A “Virtual” Tour of The Back to Backs – part 19



A Virtual Tour of the Back to Backs – part 19

So, let’s take a look at Lawrence’s Jeweller’s workbench. The photograph gives us a close-up of the bench here in Court 15.

In the centre of the curve in the desk is a small piece of wood projecting forwards. This is called the “peg” and it is a surface that the jeweller would become very familiar with. If the man was to move from one workshop to another he would take the “peg” with him – it was regarded as one of his own tools.

On the left and the right are two drills called “Archimedes” drills which work by running the slider up & down the Archimedes screw to rotate the shaft.

Just above the centre of the photo is a long device with a length of string on it. This is a bow-string drill (sometime also called an Archimedes drill) and this works by the string being unwound rapidly by pulling the handle down to rotate the shaft.

At the top centre of the photograph is a pewter mug. These are traditionally used to drink beer or ale from; and in Victorian times it was vital that working men drank beer as opposed to water. This sounds a great idea, but there is a reason. These are the days before a supply of clean drinking water was available “on tap”. Disease was rife and the main source was well water. Drinking it would be a sure way of contracting diseases such as Typhus, Cholera, Dysentery or Typhoid. Everyone had to be very careful about what they were drinking.  

Indeed, when the canals were being dug and the railways were being built the contractors would typically provide every working man with as many as 8 or 10 pints of beer a day – with strict instructions to NEVER DRINK THE WATER!

The beer here was traditionally made by the women of the house and it would be made in the wash house on the other side of the courtyard where the “mash” could be easily boiled up. For this reason, in Birmingham, the wash-house was always called the The Brew’us” (brew-house!).

But now, it is time to say farewell to the Levy family and step forward into the 1870s. One would assume that life in general would get better for working class Brummies as time progressed, but if that is your expectation then we will find that by stepping forward 30 years a somewhat different situation has emerged.

A close-up of Lawrence Levy’s jeweller’s workbench
An Archimedes Drill
A Bow-String Drill (also known as an Archimedes drill)