A “Virtual” Tour of The Back to Backs – part 4



A Virtual Tour of the Back to Backs – part 4

Alley, gulley, snicket, passage – whatever you choose to call it, in Brum it will always be THE ENTRY.

Between two of the houses in Inge Street we see the entry that leads to the courtyard. Just to the left of it, for many years was a tailor’s shop belonging to Harry Cohen. For over 30 years, Harry’s shop was one in a line of tailors that go back to Welshman Thomas Williams at the house next door in the 1850s and stretched to the first days of the 21st century, but more about that later.

Nowadays we will go through a locked gate to get to the courtyard but for almost 200 years it would have been open to the street inviting in all sorts of unwelcome guests! There is a sign over the entry telling us that this is Court 15.

In the courtyard we we’ll see where the centre of life and work took place in the court.

If we turn to the right and stand in the corner we will be at the back of the house that John Wilmore built here in 1802. At the time it was a nice house with six rooms spread over the three floors that we see towering above us. There was a door connecting the two rooms on each floor and a staircase leading from one floor to another.

However, this state of affairs would not last long. Spurred on by the opportunities that were presented by the town that was rapidly becoming the centre of the industrial revolution families were arriving in Birmingham seeking work. So, Mr Wilmore just bricked up those doorways, put in another flight of stairs and lo & behold he had two houses, just like those built by John Lewis in Queen Street only a few years before. One faced the street, the other faced the courtyard and two families found themselves living – back-to-back.

The sign above the entry telling us that this is Court 15


The courtyard – looking towards the corner behind John Wilmore’s first house


Looking down the entry from the courtyard – taken prior to restoration


Harry Cohen outside his shop at 54 Inge Street – c1940s