The tour of the Back to Back houses - the last remaining courtyard of these in Birmingham starts outside the sweet shop on the corner.
Which used to be your favourite?
Lemon Kali was one of mine.
Back to back houses were very common in the north at the time of the industrial revolution when a huge influx of people from the countryside teemed into the city's looking for work. It's a period in history that I now find fascinating - but really hated at school! As well as telling the story of the population shift into the city, they also tell the story of the many immigrants into the city - another topic that I also find fascinating and heartbreaking.
I was allowed to take photos in the yard, but not in the houses. They have left one of the rooms in the actual state that the families would have lived in - and it is very grim. The houses that they lived in in the film "Angela's Ashes" would be a good indication of the filth and squalor that large families would have lived in here.
A lot of research has gone into the families that would have lived in these houses through time and the guide tells story's about them. The houses have one small room on each of the three floors. One of the families had 10 children and 2 lodgers making a total of 14 people in one tiny house.
The washroom outside was shared by 12 families and each woman would have her allotted time to do her washing. Once she had finished, she would often jump into the tub to have her bath, then use the water to bathe the rest of the family. It was often like sludge when they bathed the last child - usually the baby.
They had 3 privies to share between the families and these would have originally been "earth closets" - basically a hole where you deposited your waste, which got mixed with ash, then when they were pretty full, they would be shovelled out into the yard to await the "night soil man" who would collect it on a cart and sell it for fertilizer to the farmers. (Hope you were not eating!!).
The yard and houses look really pretty decked out with bunting for their WW2 week next week, but they would really have been vile, smelly places to live.
Its amazing to think that people still lived in them up until the mid 1960's.
I wondered what these women who lived in these houses who struggled on a daily basis to feed and keep a family warm would make of the fact that even though we now have a limitless choice of floor covering and bed linens available to us to buy, we still love the rag rugs and patchwork that they were forced to make for comfort. I think they would think that we were mad.