The Black Country Museum is a superb example of the recreation of an era and really requires several days to do it full justice. The museum is close to the site where Thomas Dudley first mastered the technique of smelting iron with coal instead of wood charcoal. Having a claim to be "the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution", the Black Country is famous for its wide range of midsteel-based products from nails to the anchor and anchor chain for the Titanic. By the main entrance in the old Rolfe Street Baths are displays of local artefacts encompassing some of the many products which were made by Black Country industry, cast iron hollow ware, animal traps, vehicles, chain, anchors, enamels, weighing scales, laundry irons, nails, locks and fire clay products. The exhibition includes more fragile items such as glassware, reflecting the centuries-old industry that produced lead crystal glass and the Joseph Chance glass works between Oldbury and Smethwick.
The museum site contained 42 disused mine shafts, most of which had been filled in. Two are preserved, one at the Racecourse Colliery and Brook Shaft. In 1712, Thomas Newcomen built the world's first successful steam engine which was used for pumping water from coal mines on Lord Dudley's estates. In 1986, after ten years of research, the museum completed the construction of a full-scale working replica of the engine. The "fire engine" is housed in a brick building from which a wooden beam projects through one wall. Rods hang from the outer end of the beam and operate pumps at the bottom of the mine shaft which raise the water to the surface. The engine has a boiler, a cylinder and piston and operating valves. A coal fire heats water in the boiler which is little more than a covered pan and the steam generated passes through a valve into the brass cylinder above it. The cylinder is more than two metres long and 52 centimetres in diameter. The steam in the cylinder is condensed by injecting cold water and the vacuum beneath the piston pulls the inner end of the beam down causing the pump to move. Lime working and processing was carried out on the site from medieval times. Evidence of quarries and underground remains, the canal, and preserved lime kilns are parts of a scheduled ancient monument which has features from the medieval, Industrial Revolution and 20th century. Standing alongside the canal arm are the lime kilns, built by the Earl of Dudley to process limestone quarried from Wren's Nest workings. The earliest of the three surviving kilns dates from the late 18th century
The trap shop was built in 1913 in Rookery Street, Wednesfield. It was offered to the museum in 1982. Sidebotham's Steel Trap Works was not rebuilt in its entirety and the original structure was shortened. The exhibit, set around 1930, contains the office, trap shop and the machine shop. The nail shop is a replica of a back-yard workshop, built in the 1880s from 17 Chapel Street, Halesowen. It houses equipment from the Halesowen workshop operated by Sidney Tether in the 1940s. It is in use on a regular basis by the resident nail maker who demonstrates the skill of forging nails by hand. The brass foundry was built in 1869 in Shaw Street, Walsall and closed after the Second World War but re-opened in 1964 by James Powell and used until his death in 1973. The building and its equipment were relocated to the museum in 1986. It can be seen in operation when the brass caster demonstrates traditional skills in casting horse brasses, pot hooks and other small items.
The rolling mill installed at the Birchley Works in Oldbury in 1923 ceased to operate in 1976 and it was moved to Lord Ward's Canal Arm. The museum operates the it from time to time using volunteers. The chain maker's shop represents one of the many workshops that made small and medium size chain. By the mid-1800s the chain industry was mostly associated with Cradley, Cradley Heath, Old Hill, Quarry Bank and Netherton. It is operational and the skill of making chain by hand can be watched daily. An Oliver hammer was a treadle-operated hammer that forged bolts by forcing red hot lengths of iron into a die. The machine shop contained several Oliver hammers used to forge special parts to order. It was founded by Onan Lowe and taken over by T. W. Lench Ltd.
On the low ground at the northern end of the site, houses, shops, workshops and public buildings have been dismantled and rebuilt brick by brick to create an early 20th-century village. Activities in the buildings are demonstrated by staff in period costume. The village preserves a cross section of social and industrial history. The village shops include Gregory's General Store, Emile Doo's chemist shop, a sweet shop and cake shop with a bakery at the back. There is a hardware and ironmongers shop from Pipers Row in Wolverhampton and a pawnbroker's shop that was relocated to the museum in 1991. Brook Street back-to-back houses, built in the 1850s, were relocated from Woodsetton and were the homes of colliers, farm workers and ironworkers. The anchor maker's house from Lawrence Lane in Old Hill was the first to be relocated to the museum and is an example of late-Victorian housing. Public buildings include Providence Chapel from Darby End/Hand near Netherton, one of the first buildings to be rebuilt, and the Bottle and Glass Inn a working public house set out as it would have been in 1910. The village postbox stood on the corner of Baker Street and Blandford Street, London in 1865. It was designed by architect J W Penfold and made by Cochrane, Grove and Company. The Carter's Yard from Ogley Hay Road Burntwood, Cannock was built around 1900.
