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From Plots to Plenty

Early Saturday morning I headed off to the Black Country Living Museum for their two day event in collaboration with  Winterbourne House & Garden.  The BCLM is a living history museums which explores the industrial heritage of the Black Country – You might not expect it to be hosting a two-day gardening event!  Many of the properties at BCLM were lived in by working class families in the late 19th early 20th century.  Gardens were practical spaces where vegetables were grown for the table and medicinal herbs to for family welfare.

Discover the hidden plots and gardens at Black Country Living Museum and find out how they were used. Visit our traditional garden market, meet expert gardeners, plant your own heritage seeds, and find out about tools and techniques of the past

On entry I was given a special plan highlighting all the lovely gardens.  I arrived a bit later than planned and missed some of the garden tours, but not to be put off I headed off on my adventure.

Cast Iron Houses

This inter-war semi was built in Dudley in 1925 .  It was built as an experimental prefab made of cast iron, but proved to be too costly.  These were one of only 4 ever built.  The garden was laid out as a second world war Dig for Victory veg patch.  It included Arran Pilot first earlies, King Edward main crop, Green Windsor and Crimson Flourd broad beans, parsnips, purple sprouting broccoli, rhubarb (in every garden), gooseberries, and poles set up for broad beans.  I loved the cinder paths! and brick edging to the beds.

The Toll House

The next stop was the Toll House which had a veg patch and herb garden.  The last resident Mrs Hodgkiss and her daughter Lillian grew medicinal herbs and probably treated people locally.  The garden had lots of comfrey and lemon balm.  I liked the pea sticks – I’m going to try that this year too.  Inside were more plants keeping warm before they are planted out, as well as some seeds.  This is definitely a garden I would like to see again later in the year and as I Gift Aided my entrance fee I have year long pass!!

11 Brooke Street

The garden at 11 Brooke Street was the smallest by far, as it was back-to-back house.  This garden belonged to a Miner.  Although it was small it was crammed full of plants.  I really liked these hazel (i think) wigwams for beans and sweet peas no doubt.  Again there was lots of lemon balm and I think fennel.

Planting Pink Fir potatoes

I finally met the Gardeners at Brooke Street who were planting potatoes, beans and herbs.  Here is one of the gardeners planting Pink Fur potatoes.  The bottom of the trench is at ground level with a peak built up either side.  He then dug a hole with a trowel and popped a potato in.  He was planting them quite close together to try to get a bulk crop.  I’m going to use this method on my plot, although I have way more first earlies then main-crop!

Emile Doo’s Chemist Shop

Emile Doo didn’t have a herb garden at her Chemist so BCLM worked with the gardeners  and curators at Winterborne to create a physic garden.  The garden is divided up into a series of beds with herbs for digestion, the nervous system, eyes, ear nose and throat, blood and skin, colds and fever, and cosmetics.  Many of these herbs were sold in the chemist shop as powders, pills, creams and lotions.

Other gardens

There were three other gardens to view including Station Road cottages, Jerushah and Pitt’s cottage.  This event was well worth the visit – I can’t wait to go back later on in the year to see how the medicinal gardens are developing.  I’m also looking forward to Winterborne’s event on 3rd and 4th May.  I also plan to visit more garden’s in the region this year.



  1. This is truly impressive! And inspiring. What a fantastic use of small spaces. I’ve got a little herb garden – or more accurately – some herbs growing in my flower garden. But so far I’ve just grown the ones I use for cooking, of love for their fragrance and flowers. I’ve read about medicinal uses, but haven’t explored making tinctures, teas and creams myself. Is there a book or online source you’d recommend? Did you do the photography? Beautiful!

    • Hello. Thank you for your lovely comments. I can’t wait to go back later on in the year. Yes they are my own photographs. I’m away from home but I will post some links to herbal blogs you might find interesting.

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