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The Black Country Museum is a living, open-air museum between Dudley and Tipton in the Midlands. I fancied a day out there as I'd been there on a school trip and I've taken my brownies a few years ago but that is about it!
The Black Country gets its name from having been a major part of the industrial revolution and the first industrial landscape in the world, where metalworking and coal mining polluted the air, for which it became known for and even referred to by Charles Dickens and J.R.R Tolkien! Forges and furnaces poured black smoke out all over the area, but the Black Country became known for manufacturing and metal work. The anchor of the Titanic was even made in the Black Country! It was even conveniently located for the canal network to be transporting manufactured goods around the country. Obviously, today the industry is largely gone, particularly in light of the decline in coal mining. The mines around the area all closed; although a small amount of metal working still goes on in factories around the area. The massive decline in trades in the area has caused economic decline since and parts of the Black Country are now quite deprived. It's now non-polluted, thanks to clean air legislation and all that, which works well for those of us that live locally!
The museum began to be developed in the 1950's by Dudley Borough Council and selected individuals in the community and grew throughout the following years, separating from the Council in 1976 and locating the site on which it now stands. The museum has grown in size and is now a large site with a tramway running right through it and many attractions within the grounds.
When you first enter the museum, there is a Hall of Fame, showing famous people who originated from Birmingham and have gone on to achieve great things. There is also a room inside the foyer building which often hosts displays and exhibitions from groups with various historical interests. Upon purchasing your tickets, you are provided with a very useful map! Leaving the foyer building, to your left, is an old motor garage which is pretty cool, cars looked rather impressive and grand back then! You can also get the tram from this area down to the bottom of the museum, which is about half a mile. There is also an engine house around this area, showing how steam engines worked which looks rather complicated! If you are interested in engineering, then it appears to be a really interesting part of the museum, as my boyfriend was transfixed for quite a while! I didn't really 'get it' myself and got a bit lost by the description given by the guide in there!
In the same area, is the mine. This was one of the parts of the museum I really wanted to go to. There is a small building over the mine and as it's near the entrance, it's worth checking what time the mine tours are when you first get there! They take a certain amount of people down at a time, they provide you with the relevant hard hats and a torch which gives out the same amount of light as a candle would have done! The mine tour is led by a museum guide but when you are in there, there is a narrated story as though it was by the people who worked in there at the time! Although be warned, parts of the ceiling get rather low!
Slightly further through the museum grounds are some old Victorian houses. One that is particularly interesting is the tilted cottage. It's a house that would have belonged to someone relatively well off in those times and it looks grand for the times inside. The guide who works in this cottage is very knowledgeable and can tell you all about the family who lived there and how the cottage was transported to the museum grounds. She looks after that particular cottage, cleans it etc and she clearly takes a lot of pride in the cottage! You will see why it's the tilted cottage though!
There is a fairground slightly further down into the museum grounds, which is a must if you have any kids in your group! The rides are not included in the ticket prices though and you would need to purchase them separately from the fairground.
There is an old Victorian school located in the museum which is well worth a trip even if you don't have kids in your group. There are guides who act as Victorian school teachers, down to teaching a lesson on a blackboard and slates! There is also another school room where it displays artefacts from the school at the time that it was in use and still even has the tiered benches that the baby class would sit at, before moving up to the classroom. The school room is very well recreated indeed and the guides definitely bring it to life.
Next to the school is the fish and chip shop. I highly recommend a visit! They cook the fish and chips in beef dripping, as it would have been done at the time and serve them in a cone of paper. They are honestly the nicest fish and chips you'll have. I kid you not! It can be a bit pricey, at just over £5 for a portion, but it's an absolute must. If the weather is not great, there are benches inside the shop, but we sat outside with ours on a bench and it definitely adds to the atmosphere.
Around this area is Old Birmingham Street, a recreated Victorian street, complete with old style shops, including a general store, bakers, pawnbrokers, hardware shop, chemist etc. Again, the guides in the shops are all very knowledgeable and can tell you all sorts of interesting facts!
