Black Country Museum honors industrial past

The Birmingham area, with its abundance of coal, was involved in the Industrial Revolution early on. Coal mines, and factories which consumed the coal, dotted the landscape. So numerous were the mines that a family might operate one under their home.

Black Country Museum honors industrial past

Black Country Got Name from Coal Mining Operations

The Black Country Museum is located in Dudley, just outside of Birmingham, but the area considers itself to be separate from Birmingham. The communities of Wolverhampton, Sandsall and Walsall also make up the Black Country, which received its name in the 19th century from the smoke and coal dust which covered the area.

The museum’s website says buildings from throughout the area were moved to the museum to create an authentic experience for people who have only read about the Industrial Revolution and its impact on the modern world. The museum covers 26 acres with homes and shops, atransport museum, old-fashioned carnival, canals and coal barging operations, and a coal mine. Employees wear period costumes to further add to the flavor of this 1930s village.

Black Country Museum Features Coal Mine Tour, Fairgrounds

The coal mine is a recreation of a typical underground mine around 1850, the website notes, adding it is safer than the real thing would have been.

But not all was black and bleak during the Black Country’s heyday. Traveling carnivals passed through the area. A fairgrounds is included as part of the museum heritage. It has various rides, including a merry-go-round, and games. Even cotton candy. The fairgrounds are operated by descendents of the Jones family which began traveling with carnivals in the early 1900s.

The grounds are easily walkable, but those who don’t want to hoof it can take an electric tramcar or trolley bus from one end to the other. For an extra fee, visitors can take a canal boat ride through limestone caves.

Museum Recreates 1930s English Coal-Mining Village

Black Country Museum

The main area mixes businesses with residential housing, even a stable with horses. This is a good area to see demonstrations such as glass-making or a man teaching children how to roll the hoops of yesteryear. And don’t be put off by the name of the sweetshop: Veal Chocolate. Veal Chocolate is not a new kind of candy; rather George Veal was the shop’s proprietor. Buy a bag of broken treats for 50p (US75-cents) while waiting for the bus back to the entrance. Visitors with larger appetites can try one of the restaurants, including a 1930s fried fish shop.

The Black Country Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March through October. It is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the rest of the year. Admission is £12.95 (US$19.50) for adults and £6.95 (US$11) for children. Senior citizen discounts and family tickets are available.

The museum is located on Tipton Road about a mile north of the Dudley town center. Take the number 126 bus to get there from Birmingham. This is a flag stop so ask the driver to stop there.

Black Country Museum Displays Vintage Motorbikes

The Black Country Museum is a recreation of a 1930s West Midlands coal mining village. This living history museum features an underground coal mine tour, a fairgrounds with carnival rides, a typical mining village with shops and homes, and a transport museum. This museum is the first exhibit after leaving the main entrance hall.

Black Country Museum Exhibits Old Motorcycles

There’s even an old motorcycle at the entrance to the main building. It’s a Rockson from the 1920s. It has a belt drive and short spokes holding up the belt. The belt drive also serves as the rear brake.

Also inside the main building is a 1916 AJS. Very few of this 550cc, twin engine motorcycle were made.

The building signed “AJS Motor Co.” can be found just to the left of the main building. It houses cars, bicycles and motorcycles from that era. The motorcycles featured are only those made in the Birmingham area from 1919 until the early 1930s. The Birmingham area was an important manufacturing center for powered vehicle during that time.

Black Country Museum Has Many AJS Bikes

There’s a 1927 AJS H7 350cc motorcycle with an overhead cam and exposed drive. There’s also a 1931 AJS v-twin with side valves.

The museum is heavy on AJS motorcycles because they were made in nearby Wolverhampton. AJS also made cars, but in 1931, the motorcycle manufacturing side of the business was sold to Matchless. The Stevens family started out as a manufacturer of screws, with AJS being founded in 1909 to manufacture motorcycles. The first models were successful as racers, and by 1931 had set 117 world records.

Vintage Cars On Display, Too

Cars also are on display at the Black Country Museum, including a 1931 Star Comet which sold for £448 at a time when a new house cost £200. That’s more than $33,000 in today’s dollars! This restored vehicle was sold to a buyer in Shanghai.

The transport building also houses some early bicycles as well as a 1924 fire engine.

Black Country Museum Open Daily in Summer

The Black Country Museum is located in the West Midlands town of Dudley, on Tipton Road about a mile from the town center. Take bus number 126 from central Birmingham or anywhere along Edgbaston Road; this is a flag stop so be sure to ask the bus driver to stop there.

Admission is £12.95 (US$19.50) for adults and £6.95 (US$11) for children. Discounts are available for senior citizens and families. The museum is open daily, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., March through October. It is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays the rest of the year when open hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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