Black Country Living Museum

1128 Reviews

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Review type

Things to do


Date of travel

July, 2017

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Travelled with

On your own

Reasons for trip

Old Birmingham Road is a recreation of a 1930s street with school, Workers’s Institute, shops and houses.

ST JAMES’S SCHOOL is a typical Victorian school building dating from the mid C19th. It was originally divided into two separate school, one for boys and one for girls, who paid 2d a week to attend. By 1906 it was recommended for closure being described as ‘dingy, dilapidated and dirty’. The small lancet windows were replaced by larger windows, a new toilet block was provided at the back of the school and it just provided mixed infant education. It was heated by coal fire stoves, but this was dependent on their being coal available. In 1912 school was free but attendance was made compulsory. Most teachers were women as they were cheaper to employ.

HOBBS AND SONS FISH AND CHIP SHOP dates from the late C18th but was refaced in bright red brickwork at the end of the C19th. It was a commercial laundry before becoming a fish and chip shop. Fish and chips were a well established working class food across industrial Britain. Lard is used for an authentic taste and the shop still has hand painted tiled wall panels and has a small saloon next to it where patrons can eat their fish and chips. The fish and chips is sold in paper cones rather than the traditional newspaper.

H MORRALL’S GENTLEMENS’ OUTFITTERS has been returned to its 1935 condition. Stock is stored shelving behind the counter and sold everything likely to be needed from pyjamas to hats and pocket watches. There is even a hat stretcher.

HUMPHREY BROTHERS BUILDERS’ MERCHANTS sold fireplaces, sanitary ware and building supplies including Walpamur, a flat paint used for internal walls. The green washbasin and toilet was height of fashion, after coloured bathroom suites had been introduced from America in 1927. At the back is the office with safe and more stores, including this display of nuts and bolts.
Their yard is across the road with a selection of builder’s supplies including timber, bricks, slates, drain pipes and chimney pots.

A. HARTHILL MOTORCYCLES is a double fronted shop. Motorcycle production was at its peak in the 1920s and 1930s and local dealers not only sold motorcycles but also provided servicing and sold spare parts. It has examples of motor cycles manufactured in the area.

Next door is ALFRED PREEDY & SONS TOBACCONISTS. The company was a major wholesaler as well as retailer with its own brands of tobacco. JAMES GRIPTON’S RADIO SHOP is next door and has a workshop behind for repairs.

A brick tunnel and cart entrance provides access to the back of the buildings. There is a 1930s kitchen with a small electric cooker and large earthenware sink. Stairs lead to two small bedrooms and an everyday living room and best living room, furnished with original 1930s style furniture and wall paper.

At the end of the road is The CRADLEY HEATH WORKERS’ INSTITUTE which was built with surplus funds raised in 1910 during a strike for a minimum wage by women chain makers. The women won an agreed minimum wage of two and a half pence per hour rather than being paid piece work. This was effectively a 100% rise for the women who worked 55 hours a week. Their campaign won widespread national support and at the end of the strike there was a surplus of £1500. It was agreed to build a centre for ‘social and industrial activity’

It is an attractive Arts and Crafts style building and quickly became a centre for educational meetings, social gatherings and trade union activities. It had a cinema and was used for theatre performances and concerts.

There are more pictures “here.”:


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