Old Birmingham Road links St James's School with the Cradley Heath Workers' Institute. Here buildings have been set in the 1930s to tell the story of the years leading up to the Second World War. Museum staff in St James's School demonstrate lessons and school life from the turn of the 20th century. The school building opened in Eve Hill, Dudley in 1842 for pupils aged 5–11. It was decided to transfer the building to the museum in 1989. Hobbs & Sons fish and chip shop and H Morrall's gentlemen's outfitters have been returned to 1935 condition. The shops come from Hall Street, Dudley and date from the late-18th century and were refaced with bright red pressed brickwork in 1889. The tiled interior of Hobbs features restored hand-painted tiled wall panels. The frying range is of a design patented in 1932 made by E.W. Proctor of Huddersfield. In the 1930s many of Joseph Hobbs's customers worked in factories or shops. Four buildings were rescued from Birmingham Street, Oldbury and date to about 1860. The block is dominated by the green painted fascia of Humphrey Brothers, builders' merchants, who occupied the premises from 1921. It has a replica shop front from about 1932. Humphreys sold fireplaces, sanitaryware and building supplies including Walpamur,®, a flat paint used for internal walls. The motorcycle shop is based on the business of A. Hartill & Sons which was located in Mount Pleasant, Bilston. The window displays of six locally made motor bikes from 1929–34. Next door is Alfred Preedy & Sons tobacconist shop, established in Dudley in 1868. James Gripton's radio shop is from the 1920s and this reconstruction, set in 1939, contains 'new' and second hand radios.
The brick tunnel and cart entrance provide access to a late 1930s kitchen with an electric cooker made by Revo of Tipton. There is a radio workshop behind Gripton's and then the stairs lead to two first floor living rooms and two bedrooms which are all set in the late 1930s and furnished with original 1930s style furniture and wall paper. The Cradley Heath Workers' Institute was built with surplus funds raised in 1910 during the strike for a minimum wage by women chain makers. The Arts and Crafts style building was designed by architect, Albert Thomas Butler, and opened on 10 June 1912. It became a centre for educational meetings, social gatherings and trade union activities in Cradley Heath. Re-erected at the museum it is a monument to Mary Macarthur and her campaign to establish a national minimum wage in the "sweated trades" where people worked long hours for poverty wages typically in appalling conditions. The building contains reconstructed offices, a news room with a digital interpretation of the background to the strike and a large hall which is used for a wide range of activities including theatre performances and concerts.
The 1930s fairground located behind the school represents a travelling fairground that would have brought entertainment to people in the early 1900s. Such fairs set up on waste ground and for a few days provided thrills, entertainment and a change for those who might never go on holiday. The collection of historic rides includes a helter skelter and the Ark, the latest thing in high-speed rides when introduced in the 1920s. It was updated over the years but not converted into a waltzer. It remains one of the few "fourlift" Arks in the country.
Work began on the boat dock in 1976 and the museum aimed to recreate a typical dock that would have been found on the Birmingham Canal Navigations (BCN). Docks like the one at the museum would have been formed from recycled wooden boats. They were used to build wooden boats or maintain iron and composite boats. Dudley Canal Trust boat outside the Dudley Tunnel, behind the Black Country Living Museum. Adjacent to the museum is the Dudley Tunnel. Visitors can take a 45 minute skipper-guided trip into the tunnel through the historic limestone mines and caverns on a boat operated by the Dudley Canal Trust. This is a lot of fun and quite fascinating. Among the boats on display are the Prosper, Edna, Irene, Admiral Beatty, Warehouse (GKN14), Ham, Amp (GWR 19), Stewarts and Lloyds 100, Matty Butty, North Star II and Diamond.
The size of the museum site provides the opportunity to demonstrate many of the road transport exhibits which were both used and made in the Black Country. Trams: Dudley, Stourbridge and District Electric Traction Company No. 5 Tividale single-decker built in 1920. This was the Museum's first tram. It has worked much more here than for its original owners; Wolverhampton District Electric Tramways Company No. 19 works car built in 1902. Stored awaiting restoration. Originally operated with Dudley, Stourbridge and District as open-topper no. 36; Wolverhampton Tramways Company Horse Tram No. 23 open-topper built in 1892. The Museum's oldest tram, and is currently on display at the back of the Tram Depot; Wolverhampton District Electric Tramways Company No. 34 Tividale single-decker built in 1919. Returned to traffic in 1997 after restoration, it is now used regularly at the museum. Wolverhampton Corporation Tramways open topper No. 49 built in 1909; Dudley, Stourbridge and District Electric Traction Company No. 75 Tividale single-decker built in 1919; Wolverhampton Corporation Tramways No. 102 Tividale single-decker built in 1920; Birmingham Central Tramways Company Ltd cable car No. 104 open-topper built in 1886. Stored awaiting restoration. One of only two double deck cable cars known to exist; Lisbon No. 361 single-decker built in 1907. Stored awaiting restoration.
Motor buses: West Bromwich Corporation Daimler CVG6 GEA 174 built in 1948. Operational following completion of restoration in 2013. Midland Red BMMO D9 6342 HA built in 1963. Guy Motors KTT 689 built in 1948. Operational. West Bromwich Corporation Dennis E-Type EA 4181 built in 1929. Undergoing overhaul. REO Speed Wagon with C14D bodywork MR 3879 built in 1924. Operational. Trolleybuses: The Black Country Living Museum operates a trolleybus service on certain days, unlike the tram which is usually operated seven days a week. The route is one of the few double deck trolley bus services left in the world, as most of the world's trolley buses are single deckers. The museum's fleet numbers three resident trolleybuses from the Black Country's two former trolley bus networks, and one which has been painted to resemble a local trolleybus. Unlike Birmingham's tram service, Birmingham Corporation Trolley Buses never operated in the Black Country.
