In the course of the nineteenth century a large piece of merry England became a nightmarish industrial landscape with crimson skies and sulphurous fumes; it was well named the Black Country. A layer of grime covered everything and many went to an early grave, their lungs caked with the fallout from the countless chimney stacks that belched without ceasing, and the dust from the slag heaps that were an equal blight upon the land and everything that lived upon it. No one would choose to live in such a place; those who did had exhausted any other choices. Their accommodations were squalid at best; more often than not the properties they were forced to rent had been condemned as dangerous. By 1932, when Gordon Bunce was born, the Black Country was still like this - except for one devastating change: industry was failing, so jobs were in short supply. Gordon's parents were always on the move as money for the rent ran out, shifting their meagre belongings on a handcart from one crumbling tenement to the next.
In this moving and vividly remembered account of his childhood, and his escape into a different life at the age of fourteen, Gordon takes us back to a world that we visualise today through black and white photographs: a world that seems to be slower, more personal, less demanding. We must remind ourselves that the opposite is the case. The demands of survival were more urgent, the rat-race to secure employment and food more frantic, and the worth of the individual more lowly than we in these easy times can begin to imagine.
Buy Road from West Brom book by Gordon Bunce from Australia's Online Bookstore, Boomerang Books.
(244mm x 172mm x 10mm)
Sutton Publishing Ltd
Publisher: The History Press Ltd
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