The Oldbury Writing Group Celebrates 1940s Day at The Locksmith’s House

By Nicole J. Simms

On the 30th July 2016, the Oldbury Writing Group visited The Locksmith’s House in Willenhall for the museums 1940s Day event.

The Hodson family – a working class lock making family – originally owned the Locksmith’s House from 1904 until 1983.

The 1940s Day event was a special event that allowed the museum visitors to see what life was like in the 1940s for the Hodson family during World War Two.

We decided to go to the 1940s Day event because we hoped it would inspire us for our World War Two anthology. So far we’ve visited Haden Hill House and enjoyed the VE Day event at the Museum of Cannock Chase, but neither of these trips helped us to focus on the people who had to live through the war.

When we arrived outside of the house, two people dressed in 1940s attire greeted us. Of course, we had to take a group photo; we couldn’t miss the photo opportunity.

Once we stepped over the threshold of the house, we were transported back in time to the 1940s. After a quick peek into the first room, which is a gift shop, we entered deeper into the house. Stepping into the living room was both magical and eerie. To know that people once sat playing on the piano, listening to music, or knitting in this room is enough to give you goose pimples.

Following on from the living room, we went into the kitchen where a woman dressed in her 1940s kitchen attire was preparing a wartime meal: a potato and leek bake, which filled the house with a wonderful aroma once cooked.

Keen to see the rest of the house, we left the kitchen and headed out into the back yard. We first explored what we assumed to be the washroom. Andy decided to have a go with some of the clothes washing tools. And we all tried to lift the different irons; I’m shocked how heavy they were, especially when you compare them to modern irons. I can imagine that 1940s women had big biceps from all the ironing they had to do.

After the washroom, we walked over to the two-storey workshop where we saw a demonstration of how the iron bar for the bar padlocks was made. And after the demonstration, Angela and I got iron bars as souvenirs. Angela plans to frame hers, and I plan to keep mine in preparation for a zombie apocalypse.

With our stomachs rumbling, we decided to have a break from our tour and have a snack in the small café, which is next to the washroom. While there were no sandwiches or savoury snacks, there were plenty of cakes: lemon cake, ginger cake, fruit cake, and banana cake. So we decided to have a cup of tea and slice of cake. I chose to have two slices of cake (ginger and fruit) instead of the tea. While we munched on our delicious cakes, we listened to the wartime music which we all agreed was strangely relaxing. Angela also spotted a jam stall and vowed to come back to buy some before we left.

Once our stomachs were full of cake (I wasn’t the only one to have two slices), we went back inside the house and up the stairs to the Richard Hodson and Son office. In the room, a striking bureau, which would make any writer turn Hulk-green with envy, sat against the wall. We also saw a display which showed information about the Hodson family, and even a family photo which looks like it was taken in the early 1900s.

After looking around the office, we walked up some stairs and entered one of the bedrooms, which appeared to belong to the parents. The one piece of furniture that stood out the most was the dressing table. It’s easy to imagine the wife sitting in front of the mirror and fixing her hair for an evening out, while the children played in the adjacent room and the husband demanded that she’d hurry up before they were late.

We then left the bedroom and entered the final room, which I imagined to be the children’s bedroom; however, the room was filled with display cabinets which held different types of locks and keys. In the middle of the room was an activity area for children. On spotting a sock puppet on one of the tables, Angela decided to give us a sock-puppet performance. If she ever needed a new career idea, I would suggest becoming a sock-puppet performer.

After finishing the tour, we popped back to the café so Angela could buy her jam – I’ll be interested to know how the jams taste. Then before we left, we returned to the gift shop where we bought notepads, pens, and pencils, you know, writer stuff.

Overall, we had a lovely day (the weather even stayed nice for us), and we learned a lot, which I’m sure we’ll be able to inject into our writing. It was a great day, and we would love to visit the museum again for one of the other events at The Locksmith’s House.

You can find out more about these events via their website http://www.bclm.co.uk/locations/the-locksmiths-house/440.htm#.V539xLgrKM8

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