A “Virtual” Tour of The Back to Backs – part 32




A Virtual Tour of the Back to Backs – part 32

George Mitchell, was the last of the three generations of lock-making Mitchells that inhabited Court 15 when he died at the age of 75 in 1935 in what had been the Workhouse Infirmary in Western Road, remembered as Dudley Road Hospital. George never married and to the best of our knowledge had no offspring.

We speculated about George’s reason for continuing to live in Court 15 and concluded that he may have died in poverty. However, a few years ago one of our volunteer colleagues at the Back to Backs discovered George’s probate records. From this we learnt that George’s estate was in fact inherited by his nephew and worth £2442.10s.7d, enough by 1935 to buy four of the new semi-detached houses in Birmingham’s suburbs that were being built after the First World War. We conclude then, that it was the community spirit in Court 15 that kept him there.

So here we are now in the early 1930s standing in George Mitchell’s “kitchen” and as was normal in back to back houses it was used for every domestic activity, except sleeping. We can see so many items in this tiny room that most visitors over a certain age will recognise.

If you happen to think that this room is even smaller than the last one we were in then you’d be correct. This one has “lost” about four or five feet from its width because of the space that the entry takes up.

We’re going to take a look around George’s “kitchen”. There is now electric light in the houses in Court 15 – by the 1930s the landlord would have had electricity installed, but only lights. There would have been no sockets. Water on tap was another facility that we would now find in these houses by the 1930s. In the scullery is an earthenware sink with a cold tap, and drainage.

The Western Road Workhouse & Infirmary 1888
George Mitchell’s probate notice
Panorama of George Mitchell’s kitchen
George Mitchell’s electric light
George Mitchell’s House – the scullery – with a tap!