A “Virtual” Tour of The Back to Backs – part 30




A Virtual Tour of the Back to Backs – part 30

Passing the entry, and stepping into the third house on our “Virtual” tour, we are going to meet George Mitchell.

But we will first hear a little about his ancestors.

In about 1831, a Thomas Mitchell from Wolverhampton arrived in Birmingham. He was probably 31 years old and had with him his wife Ann, their son Edwin who was two years old and newly born Emelia. Within a year Ann gave birth to their second son Benjamin.

The growing family moved into Court 15 around 1841, and by the time they arrived they had four children, with another one on the way.

Thomas was a lock maker, probably having learnt his trade in Willenhall, the centre of the country’s lock making industry. In fact, Willenhall was given the name of “Umpshire” because the stooped position that the lock makers had to adopt to make the locks and this often resulted in curvature of the spine.

Within a couple of months of settling in Inge Street Ann gave birth to a son they also called Thomas who was the first baby to be born in Court 15. At this point we may assume Ann says “Five is enough!” because there is no record of them having any more children.

Thomas (senior) was certainly making a success of his one-man lock-making business and he probably rented one of the workshops in the courtyard. We are not sure what type of lock he was making, but we must assume they were bespoke items, possibly for churches, as he’d diversified and was listed as being a “Lock Maker and Bell Hanger”. Bell Hanging is a trade that was certainly in demand in 19th century Birmingham as it was a time when many churches were being built to meet the spiritual needs of the growing population.

This is another example of the diversity of trades in the town, not only amongst the population in general, but within families.

From the time of their arrival in 1841 we would, for the next 94 years find that there was always one, two or more Mitchell families occupying houses in Court 15.

George Mitchell’s house from the Courtyard
George Mitchell’s kitchen from his front door
The Locksmith’s House at The Lock Museum in New Road – Willenhall – similar to the type of workshop where Thomas Mitchell may have learned his lock-making skills
A padlock made in Willenhall
A Victorian Door Lock similar to the type used in churches.
A Victorian Steel Rim Lock