The Old Yard

On the eastern side of Park Road stood a row of terraced houses numbered 7 to 10, with a large entrance in the middle, leading to a courtyard and four houses at the back. The houses at the back were numbered back 7 to back 10 respectively. The courtyard, known as “The Old Yard” or "Th'owd Yard" was home to a close and happy community. In the yard were four brewhouses and two toilets, which were shared by the residents in the houses at the front and back. Behind the old yard stood a similar courtyard in Factory Street, called "The Cat Yard".

The houses consisted of just two small rooms up and two small rooms down, except for numbers 8 and 9, which each had an extra bedroom above the courtyard entrance. They were heated by open coal fires, and had a cooking range built around the kitchen fire. There were cellars for storing coal, with an outside coal hole, and home-made wooden partitions inside, so that both coal and food could be stored.

All of the houses were originally lit by oil lamps until the 1920s when gas lighting was installed in the four front houses only. At night an oil lamp would be hung below the landing ceiling to light the stairs and the bedrooms, via open doors. The ceiling above the lamps soon blackened due to the soot from the lamps. A delivery man would call every week with a fresh supply of lamp oil.

The location of the "Old Yard".

Life in Park Road was very basic by modern standards. The red tiles on the ground floor were regularly scattered with sand which was dried on top of the fire in the brewhouse. The stairs and upstairs had bare floorboards which were frequently scrubbed clean until the wood looked like new. Rugs and carpets were unheard of until everyone started making "bodged" (podged) rugs. Baths were taken in the brewhouses which each had one tap and a boiler to heat water. The glass in the windows was broken and so it must have been very cold when bathing. There was a strict rota for bathing because the facilities were shared by several families. When the time came for one of the women or girls to take a bath, a piece of material would be hung to cover the window for privacy. Strangely this was never done for the men or boys. Eventually each of the houses acquired a tin bath and so bathing in the brewhouses came to an end.

Waste water from the houses ran down open drains into the gutter in the street, which must have caused problems in the winter when the water would freeze. The area immediately in front of back 7 to back 10 was paved with blue bricks. These were used to beat the clothes on each washing day. It’s hard to imagine the work involved, especially with such a large family, and when all that we have to do today is to fill the washing machine and press a button.

The front houses in Park Road, numbers 7 to 10.

This largely self-contained community had two public houses nearby; The New Junction Inn on the corner of Park Road and Forge Road, and Herberts Park Tavern in Forge Road. There were also small shops in both Park Road and Factory Street. The eight houses were typical mid 19th century Darlaston dwellings.

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