In 2006 we travelled extensively through the UK, visiting places where our ancestors had lived. Stuart had skilled mining and manufacturing ancestors who experienced the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the Black Country. We had traced some distant cousins who met us in Dudley and took us to the Black Country Living Museum. Both families had locksmith ancestors, and in this marvellous Living Museum we were able to see a reproduction of a typical local town and a Locksmith’s Cottage.
Ailsa’s challenge is Playbl, which these actors illustrate well, play-acting the characters of an earlier time. Visitors enjoy playing too, joining in activities throughout the museum! We travelled on an early tram, took a canal boat ride into a hill riddled with mining tunnels, watched all sorts of steam machinery operating, chatted to ‘shopkeepers’ and ‘housewives’ and generally had a lot of fun.
These historic buildings were taken apart brick by brick, transported to the museum site and rebuilt to create a an early 20th Century village, as a setting for a huge collection of Industrial Revolution artefacts. We were delighted to meet the actors in the streets, having lively altercations, calling greetings, and bustling about their business. It was all so surprising and natural we found ourselves smiling broadly!
Yet while enjoying the playfulness of the atmosphere we were acutely aware that it was a working village, showing us the working lives of our forebears. One of Stuart’s g-g-grandfathers came to Australia to teach a new coal smelting method to the fledgling industry here. His daughter, a skilled violinist, married a young Scotsman who had run away from mining near Glasgow, only to go down the mines at Lithgow in the Blue Mountains out here. We watched the mining displays with sombre expressions.
The Museum was established close to the site where Thomas Dudley first mastered the technique of smelting iron with coal instead of wood charcoal and making iron enough for industrial use. Having a claim to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, the Black Country is famous for its wide range of steel-based products from nails to the anchor and anchor chain for the Titanic. Certainly I have always associated cutlery with Sheffield! If you are ever nearby you might really enjoy a visit, fun for all ages.