They’re my favorite. We’re big museum-goers, but it’s not always the best thing to do with 3 small kids. So, when we find living museums, we’re all over it. We love that the kids can run around and explore and touch and learn without a lot of boundaries.

The Black Country Living Museum

So, on Saturday, we had a gorgeous day and we decided to visit the Black Country, named so for all the coal, soot, and iron that covered approximately 4 counties during the Industrial Revolution. Before you enter the museum, there is a short video you can watch explaining what the Black Country really is. At first two scholars are arguing over boundaries, counties, specific industries and whatnot and then this bloke comes on and shuts them both up by saying, “Thu Black Countrrrry is wherrrre a Black Countrrrymun sez ’tis!!” Man, he was hard to understand. πŸ™‚ Then he proceeds to explain how dirty and sooty and grimy and poor these places were and how short the life expectancy was of someone who worked in the coal mines and such.

So, let’s start the tour, shall we? First, you’re taken through a short indoor exhibit. Then you get to explore outside. K, everyone tinkled? πŸ™‚ Good.

I just thought this scale was neat.

Safes, gates, and shovel molds.

Lara loved this bright, sunshiny car. πŸ™‚

Then she insisted she snap a shot of me in front of the fire engine.

K, now let’s check out the open air exhibits. I’m posting a map so you can see just how big this place really is. Also, I’ll reference the photos with their numbers from the map so you can follow our trail while we walk along. πŸ™‚

(5) On the outside, these homes were made of iron sheets. This was an attempt to introduce pre-fabricated homes into the market to try and resuscitate the iron industry. There were only 3 homes ever built like this. Turns out, iron sheets was more expensive than brick.

I love how they have the newspaper hanging up there.

just behind (7) the Rock & Fossil Shop. We stopped here for our picnic lunch that Colin always packs for us. Yum.

Me, getting a little bit closer. In the background you can see (7) Rock & Fossil Shop and (8) Newcomen Engine (the world’s first steam engine.)

I love how old and worn everything is.

This is the outhouse just next to (14) the Pitt’s cottage. The guy inside was talking to Lara about their chamber pot. He called it a “guzzunder” because it guzz under the bed. πŸ™‚ HSe got a kick out of that.

The outhouse. It’s the Pitt’s.

We didn’t find any pigs across the street from (11) the Toll House, so we improvised.

Inside (11) the toll House. Room 1.

Room 2. I love the stockings hanging there. The exhibits really were complete. You could literally walk in and start living there.

Walking towards (18) the fairground. The kids were sooo excited.

Lara and Mia about to go on Helter Skelter.

They got up to the top so fast that I didn’t realize they were coming down yet. So, I totally missed Lara’s ride. Mia came down second and she’d lost her hat during the ride and she was bawling like a loon. Then a couple of seconds later her hat came down the slide and we all started laughing at her. πŸ™‚

They had an arcade room and it was so neat to see so many old games and penny arcade machines. The glare was really bad, though, so I didn’t get good shots. 😦

A better look at the Helter Skelter.

Then Lara, Mia, and I rode on another ride together. This thing was so bumpy that I thought my teeth were going to fall out. Norah was nervous and stiff as a board the entire time. And after we got off, Mia showed me the blister she got from the ride. It was seriously that rocky.

Next up, (17) the school. Lara had a Victorian School Day at her school a few months ago, so she was well acquainted with the routine. She settled in and showed Mia how it was done.

I thought this chart was neat…seriously, how did the British do this? Their money was sooo complicated. Farthings and shillings….ack!

Noodle tried her hand with a pencil and slate.

I love how Mia is covering her “schoolwork”. LOL πŸ™‚

Lara was so sweet. And I love the soot around her eyes. She really looks like she belongs here. haahaha. Talk about an in-depth museum experience! Real soot!

The school’s cloakroom. I’d want a room like this in my dream house. sigh…. I love all the worn, painted brick.

Next up, the canal.

Taken from (49) Canalside cafe.

