A Virtual Tour of the Back to Backs – part 45
We are on the first floor in one of George Saunders’ workshops. We will find out how he overcame the problem of getting from one workshop to another.
Being a resourceful soul, one weekend George came up to his workshop, sledge-hammer in hand and started to knock a hole in the wall though into the workshop next door. Having created a large enough opening he carried on and knocked though the fireplaces into the workshop next to that. Then finally he knocked through into the fourth workshop.
He collected up all of the bricks and carried them down into the cellars. This meant when the restoration work started there was a ready supply of the bricks from the 1830s.
However – and there is always an “however” – George, in spite of being a top-class, bespoke tailor, he was not a structural engineer and it seems he did nothing to hold up the walls above here and the roof.
Needless to say, when the structural engineers appointed by the Birmingham Conservation Trust arrived in 2001, they had (to coin a phrase) KITTENS!!!!
They had to come in (carefully) with Acrow Props to hold the walls up. At the same time, they had to put scaffolding through the building from front to back to stop the front wall falling into the street.
All in all, a good few day’s work!
Anyway, there is one more tale about this particular house (or by now shop) that we must share regarding a sad tale that comes from 1939. The shop that we are above now was owned by John Hunt, selling books and newspapers. John did not live here, his mother Marie, aged 59, and his sister Hilda, 18, lived above the shop. The first floor where we are now was their living room, and the attic where we’ve just been was their bedroom.
On the 24th of May 1939 the pair went up to bed as usual and they were woken in the morning by shouting in the street. Workmen walking past saw smoke pouring from the first-floor window above the shop, then the two women appeared at the attic window, shouting for help.
To be continued …….