Twenty Eight Times and Counting!

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September 17th 2014
Published: October 1st 2014
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Woolly says – I had put my paw down with, well a firm paw! Earache all the way down the hill and past Dudley Zoo, will she never stop!

He’s very cute when he’s riled! Our discussion had resulted in my begrudgingly agreeing to go along with his royal fur-ness and re-visit for the 28th time (yes you have read that correctly) the Black Country Museum in Dudley. Having taught in Dudley Borough for more years than I care to remember this is the yearly school trip (if you’re lucky, I had to do it three times during the one academic year!) that every pupil goes on and that requires teachers to accompany them, namely me, but in fairness it was a place that Woolly had yet to discover so lead on mammoth!

Woolly says – ignoring the protests and moaning behind me I was delighted to find a steam train greeting me at the entrance to the museum, this was going to be good. The information told me that the ‘Winston Churchill’ had only arrived recently at the site and mighty fine it looked to. Having wandered under the barrier I left Jo to pay and made my way into the hall of fame, an area that encapsulates the grit and determination of those born and raised in the Black Country who are now known by everyone. From Comedians Lenny Henry to Julie Walters and sporting stars Tessa Sanderson to some famous footballers their lives were laid out in front of us. Far more interesting though was through the doorway at the end of the reconstructed Rolfe Street Baths and that was life in the Black Country from the Victorian era, keep up.

The story of the Black Country is distinctive because of the scale, drama, and the place that it held within the industrial revolution. The region first emerged in the 1830s, creating the first industrial landscape anywhere in the world. Beneath the smoke and glare from blast furnaces and forges, the Black Country innovation, entrepreneurial and manufacturing skill established the region’s supremacy for the making of wrought iron, structural ironwork, chain making, locks and keys, tube manufacture, trap making and many others items including the anchor for the Titanic. The name of the region came about because of the huge amounts of black smoke that the industry leaked into the atmosphere providing an umbrella of pollution for its inhabitants to live under.

Woolly says – hey, I do the history! The living museum started in the 1950’s with the ongoing building still underway today. Houses, workshops, a pub, chapel and many other historical buildings have been moved brick by brick to the site over the years providing the opportunity for millions to experience the Black Country in its heyday. Galloping down the grassy bank I had a quick peek into Newcomb’s first steam engine, but I pulled up short at the entrance to the mine. I set about checking out the hard hats but they all seemed to drown me, so smiling sweetly at the man in charge I volunteered to be carried ‘yo cor goo down there without a hard hat’ said the man, I tried explain that I didn’t want to see the goo only the mine, but he wasn’t having it and before I felt his hob nailed boot against my posterior I legged it back outside.

With the mine crossed off our list we entered the first of the rebuilt buildings, the toll house.

Woolly says – a lovely roaring fire and a nice friendly lady wrapped up in a shawl greeted us, it was a little crowded with a huge table and an impressive range in the room and as she spat on her iron I ambled into the first bedroom, a little bare for my taste and the bed didn’t look to comfy but more than enough room for all my possessions.

As more people tried to squeeze into the tight space I extracted the mammoth and led him towards the old fashioned fair ground, his little face lit up with delight at the wooden helter skelter, cake walk and merry go round.

Woolly says – Splinters everywhere, maybe I should have listened to the young boy who advised the using of a mat to go down the slide! Having checked out the garage next door we proceeded to the Victorian School house. As the bell rang we clattered into the classroom and I peered around to see my fellow pupils, they all looked terrified and as the teacher started to wave her cane around I decided that being quiet for once might be the way forward.

She’s very nice really but it give a real idea of how schooling would have been at the time, when being left handed was a crime and all ages were taught together, glad I didn’t have to teach then!

Woolly says – Being left pawed I kept stum until the bell released us back into the playground again. Crossing the canal gave us the chance to look across the cut (I’m getting into the spek already) to see the workshops housing the blacksmiths sheds, it looked like they had only popped out for lunch, now that’s an idea, snack time!

