Lunchtime Sunday and it is the annual Pantomine Horse Race in Birmingham City Centre. There were 31 runners all raising money for the Mayor's Charity. The bitter cold kept all but the hardy away but the TV crews were there and the Mayor and Jill Graham and Myself!
There was a tote and a collecting ring and before the races started there was a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem.
Broad Street was closed to traffic and 'jumps' were made out of straw bales.
This is Viagra romping home last! Introduced as a horse that was hard to handle this chap played it for laughs; every jump was crashed through and he finished with his drawers around his ankles when the elastic failed on his horse suit..
On Thursday Jill and myself joined the 'real' world and toddled off to New Street Station to catch a train out to the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) to see the BBC Good Food Show. The station was heaving with bodies, the train had only standing room and the NEC was very busy - not at all what we have grown accustomed to in our parallel lives... We headed straight for the produce area. Smoke houses with kippers, hams, bacon. salmon and garlic! We bought some smoked garlic bulbs and promised ourselves that we would return for some kippers and salmon.. onward we went. I tracked down a stall that was selling spices and herbs and managed to get the ground fennel I have trying to buy for ages, Jill bought new salt and pepper grinders. There were plenty of visitors that were walking around with large shopping trolley's and trade seemed to be brisk. There were an amazing number of school children ( in uniforms, so official visitors) about - why? I was struggling to get my head around the 'value' of a school trip to the BBC Good Food Show.
Here is Rick Stein in demonstration mode - look an empty bowl...
He was preparing a joint of belly pork and we stopped to see what he was making to dress the joint - herbs and chillies - might try it one one day.
We caught the train back in to Brum at about half three and walked back to the boats through the Christmas Market ( German Style) eager for a cuppa and a chance to get our boots off. An interesting day.
Amanda Lewis, blog follower and prospective liveaboard boater, suggested that we should have a look at the Jewellery Museum while we were moored in Birmingham and so taking her advice, we wandered off in search of the Jewellery Quarter and the museum yesterday afternoon.
The Jewellery Quarter has grown up in a particular location in Birmingham over the last two hundred and fifty years. Once an industry scattered about the City, the freeing up land from the development of the Colmore family estate at Newhall allowed the development of both industry and housing. At one time there were in excess of 70,000 people working in jewellery manufacturing and associated trades. This is still an area that is dedicated to the jewellery trade and is a thriving community and, apparently, unique in the world.
The entrance to the Jewellery Museum in Vyse Street - from it's web site.
Birmingham City Council have produced a leaflet and a tourist trail through the Jewellery Quarter, preserving and celebrating the history of the area. The Jewellery Museum is the, well, the Jewel in the Crown I suppose. The Museum was once two adjacent Victorian houses, that were bought by Messrs Pepper and Smith and a workshop was built in one of the gardens where they set up their business of manufacturing gold jewellery. Years passed, Mr Pepper retired and Mr Smith persuaded two of his sons and a daughter to take over the running of the business. This they did until 1981 by which time they were in their late seventies, early eighties. Unable to sell the business as a going concern and deciding that is was time for them to retire they simply closed up shop and walked away leaving everything in situ. It was in this that Birmingham City Council inherited and in 1990 when they finally got round to looking at the premises they found a treasure trove, a time capsule in fact. Everything was photographed and inventoried and put back in place.
The front office, domain of Miss Olive Smith. Although the Smith's walked away in the early 1980's, the place probably hadn't changed since the early 1920's.
One corner of the front office is set up as the post-room. Strips of registered numbers, recorded delivery slips and post scales - poignant for Joe and myself as we remember working on Post Office counters and using all that kit.
The umbrellas and string bags are still hanging by the side of the desk
The safe that contained the work boxes of each of the goldsmiths. These were dished out at the start of each working day having had the contents (gold) weighed and agreed with the worker. The process was repeated in reverse every evening ensuring the security of the precious metal.
The 'management stairs' leading from Miss Olive's office on the first floor to Mr Tom's office below. ONLY management could use these!
Working at a Jewellers peg bench
Archimedes drill being demonstrated
The leather 'skirt' that collected the detritus (gold again though) from the goldsmith as he worked. This was swept up each day and placed back in the 'workbox' for weighing.
A fly press - used by women in the workshop. apparently many a finger tip was lost to these things.
Stamps, hundreds and hundreds of them, used to mass produce pieces of jewellery.
Polishers, run by belts and a powerful electric motor that replaced a steam driven beastie..
All the goldsmiths worked in groups around these circular or semi-circular benches.
We were up sharpish this morning getting ourselves fed and watered and ready to assist Adam and Adrian down the first tranch of locks, the Farmers Bridge flight, on their way out of Birmingham. The dogs came too and demonstrated how well behaved they are doing this locking malarky.
Debdale pulling away from its mooring this morning, Adrian at the helm.
Adrian checking out a new route that Adam has JUST proposed, 'We're going where..?'
It was only two or three locks before Joe was at the helm of Debdale and Adrian was out on the towpath helping with the locking - how did that happen?
Adrian and Adam
Unfortunately we had followed another boat down the thirteen locks, having to turn every lock again to get Debdale through but we still made good time, just over the hour. It was then time for a cuppa before the Caxton crew headed back to their boat and Debdale and the lads set off towards Fradley Junction. Until next time...lovely to see you again.
