Numerous back-to-back houses, two or three stories high, were built in Birmingham during the 19th century, the majority of them were still in quite good condition in the early 20th century. Most of these houses were concentrated in inner-city areas such as Ladywood, Handsworth, Aston, Small Heath and Highgate. By the early 1970s, almost all of Birmingham's back-to-back houses had been demolished. The occupants were re-housed in new council houses and flats, some in redeveloped inner-city areas, while the majority moved to new housing estates such as Castle Vale and Chelmsley Wood. In fact, back-to-backs were once the commonest form of housing in England, home to the majority of working people in Victorian cities, but they have now almost entirely vanished from our urban townscape. Author Ted Rudge, who is a National Trust guide at the Birmingham back-to-backs in Hurst Street (built in 1831), has collected many personal stories from people who grew up in these infamous houses. For some it was a harsh life, cramped and overcrowded, but it was also a place where life-long friendships and relationships were made. The approach of telling the story through oral history, before these stories are forgotten, will be a shock to many modern people who are completely oblivious that these living conditions were standard across much of the country. What was it like to live in a house with one bedroom and no running water? How did eleven families share two toilets? The rise and fall of the back-to-back is a sobering tale of how our nation houses its people, and illuminates the story of the development of urban Britain.
Publisher: Fonthill Media