Discover our story
we are a registered educational charity
Black Country Living Museum is an award-winning open air museum that tells the story of one of the very first industrialised landscapes in Britain.
Set across 26 acres, you’ll explore carefully reconstructed shops, houses and industrial areas that represent the Black Country’s story. You’ll learn how steam power, human ingenuity and an increasingly interconnected world transformed this region into a manufacturing powerhouse.
You’ll meet our historic characters who’ll tell you stories of what it was really like to live and work during this revolutionary period of history. Most importantly, you’ll see history brought to life before your eyes – hear the clang of hammers, smell the smoke billowing from red brick chimneys and maybe even taste the best fish and chips in the Black Country!
The Black Country is often seen of a collection of 20 or so towns falling within the four Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. While no one quite agrees on the exact boundaries of the region, there is one thing we know for certain: Black Country folk changed the world.
They built world’s first successful steam engine; put the first steam train (the Stourbridge Lion) on US soil; fuelled the introduction of the first minimum wage; produced the anchor for the Titanic; practically built the Crystal Palace and so much more.
From the early 20th century onwards, the Black Country region became one of the most industrialised parts of the UK with coal mines, iron foundries, glass factories, brick works and more dominating the landscape. The sheer intensity of industry earned the Black Country a worldwide reputation and its goods were shipped around the globe. But industry at such scale came at a huge cost, and the landscape was turned inside out for its resources. In 1862 the American Consul to Birmingham Elihu Burritt famously described the region as “black by day and red by night” because of the ubiquitous black smog by day and the fiery glow of the furnaces by night.
Up until the 1950s and 60s, the Black Country preserved the physical, economic and social landscape of the earlier part of the century, but eventually the pace of change began to erode the essential character of the region. Following two major waves of industrial development, the last mine in the Black Country closed in 1968, bringing about the end of a unique area, one that is preserved right here at the Black Country Living Museum for you to explore.
Our Statement of Intent – we believe Black Country Living Museum must reflect the diversity of the Black Country, to ensure the Museum, its collections and its programmes remain relevant and valued by our communities.
We are committed to creating and sustaining a staff, volunteer and audience community where everyone feels valued, where their contribution matters and where they can reach their full potential, irrespective of their background, identity or circumstances.
The Museum has a responsibility to its communities (inside and outside the Museum) to challenge the perceived status quo.
How it all began
The idea to create an open-air, living museum that told the story of the Black Country all started in the late 1960s, a period of rapid change for the region that saw the Black Country as many knew changed irrevocably.
“The Trustees are an energetic and dynamic group that provide encouragement and a valuable diversity of thinking to the leadership of the Museum.” Chair of the Board of Trustees, Paul Belford
European Route of Industrial Heritage Anchor Point
The Museum is an Anchor Point on the European Route of Industrial Heritage.
A National Portfolio Organisation 2018-22
In April 2018 we became an Arts Council England-funded National Portfolio Organisation.
We’re thrilled to be one of only 72 museums in England to be recognised in this way and will be using the £2.2m investment to invest in a wide range of projects and activity between 2018-2022. Our activity will include:
- Improving resilience – We’ll be continuing to lead the Museums & Resilient Leadership programme from 2018-2022
- Helping us deliver BCLM: Forging Ahead – ACE investment will support the delivery of our ambitious development project, BCLM: Forging Ahead
- Widening participation – We’ll ensure people of all ages and background are able to experience the region’s rich heritage
Our annual reports set out our major achievements, performance, public benefits and future plans.