Today we went to the Black Country Living Museum! It was just a short drive from our hotel and very fun to go to. We learned about the coal mining and how in mines (picture included below), they would fit 12 people in a time. The coal container was held up by a rope, but in the picture it is held up by a steel cable. If the rope broke, which was not uncommon, it would kill four of the workers in the mines below. These workers were experiencing very harmful conditions. In addition to the workers, they also would put a horse into the mines. Since the mine was too small to put a horse in as it normally stands, they would tie the horse with its feet down and head up. It was extremely cruel conditions for the horses. In addition to transporting the horse down into the shaft, horses were forced to carry three full containers of coal in the shaft, in the pitch black darkness, with someone guiding them with a candle. I was not aware that horses were put into these mines and treated so cruelly. It is important to acknowledge these conditions and ask ourselves what we are continually doing to prevent animal cruelty.
In the mines, workers were in the shafts for long 12 hour shifts. It earned good money so women would want to work there as well. However, Queen Victoria announced that women were not allowed to work here anymore due to the conditions and lack of efficiency. This was due to when workers would go down into the shafts, it became hotter and hotter as they reached closer into the Earth’s core temperature. So, workers would take off their clothing due to excessive sweating. It was considered an act of indecency for women to take off some of their clothing in the presence of males. Once this announcement became law, women would dress up as men to continue working because they did not have any other job opportunity that offered this good money. If found out that you were sneaking in as a women, you would be breaking the law and arrested. Most of the time a women was found working in the mines if there was an accident in the mines and their body was recovered.
After learning about the history of the mines, we walked around the town and saw sites such as farms, houses, a gas station, and then a school. It was interesting to learn about the school! All children were taught to write right-handed. It was believed that the devil sat on your left shoulder, as the Latin word for left means sinister. Students that worked well writing left-handed were forced to train themselves to be right-handed, which can result in delays in reading and writing. As a person who is left-handed, this would have been very hard to train my mind like this!
As a pupil starting off school, you were given a slate pencil and board. As you become proficient in this way, you were to learn ink and paper writing. The way that you wrote with ink determined what job you would receive. Writing with ink is very delicate- you can only put a few drops onto your pencil. Any ink blobs were considered very bad and there was no way to erase your mistakes. A small bump in the arm, cough, or sneeze could cause a mistake for the whole paper! This would be very hard for me to do, as I tend to make a lot of mistakes before a final draft of something- it requires a lot of revision and tweaking.
When learning how to write letters of the alphabet, children would use the hooks and hangers used to hold up pots and pans to learn the alphabet. Lastly, it was highly emphasized that it was a great privilege to be able to go to school. Typically one person of the family would go to school, and you were expected to teach the rest of the family what you learned so that you can all become educated in topics. Education is a great opportunity and should never be taken advantage of, then and now. It is the opportunity to learn about theory, practice, history, and ideas so that you can apply it in your life to become a better person and create a better world that is inclusive to all.
We then went into the city part of the town, where there were shops like a bakery, restaurant, pub, and pharmacy. The pharmacy was interesting to see and there was a sign out in front of it that is included below. For lunch we had great fish and chips!
All in all, a great time and felt like I was walking around the Peaky Blinders set.