The spit and sawdust of the Bottle and Glass allowed us to quench our thirst with its ginger beer and filled the ever emptying belly of the mammoth with a large cheese and onion cob, as we sat outside admiring the dray horses and watching the children skipping on the cobbled road.

Woolly says – Apparently Jo used to skip at school and I’m sure she looked really sweet in her long dress and bloomers! The back to back houses provided much entertainment not to mention strange looking privies, boy they must have been cold in the winter going out there. Jo explained about the ‘guzunder’ which I had thought was a rather nice plant pot and the need to make full use of it during the snow and rain, not sure I fancy using one myself and where’s the nice soft loo paper!

With him still questioning the delights of newspaper versus Andrex and cute puppies I shuffled his furry behind into the chemists.

Woolly says – wouldn’t the print get on your bottom?!? The chemist turned out to be the vet as well and as he showed us how pills were made he explained that most medicines of the time could be used for human and beast alike, must have made prescriptions easier. More houses and privies followed before I lifted my trunk into the air and smelt a sweetness seeping from a sweet shop across the way. Hmmm more snacks, clutching my ‘suck’ tightly in my paw I tried my pleading eyes at the entrance to the bakers with the hope that a gingerbread man (or person) might just arrive in front of me, no chance so the mean one said, so I carried on sucking.

He’ll burst if he carries on this way! Having posed with a Victorian post box we wandered towards the newer part of the museum and found ourselves in 1930’s Britain.

Woolly says – The gentleman’s outfitters had some super cool trilby’s but none in mammoth size so I settled down to listen to the man in the radio shop telling me all about values and batteries that they needed to carry to the shop to recharge, it all sounded like a lot of fuss, surely they could have used Spotify? The smell of fish and chips crept into my region, hmmm surely she can’t say no to that!

I tried, I really did but he was not taking no for an answer and before I could explain that they were cooked in beef dripping and therefore not something I can consume he was busy ‘helping’ a family of four to tuck into the golden battered fish.

Woolly says – the embarrassment of being hauled away will live with me for a long time, and it wasn’t my fault that I seemed to have eaten ALL of the fish before the family got a look in! As I wiped the grease from my tusks I picked up a new smell in the air, the scent of a coal burning fire. The house we entered was small, very very small even by my standards of smallness, a nice lady told us that twelve children had lived here with their parents, there wasn’t room to swing a cat let alone twelve children (not that I am condoning the swinging of children of course), they must have been rammed in. Apparently at tea time the children would sit on the stairs with the eldest at the bottom and the plates of food would be passed up to the youngest, the only problem being that everyone would take a bit off the passing plate leaving the youngest with a tiny portion, try it with me and you’d lose your fingers! The youngest of the brood would dream of one day being able to ‘goo to the foot of our stairs’ which is where the saying comes from. Makes me glad to be an only mammoth.

Sudden excitement overtook the short one in the party and he suddenly dashed off up the road after a passing tram, as the tram stopped and picked me up I waved to him as he panted his way to the brow of the hill and the top of the museum site.

Woolly says – Note to self, do not run after a tram, especially when you could have caught the next one after eating some/few/lots of fish and chips! Having missed the ride I gave the 1940 Iron houses a miss and popped my trunk round the doorway of the car museum. With old Bentley’s, mini’s, fire trucks and motorbikes it was a fitting end to the visit and as I sauntered out of the usual shop I was happy to say ‘it were a boostin’ day’.

Additional photos below
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2nd October 2014

Black County
Looks like an impressive village celebrating the Industrial Revolution. If they moved it brick by brick to create it, built roads etc it must have cost a fortune. Was that from public or private funds?
4th October 2014

Good Question
It is charity based and run by volunteers, money is primarily from entrance fees £15.75 GBP each for the millions that go but they also get lottery funding to help with preserving the historical significagnce.

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