The Black Country Living Museum – Getting to the Heart of Britain’s Industrial Revolution.
When we learned that we would be spending our first three months in the UK in the West Midlands, I must admit that we didn’t really have any expectations because we didn’t know a lot about the area. Sometimes though, that’s the best way to travel. We can honestly say though that this is an area that we have really grown an attachment to. This can definitely be attributed to the many kind, friendly locals that we encountered, the beautiful country scenery, pretty towns, and most of all a firm sense of identity based on a period in time that changed the world forever. In the Midlands, getting to the heart of Britain’s Industrial Revolution is easy, and nowhere more so, than at the Black Country Living Museum.
At the Black Country Living Museum at Dudley, we were able to literally walk back in time to a period when the Midlands was a hive of activity. Black smoke would have billowed from the tall chimneys, coal mines fuelled industry, and people flocked to the area in search of work, opportunity and maybe even riches. The museum has been created in Dudley with streets, houses, shops, a canal and a mine to look and feel as it would have for locals during the Industrial Revolution.
The buildings have been sourced from around the country and moved, brick by brick over the many years that the museum has evolved. But, what makes the Black Country Living Museum really special is the volunteers dressed in period costume who share their knowledge and skills with the visitors.
We particularly enjoyed watching the blacksmith at work making chains and the baker making bread in the Victorian bakery. The coal mine is a must see if you’re not afraid of the dark, and we absolutely loved the canal boat ride through the tunnel (additional cost but well worth it!).
In each of the shops and houses that we went into, there were volunteers keen to share their knowledge with us, telling us stories and fleshing out the bones of the Black Country’s history.
This is an area of firsts. So many things that happened for the first time in the world happened right here in the British Midlands. The world’s first steam engine. The world’s first factory. First cast iron structures and industrialisation that was the result of forward thinking men and women. Individuals who were adaptable, inventive, and as we Aussie’s would say, ‘bloody tough’. Life was hard in the Victorian era. Working conditions were horrible, and workplace safety almost non-existent. If there is one thing that we really learnt about life in this time is that people were expendable. If you died doing your job, there were many more to fill your place.
Our children have learnt so much from the many places that we visited in the Midlands, not just history, but how things are made and how they work. How people and ideas have changed the course of history and how we’re able to live the life we do now because of those people. Worldschooling our children as we travel makes the learning that they do come alive, and visiting places like the Black Country Living Museum makes it a memorable experience that they will keep forever.