A “Virtual” Tour of The Back to Backs – part 7



A Virtual Tour of the Back to Backs – part 7

So, here we are having stepped back to the 1840s. It is quite dark in here once you close the door, especially with there being such a small window. However, we can’t just switch the light on – the folk living here would have lit their home with candles. Tallow candles. Tallow is made from beef fat or mutton fat. It smells and smokes when it burns and it spreads soot all cross the ceiling. But, in its defence tallow is … delicious! Yes, rats and mice love tallow and this means that our family have to lock their candles away every night, in a metal box to prevent the little rodents from eating them!

So, can anyone tell us about the family that are living here 180 years ago? Well the clue was on the metal “thingy” that we saw on the door frame as we came in. If anyone spotted a six-pointed star – a Star of David then this tells us that the folk living here were – Jewish.

The metal rectangle on the door is called a Mezuzah and it contains a piece of parchment called a klaf contained within the decorative case and inscribed with specific Hebrew verses from the Torah – the Jewish “bible”. Traditionally, whenever someone passes through the doorway, they may touch a finger to the Mezuzah as a way of showing respect to God.

Our family are Lawrence and Priscilla Levy and their four children.

The second eldest child is their only daughter, Adelaide and she has a number of tasks to carry out every day. Adelaide’s second task would be to collect some water from the well – there is as yet no piped water into most homes in the first half of the 19th century. Adelaide would have been about 10 years old at the start of the 1840s and she would carry a heavy wooden bucket to the well which was about 100 yards (91 metres) away in Lady Well Walk. This was one of the most significant wells on the south side of the town of Birmingham and it appeared on maps right back to the 16th century.

Adelaide would carry the heavy wooden bucket back and forth as many as 15 times in a day, and the water in the bucket would weigh as much as 40 pounds (about 18kg). Adelaide was destined to be a very strong young lady!

Candles on the table in the 1840s house


More candles in the 1840s house


A reminder of the Mezuzah on the door frame


A sketch of the Lady Well from the 1840s


A wooden bucket similar to the one that Adelaide would have used