Sparks Fly!

Today was a really exciting day! We went to the Black Country Living Museum! It’s a living museum where the workers are dressed up as people from the era the museum represents. Right now, the museum replicates the 1920s, but they are expanding by adding a 1940s to 1960s town center.

When we entered, we were greeted by an open area with a few coal mine setups and a town off in the distance. We first visited the coal mine setup. While talking with one of the workers, he told us what conditions were like. He also told us how they would enter the mine shaft. They would link up four people in the middle of the large pot holding them. Then, four more people would link up and be on the edge and the last four people would link up and hold onto the ropes going down. The worker also told and showed us how they lowered horses down into the shaft. It looked incredibly inhumane, with the horse completely bound and then lowered down. And, regarding the children, the specific mine shaft employed kids starting at 7 or 10. Their job would be to sit completely in the dark and open and close the doors for the coal miners. Of course, the kids got up for work in the dark, worked in the dark, and got home in the dark. They never even really ever saw sunlight.

After talking with the coal miners, we walked into the town area. We first stopped by the school and a lesson demonstration was going on. The lady working as the teacher told us what teaching would be like and usually only one child would go to school, learn, and teach the rest of the family once we got back. She also told us that those who wrote left handed were forced to write right handed due to the belief the devil sat on the left shoulder of a person. After the lesson, we went further into town. We visited a general store, a cinema, and a confectionery. In the cinema, we were told that it was a cinema set up in a man’s backyard so he could show cinemas in his neighborhood. We were also told it was moved brick by brick to the Black Country Living Museum because it was in really good condition for where it had been located.

We continued our walk around the town by walking along the canal. We walked by a man and his wife and he told us about living on a boat. Apparently, it was pretty common back during that time period for a family to live in a boat. Of course, there were regulations on how many people can live in a boat. Many families ignored that rule altogether. When they heard the inspector was in town, they would tell those who should not be living in the boat to go and hide somewhere. Most of the time, they were not caught. If the family was caught, the man would get drawn to court and most likely not win. And, when he tried to get his job back, the boss would not rehire due to having a criminal background. After thanking the boat worker, we walked to the chain maker area. He demonstrated to us how to make chains. It was really cool seeing him hit the super heated piece with sparks shooting everywhere. He also told us that when the Titanic was being built, the chain makers in the area were commissioned to make the chains for the Titanic’s three anchors.

When we stopped by the blacksmith, he was doing a nail making demonstration. He purposefully made the nail blunt. The reason why, according to him, was that sharp nails would split the wood. Blunt nails would not split the wood either. After exploring the town, we stopped for lunch and got fish and chips. Apparently, the fish and chips here were the best in the area. They were very yummy! After lunch, we walked around some more. I went into the Workers Institute and found something interesting. Women worked as chainsmiths during this time. Because they could only make smaller chains, they were severely underpaid. One woman organized a general strike against the company, which men joined in to support the striking women. As a result, women chainsmiths saw a considerable increase in their wages.

Today was such a fun day exploring the place and asking questions about the era. I enjoyed colonial Williamsburg, but I really enjoyed Black Country Living Museum even better! If you ever get the chance to visit I would recommend it! Especially since they’re adding in the 40s through 60s! Also, check out their TikTok! It’s surprisingly fun and cool!

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