Black Country Living Museum unveils new Industrial Quarter

The latest phase of the Museum’s multi-million pound capital development offers visitors a journey through the industrial history of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

The Industrial Quarter, opening at Red by Night on Friday 15 March, delves into the vibrant stories of industries and individuals that shaped the Black Country’s heritage, showcasing three iconic businesses, each with a rich historical narrative.

J.H. Lavender Aluminium Foundry (1959):

  • Established in 1917 by John Herbert Lavender, post-World War Two, this foundry played a pivotal role in producing engine components for all the British motorcycle manufacturers, as well as companies like British Seagull outboard motors, Rover and Reliant cars, and Black & Decker power tools.
  • Employing up to 300 staff, Lavender’s inclusive workforce included individuals from across the Commonwealth, with the Museum introducing a new costumed character, ‘Fitzroy Barrett’, who boarded HMT Empire Windrush hoping to find work and build a new life, supporting the ‘Mother Country’ in its ‘hour of need’.
  • The foundry’s enduring legacy continues to this day, making it the oldest family-owned aluminium foundry in Britain.

Joe H. Smith & Sons (Oldbury) Ltd. (1953):

  • Founded in 1895 by Joseph H. Smith, this family-run business specialised in crafting high-quality hand tools, particularly sledgehammers.
  • Known for their skilled hand forging techniques and commitment to quality, the company thrived on export orders and government contracts.
  • The Museum recreates this thriving business environment as it was in 1953, highlighting the legacy of craftsmanship and dedication to excellence.

Cricket Field Brickworks (1955):

  • Owned by J. T. Price & Co., this brickworks was a cornerstone of the Black Country’s brickmaking industry, specialising in various types of bricks and fire-clay goods.
  • The recreation at the Museum captures the essence of brickmaking processes and pays homage to the generations of women who played a vital role in this industry.
  • Black Country brick maker Sarah Pratt will be remembered through a new costumed character, informed by the memories of her grandson and great grandson.

Visitors can explore themes of booming industry, expertise in new technologies and migration stories that shaped the Black Country’s industrial landscape during this transformative period by exploring the buildings, meeting new costumed characters and watching demonstrations.

“We are thrilled to unveil the next stage of our development, which is a testament to our commitment to preserving and sharing the rich industrial heritage of the Black Country,” said Carol King, Director of Programmes at Black Country Living Museum. “These new additions offer a glimpse into a bygone era filled with innovation, hard work, and community spirit.”