Earlier this year I expressed a wish to one day visit the newly opened Library of Birmingham. My friend Ann immediately volunteered to accompany me and suggested that we book a few nights at one of the National Trust Back-to-Back houses. And so it was arranged back in March.
Number 52 is the right of the entry
Located in the heart of the city centre, 52 Inge Street is one of eleven small houses that make up Birmingham’s last surviving courtyard of Back-to-Back houses. Inge Street is located next to the Birmingham Hippodrome. Stay here and become a part of urban history whilst accessing all the benefits that this vibrant cultural centre has to offer. The house has been styled in the Victorian period and is set over three floors. We read this and booked ourselves in for three nights from 22 November.
Plan showing Birmingham Back-to-Backs and Court 15
We couldn’t stay in a Back-to-Back without doing the public tour so we booked on the first tour on the Sunday morning. Before 9am we knew that preparations were being made for the visitor tours – we could smell the coal fires in the house that faced into the courtyard and backed onto ours.
Our Back-to-Back kitchen table
And capsule kitchen
At 10 o’clock on the Sunday morning we popped out of our house and trotted round the corner to the National Trust shop and visitor centre where there is a small introductory exhibition. A few minutes later we all assembled outside the corner sweet shop for a most entertaining tour of four properties.
“Buildings frozen in time
From the 1840s to the 1970s, see how people lived and worked in our courtyard. Come and see the bedroom come workshop of Mr Levi, see the meal time ready kitchen of Mrs Oldfield and take a peek at George Saunders’ tailor’s shop and see what he’s been making.” [NT website]
The interiors are furnished from the 1840s, 1870s, 1930s and 1970s. Read here about the background to the 1970s house which is still privately owned but under the care of the National Trust. One of the rooms is still decorated in the original of this Cath Kidston reproduction design.
The National Trust shop is on Hurst Street
Up and down creaking twisting staircases; minding our heads on low beams; being careful not to touch the lead painted attic but being allowed to touch just about everything else it was a marvel to behold tiny rooms with narrow beds which slept many children, the very few clothes and belongings of the inhabitants and the tools of the trades carried out in these homes. No photography was allowed inside the properties.
We have a lot to be thankful for these days. But here in Leeds many people still live in the back-to-backs.
Our Victorian Bedroom
Luckily this was not our en-suite!
And nor was this!