The Black Country Living Museum on the outskirts of Birmingham is an outdoor industrial and social history museum consisting of numerous buildings, factories, transportation and even a fun-fair! The museum tells the story of the ‘Black Country’ (it was named this during the 19th century due to the large amount of heavy industry in the area at the time). It tells the story of its people, places and buildings through salvaged buildings, transport, warehouses, shops etc. that were faced with demolition in the late 20th century. Originally, the museum was run by Dudley Borough Council before becoming independently run by volunteers from the late 1970s onwards.
To access the museum, it is best to come by car as parking at the museum is free and the car park large enough to accommodate many vehicles. The museum is accessible by public transport although bus and train times in this area are sporadic at best. The museum offers various price points for visitors and is affordable for people with all budgets. Once purchased, the entry ticket is valid for one year so it’s possible to return many times. Prices are listed on the Black Country Living Museum website.
The museum is very accessible, although there is a lot of walking so people with very young children and disabled visitors might find it difficult to navigate. However, there is a vintage trolley-bus system that transports visitors around the museum which is helpful to those who have need of it. There are various eateries pin-pointed across the site that offer an array of traditional English food including; a 1930s fish and chips shop (queue early to avoid disappointment!), traditional bakery and sweet shops, a 1930’s community hall serving afternoon tea, as well as a pub serving sandwiches and beer and gin brewed on the premises.
The Black Country Living Museum also hosts a wide array of events across the year for all ages and tastes. From ‘Gin Tasting’ to ‘1930s Street Games’ visitors young and old are catered to by the museum. One aspect of the museum that I admire is the variety in programming. Whilst there is ample programming for young families, there are also events catered to adults with an eighteen and over age policy. For anyone who does not enjoy visiting a museum when there are many children around (myself included), it was refreshing that the museum had events for people like myself.
Some of the highlights of the museum include the vintage fun-fair complete with helter-skelter, wooden swing-boats, one-armed-bandit game machines and vintage sweet stalls. Additionally, there are a vast number of interpretive signs detailing the social history of the lives of the people who lived and worked in the buildings on site with many costumed guides taking on the roles of actual people. My favourite buildings include the 1930s flat (complete with atmospheric music), the 1930s fish and chips shop, the traditional English pub and a 1920s chemist. Other highlights include a 1930s women’s history tour, a trip on the trolley-bus and canal boat and of course a few rides on the helter-skelter.
The only downside to my visit were the vast number of families and children that were at the museum on the day of my visit. I would recommend visiting in the ‘off-season’ or when children are at school if you wish to visit the museum at a more sedate pace and have time to see every exhibit. However, my visit to the Black Country Living Museum remains one of my favourite visits to any museum that I have ever visited. I feel fortunate to be able to go again when I please with my ticket that is valid for one year!