Author Topic: Birmingham 'Back To Backs'  (Read 55473 times)

martial

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Re: Birmingham 'Back To Backs'
« Reply #22 on: December 20, 2008, 07:18:48 PM »
  All my grand parents were from the back to backs in the 1800's. My dad's mum and dad must of met each other that way as they were married from the same court in Branston St Hockley. According to their wedding documents. When I was a lad back in the fifties my dad told me a couple of stories about the "courts" as he knew them. At my dad's place of work back in the 20's a man was badly hurt and had to go to hospital, dad was sent (on his new motorbike!) to tell the man's wife.He parked his bike outside the court and went in.He knocked on the first door and enquired if mrs xxxx lived there, "never heard of her" was the reply, and the same all the way round until he got to the last door, "what do you want her for?" asked the woman. Dad explained, "Oh" was the reply " she lives there" said the woman, pointing to the first door he had tried! They didn't all get on but if they felt a threat they closed ranks instantly such was the bond of the small comunities.
    I was asking dad about old Aston and the courts, " you wouldn't have wanted to live there in my days " he said. "The toilets were big containers under the seat, like an Elsan. Every week they were emptied by the "night soil men" and when they were due everyone closed all the windows and bunged up any holes because the flies were everywhere". I have heard of the "night soil men "in books but never the bit about the flies!
   
   

Phil

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Re: Birmingham 'Back To Backs'
« Reply #23 on: December 20, 2008, 07:45:09 PM »
Hi martial

Welcome to the forum, you sound like another one interested in the history of Birmingham. I'm sure we would all like to hear further tales of your grandparents and parents.

Does it annoy you like it does me, when the council sets up these places like the back to backs in Hurst St, Birmingham and tries portrays them as how life used to be back then. I am not old enough to remember the times you have spoken about, but even in my times of living in back to backs in the 50's they were nothing like how its being portrayed in Hurst St.

I think the Black Country Museum have got it nearly right, but it is still a very sanitised version of the life back then.

Philip
Phil

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denise

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Re: Birmingham 'Back To Backs'
« Reply #24 on: December 20, 2008, 09:48:08 PM »
I agree,as I said before I can remember them 1960s,late fifties and they were not good.

I suppose it is hard to capture the essence of poverty.

Hope everybody has a great Christmas and a good new year.

Phil

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Re: Birmingham 'Back To Backs'
« Reply #25 on: December 20, 2008, 10:05:53 PM »
Hi denise

Long time no hear, you shouldn't be such a stranger. We have a sad shortage of lady posters at the moment.

Thank you for your well wishes, and I am sure everyone here wishes you the same back.

It is hard to capture the essence of poverty, but I don't think Birmingham Council have tried. I don't think they want us to be reminded of they way they let most of the population live.

Phil
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Phil

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Re: Birmingham 'Back To Backs'
« Reply #26 on: December 20, 2008, 10:16:15 PM »
Some typical examples of real back to back houses. The one and only room downstairs measured approximately 12 ft x 12ft. That was your only living area. where you did everthing but sleep, and in some cases it was even used for that.

In addition to this you had a 5 x 3 scullery with a Belfast (earthenware) type sink and one cold water tap. Here was where you washed yourself, prepared your food, and did most of your laundry.

As I have said previously there was a total of 9 in our house. Ours was of the type shown in the last photo, and our family was not one of the biggest in the street.

Phil
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tramp

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Re: Birmingham 'Back To Backs'
« Reply #27 on: December 21, 2008, 12:15:40 AM »
Phil,

These photos are the reality of back to back poverty - they should be blown up 6' x 6' and posted to the walls in Hurst St  - or you could blow up Hurst St - take your pick, as the foreman said to the navvy.

martial

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Re: Birmingham 'Back To Backs'
« Reply #28 on: December 23, 2008, 04:28:26 PM »
It was interesting to read what you think of the Hurst street refurbishment, I thought exactly the same when I saw what had been done.I can see it is difficult trying to hit the right note and some academic sitting behind a desk somewhere probably doesnt even realise what is wrong with it. Back to back's were never very good they were just cheap housing for the masses thown up as quick as possible,without any thought of what they might be like to live in. Rebuilding them to a high standard has completely  missed the point. They were never high standard. By the time I entered the world (1944) they were well past there dubious best. I remember them as very grim, Brum as a whole was grim mainly because of the smoke and fog turning everything a dark brown colour. Where my mum came from (Village road) was the same , but I went back a couple of years ago and it had all been cleaned! What a difference, gone was the brown they were all red brick and now they had stone window sills and door lintels before they weren't recogniseable.So restoring a building to what it was, first pick the time you want to represent, not just clean everything, that isn't how these places were for most of there lives. It won't give children the full picture of what life was like in Brum just a few years ago and show them how lucky they are when it comes to things like hot water and indoor toilets!