The canal runs through the grounds of the museum as it formed an essential part of industry during this time period. The old lime kilns are alongside the canal and provide an interesting insight into the area. Above the lime kilns is a view point, where you can see for miles from. However, be warned that the view point is not wheelchair accessible. There are Dudley Canal Boat trips which you can go on. I was recommended to go on a canal trip, but in the end, we didn't get time. But I hear it's a very good trip and worth the extra charge! Around the canal area, is an old mill, a blacksmith's shop and a nail making workshop. It's a very interesting part of the museum and it really does give you an insight into the work that went on around the Black Country during the days of the industrial revolution!
There is so much to see and do and the Black Country museum, that you can easily spend a day there and certainly no less than half a day in order to really do it justice! I would also recommend getting there early, the museum opens between 10 and 5 every day. We got there about 10.30 and were queuing out of the door! The prices are £15.50 for an adult, which isn't too bad. If you 'gift aid' your ticket, you get free return entry which is definitely worth doing! The price for a child is £8.25 although there are also family ticket combinations available. I would recommend having a look at booking on-line first, as we didn't even think about doing it, until we heard a shout for on-line bookings to make a separate queue. The 'on the door' prices are a bit more expensive. There is a car park at the museum which is pretty big so I can't imagine that you would particularly need to park elsewhere, but you do need to pay to park. It a pay on the way out car park, and you'll need to buy a token for £2.50 before you leave the foyer on the way out.
I think the Black Country museum is an absolutely brilliant day out, whether you are going as a family group or with a group of friends. It's one not to be missed.
I recently went to the Black Country Living Museum with 11 member of my family ranging from ages 6 months to 75 years so it was quite the family outing. We were looking for somewhere outdoors with lots to do for all ages and which was value for money and chose the Black Country Living Museum as if you went onto the Heart of England website you could download a voucher for 2-1 so for each full paying adult paying £15.50 another adult gets in free. However it was cheaper to buy the children's tickets beforehand and my sister saved around £10 by doing this.
I had last visited here about fifteen years ago when my children were little and was surprised how much it has changed and for the better. As it was a nice sunny Sunday there were quite a lot of cars in the car park but we managed to get a space okay and then joined the queue which took about fifteen minutes to get to the desk. The car park cost £2.50 but when my daughter came half an hour later the main car park was full so they were directed to the overflow car park which was a few minutes walk and this was free of charge. I had printed off a few extra 2-1 vouchers as I wasn't sure exactly how many of us there were, so was able to give them to the family who were behind us in the queue who were delighted as they were expecting to pay full price.
The man at the desk taking our money was very helpful and friendly. He asked if we would like to gift aid which is something I always like to do if possible, which took about one minute to do and was then told that this entitled us to come back as many times as we wanted during the year which I thought was extremely generous. Within the entrance is the shop which sells souvenirs and sweets, toilets and an exhibition however no one was really interested in looking round as we just wanted to get back out into the sunshine and see what was on offer.
One of the first things you see is a garage and bus shed, you then walk down towards some old houses which are authentic to the Victorian era and done out in the original décor complete with vegetable garden. There are people in the houses who are dressed in authentic dress of the time and are an absolute font of knowledge about how the families would have lived in these houses. They all have that fabulous black country accent which some people find hard to understand as it is a unique accent.
There is a mine where you go down in groups of 20 which is narrow and quite dark and not suitable if you are claustrophobic. There is a short film which shows how the mine works and then a guide takes the group on a tour which takes about half an hour. You get the impression that you are going really far underground however you are probably only about 10 foot down but you do get a feeling of how the miners would have worked.
As you carry on past the mine you come to the fair which has a helter skelter, a cake walk, dodgems and other fairground rides. You can buy tokens from a kiosk for £1 each and the rides are £1 a ride. I ended up going on the cake walk with my nephews which was fun as I haven't been on a fairground ride for some time.
There are several shops in The Village including an authentic chemist, general store and sweet shop with jars of brightly coloured sweets which are sold in little paper bags. I know everyone raves about the Fish and Chip shop but it really is fabulous. I think it is also the fact that they are cooked in dripping which people just don't do any more as its not really healthy, but they do taste delicious. They cost £5.80 for fish and chips so not much dearer than your average chippy but sitting eating them out of a paper on the grass is just wonderful and you feel like you having a right treat.
