The full extent of the Black Country’s rich industrial heritage is laid bare in a stunning new exhibition at the Black Country Living Museum.
From the glow of blast furnaces, to a bustling Walsall High Street at the turn of the century, the region’s past is brought to the fore at the entrance to the popular Dudley attraction.
The revamped reception features a series of giant images depicting Black Country life through the ages, culminating with a five-minute film in a new ‘cinema pod’.
There are images of coal-blackened men with pipes hanging from their mouths, children playing in the streets between back-to-backs and of women working at mines. The project has taken three months to complete and replaces the attraction’s previous ‘Hall of Fame’ exhibition.
The stunning pictures offer visitors a snapshot of life in the region from the 18th century onwards. They include a print by renowned artist and poet Edwin Butler Bayliss, whose paintings depict the Black Country as a smoke-filled engineering heartland.
Many of the region’s famous businesses are also represented. They include a branch of Palethorpes butchers in Oldbury, complete with a large advertisement proudly boasting: ‘Best Pork Goods’.
The inner workings of the Palethorpes sausage factory in Tipton are shown in another image.
Workers at Wednesbury’s famous Spear and Jackson factory in the 1960s are shown in another exhibit, while a stunning monochrome image shows a line of staff at the Revo metal polishing shop in Tipton.
The display also includes photographs of workers at the Black Country Living Museum demonstrating traditional trades.
Another image illustrates how the region’s industrial exploits were lauded far beyond the boundaries of the Black Country. It shows a picture from the Illustrated London News in 1866 depicting dozens of smokestacks billowing over a landscape packed with factories.
But its not all grim and industrial, with one picture showing Wolverhampton’s beautifully landscaped West Park at its finest, as mothers stroll alongside the pond with their babies in prams. Walsall’s busy High Street is depicted in a photograph taken in 1908, complete with the imposing figure of St Matthew’s Church looming in the background. There’s also a nod to how the BCLM has preserved the traditional industrial practices of the area.
Last November the museum was given permission for a new school entrance intended to cut queues. The building will be near the new Dudley Archives.
For more information on the BCLM and details of events visit bclm.co.uk/