One thing I’m finding this summer is that if we don’t get out of the house my boys go a little store crazy. I end up becoming the shouting mum that no one likes, and the day feels like it’s lasted for approximately 12432532 hours.
We’ve combatted this by making sure we get out of the house, at some point, every day. These trips can be as small as walking up to our local shop, round to a friends house, or indeed a big day out.
Now big days out cost money, so we haven’t been doing these every day. Instead we’ve been picking a big day out to do each week and this week it was the Black Country Museum over in Dudley.
Kids in a musuem?!
Taking a two year old and a four year old to a museum might sound a little bit crazy, and indeed I may just be a little bit crazy, yet this week was my turn to pick the “big day out” and I picked the Black Country Museum.
Going back, not quite a million years despite what my children may think, to my childhood I had many happy memories of heading to the Black Country Museum. I truly believe that it was trips to places like this that sparked a love of modern history for me. For the Black Country Museum is a living museum.
What is a living museum?
A living museum is, quite simply, a museum that is alive. A recreation of historical settings to bring the past alive in a way that captures your imagination.
You simply have to close your eyes and use your imagination to believe you are walking down a Victorian street, the displays and shops bringing the past to life in a way that no picture book can.
A way that works for the young and the old.
An introduction to history.
Arriving at the Black Country Museum
We arrived in Dudley, on a grizzly grey day, to find that many (many) other people had the same idea as us to visit the Black Country Museum. Being directed up to the overflow car park, a two minute walk away, we saw hordes of people heading down.
We were nervous.
With a two year old who was a runner and crowds of people we were a little bit nervous. Especially walking in and seeing the admissions line snaking round the hall (tip – book your tickets online here and walk through the shop to avoid queues)
The staff were exceptionally helpful as my tickets had gotten lost in confusion, with the lady on reception running round to get us sorted, her customer service was impeccable and I wish I had thought to get her name – but thank you!
Walking through the shop to get to the museum we took a deep breath at the thought of the thousands of people waiting on the other side.
And, nothing. As the Black Country Museum is set over 26 acres of land. Which is a lot of land (and a lot of walking) which meant that when everyone spilled into the Black Country Museum they spread out. Meaning that, although, there were a lot of people we never felt crowded or rushed. The only exception would have been if we were going to buy the delicious smelling Fish and Chips where the queue snaked down the street so they must have been tasty.
However, as the Brownies taught me, we were prepared with a picnic. So that was our first stop to feed two tired and hungry boys. After taking them on the bus down from the main entrance down to the village we doubled back on ourselves to Folkes Park.
Refuelled and raring to go, we headed off to explore hiding away from the fairground saving that for the very last thing to be done before the end of the day.
We explored each and every house, the boys loving the fact that inside each was a volunteer dressed up in the clothing of the era, explaining things on a level that a four year old little boy could understand. Like the tin bath in front of the fire and the hot brick that went into bed with you.
To the more detailed information, such as the lady who originally lived at the Toll House being pictured when she visited in 1992.
Running through and asking questions, what’s this mummy? Where is that from mummy? When you were a little girl mummy….
The shops set up as they were back in the period, flitting from the Victorian era to the early 20th century. With rooms at the back and above showing how people lived and what accessories they may have from the old wireless to gramophones. The cook book laid out on the kitchen table.
At the end of the row was the school house, wow Mummy this isn’t like my school at all, where a lesson was in progress. Realising that my two year old was incapable of sitting through we watched through the window before he made a break for it.
Making our way down the village street to find the sweetie shop, filled with all sorts of delights that included some of my favourites (which were unfortunately too hard for my kids to have – they had to settle with a lollipop) like pear drops. We queued up to grab a couple of bags. Back out in the sunshine the street games had begun which are on all holiday, egg and spoon races and beanbag races. Expecting it to be busy we stopped and watched, but it turned out that there was plenty of space available for anyone who wanted a go. So myself and the four year old took part and got a sticker! My cautious, nervous four year old got up in front of everyone and was giggling about the silly man who couldn’t count to three properly. Just another example of how much the wonderful volunteers add to the Black Country Museum.
At this point the street was filling up fast so we ducked into Gregory’s General Store, complete with bacon slicer that made my mum gasp with delight as when she was 12 (you know back in the olden days) she had actually had a Saturday job where she had to operate one similar to the model shown. Upon hearing this, the volunteer began a demonstration for us – the boys watching eyes wide open as he explained how it could cut your finger off – before showing us his amputated finger!!
Eyes wide gasps all round.
At this point the boys were getting tired so we decided to head over the canal into the Dudley Canal Trust which is interlinked with the Black Country Museum. Gaining tickets to enable us to head back over we decided it was time for a quick barge trip down the canal.
Hard hats at the ready we headed through the mining canals and learned about phrases such as “I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole” where you weren’t able to use a bargepole to get through the tunnels. And “the light at the end of the tunnel” where there was literally a light at the end of the tunnel. As well as “legging it” where men literally walked the barge boats through the canals.
An hour later we were heading back to the Black Country Museum refreshed and ready for the final push of the day.
At this point we let the boys dictate what we did as they had been so good. So we played street games before heading up to the fairground.
The fairground is better suited to older children as there wasn’t much my pair could go on by themselves. After a go on the merry go round which was turned by hand I was delighted to discover that although they were too small to go on the helter skelter by themselves they could go on with me.
After that it was time to call it a day, heading to the car and listening to them babble on proved to me that it was worth taking them to introduce them to history outside of a classroom at an early age.
* there were also attractions that my boys were too young to go on but I remember from my childhood. You are able to head down to the mines to see what conditions were like for those working down there however you must be 5 to do so.
What you need to know
Tickets are priced at £17.50 for adults and £8.75 for children over 5. Family tickets are available from £36.75 and tickets are valid for return visits within 12 months.