A “Virtual” Tour of The Back to Backs – part 12



A Virtual Tour of the Back to Backs – part 12

As we reach the top of the stairs we are going to turn to the right. Those with a good sense of direction would expect to go to the left into the Levy’s top bedroom. However, we are going to take a diversion through a doorway into the room at the top of the front house.

We call this room the “Time Capsule” and it has been re-created to look as may have been just before restoration started. In fact, if you had walked into this room just before the restoration work started around 2002 you may well have plunged though the floor! And, if you’d looked up you might had caught sight of the sky as most of the ceiling had collapsed and many slates were missing from the roof. It was home mainly to pigeons!

If we go back to the 19th century, we would find that the population of Birmingham had risen at astonishing rate. From about 60 thousand in 1801 to almost half a million by the start of the next century.

By the end of the 19th century, the most of the houses here that faced the street had been converted into shops – and by the end of the 20th century they had miraculously escaped demolition. The tenants were paying their rent, so the landlords were happy, and the tenants were paying their business rates, so the council were happy. By good fortune Court 15 slipped quietly into the 20th century without anyone noticing what they had been originally.

But let’s go back to the 19th century again. In the last few decades there had been great concern about the health of the folk living in the 54,000 back to houses in the town (yes, Birmingham didn’t become a city until 1889). The town council had banned the building of back to back houses in the 1870s and there started a slow reduction in the number of people living in them. Many towns & cities in the land were still building such houses right up to the eve of the Great War.

But still the heath of the residents and the living conditions in these houses was a matter of great concern. In fact, by the end of the Great War there was a huge influenza pandemic that highlighted the situation, and something had to be done! 

The fireplace in “The Time Capsule”
Rates Plan 1895 with Court 15 outlined


View of Birmingham town centre – c1890