The literary life of EDWARD JAMES, author,reviewer, occasional poet and former pension adviser to the government of Kyrgyzstan
The back-to-backs were a type of working class housing which was common in the cities of Northern England and the Midlands in the 19th century and most of which have now been demolished as slums. Four have been saved in Birmingham and are now preserved by the National Trust as a reminder of how so many of us used to live. The oldest of these was built in 1804 and remained in use as a dwelling until 1966, still without indoor toilets or hot water.
I took a party of my fellow members of the Charlton Kings Local Historical Society to visit the Back-to-Backs earlier this week. It was an amazing experience, with each house equipped as it was in a different decade. Do go there if you can. The guides are marvelous.
Here are some pictures of our visit. The last is a picture of the bucket-loo which was standard until the beginning of the 20th century. The contents of the bucket were emptied into the ‘night soil’ bin in the courtyard for collection by the night soil workers who sold it to local farmers.
There is also a traditional sweet shop on the corner, which you can see in the picture below. You can buy sweets without prior arrangement but visits to the houses must be pre-booked. Look it up in the National Trust handbook.