Langstraat

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Re: Birmingham 'Back To Backs'
« Reply #29 on: December 23, 2008, 05:59:36 PM »
martial,
Have you visited them? I went just over four weeks ago with an American visitor to our city. The Back to Backs facing the street (opposite the Hippodrome) have indeed been converted and refurbished to modern day standards into tiny holiday 'lets' for the tourists and those who need a central location.
The guided tour and 'step back' to four different eras start when the guide unlocks the gate to the entry and courtyard. Once inside the yard you get a feeling of how things were. The wash house and Lavs in the corner is for all to see the only thing missing is the smell which surely pervaded everywhere. Out tour started in the grandest of the tiny dwelling. It had a separate scullery which the others didn't and was furnished as it would have been when they were first built. They were built for the influx of migrants entrepreneurs originally and as is the norm changed as time went on and poorer families moved in. The National Trust have endeavered to show the various stages that the dwelling went through from new to their decline into the hovels the city felt the need to clear. You can only imagine how they lived with a family of twelve children and in some cases a couple of lodgers. No room for many personal possession or clothing. Families sharing the toilets not just from those within the courtyard but those from the street side. There wasn't even running water originally that had to be fetched from Ladywell.  Very little has been altered and the N.T have done a wonderful job as they usually do in restoring warts an all. I worked close by while they were still in occupation through to the end of 1970. The last 'house' in the tour is where one of the first Jamicans to Birmingham had his Tayloring business still with his patterns and material samples.
A wonderful experience and a grand tour.   
Never argue with an idiot, they'll drag you down to their level and try to beat you with experience.

martial

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Re: Birmingham 'Back To Backs'
« Reply #30 on: December 23, 2008, 07:19:51 PM »
No I haven't yet been in them,I have only seen them from the out side and on a program that didn't show any of the other side of back to back living. I have Chris Upton's "Living back to back" which shows the outside and some inside rooms but it's the overall look of it that just doesn't ring true, just too clean and neat. But then too real would put people off going anyway wouldn't it. So I will have to go and have a good look for myself.

Phil

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Re: Birmingham 'Back To Backs'
« Reply #31 on: December 23, 2008, 07:26:59 PM »
Hi again martial,

I have never been to the back to backs in Hurst St, after seeing the opening on t.v. I didn't think they were worth a visit. As I have said previously if they had tried harder to get things right I might have thought differently.

The trouble is, I think the National Trust is getting more like a business every day, they seem to forget that they are the caretakers of out heritage. Whilst I realise they have got to earn money to keep going, I think today that they overcharge for a lot of visitor attractions.

As far as authenticity goes relating to the Hurst St back to backs. I'm posting two photo's one of the sanitised Hurst St and one of some real back to backs they bear no relation to each other. You note a miskin outside the front door of the house on the left where everybody in the court would dump their waste and rubbish until it was time for it to be cleaned out.

I don't see any miskin in the second photo, but there again that would be down to Percy Shurmer a gentleman who did something about poverty, and didn't try to pretend that it wasn't so.

Phil
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Langstraat

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Re: Birmingham 'Back To Backs'
« Reply #32 on: December 23, 2008, 08:28:27 PM »
martial,

To avoid disappointment it's advisable to pre-book your visit as I did.
If you're a N.T member the entrance is free, otherwise it's 5.40 which is cheaper than a packet of 'fags' LOL; or for 13.50 you can get a family ticket for two adults and three kids;, it takes about an hour and a half.
Hope you enjoy it. :)

Note.
It's not suitable for those with mobility problems there are several steep rickety staircases to negotiate.
Never argue with an idiot, they'll drag you down to their level and try to beat you with experience.