Back to Black (Country Living Museum)

It’s not been that long since I last went to the Black Country Living Museum, but I was keen to return as there is so much to explore.  This time I was sans my kids which afforded me the opportunity to investigate some places that they were reticent to go in – cowards.

For starters I have never been down the mine - my little ones are a bit too wee for this, so I and my colleague Marcia headed straight for the pit - Marcia is already loving it here - she’s a local wench you see - born n’ bred.

We were soon hard hatted and with flashlights in hand on our way down the slope for a 35 minute or so venture “Into the Thick".  Now stood/stooped in the pitch black, a narration suddenly fills the air - it’s a Black Country chap from days of yore (circa 1850) - My enquiry ‘Marcia, is that you?’ is met with a swift, well placed (considering the light) - dig to the arm. 

You really get a good sense of the conditions the men and young lads had to endure down here, animatronics and audio visual techniques really bring the space to life.  

And then I nearly have a heart attack, it was at least a pang of angina -  just as our knowledgeable guide was telling us about some of the pitfalls (no pun intended) of working here, the young lad in front of me dropped his hard hat on the floor – BANG! – I thought the roof had collapsed. So did everyone else and I think we sucked all the air out of the mine.  Despite this added drama, it’s a great experience and thoroughly recommended.

After all that excitement we wanted to get some of the fabled fish and chips from Hobbs & Sons but we’re on a tight schedule and the word/smell had spread of their greatness... These award-winning chips are cooked in beef dripping and I can confirm that their reputation is well deserved.

I consoled myself with a trip to my favourite location - As a film graduate my favourite building in the Black Country Museum is the Limelight Cinema.  And I was delighted to see that film was a big theme on the site this time.  This marvellous old cinema was discovered by mistake, in a shed, in Brierley Hill in 1921.

The guy who lived there built the cinema in his garden for his family & friends – so successful did it become that he offered the experience out to the locals charging a penny for the bench seats - the astute cinema owner soon added posh seats at the back so he could charge double.  However, those that shelled out 2p soon discovered that it came back to bite them on the bum (literally) – for you see dear Black Country blog reader, the more expensive seats were stuffed with horse hair for cushioning - unfortunately the hair attracted fleas - hence the cinemas being nicknamed…anyone? Anyone at all? You got it - Flea pits!

The film we watched was a 15 minute Charlie Chaplin short entitled ‘Charlie at Work’ - The film was accompanied by a wind up gramophone, which, as the lady running the show pointed out, was ‘the iPod of its day’.  It was a lovely experience to watch in the authentic surrounds and evoked memories of my early film history modules at uni!

The cinematic theme continued outside – with a director handing out costumes and props to the children – and very popular it was too - Black Country Living Museum is no stranger to the film trade as many productions have been filmed here including Land Girls, Our Zoo & Peaky Blinders (who’s cast & crew have recently returned for season three filming) - see for yourself here.

This visit the tram was back in action, and a look around the church was another experience that was new for me - this 1837 structure originated in Netherton and like many of the fabulous buildings here was reassembled brick by brick within the museum.

You can spend hours at Black Country Living Museum, but time was our enemy and we had to hotfoot it back to work - Marcia consoled our chip-free bellies with some mighty fine traditional fudge from the excellent shop.

To see what I got up to on my previous visit check out the blog right…about...here.

I'll leave you with Marcia looking at some family snaps. Tararabit.

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