forging ahead

A major new historic development

real things, real people, real stories

BCLM: Forging ahead takes our story into the 1940s, 50s and 60s. 

The development will include new learning spaces and a brand new visitor centre, taking our story up to the closure of the Baggeridge Coal Mine in 1968 which brought about the end of a unique era for the Black Country.

This exciting project will use real things, real people and real stories to engage and inspire visitors, of all ages, to learn about the Black Country’s heritage, its impact on the world and its relevance today.

Explore more about the project, including how you can get involved, below.

Our plans

Our vision to create a world class heritage attraction in the heart of the Black Country.

Visitors outside the pub at black country living museum
A man on a canal barge at black country living museum

The Story So far

The identity of the Black Country is based on the former richness of its coal measures, of its iron working and the impact that these and related industries had on the landscape and the people that lived in it.

It is a powerful story – distinctive because of the scale, drama, intensity and multiplicity of the industrial might that was unleashed. Arguably this is the place where the impact of the Industrial Revolution was greatest.

Today, the Black Country is described as the Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and the City of Wolverhampton, recognised as a distinctive region by the Ordnance Survey in 2009 and home to 1.2 million people. Whilst modern day high-technology has replaced heavy industry, manufacturing still remains a vital and central part of the Black Country economy and community.

Our Museum

With extraordinary Designated collections, the Museum is a unique, 26-acre real-life setting for telling stories. Open-air museums like ours don’t create galleries and exhibition halls with cases and labels; they build landscapes, workshops, alleyways, backyards and streets, where things happen.

Visitors are welcomed and immersed in an environment where they can see, smell, hear, touch and taste history; living interpretation and working demonstrations enable people of all ages and backgrounds to truly understand how the Black Country played a central and formative role in the creation of the connected, industrialised world we recognise today.

We are one of the UK’s five big open-air museums having welcomed over 10 million visitors since opening in 1978.

Following our 40th Anniversary in 2018, this endorsement of our BCLM: Forging Ahead project by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, means that we are now able to complete the Museum’s story and enable a greater number and a wider variety of people to understand the true significance of the Black Country. 

get involved

Over the next few months and years we will be looking for  your help to complete the Museum’s story. Whether it be through volunteering, donating an object or sharing your stories.

Right now, we are looking for memories between 1940s-60s for the following buildings:

West Bromwich Gas Showroom, High Street, West Bromwich

Stanton’s Music Shop, Hall Street, Dudley

West Bromwich Building Society Branch, Cape Hill, Smethwick, 1957

Marsh & Baxter’s Butchers’ Shop, Brierley HIll

Elephant & Castle Pub, Wolverhampton

E. Minett Ladies Clothes Shop, Walsall Road, Wednesbury

The Infant Welfare Centre, Lea Road, Wolverhampton

J H Lavender & Co.,  Hall Green, West Bromwich

Stourbridge Rd Co-op,  Halesowen

Cast Iron Houses, Dudley

Dudley Weighbridge Office, Dudley

These buildings have so many stories to tell, so if you or anyone you know remembers them during this period, please get in touch via 0121 557 9643, or email us at   [email protected].

Since we opened in 1978, we have collected over 80,000 items  ranging from the 1850s to the 1940s.

As we embark on our major development project BCLM: Forging Ahead, we’re now looking to collect items up to the 1960s. We’re particularly interested in items which:

  • Have a strong connection with the Black Country
  • Are underrepresented in other local museums
  • Fill a gap in our existing collections

If you think you have an item dating from the 1940s-60s that might be suitable to our new development, first of all, please give the collecting guidelines a read and, if you feel it meets the criteria, get in touch to arrange an appointment with us – details below.

To arrange an appointment please telephone our Collections Team on 0121 557 9643 or email  [email protected]

Do you have a passion for the Black Country?  

We’re looking for friendly folk to join our team. 

We offer training, ongoing support and the opportunity to experience time in one of the premier museums in the country.

Take a look at our current and new opportunities.

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