work they had done.

Having been brought up to not invade other peoples privacy and homes, it was very strange to be able to go around like this - i was almost wanting to apologise to these people for bursting into their houses! I would never dream of poking around in other peoples back yards and peering into their houses normally.

The staff were so enthusiastic about what they were doing, and some of them we chatted to for ages, not always just about the museum either!

As for the shops, they were all set out just as they would have been at the time, with items that would have been for sale back then. I was surprised just how many things i recognised, but then again, my dad has so may of these old tins, jars, tools and what have you in his shed that it is probably not that surprising.

Their was a general food store, a chemist, a sweet shop, bakery, hardware & tool shop, a pawn brokers, bicycle shop, gents outfitters, motorcycle shop, wireless shop, tobacconists, fish and chip shop and a builders merchants. Most of these were just for show, but the bakers had some cakes for sale, the sweet shop some sweets on offer, the chip shop always had a big queue for their fabulous fish & chips (yes, we did try them!) and even the gents outfitters had some things for sale which are replicas of old style clothes which they have specially made for them.

The pub was open for local beers too. This was a proper old "spit and sawdust" pub, complete with sawdust of the floor of the bar.

The most interesting ones were the houses though i felt. It was amazing to see how the families would have lived in these one up one down houses, sometimes with 6 children sharing the house with their parents. So that is EIGHT people living in a house not big enough to swing a cat in. The downstairs room being the kitchen, dining and living room, probably only about 12 feet square, and their being just one bedroom of the same size upstairs for them all. No running water, no toilet, no washing facilities, no gas, no electricity. A very simple life, but one which probably saw them quite content, as they knew nothing else. It wasn't as if they were jealous of their neighbours, as they were all in the same boat, and quite often your neighbour would be a relative anyway!

We spent 3 hours there, and while we walked around most of the site, we didn't see everything, and are looking forward to going back. It feels as though you would not get bored with repeated visits, as different parts of the site would be open, some bits that were too busy to go into today we can visit next time, and they do have special events and themed days too, so i think we will be making a few more visits during the next year.

If you haven't been to it yourself yet, make the time, and go - i doubt you will regret it!!

One of the "1930s" living rooms.

Inside the workshop part of the "Wireless Shop".

One of the 1930s kitchens.

The tobacconist shop.

The main street of the village.

The bakers shop.

Inside the chemist shop.

The downstairs room of a "one up one down" house.

The garden of the chemist, also showing the back of the house next door.

1 comment:

  1. Wow what fabulous pictures Mike, thanks for sharing them.

    Hugs Diane