Wolverhampton's demolished Elephant and Castle pub, which is to be recreated. Photo: Permission of Wolverhampton Archives

Significant redevelopment confirmed for Black Country Living Museum

Alex Stevens, 11.06.19
Historic buildings to be recreated for 1940s-60s townscape 
A historic pub, an NHS clinic, a clothes shop, a public library and a gas showroom will feature in a £23m redevelopment of Black Country Living Museum (BCLM), starting this autumn and scheduled to complete in spring 2022.

The Dudley museum is appealing to the public for their stories and experiences of several local buildings that the Forging Ahead project will translocate or replicate to create a 1940s-60s town. 

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These include Wolverhampton’s Elephant and Castle pub, controversially demolished in 2001 before its consideration for listing, which served as an important meeting place for post-war immigrants from Ireland, India, Pakistan and the Caribbean.

There are plans to acquire what is believed to be the pub’s original elephant statue, which was reportedly rescued from a fly-tipped rubbish heap by a local man and subsequently restored.

The story of the NHS will also be told through the recreation of Wolverhampton’s Lea Road Infant Welfare Centre, which saw antenatal classes, infant healthcare provision and food distribution in the 1950s, as well as treatment for significant outbreaks of diphtheria.

The local MP at the time was Enoch Powell, who was health minister in the early 1960s and went on to give the controversial Rivers of Blood speech in 1968. The recreated building will cover the lives of junior doctors from countries such as India and Pakistan during the 1950s-60s.

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Dudley’s Woodside Library will be moved brick-by-brick to the site, having closed to the public in 2008. It will allow BCLM to portray “stories of education, social life and the role of local authorities in everyday life in the Black Country”, as well as complementing the other new buildings in their portrayal of civic life in the post-war period.

The project will also include a new visitor centre, aimed at improving the link between BCLM and the neighbouring Dudley Zoo, Castle and Canal Trust, with the current Rolfe Street entrance building becoming a learning centre.

BCLM hopes to welcome up to 500,000 visitors per year to the redeveloped site, which would be an increase of around 150,000 on the 355,000 visitors it received last year. The announcement comes after a successful £9.4m bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund (Heritage Fund).

Lowell Williams, the chair of BCLM, said the organisation was “confident that this project is the best it can be, and we’re excited to actually get started on it this summer”.

Ros Kerslake, the chief executive of the Heritage Fund, said: “Whilst the Forging Ahead project will recreate and translocate a number of buildings of historical significance to the Black Country, heritage is not just about bricks and mortar, but the stories that are created within them. 

"We are delighted that National Lottery funding will not only preserve these fascinating buildings, such as the gas showroom, the Elephant & Castle pub and the library, but also the memories that they hold, and ensure that they will not be lost but shared and built upon by future generations.”

Andy Street, the West Midlands mayor, said: "The museum and this project are not just a vital part of the tourism offer for the region, bringing people to the region and supporting the economy. The museum also plays a huge part in preserving and showcasing the unique cultural heritage of the Black Country and the new project will underpin that.”

Photos: Permission of Wolverhampton Archives (Elephant and Castle frontage); Express & Star (Elephant and Castle statue) 


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