It was in the town of Dudley, in the 17th century, that coal was first used for smelting iron. The town became known as the capital of the region still known as the Black Country—a term that arose from the resulting air pollution. This 26-acre museum consists of an entire village made up of buildings from around the region, including a chain maker's workshop; a trap-works where animal snares were fashioned; his-and-hers hardware stores (pots and pans for women, tools and sacks for men); a druggist; and a general store where costumed women describe life in a poor industrial community in the 19th century. You can also sit on a hard bench and watch Charlie Chaplin in the 1920s cinema peer into the depths of a mine or ride on a barge through a tunnel to experience canal travel of yesteryear. For sustenance there are two cafés: the 1930s-era Fried Fish Shop that serves fish-and-chips cooked in beef drippings, and the Bottle & Glass pub for ales and drinks. To avoid the numerous school
parties, visit on the weekend or during school vacations. The museum, 3 miles from the M5, is best reached by car. Leave M5 at Junction 2 by A4123, and then take A4037 at Tipton. Trains from Birmingham New Street to Tipton Station take 16 minutes; buses from the train station run past the museum, which is 1 mile away.