The Birmingham Back to Backs are carefully restored back to back houses from different time periods, starting in the 1840’s and going as far as the 1970’s. They can only be visited by guided tour, which is something we don’t usually like to do as we like to view things at our own pace. The tours are done by volunteers, which means they have quite a lot of enthusiasm for the history and stories of the houses.
Our tour guide was an older woman who was very clued up on everything and you could hear the passion for the place in her voice and stories. However, another reason for why we usually steer clear of guided tours is because the tour guides can annoy us or make it worse. Even though our tour guide was a wealth of information, half of that information was about her own life and how she understood or experienced the same kind of living situation that she was showing us. We were there to view the houses and hear about its history, not about her Irish upbringing from way back yonder.
Also she talked so much that we didn’t get to look around as much as we would have liked. Even though the guided tours were in 15 minute slots, so we had one ahead of us and one not too far behind us, we still would have had the time to explore the houses. However, we moved on straight away from room to room without giving us the opportunity to have a look around. We just had to take advantage of when our older tour guide and old people in our group took their time getting up and down the stairs, which was when we could explore the rooms and have a poke around.
Some of the other people in our group also liked to chat and natter, so more than once the tour stopped so the guide and some of the group could talk about their own lives and how it used to be back in the day. As we were National Trust members this didn’t matter too much, but if we had paid I would have been rather annoyed about it.
Anyway to the better stuff…it was cool to be transported back into the past with the old houses that move through time and the 19th century courtyard. Moving from one house to the other was rather cool too, without having to go outside. It’s a pity there’s not a lot of this kind of housing left standing, or buildings where the working class or “normal” people lived. I do love visiting grand buildings, palaces and castles, but sometimes it’s nice to see where my ancestors would have lived.
There is a old sweet shop attached to the building, which are always fun to have a look around. Although I have spent a decent amount of my time slating the place (it feels like) it is a place worth visiting! There’s a lot of tour guides, most are probably really good. So if you’re after some real history in the centre of a major English city then this is the place to see.