A Virtual Tour of the Back to Backs – part 16
We’ve heard how just over a century and a half of back to back housing in Birmingham came to an end. The Meakin family who had lived in house no 2 moved out in 1965. By the following year it was just the front & back houses that John Wilmore originally built (50 and 1/50 Inge Street) that were occupied. Peter & Barbara Morgan lived in number 50 and Constance Wynn lived in the back house. Constance was the last to leave, 65 years after she moved there in 1901. The reason that court 15 was not demolished was, of course, that all the other “houses” were now shops – and this is what saved them for us to see.
The photograph shows us the street corner in the 1980. “Oscars” the kebab shop is there on the corner and next door in Inge Street is a fish & chip shop at one time imaginatively called “The Chippy”.
Between this photograph being taken and the end of the century someone realised that this block of tiny shops had, at one time in their life, been back to back houses and the wheels were set in motion that led to The Birmingham Conservation Trust being bought in to find the finance and plan the scheme that would lead to Court 15 becoming a heritage tourist attraction.
When work started there was concern that because of two “fast food” outlets being amongst the empty shops there would be hundreds of rats – feasting on the inevitable food waste. However, when access was gained it was discovered that there were virtually no rats. However, there were 11 feral cats living in the courtyard and the cellars. The architect Derek Clarke vividly recalls that one day, prior to work starting he saw an elderly lady with a spoon, standing beside the court where Worthingtons’ had been, flicking the contents of a can of Whiskas over the wall! She just wanted to ensure that the cats were getting a balanced diet!