Lara on Browns bridge. (the top right bridge on the map)

(46) Anchor Forge

(47) Ironworks shop

A lady in costume..just outside the (34) Back to Back houses (which were the tiniest houses I have ever seen).

Main street sign for the cinema.

(36) The Limelight cinema. The brick building on the right is where everyone was sitting. The screen was about the size of an old school chalkboard and the building sat about 50 people. Colin and I waited outside while Lara and Mia watched the show.

Just outside the cinema entrance. You can see the (30) Bottle and Glass Inn which is the white building on the right.

Lara and Mia trying to master the iron hoops. They quickly abandoned the game, though, as it was rather tricky to pick up on.

I stopped in the (43) bakery and bought a couple of tarts.

Then we went next door and bought some pear drops and strawberry creams from the (42) Sweetshop.

We wanted to try (39) the chip shop (a.k.a. a chippy, a fishy, a fish & chip shop, etc.) but unfortunately it was closed. I was really ticked (so was Colin) because it smelled so good and there was simply no good reason to close it early. Look at that line out the front door! Come on!!

So we continued on down the street and checked out the shops with our tummies rumbling.

This is the General Store (21).

And the Milliner’s.

At the other end of the street facing the pub/inn.

Another shot of the general store window.

We turned the corner and headed towards (20) the Lime Kilns. According to a sign, this part of the village had been used until the 70’s I believe. After that, it had managed to get filled up entirely with sludge and slime and stagnant water. When it came time to build the museum, this was restored, drained, and opened back up the the public. Pretty cool, huh?

We headed back to the main street, still kinda ticked about the chippy, and decided we need a pint of sumpin’ sumpin’.

One shot of the Chemist’s window, though. Smelling salts…for some reason this is classic Victorian for me.

Ah, the pub. A parent’s best friend sometimes. Colin got a pint of “mild” and I got a cider. We have no idea what it was. It was probably just Strongbow and Newcastle LOL, but it hit the spot. We also munched on our tarts. The top one is a Viennese tart and the bottom one is almond. The kids had water…not ale. πŸ™‚

Me and Lara and Mia on the bridge by the (42) Sweetshop.

Actually looking over the bridge into the canal.

Lara took over the camera and snapped a shot of the tram as it went by.

She also got one of the horse. πŸ™‚

Then, while Colin and the big girls went into the mine (9), I took Noodle into the (13) Tilted Cottage. It was quaint and sweet. Then I pushed her over to the (10) Racecourse Colliery. I think this is where the engine was and where they pumped out the fumes and bad air from the mine.

Noodle, thankfully, had fallen asleep. She was getting pretty dern crazy by this time and she needed a good catnap.

So, that was about it. After the colliery, I took Noodle over to a grassy spot across the street from (7) the Rock & Fossil shop and I lied down on my jacket. When she woke up, we sat in the grass and ate an apple together. Then she rolled down the hill a bit and when Colin and the big girls came out of the mine, we went to the gift shop and picked up a magnet. Then we got in the car and headed home, thoroughly exhausted and craving fish & chips. πŸ™‚

The coolest thing about this museum is that every building, outside, and piece of machinery was brought here and reassembled. A town like this didn’t actually exist. Each one of the shops represents an entire industry just from one town. Each building was taken down, brick by brick, and lovingly rebuilt here to preserve the essence of this era. Talk about a renovation project. And I loved how packed this place was. Most of the living museums we went to in Germany were deserted and kinda neglected. This one had so much life in it. Plus, every shop was run by a person thoroughly knowledgeable about the shop, it’s origins, the person who owned it, and the industry and history of the area. If you’re ever near Birmingham, England, I highly recommend this little gem. πŸ™‚

Colin is taking a week off from work while the kids are on break from school. We’ve got a ton of stuff planned. Today we’re taking a break and we’re going to finish our spring cleaning and then tomorrow we’ve got a date planned. The kiddos are spending the night at a friend’s house and me and the hubbs are heading down to London to watch Wicked and eat at Bentley’s Oyster Bar.Β  I am sooo excited! Of course, there will be an update. πŸ™‚

Happy Sunday, all! Ciao!