We went down to the canal (or the cut as they call it in the Black Country) and went on the boat trip through the tunnels. This cost £5.99 for adults and £4.95 for children but we got it a bit cheaper by buying a few family tickets. We were asked if we wanted to gift aid this which we did and were given an Annual Pass which entitles us to do the boat trip as many times as we wanted this year. You have to wear hard hats as you are dripped on quite a bit from the ceilings of the tunnels but it is very interesting and the guide is talking to you the whole time. You stop in the middle and watch a short film on a screen which is informative and quite moving as it explains how many people lost their lives in those mines. There is a café by the canal where we had a cup of tea, the menu looked quite appealing and there were quite a few people eating here.
There is a Victorian school where you can be a 'pupil' and experience the wrath of the teacher complete with cane and a very loud voice. The classes are every half an hour and there were quite a few people waiting to go into the next class but you were able to see what was happening through the windows.
There is a tram and a bus which takes you from one end of the site to the other free of charge and also an area where there is a blacksmiths and chainmaking shop, and ironmasters office however we didn't get round to seeing these as we had ran out of time.
The site is very clean and well kept with lots of signs and information about the various attractions. It does really take you to a different era and you really get the feel of how things were in this era. The site covers 26 acres and is just right for a full day out.
All in all a smashing day out, lots to do and well worth the money. Will definitely go back again with our free tickets, even if its just for the fish and chips!
As a local to the Black Country Musum, I went on many a school trip there as a child! School trip pretty much equates excitement and enjoyment (or at least it did for me!) so I decided to return recently to see whether it was just as good as I remembered. It also gave me a chance to go without being dressed as a Victorian school girl... Oh the joys of primary school!
I went on the train. It was a bit of a treck from the station but nevertheless manageable if you're up for a bit of a walk. (About 30 mins) I managed to get a really good deal by using London Midlands trains. You can find the offer here: http://www.londonmidland.com/destinations/attractions-and-offers/. There is ample parking, although I noticed someone struggling to find a good place to leave their bike.
We had to queue for quite a while to get in so if it's a holiday or weekend I recommend getting there early! But the people selling tickets there were friendly and helpful which counterbalanced it. There was no cloakroom facility but for an outdoor museum this isn't much of a problem.
I think it's fair to say that you need nice weather for the Black Country Museum! Even if you don't mind a bit of rain yourself, there are only very few buildings you can go inside and I'm sure the competition for indoor space would be tough! Also there is a fair walk between most buildings. The surfaces are fine for buggies and wheelchairs, and there are always ramp alternatives to
There are loads of things to do once you get inside. There is a newly built exhibition space with some interactive bits too. There are plenty of different buildings to go around including an audience participation Victorian school room, back to back houses, shops from many different ages, a church and a pub. You can buy sweets from the sweet shop (very yummy!), fish and chips from the chippie (yummy too, although very greasy!) or make the most of the fact that there are plenty of good places for a picnic. It's an interesting place to be in many other respects too - they have people pretending to be living there which can result in quite a bit of banter(!) and I saw some people walking a horse round. My favourite bit has always been (and will always be!) the fairground! Loads of fun activities for everyone to enjoy! It's not very cheap though (about £1 a ride) so be prepared for that! There's a mine too but I have to admit it's quite scary so only go if that's your sort of thing!
The Black Country Museum is a short walk from Dudley town centre. It is a very popular attraction, with lots of interesting things to do and see. It is not a museum in the traditional sense, but a large outdoor space, encompassing shops, houses and even a mine! Buildings from all over the West Midland have been transported here and rebuilt, to create an authentic picture of how life used to be. The museum also employs costumed guides who interact with visitors and explain how people used to live.
The museum has a large car park. Parking costs £1 per day. Entry costs as follows:
5-16 years £7
Under 5s FREE
Family Ticket 2 Adults 3 kids £34.95
There are enough attractions at the museum to fill a whole day, and even then, you might not get to do everything. Here are a few of the things you can see:
Trams and Trolleybus:
Take a trip back in time with a ride on an authentic tram or trolleybus. The museum has 3 trams, which date from 1909 and 2 trolleybuses, which date from 1927. The drivers are friendly, and my kids really enjoyed the ride, which takes you from the entrance of the museum to the school in the museum village.
