A “Virtual” Tour of The Back to Backs – part 15



A Virtual Tour of the Back to Backs – part 15

We are still in the “Time Capsule” looking at the history of Court 15.

There is a photograph, taken after the final tenant moved out and before the work to restore the court commenced. We can see that the courtyard is overgrown, windows are missing or broken and there is someone standing the in the entry!

This is Pauline Meakin whose family was one of the last residents of Court 15. Pauline had been invited to look at the courtyard in 2002 and she shared her memories of living there. Her husband, Brian had been a scaffolder, and following an accident at work the family were forced to look for cheaper accommodation. Brian and Pauline along with their daughter Lorraine moved in and shortly afterwards Pauline gave birth to another girl, Debbie. She turned out to be the last baby to be born in Court 15 the last person in a list of Court 15 births that stretched back to 1841 when Thomas Mitchell was born. We will hear a little more about Thomas later.  

In 1966 a play called “Cathy Come Home” was broadcast by the BBC. The play tells the story of a young couple, Cathy (played by Carol White) and Reg (Ray Brooks), and their descent into poverty and homelessness. Part of the play was filmed in Hingeston Street in Birmingham, renowned as having some of the worst housing conditions in the country. Birmingham City Council had been oblivious to the condition of the homes there and on the day following the broadcast there was a right old “Hoo-Har” in the media which ultimately forced the council to announce that all back to back housing in Birmingham should be declared “unfit for habitation”.

So, there followed a mass exit of people living in back to backs and across the city the bulldozers moved in.

So, how come court 15 is still there?

Pauline Meakin standing in the entry of Court 15 in 2002
Cathy Come Home – the family in Hingeston Street – 1966
Cathy Come Home – this photograph was taken in Prescott Street looking towards Clissold Street – 1966