Whilst making the bed yesterday morning there came knock on the side of the boat - peering out through the porthole I found we had a visitor in the form of Paul Balmer of Nb Waterway Routes. Paul was off to fit a new battery charger to his boat and promised to call back later. I then walked the dogs and Joe went off to look around the shopping district and no sooner had I got back then another knock on the side of the boat announced the arrival of Adam and Adrian, the Debdale crew. This was the first sortie, we had also arranged to go out for a meal in the evening while they were in Brum. Paul Balmer called back later as promised and he an Joe talked of electric propulsion and axium props and taxation...
L-R Adrian, Me and Adam
It was mad rush then to get ourselves across to Nb Debdale for pre dinner drinks with Adam, Adrian, Jill and Graham before heading off to find a suitable eatery.
L-R Adrian, Me, Adam, Graham and Jill
During the course of this socialising somehow Joe and I volunteered, or were press ganged, into an early morning jaunt down the Farmers Bridge locks crewing for Debdale - beware the Pinot I say
On Friday we filled with diesel at Lyons Boat yard on the Nth Stratford before we headed to Norton Junction and turned right onto the Birmingham and Worcester canal. We moored up briefly just after the turn and tramped up the towpath, across the road and along another road to a municiple tip. There had been no rubbish facilities since we left Lapworth and the accumulation of black rubbish sacks was becoming a problem. Nobody questioned us as we wandered in with four large sacks despite notices asking drivers to provide there postcodes. Household rubbish dealt with we moved north towards Birmingham and moored on the visitor moorings by the Cadbury factory.
This is an excellent mooring with good security as it is not towpath side and access is via a locked gate - a BW key allows us to get in and out. We stayed two nights allowing us to get some jobs done, wood cut, chain attached to chimney to secure it to the roof box and the well deck cleaned out properly. Sunday morning we moved off into Birmingham, more of which later.
On Tuesday Jill and myself caught a train from Kings Norton station into Birmingham New Street. I had booked us a guided tour of the last remaining Birmingham back-to-back houses, now in the care of the National Trust. What I imagined I was going to see was something like 'Coronation Street' style housing where yards backed onto other yards; not so..
NT. photo of birmingham B2Bs
Court fifteen, as it was known, is the last of hundreds and hundreds of similar groups of back to backs. This court of eleven dwellings and 4/5 shops was built in 1831to house the expanding working class population of Birmingham. The Industrial revolution was in full swing and workers were migrating in to towns from the countryside where land enclosure was undermining there traditional way of life and new mills and factories were hungry for manpower. Landowners built cheap housing to accomodate this influx of humanity. The back-to-backs were divided 'vertically' if you can imagine that. The front had a door leading into a kitchen/parlour and from this room there was stairway to the first floor bedroom and in turn, a stairway from the first floor bedrom to the second floor bedroom. The back of the house mirrored that of the front, with no access between the two halves; they were two seperate and distinct dwellings! So, 1831, no sanitation, no fresh water supply, no gas, electricity.
This is the condition of the properties when the National Trust acquired them in 2004. They had been condemned in the 1950's but were still occupied in the following decade.
This is a bedroom of the 1870's. There are two double beds in the room, one occupied by six boys and the other by the lodgers, a man and woman. The privacy is provided by a curtain hung between the beds.
The National Trust have researched the people who lived in the court and from census returns they have attempted to recreate the furnishings and lives of the tenants. The first home is that of a Mr Levy and his wife, three sons and a daughter. The sons shared a bedroom and the daughter shared with her parents. The house is dressed as it would have been in 1840. The range above is of limited value for cooking so this is a family that probably brought in their food from the numerous bake houses around abouts..
The alleyway on the right was the only means of access to the street for those houses in the courtyard and also the only means of access for the fronts to get to the lavatories/privvies and wash house in the courtyard.
The Levy boys shared this room.
Dwelling two, a parlour/kitchen of the 1870's with a better range.
Mr Levy's workbench by the window. He was a watch/clock maker.
The third home is set in the 1930's. Now there is electricty and a cold water tap in the house. Cooking is still on the range.
The communal copper/boiler in the wash house. This is situated in the rear yard and households had a rota for using the facilities.
The Levy family dining table set for a sabbath meal.
My pictures and poor narrative fails to do justice to this fascinating museum; it makes a refreshing change from Stately Homes!
One of the guillotine gates on the stock lock at the end of the Stratford canal
We moved down towards Kings Norton on Friday and stayed there for the weekend. This is the junction of the Stratford canal and the Birmingham and Worcester canal. Although the towpath was a wee bit muddy we were moored adjacent to playing fields and 'rough' ground so exercising the dogs was easier. While at Norton Junction we had a visit from Dave George, boat fitter, who is going to make alterations to Caxton's galley after the Christmas holiday period. This means we need to linger in and around these parts for the next eight weeks or thereabouts so we will probably go into Birmingham and then venture down to Worcester perhaps.
Turnover bridge linking the towpath of the Stratford canal with that of the Birmingham and Worcester.
We moored along here
St Niclolas Place, Kings Norton
The view towards the stop lock on the Stratford canal.
The second guillotine gate - always left raised now