A “Virtual” Tour of The Back to Backs – part 9



A Virtual Tour of the Back to Backs – part 9

The Levy’s table has been set for the first meal for the Jewish day of rest, the Shabbat. This normally would start a few minutes before sunset every Friday. The Shabbat would usually start with a prayer called the Kiddush which it taken from the Torah, the Jewish “bible”. You can see a copy of the Torah on the table.

In between the inglenook and the staircase, there is a door. This leads down to the cellar. In Birmingham most back to back houses had cellars, but they were very rarely used for living in. Some other towns had cellars in houses such as these which may well have been used as part of the accommodation. All the houses in Court 15 have cellars and if you made your down there, you’d find it is very damp, and the headroom is quite restricted, probably no more than five feet. The cellars here were used to store coal for the fires and this would be delivered through the gratings that you can see under each window in the courtyard and the street. The cellar in this house was lined with concrete and used as an air raid shelter during the second world war.

The builder of Court 15, John Wilmore, was a skilled carpenter and you’ll see that the staircase has quite an elaborate railing under the handrail. It turns out that this is called “Chinese Chippendale”, inspired by the designs of cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale and was popular in the United States in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

We are now going to make our way up the stairs and before we set off I’m going to ask you to “mind your heads!”. Folk two hundred years ago were generally much shorter than today and you’ll find that the doorways and staircases are much lower than we are used to.

So, once more “MIND YOUR HEADS!”

Levy’s table laid for the Shabbat, the Torah is in the top left corner.
The door to the cellar, you can see the metal candle box to the top right
The air-raid shelter in Levy’s cellar
The “Chinese Chippendale” railing
The Levy House ground floor from the scullery door