Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Back to Backs

Never heard of back to backs? Neither had we till I started looking for a National Trust Cottage in Birmingham. The National Trust is a non-profit charity that preserves historical properties and has converted some of them into holiday cottages, using the income from the rentals to help support the Trust.

Built in 1802, the back to back houses were constructed to house the families of the growing factory-worker force in Birmingham, a center of the Industrial Revolution and manufacturing for England. Row houses, 3 stories high, with one room on each floor, were built 2-deep. Each floor had a window on one side and the back wall was solid, with another room behind it, facing the other direction.

When constructed, there was no electricity or running water, of course. The houses were built around courtyards which served as recreational and social space, laundry room, the location of the outhouses, and source for water.

This courtyard was used by 60 people. The block of buildings housed 3000 folks. The single water tap provided water to wash clothes and for household use. The apartment we toured at one time housed a husband and wife and 9 children. Plus, they rented out one bed to 2 lodgers!

Four of the children slept on these beds, some with their heads at the top, some with heads at the bottom.

A curtain separated the children's bed from the lodgers' bed, seen here.

Today, three apartments are rented out by the Trust. Ours was decorated in 1930's style. The others represent the 1870s and 1840s. We didn't see them. Here are a couple of photos of our place, with the kitchen on the ground floor, the bedroom and bathroom on the 2nd floor and sitting/living room on the top floor, all facing the Inge Street.

The steps between floors were brutal—steep, curving and narrow.

Living in the Back to Back house/apartment while we were in Birmingham presented some other challenges, in addition to the steps. We only had a small refrigerator, similar to what you would see in an office to keep a couple of sandwiches and some cans of pop. Ours was in the cabinet on a shelf under the sink. It didn't have good temperature control and one night the lettuce and a bottle of 7-Up froze.

After that we went shopping daily, sometimes twice a day, to buy sandwiches, prepared microwave entrees (we didn't have an oven) and salad fixings. Luckily, the Tesco Express, a take-away store, was at the other end of the block, at the bottom of the road as described in our information packet. Here is our source of food if we didn't want to eat our 2 meals every day.

Photos will be added to this blog later, when we have strong enough WiFi.

Sent from my iPad

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