SP0786 : The Birmingham back-to-backs, Hurst Street, Birmingham (1)

taken 7 years ago, near to Birmingham, Great Britain

The Birmingham back-to-backs, Hurst Street, Birmingham (1)
The Birmingham back-to-backs, Hurst Street, Birmingham (1)
This shows the Hurst Street elevation of Court 15, Inge Street, Birmingham, a rare preserved example of the thousands of back-to-back courts that used to provide housing for workers and their families in the years of the 19th and 20th centuries until the mid 1960s. The rear elevation can be seen here LinkExternal link Although the houses look fairly substantial in this view, in fact the properties seen are only one room deep and were known as 'blind backs'. The presence of the shops, the last one of which was in use as a tailor's shop until 2002, may have been one factor that led to the survival of the court.
The Birmingham back-to-backs, Court 15, Inge Street, Birmingham
Written by Brian Robert Marshall

Following the mass migration of the rural population into the urban conurbations in the years of the Industrial revolution, there was a need for what today would be called affordable housing. Back-to-back houses provided a significant proportion of that housing for workers and their families in the great industrial cities in the Midlands and north of England in the 19th and well into the 20th centuries. From the point of view of those who built and rented them out they were cheap to build and buy and they made the most of small plots of land. Things weren’t quite so rosy for those who had to live in them.

Back-to-backs are houses where the back of one house joined the back of another. Typically the houses were arranged so that that there was a cellar, a ground floor room and first and second floor rooms stacked vertically. When built there would have been no indoor sanitation or water supply. But the fundamental defect was there was no way of obtaining through ventilation of the dwellings.

The shortcomings of these houses were recognised as early as the mid-19th century. However, it wasn’t until the great post-war slum clearance programmes of the 1950s and 1960s that they were demolished in great numbers. In Birmingham, of the thousands of such houses, most had been cleared by the mid 1960s.

Court 15, Inge Street, was no different in principle from its neighbours in the same and surrounding streets. It was duly condemned and the last residents moved out in 1966. However some of the ground floor units were occupied by traders such as a tailor and fast food outlets and the building survived. In 1988 it was listed Grade II in recognition of its significance LinkExternal link and LinkExternal link

In 2002 the last occupier of the last shop closed his doors for the last time. A movement to preserve and restore Court 15 was launched soon after and, with the aid of grants and lottery funds, the objective was achieved and in 2004 the building was opened to the public under the ownership of the National Trust.

It is now possible to see how some of our forebears in the industrial cities may well have lived, in damp, bug-ridden and overcrowded rooms with the most basic of outdoor sanitation and a shared water-pipe and wash-house. The place is well worth a visit if for no other reason than as a counterpoint to the vast and magnificent stately homes that the industrialists who employed the residents of the back-to-backs lived in themselves.
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright Brian Robert Marshall and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
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SP0786, 1236 images   (more nearby )
Photographer
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Date Taken
Friday, 25 June, 2010   (more nearby)
Submitted
Monday, 28 June, 2010
Category
Back-to-back houses   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SP 0708 8627 [10m precision]
WGS84: 52:28.4590N 1:53.8317W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! SP 0710 8626
View Direction
West-northwest (about 292 degrees)
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