This bit scared the heck out of me. I didn't realise how dark it was going to be! They give you a hat, which has a really weak light in it, imitating the amount of light that a candle supplies. It takes a while for your eyes to get used to the dark. I had a toddler with me at the time, and I was holding on to her really tight for fear of losing her! The guided tour really gives you a good idea of how awful conditions were for the coalminers in 1850. You spend 35 minutes underground. Never again!!!
This is more like it!A recreation of the old travelling fairs, which were run by families in the early 1900's. This fair includes many traditional carnival games, such as coconut shy, as well as a selection of old rides like the helter skelter and cakewalk. The swingboats are lovely.
A recreation of St James' Schhol, which was built in 1842. At the school they re-enact lessons as they used to be, with sums in pounds, shillings and pence. The school is as it would have been in 1912.
This was a highlight of the trip for my father in law, who used to be a projectionist. The cinema shows old silent films, such as Charie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy. We sat in the posh padded seats at the back!
Fried fish shop:
This exhibit is the most popular of all, always having very large queues. It is a replica of a shop that is still standing in the local town of Willenhall, which was a house converted to a front room shop. The fish and chip smell is irresistible.
There are loads of other things to see and do, too many to mention here. One highlight of our trip was when one of the guides demonstrated the games that children used to play in the street, and let us have a go. This museum is truly unique and fascinating, and is really like going back in time.
The Black Country Living Museum is the best tourist attraction in the Midlands, without a doubt!
I had a friend coming to stay from the South and I wanted to give her a taste of the culture and historical significance of the Black Country, whilst also having a fun day out.
We decided to go in April as the weather was mild and the kids were still at school. I hear that it does get overcrowded in the Summer, which means less chance of interacting with the characters and seeing all the sights.
On entering the Museum there is an indoor area which contains a delightful gift shop and lots of information (written, videos, objects) relating to the Black Country. I showed my friend around this area so that she could get a good idea about the Black Country, but didn't look around too much as it is the open air part of the museum that people pay to see.
Throughout the site there are historic buildings and features which have been taken from areas of the Black Country to make this prestigious make-believe town. It truly is like going back to Victorian period.
The characters and tour guides do a tremendous job of acting withing this period of time and are very entertaining. They stick to the Black Country dialect (which was confusing and amusing to my Southern acquaintance) but they sound just like my nan so I didn't have too much trouble!
There are over 50 attractions including a school with a Victorian teacher who doesn't take fondly to truancy! This high street is made up of lots of little shops; my favourite being the sweet shop! You can get some lovely 'suck' from there!
We also had time for a quick shandy in the local pub.. Upon arrival I managed to get ID'd and mistaken for a 14 year old, but the characters in there were very jolly and enjoyed banter!
There are so many words I could write about the Black Country Museum but it's an experience that you must have whilst in the Midlands.
www.bclm.co.uk - Their website is extremely informative and will give you details of opening times and admission prices.
Wear comfortable shoes, take a camera and most importantly of all YOU MUST TRY THE FISH AND CHIPS!!
The Black Country Living Museum is a heritage site dedicated to the industrial past of the midlands, particularly the Dudley Area. The site was a former railway goods yard and in its expansion now also covers the site of a disused coal mine and lime kilns.
As a Living musuem, its staff are dedicated to living the life of the role of a person from the era represented by the museum, which I understand to be the early 1900s.
The area consists of what can be loosely termed I suppose as a typical urban area of the period. So we have shops, school, church, factories, a coal mine, houses, and even a funfair.
The site is set next to a canal and has canal basin within its perimeter.
This really does look like the set from an old film, and at any minute you expect your surroundings to appear at you as if viewed in scratchy old black and white or even sepia tones.
On entering the museum, you spend some time in a large centre of interpretation which allows you to get a feel of the history, generally for the British industrial revolution, but also more specifically, local industrial history.
Out the other side of the centre you are taken on a tram ride, past the fun fair down, to the main area, essentially representing the outskirts of a small village.
I arrived at lunch time and made a bee-line for the restaurant, which was pricey, but not overexpensive. The food filled a hole, but wasn't great to be honest - sausage and chips to be precise, with overdone sausages. I was hungry and from that point of view enjoyed the filling-up process, but didn't really enjoy the food.
