Black Country Living Museum – Dudley, Birmingham
Finally I am getting around to reviewing some of the great places we visited in the UK last September. One of my absolute favourites was the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, Birmingham. My cousin Helen took us for this day of adventure and it was amazing even with the rain that accompanied our trip. I cannot complain too much as for most of our trip the weather was glorious by English standards.
Black Country Living Museum
The Beginning of the Museum
The museum has been in existence since 1966 when it was part of the Dudley Council museum department but as the public demanded more an idea to create an open-air museum was born.1 In 1976 the land was available and it was the task of just six staff to create the vision.1 The result is truly amazing. The museum attracts about 300,000 visitors per year, and I believe that this is because many people outside the region do not know of its existence. I have certainly mentioned it to numerous people since my return, many English ex-pats here, and none had ever heard of it. I will continue to tell as many people as I can so this treasure can continue for our future generations.
A Traditional Black Country Village
This museum is set up like a tradition village of the Black Country. Buildings have been brought in from various parts of the Black Country brick by brick to recreate this bygone era. Homes are set up with gardens and small home workshops like they would have been in their day. There is a high street boasting a traditional fish and chip shop – I am told they are truly amazing. We didn’t try them as the queue was about 45 minutes and we didn’t want to wait in the rain and instead opted for the restaurant and have a pie. There was a bakery and lolly shop making traditional treats. A trolley bus rumbles around every so often. A trip up the canal is also an option.
In each building there were people dressed in period costumes doing what would have been done in that era. We regularly walked into the various homes just to dry off in front of the roaring fireplace to the smell of cooking bread. There were homes set up in different time periods and one was a post-war one listening to the radio whilst doing some mending. There were live demonstrations in the workshops, bakeries, and school house to show how things were done a century ago.
An Underground Mine
The highlight though for us was going into a mine that had been operational on that site in the 19th Century.2 The Black Country which includes Staffordshire and Birmingham was famous for the thick seam coal that was up to 10 metres thick.2 We walked down through the tunnels to experience a piece of what the miner’s would have in the era. The tour guide talked us through stories of boys as young as 8 years old forced to sit in the absolute dark for hours on end just to open a gate as someone came along. We had very dim torches for four people which we were required to turn off at points to adjust to the way the miners would have worked. At certain points we stopped for interactive displays – miners and voice overs – to get the true feel of working down there. This leaflet on the Underground Mine provides more about the attraction. I, for once, was glad of being short and got to tease my quite tall teenage son who regularly was ducking to walk through small tunnels.
I will definitely be returning to visit this treasure the next time I travel to England.
Have you been to the Black Country Living Museum or have you been to a similar museum elsewhere? Tell me in the comments below.
- 1. Black Country Living Museum, ‘The Museum’s Story’, https://www.bclm.co.uk/about/the-museums-story/1.htm, Accessed 5 January 2019.
- 2. Black Country Living Museum, ‘Underground Mine’, https://www.bclm.co.uk/locations/underground-mine/6.htm#.XOJLqy2B3zU, Accessed 5 January 2019.
- a. ‘Black Country Living Museum Village, Wikimedia, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/16/Blackcountrystreet.jpg/1200px-Blackcountrystreet.jpg, Accessed 5 January 2019.
- b. Black Country Living Museum, ‘Period Display’, https://www.bclm.co.uk/media/pages/library/bclm_group1.jpg, Accessed 5 January 2019.
- c. Black Country Living Museum, ‘Workshop Display’, https://www.bclm.co.uk/media/news/news314aA.jpg, Accessed 5 January 2019.
- d. Black Country Living Museum, ‘Underground Mine’, https://www.bclm.co.uk/media/locations/locations6aA.jpg, Accessed 5 January 2019.
Megan, I have always enjoyed the way you describe your experiences as you travel or experience new places. The way you describe this museum is the same. It sounds like it’s a lot of fun being there. I feel anytime you can experience a place that takes you back to the originality of it, is the best. It sounds like a wonderful place to be, especially with how authentic it is.
I have never been to a museum like the Black Country Living Museum. However, I have visited Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia where on the tours, you see many of the original homes and the tour guides dressed as people did back in the 18th-century. It’s very historical and interesting.
You mentioned that many people don’t know the Black Country Living Museum exists. Does the museum use social media to get the word out to people? I would think using social media would help with traffic to the museum.
Keep up the great work on your site. You’re doing an amazing job.
It is a very interesting museum! Certainly more entertaining than the traditional style we all went to on school excursions. Colonial Williamsburg sounds intriguing and I must put that on my travel bucket list. The Black Country Living Museum definitely has social media and a website, I just think a lot of people when they visit England don’t think of venturing into the Birmingham/Staffordshire regions. Most people tend to stick with the more known sites like Buckingham Palace, White Cliffs of Dover – the things everyone has heard of. I am certainly trying to spread word of the Black Country Living Museum.