Black Country Living Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

Black Country Living Museum

Antara Bate

24 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Black Country Living Museum

An immersive experience from start to finish, Black Country Living Museum is an award-winning open air museum that tells the story of one of the very first industrialised landscapes in Britain.

Black Country Living Museum history

The Black Country is often seen of a collection of 20 or so towns falling within the four Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. From the early 20th century onwards, the Black Country region became one of the most industrialised parts of the UK with coal mines, iron foundries, glass factories, brick works and more dominating the landscape. The intensity of industry concentrated in the area earned the Black Country a worldwide reputation and its goods were shipped around the globe.

It was in this region that the world’s first successful steam engine was built. It was also the area that fuelled the introduction of the first minimum wage; produced the anchor for the Titanic; practically built the Crystal Palace and so much more.

After its era of prosperity and development, the last mine in the Black Country closed in 1968.

The idea to create an open-air, living museum that told the story of the Black Country all started in the late 1960s, a period of rapid change for the region that saw the closure of the last working coal mine. Manufacturing dwindled and many canals lay deserted, railways began to close and the Black Country as many knew changed irrevocably.

In 1967, The Black Country Society formed, and it was from there that the idea to create the Black Country Living Museum grew.

Shortly afterwards a site on Tipton Road was secured and a programme of land reclamation was started by the West Midlands County Council. The Museum separated from the council and by 1978 it was possible to hold a preview season to show how the Museum might develop.

In 1980 the tramway system was installed to transport visitors the half mile or so to the canal arm.  By 1985 visitor numbers had grown to 250,000 a year and in 1990, the year the underground mining display opened.

The Museum has continued to grow and develop over the years. In 2010, the Museum launched a £10 million development, creating a 1930s high street. In 2019, the Museum committed to its biggest capital development project yet, Forging Ahead. By 2023, the Museum plans to complete an entire 1940s-60s town centre to continue to tell the story of the region in a post-war world.

Black Country Living Museum today

Set across 26 acres, visitors can explore over 40 carefully reconstructed shops, houses and industrial areas that represent the Black Country’s story. Visitors can also meet the Museum’s costumed characters along the way who will explain what it was like to live and work in one of the world’s most heavily industrialised landscapes.

The museum has attracted a lot of media attention in the last few years after it became a sensation on the social media app TikTok, amassing over 1 million followers on the platform.

Getting to the Black Country Living Museum

The Black Country Living Museum is situated in the heart of the Black Country on the A4037 between Dudley and Tipton. The Museum is well signposted from the M5 and M6. The nearest train station is Tipton which is just one mile away and is on Birmingham to Wolverhampton line operated by West Midlands Railway. Buses 24, 229, 311, 313 and 610 also pass nearby.

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