Straight out of the restaurant, you are onto thet banks of a canal basin, with various industrial buildings and machinery, and a barge-yard, comprising wooden sheds. This looks old and battered and worn, and has a beauty that you won't see in a modern industrial yard.
Walking around the canal and over a bridge we come to the village centre, with mock ups of old shops, though I am to understand the buildings themselves are original buildings, that have been moved brick by bricvk from their original sites and re-erected. If I recall correctly most of the shops are actually selling goods just like the ones from the original day.
You can also visit a beautiful old school building, as well as a church, and there are 'actors' on hand to increase the exxperience and answer any questions for you.
The pub is uncomfortable, just the way it would have been, compared to today. The beer was welcome and so would a packet of crisps have been, but I was told in a gruff and unfriendly manner, that 'crisps weren't invented in 1902', so that told me!
The funfair is delightful and has many old traditional rides and an amusement arcade to waste money on.
Further on back towards the entrance (walk back, it is pleasant) you will also see some very old cottages, again these have been 'rescued' and rebuilt. They really do look wonderful inside, and the 'residents' of the cottages are very knowledgeable of their buildings.
There is also a coal tunnel which you can explore, but sadly I missed the last entrance to that.
You really do need to get here early in the day and spend the whole day here. I felt a bit rushed trying to get around, and honestly don't know where the day went.
All was a bit vague, but I understand your ticket does allow you another visit (maybe even more), though you need to request this, furthermore you need to specify if you DON'T want your details taken from you for the charity relief scheme that many of these places latch onto.
Firstly my situation, I have two children, two girls, one aged 4 and the other aged 1. Also a wife who is easily amused and just happy to get out the house!
I first visited the Black Country Museum some 12 years ago, it was a school trip and I don't recall much of it just that it was a big place and not as boring as everyone suggested it would be.
Situated in the heart of the Midlands, around 3 miles from Dudley town centre and not far off the M5. It is well signposted for map readers.
The most important thing! I believe for what we paid we couldn't of got much better. Very reasonable and would return again because of it.
What To Do
The whole site is some 25 acres or so in size. It has a charming indoor section just as you enter, featuring old car's to early washing machines. It is a nice decor, clean, well maintained and looks very up to date.
For the kids there is a tram ride, an old fun fair and a retro school to learn in from an actor teacher who is there throughout the day. For the adults there are some lovely walks to be had and you don't need to walk far between attractions.
Length Of Stay
We arrived at 10am, dinner at around 12pm and left the site at around 3:30pm. You could easily stay the whole day though as there s plenty to absorb.
I really enjoyed it, much more than expected. I'm not an old man, we are a young family and even the kid's enjoyed it. Probably not much fun for that difficult 10-17 bracket due to lack of things to keep them entertained apart from a great fish and chip shop on site, however for everyone else; recommended to all ages.
The Black Country Living Museum, in Dudley, West Midlands (from Junction 2 of M5 take A4123 and follow signs for Dudley or from junction 10 of M6 – keep an eye out for the brown and white tourist signs.) is an open-air museum covering some 26 acres, and is a living record of how life used to be in this area in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For those who don't know, the Black Country is a region which encompasses Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall, as well as the smaller towns of Brierley Hill, Stourbridge, Old Hill and Cradley.It is to the west of, but does not include, Birmingham (Never call a Black Countryman or woman a Brummie – they will take it as an insult) The area derives its name from the traditional (and mostly vanished) industries of coal mining, iron and steelmaking, lockmaking, nail and chainmaking, glassmaking and beer brewing.Coal dust settling over the area gave it its "black" appearance. The buildings and exhibits in the Museum have all been carefully and skilfully lifted from their original locations and reconstructed on site. There is so much to see that I advise you set a whole day aside when you visit. As you enter the Museum you will see a pair of semi-detached cast-iron houses, built in 1925 when traditional materials were in short supply. They are very rare, as it was soon realised that they were expensive to build, and none too warm either. Nearby are some traditional cottages and a Toll House.Living conditions were poor and homes were cramped and lacked modern facilities. Toilets were outside, and many a frosty night it was a choice between a trip down the icy path or using the “gozunder” (think about it!) Baths were tin and hung on a hook behind the door to be fetched down on bathnight, which was usually Sunday night before school and then the whole family had to share the water. This is where being the eldest had an advantage, as you could claim first dip, before th