Wolverhampton was home to some early manufacturers of motor cars, such as Sunbeam, Clyno, AJS and Star. Frisky cars were also made in Wolverhampton, while the Black Country town of Kingswinford is home to Westfield cars. The Museum collection includes a 1903 Sunbeam, a 1912 Star and a 1931 AJS as well as examples of later vehicles such as the Kieft, Frisky and Westfield Topaz. There are approximately 40 motor cycles in the Museum's collection, all of which were made in the Black Country. A large proportion were manufactured by Sunbeam and AJS but there are also examples by firms such as Wearwell Cycle Company and Rockson. The Museum is affiliated to the British Motorcycle Charitable Trust. The Museum does not have an extensive collection of Black Country bicycles, but there are examples by manufacturers such as Harry Albino and Star. Unusual vehicles in the fleet include a 1924 Guy-Morris fire engine, a Model T Ford van used by Willenhall firm Brevitt's and a Bean of Tipton flat bed truck.
In addition to the wide range of displayed collections, the Museum has extensive research collections held in store. These include historic objects, archival material and library books, all of which can be viewed by appointment. The majority of the Museum buildings are accessible to wheelchair users although many require the use of temporary ramps. The Museum has costumed characters around the village and in the buildings, that are readily available to help you use portable ramps if you need assistance. Should you wish to hire a wheelchair, the Museum offer free wheelchair hire from the Gift Shop, however due to limited availability it is usually best to book 24hrs in advance through their bookings office on 0121 520 8054. There are also a stunning number of events throughout the year (learn willow basket making). 2016 Events Calendar.
The Museum tram dates back to 1900s and was not designed for wheelchair users it is only accessible by 3 large steps. The Museum have a vintage style vehicle, 'DORIS', which has been adapted with a tail lift. 'DORIS' is available to transport visitors with low levels of mobility and wheelchair users between the entrance buildings and the village. Signs with information about this service are located near the tram stops. If you require this service please contact the tram driver, any member of staff or the Museum Site Manager Tel: 07788 666 161. There are plenty of easily located adapted and accessible toilets located around the Museum. There is no need to bring a radar key with you on your visit, as the only toilet in need of a radar key is located at the Bottle and Glass Inn, where a key is available on request.
Rolfe Street Café: Within the Main building, this café serves sweet and savoury light bites and drinks. There is level access into this area from the main entrance. Hobbs Fish and Chip Shop: Fish and chips, cooked traditionally in beef dripping, can be purchased daily from 12 noon until 3.00pm. This shop is on the Old Birmingham Road and is accessed from a pavement with a dropped kerb nearby. There are also facilities to eat inside the shop, although these are limited. The Bottle and Glass Inn: Serves, from 11.00am to 3.00pm (12noon till 3.00pm on Sunday), a selection of traditional drinks including Black Country Real Ale. This pub has two steps at the entrance. Access is achieved by using the available portable ramps, please ask a member of staff for assistance. An outdoor seating area is located in the pub yard. Workers’ Institute Café: Located at the heart of Museum, this indoor café offers a range of hot and cold drinks whilst the Museum is open. This café is accessible by a small step and Access is achieved by using the available portable ramps, please ask a member of staff for assistance. An outdoor seating area is located in the courtyard during the summer season. Assistance dogs are welcome throughout the site. Water bowls are available at the Bottle and Glass Inn.
Access is via a tow path, gradient 1 in 8, between Sidebotham’s Trap Shop and the Carter’s Yard, with a wide tarred middle section suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs. The Dudley Canal Tunnel ticket office is accessible. There is an additional charge for this Canal Trip. A narrow boat is fitted with a lift for wheelchair access and has capacity for two wheelchairs. It is advisable to book in advance by contacting Dudley Canal Trust on 0121 557 4018 or via email,especially if you intend bringing a group of two or more wheelchair users. Exhibit Information Sheets for download. Baker’s Shop; Bottle and Glass Inn; Broome’s Garage; Carter’s Yard (working horses); Cast Iron Houses & Print Shop; Chainmakers’ House; Cradley Heath Workers’ Institute; Doo’s Chemist; Gregory’s General Store; Hardware Shop; Jerushah - the Tilted Cottage; Pitt’s Cottage; St. James’s School; Station Road Cottages; T. Cook’s Sweet Shop; Toll House; Underground Mine Trip.
Location : Black Country Living Museum, Tipton Road, Dudley DY1 4SQ
Transport: Tipton (National Rail)1 mile or bus. Bus Routes : 24, 229, 311, 313 and 610 stop outside.
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Adults £15.95; Concessions £12.50; Children (5 - 16)/Carers £7.45
Tel: 0121 557 9643