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National Trust Back to Backs (Birmingham)

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2 Reviews

Sightseeing Tours / Contact: 55-63 Hurst Street /50-54 Inge Street / Birmingham / West Midlands B5 4TE / Tel: 0121 666 7671

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    2 Reviews
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    • More +
      19.07.2012 18:20
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      6 Comments

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      fun tour

      The Birmingham Back To Backs is an attraction in Birmingham City Centre that takes you on a tour of one of the very few Back To Back building left in the city.The tour tells you stories of lives of people living in these buildings from the 1840s and the 1970s. The tour lasted roughly about 45 minutes. I went on this tour last year and it was a fun experience and very educational I would definitely recommend to those who ever take a trip to Birmingham.

      ----------What To Expect On The Tour---------
      My visit was a guided tour that was part of The Princes Trust course that I was taking part in at the time. My group had to be split in half because only 8 people are allowed on a tour at a time. None of us in the group was really interested in going on the tour at first and we all just wanted to go home but was quickly impressed when it started. The tour started off with us all having to step outside the front of the building and look closely at the structure of the building. The man described what we would see on the tour and then took us inside and started going into detail about each families life in the building. Each room had a different story to tell about various families and how they lived life. The tour gave me an insight of all areas of life back in the 1800s and early 1900s. They have story about family time, sleeping arrangements, lighting, communication, hygiene, eating, entertainment and general lifestyle back in those time periods.
      What made the tour good to be on is that everything was set out very good and made the tour feel very real like I was moving it time. The floors in the building is all crooked and everything seems very delicate which I thought was really good that they have manage to keep it up.
      The downside to the tour is that there was very little that you could actually touch but I did understand because everything looked so fragile.
      My favourite part of the tour was the outside in the backyard where I got to see how they washed their clothes, took baths, and used the toilet etc. I found it fascinating that they did all the stuff like that outside when people these days would never dream of taking a bath or using the toilet outdoors. I found it quite weird that the father took a bath first and worked there was down in the family. Just the thought of that made me cringe and that was normal to them. It's just amazing how things where so hard for these families and these days the little things are taken for granted. I also enjoyed hearing about the sleeping arrangements they had and seeing that the all that was separating the kids beds from the parents bed was a hung up cloth. They would have a another bed in the same room that would be rented out to people for extra money. I can imagine what those kids where exposed to hearing at night time.
      The only thing that was a little off putting for me is the stuffed rat sculptures they had on the dinner table in one room. I jumped when I saw them because I thought they were real.
      The may who guided the tour was very passionate about what he was saying and was happy to answer all the questions we had. He was quite funny and did tell a few jokes which made it better.

      The tour finished of with us all ending up in a nice classic sweetshop with all the classic sweets you could ask for. I brought myself some Rhubarb & Custard sweets which ended the tour good for me as I hadn't had any of them in ages and I love them.
      Unless your kids walk I wouldn't really recommend taking them as a family to the Back To Backs because you will have to carry them. I do think the tour is family friendly and very educational especially for kids.

      --------------Booking & Prices---------------
      Whole property tour
      Adult: £6.30
      Child: £3.20
      Family: £14.80 (not sure what they consider a family as it's not stated on their website)
      Group: n/a ( not group special fees you all have to pay individually)
      If your planning to visit you have to book in advance otherwise you might find yourself waiting till there is a free slot or not able to get in.
      To book you have to call 0121 666 7671 and the booking lines are open:
      Tuesdays to Fridays, 10:30am - 4pm
      Saturdays and Sundays, 10am - 12pm

      The Birmingham Back To Backs are open 10am to 5pm Tuesday to Friday and closed on Monday.
      -------------Location------------
      The Birmingham Back To Backs are located in Birmingham City Centre and for those familiar with the Birmingham Hippodrome it's right next to it. For those not familiar with the Hippodrome if you come out of the back of the Bullring to the market and ask for directions from there I'm Sure someone will help, if not there are signs to point you in the right direction.

      Address
      55-63 Hurst Street/50-54 Inge Street, Birmingham, B5 4TE
      ----------Overall Opinion-----------
      I think the Birmingham Back To Backs is a good experience and £6 is a decent price. I recommend wearing comfortable shoes as you will be on your feet for the duration of the tour. There are old stairs and small room and space so it's best to be comfy whilst on the tour. Definitely worth a visit if you ever in Birmingham.

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      • More +
        04.08.2010 15:48
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        Well worth a visit

        My husband and I had been meaning to pay a visit to the back to backs for a while as we are national trust members and they are only about 30 miles away from our home.


        Background

        Hundreds of back to back houses were built in Birmingham during the first half of the nineteenth century. They were small houses (just one room deep) with a kitchen/living area on the ground floor and bedrooms above which could be reached via steep staircases. Several of these houses would be built around a central courtyard with some facing inwards and some facing out. Rents would be slightly higher for the outward facing houses as occupants did not have to suffer so much from the smell of the privies in the courtyard. They did however have a longer walk (through an alleyway) to reach the privies when they needed them.

        The last residents moved out round about the 1960s although a tailor who had converted one of the houses into a shop stayed on for longer. Most of Birmingham's back to backs were pulled down shortly after the residents moved out and there was some controversy over whether this last block (described by some as a slum) should be saved. The block was acquired by the National Trust in 2004.


        The Visit

        Visits are by guided tour only and they advise advance booking although it wasn't necessary when we visited. Our guide was very helpful and knowledgeable. The tour takes in four of the houses which have been restored to periods from the 1840s through to the 1970s. The Trust have researched who actually lived in the houses at the time and reconstructed them to be as authentic as possible. They actually look like lived in homes rather than museum pieces and it was easy to gain an idea of how the residents lived.

        The visit also took in the courtyard with its communal scullery and three privies (one in mid nineteenth century style, one in the style of the early twentieth century and the other housing a modern wheelie bin). Luckily visitors don't have to use them as some modern toilets have been discreetly installed. The courtyard has washing hanging out and children's toys strewn around so help to give the back to backs a lived in feel.

        Other houses in the block have been made into a booking office for the tours and an exhibition with first hand accounts of life in the back to backs. I believe that there is also a virtual tour for visitors who are unable to manage the steep stairs.

        The corner house has been made into an old fashioned sweetshop which we didn't actually visit (it was closed for lunch when we finished our tour) but looked very tempting.


        Getting There

        New St and Moor St stations are both within walking distance. Follow signs for the Birmingham Hippodrome which is next door.

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      • Product Details

        Guided tour of Birmingham's famous back to back houses