e water got too scummy. Water was often only available from a standpipe in the street. Many houses had a "brewuss" (Brew House) where families made their own beer. A decent (or not) pint of “Wumbrew” was sometimes the only pleasure a Black Country man had to look forward to after a twelve-hour shift down the pit. You can see what life was like down the mines for yourself. The drift mine is underground and quite safe, but very realistic, especially when the miners use dynamite to loosen a stubborn seam of coal. Your guide,'Lijah Wedge will take you through the mine and introduce you to his workmates. Children will be horrified to learn that they would have been down the pits at the tender age of fourteen! Oh, the good old days…well, at least you knew where the little blighters were! The village centre is fascinating, with so many buildings to see. Visit the Chemist's Shop to see how pills were made by hand, pop into the Hardware shop for a new broom, or follow your nose to the Baker's to see their mouth-watering display of bread and cakes (regrettably, not for sale due to Food regulations) and go to the Sweetshop for some aniseed drops. If you are very peckish, join the queue for the Fried Fish Shop (fish 'n'chips the old-fashioned way) Or if you have a thirst, pop into the Bottle & Glass Inn for a taste of real Black Country Ales.Be warned that both the Fried Fish Shop and The Bottle are very popular and there are often long queues, especially in summer. There is also a restaurant on site called “Stables” which offers snacks as well as more substantial meals, and a selection of traditional Black Country food (oh, alright, faggots and pays…but more besides.) Children can see what school was like in the old days by visiting St James' School, where you sit at a hard desk with your slate and pay attention when "Miss" raps your desk with her cane! There
was no running home to Mother in those days, because if you did, the likelihood was that Mother Dear would give you a good “lampin” for whatever you had done to upset the teacher in the first place. On Sunday, assuming you had been able to get your best clothes back from the Pawnbrokers, you would attend the Darby Hand Methodist Chapel for Sunday Worship.For a great treat, you could go to the Limelight Cinema to see the latest "Laurel & Hardy". It is nice to stroll along at a gentle pace, but if you want, you can jump onto one of the electric trams or trolley buses that run round the Museum.Or go down to the Canal for a ride on a barge. The Museum is called the “Living” Museum, and this is very true as there are new sttractions being added all the time. Currently underway is the huge Rolfe Street complex which is being built near to the Museum entrance and which will house exhibition halls, educational facilities, a resource centre and improved visitor facilities. Much of the materials being used, including the impressive terracotta and moulded brick façade, has been rescued from the Rolfe Street swimming baths in Smethwick.In this exciting new complex, study facilities will be available for the huge numbers of pupils and students who visit the Museum every year. The Museum is open every day from 10am - 5pm from March to October.Most, but not all, buildings have wheelchair access...the Museum staff will advise you. Wheelchair users are invited to bring along a helper who will be admitted to the Museum free of charge. There are disabled toilets available on site. The Museum has done much to make sure that disabled visitors have an enjoyable visit and are always open to suggestions for improvements. The main car park is situated just in front of the Museum entrance and is quite large, with room also for coaches. Charges when I went last summer were Adults £7.95,Seniors £6.95,Juni
ors £4.75 (Under fives free). There is also a Family ticket, priced at £21.50,which covers two adults and up to three children. Special bookings are taken for Groups.Guide books are available as well as a range of souvenirs. For more details contact the Museum on 0121 557 9643 or email: email@example.com The Museum often runs special events throughout the year which are well worth looking out for. The Christmas Carol concert is always very well attended, as is the old-fashioned Bonfire Night.Some events are pre-book only, so please check before arriving on speck. Also, the Museum may have shorter opening hours in the winter months. Again, it is advisable to check before your visit. . I was born and raised in the Black Country and so I have a special interest in the Museum, but I am sure visitors from all over will have a great day here. Tourists sometimes have a problem with the dialect, as many of the authentically dressed Guides speak in the Black Country tongue. Do not be afraid to request a translation into the Queen’s English. Anyrode, doe ferget ter goo as soon as yow con, aer kid. Yow’ll ‘ave a bostin’ time!
