Thursday, 30 June 2011

Black Country Living Museum

We spent the day on Thursday exploring Victorian life at the Black Country Living Museum, which is an open-air museum filled with transplanted buildings from the era.  All stops were staffed with very knowledgeable guides who provided insight into the living conditions of the day.  

Heading into the museum
Our costumed guide, Jo, took us around the village to visit a number of the preserved historical sites.  Most pertinent for our group were the areas detailing the activity of a coal mine - we started on the surface with coal extraction and later in the day were able to explore an underground portion of the mine.  During our underground tour, we learned about working conditions and the process of mining prior to the modern extraction equipment of today.  As we experienced throughout the mine it was tedious, dark and dangerous work done by only the light of a candle.

Learning about how coal was brought up from underground to the surface

Prepping to head underground
Somehow the boys ended up with all of the (very dim) flashlights...
Along with coal we learned of the importance of limestone in the process of producing iron and the resulting canals that were dug to extract limestone and transport goods.

All suited up for our trip into Dudley Canal
Hard hats seem to be the theme of our day...

Navigating the canal with our guide
A view from the inside the canal system
 While in the canal, students had the opportunity to learn how the boats were powered in the past by "walking" the boat through the tunnel system.  A few students volunteered to move our two ton boat with their power alone - we were all surprised by how much momentum two people were able to gain.

Justin and Eric F pushing us out of the canal
Adam and Leif  giving it a go...
 Following our canal tour, we had time for a traditional British lunch and the opportunity to explore a few of the Victorian era shops.  A highlight was our discovery of the hoop games which provided a little competition and lots of laughing.

Fish and chips

The two Adams face off...

Leif takes on Aaron

Justin is rearing to go!

Among the shops the girls discovered some old baths.  We had just learned of the weekly bath schedule, with the dirtiest child getting the final bath each Sunday.  Fay, Lesley and Alice weren't so keen on adopting that plan for the rest of the program, but decided to try a bath out for size.

Rub-a-dub-dub, three ladies in a tub
Our final structured activity at the BCLM was a school lesson with a strict Victorian era schoolmarm.   Liz wowed everyone with her ABC skills, we all practiced our lettering on old slate tablets, and learned what happens when you don't behave...
Liz expertly reciting her ABC's BACKWARDS for the class

Alice waiting for permission to write on her slate board

The girls ready to recite their multiplication tables

While the girls fared well under the strict hand of our instructor, a few of the boys found our session more challenging, one even facing some unpleasant consequences for neglecting to sit properly.
Vishal waiting for the switch

Jeff signaled the end of class and closed out our day at the living museum with the ringing of the school bell. 
Jeff at the ready

 From there we headed back to the coach and returned to Shrewsbury for our final few days in the Midlands.

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