I happened to notice that no one has written an opinion about The Black Country Living Museum located here in the Midlands so I thought I’d better rectify the situation. As usual with this type of opinion I sat with a notebook first and wrote down all the things I could remember from my last visit about two years ago and I came up with quite a long list! So, I suggest you make yourself a cup of tea and settle down, you may be here for some time! The Black Country Museum is situated near to Dudley town centre in the heart of the Black Country (now there’s a surprise!) It is 3 miles from junction 2 of the M5 and 5 miles from junction 10 of the M6, just head towards Dudley and follow the brown and whit tourist signs. The current admission prices are £7.50 for adults, £4.50 for children and £6.50 for Senior Citizens. The site covers an area of 26 acres and is made up of houses, shops and other buildings which have been saved from demolition and transferred piece by piece to be reconstructed at the museum. For transport from one end of the site to the other there is a choice. You can either take a ride on a Dudley tram, originally built in 1920 and now fully restored to its former glory, or you can ride on an ex Walsall Corporation trolley bus built in 1955. I can just about remember travelling on a trolley bus in Walsall town centre! The site is set up like a small village with a main street of shops, together with the pub, chapel, and school. This is surrounded by a variety of houses and industrial workshops, and is bordered by the canal. The houses are furnished with the sort of things that would have been there at the turn of the century. There are the old black lead ranges for cooking and heating (I wonder who has to clean all those!), quarry tiled floors, and bodged rugs. I can remember all these things from my grandmother’s house when I was a little girl, so it’s real nostal
gia for me. The old flat iron is warming on the range, the kettle is singing over the fire and the fly paper hangs from the gas mantle and I’d better stop or you’ll all be thinking that I am even older than I really am! The houses all have back yards with a small patch of ground where they grow a few flowers and some fruit and vegetables. Some have the original brew house with the boiler for doing the washing and the sink – there was no running water in the house. Of course, there is also the lovely (?) outside toilet! In a lot of the houses you will find members of the museum staff dressed in the clothes of the day busy cooking, bodging a rug, or just sitting by the open fire. They all have a great deal of knowledge of the history of the area and are happy to talk and answer any questions you may have. There is even a pair of semi detached houses built from cast iron as you first enter the site. These were originally built in 1925 as part of a Dudley housing development. This was an experiment that turned out to cost twice as much as brick built housing, so it wasn’t repeated! The one house is furnished as it would have been in 1925 and the other houses an exhibition about the production and use of cast iron. There is a variety of shops in the village centre including a sweet shop, bakery, fish & chip shop, hardware shop, ironmongers, chemists, general store and photographers. I’ll tell you a bit about the ones that I particularly liked. The bakery is a replica of a shop, which still stands in Birmingham Road, Oldbury and is shown as it would have been in 1910. Unfortunately they are not allowed to sell the produce that they make as todays health regulations prevent it so the animals on the site get it instead! The sweet shop is fascinating as you can go in and watch various sorts of sweets being made the old fashioned way. You can buy the produce from this shop! This was especial
ly interesting for me as my auntie used to work making sweets many years ago. The fish and chip shop fries the food the traditional way as well. I don’t know if its lard that they use but the chips taste fantastic! You only get a small portion, which is actually enough as we are just not used to eating food that high in saturated fat these days (luckily) and, whilst they taste lovely, you can only eat a few before you feel full. The glasscutter’s shop is situated behind the general store and is based on the one in Bridge Street, Wordsley. You can buy gifts directly from the glasscutter or from the shop at the entrance to the museum. The photographers shop is one of those where you can go in and dress up in period clothes to have your photo taken and developed in sepia. My sister, Helen, and I did that once but we looked awful! There is a pub at the head of this little street called the Bottle and Glass. This is an original pub moved here from Brierley Hill Road, Brockmoor. It was originally built in the early 1800’s and altered in the latter part of that century. The wooden seating and the partitions all date back to the alterations. The pub is open for business and you can go in and buy a pint of Black Country Real Ale – none of this Budweiser stuff! They also sell traditional food too. I must admit we had a pint from the pub and a bag of chips from the chip shop! It was bostin’! For the uninitiated ‘bostin’ is a local term meaning absolutely great, wonderful etc. There is a chapel next to the pub as there often was in those days, you could go from one form of worship to another quite easily! This one is a Methodist chapel and was originally built in Netherton, Dudley in 1837. After it was closed in 1974 it was dismantled and reassembled at the Black Country Museum between 1977 and 1979. Services are arranged in the chapel during the year including the traditional Har
vest Festival and Sunday School Anniversary. Ooh that brings back memories! Who else had a little white dress for the anniversary then? St James School was moved to the museum site in 1991 from Salop Street in Dudley where it had been built in 1842 for infants – aged from 3 years to 7 years. The school is now equipped as it would have been in 1912. Dudley Education Committee had recommended the closure of the school in 1904 because conditions there were so bad but there were improvements made in 1912 and the school remained in use until 1980. There is even an old cinema showing Charlie Chaplin films! Behind all these buildings are workshops. There is a nail shop, a chain shop, a blacksmiths with a Goliath forging hammer, a rolling mill and a forge. The canal runs alongside the rolling mill. There is a boat dock where up to three boats can be drawn out of the water sideways. The dock is equipped to build new boats or to repair old ones. There is a narrow boat moored here that takes visitors for a trip on the canal through some of the tunnels. There is a guide on board who gives a lot of information about the canals, how they were built, how they were used and points out items of interest as you travel along. There are two flat boards across the middle of the barge and when the guide had explained about legging the barge through the tunnels he asked for volunteers. Well, its something I have always wanted to try – I don’t know why but there it is! So Dave and I volunteered and went and lay side by side on the two boards facing in opposite directions. We had to place our feet on the roof of the tunnel and ‘walk’ along thus propelling the barge. Dave had helped me to my place first so I had my feet on the tunnel before he did and I actually got the barge moving before he got started! Impressive huh? It was a brilliant feeling and would certainly be a great way to keep
fit and loose a few pounds! Back down towards the entrance to the museum is a drift mine. This type of mine has a sloping tunnel that you walk along into the mine. The guided tour shows you how coal would have been mined in about 1850 as you walk through a maze of working areas and roadways. The guide explains what everything is and what it was used for, but the whole thing gives a very real insight into what conditions must have been like for those men and boys working underground. Dad worked down the mine during the war as a Bevin Boy so I found this tour quite upsetting in parts when I saw the sort of conditions that people were expected to work in. Next to the drift mine is a working Newcomen Engine, first built in 1712, the museum constructed a full sized working replica in 1986. This is regularly fired up so that visitors can see it in operation. See the web site for more details both of how the engine works and the dates that it will be operational. At the far end of the site is a traditional fairground. Don’t expect roller coasters and Dodgems though. This fair is typical of the family owned fairs that used to operate in the early part of the last century. There is a helter skelter – that’s the big cone shaped building with steps up the inside and a slide round the outside from top to bottom. There is a set of swingboats – these are large wooden boat shaped contraptions with a seat at either end suspended from a pole across which hangs a piece of rope. One person sits at each end of the boat and pulls either end of the rope alternately to make the swingboat swing higher. There is also one of the last remaining cake walks in use – this is a series of wooden floorboards, which move up and down as you walk across them. There are also a few side-shows such as a coconut shy, the hall of mirrors and shooting stalls. The newest development on the site is the building next to the en
trance, which when complete will provide exhibition halls, education facilities, specialist stores and better visitor facilities. The brick used to build this new hall has been rescued from Rolfe Street Baths and the cast iron arches that support the roofs of the exhibition halls once spanned the swimming pools. If you want to see pictures of this development or read more about it visit the website on www.bclm.co.uk. The museum was also made famous as one of the locations for the Inspector Morse drama ‘The Wench is Dead’. I suppose I had better shut up about it all now before you all go to sleep – that is if you haven’t already! Believe me it is a fascinating place to visit, the staff are all very knowledgeable and on hand to answer any questions you might have and the exhibits are superbly restored. I like to go every few years for another look to see what else they have added as the whole site is constantly developing. One more thing when you go wear sensible shoes and clothing as you'll be outdoors for some of the time and the floor can be a bit uneven in parts too.