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Pork pies and sawdust: Memories flood back as living museum's recreated butchers set to open

The smell of pork and the recreated look of a 1950s butchers shop have brought back vivid memories for three people who remember it back in the day.

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It was a lovely day of nostalgia for Graham Taylor, Eileen Atwood and Lynn Smith at the Black Country Museum

It was a day for those linked to Marsh & Baxter Butchers to take a trip back in time and visit a shop that was a prominent part of the high street in Brierley Hill and which has been faithful and painstakingly recreated at the Black Country Living Museum (BCLM) in Dudley.

The butchers will officially open to the public on Saturday, July 8.

Marsh & Baxter was a significant pork butchery company for most of the 20th century, with a large factory based in Brierley Hill which employed many people.

Alfred Marsh started out as an independent pork butcher but grew the business into a chain and the shop reflected the era of meat rationing - which was still in place in 1953 - and limited meat availability and customer purchases.

The meat on sale reflects what was available in the last days of rationing

The new shop is part of the next stage of the Forging Ahead project at the museum, a new historic development set between the 1940s and 1960s, telling the story of social, cultural, commercial and industrial life in the Black Country during this period.

Ahead of the official launch this weekend, Lynn Smith, Eileen Atwood and Graham Taylor were all present at the shop to see what they had contributed towards with their memories and memorabilia and to help advise the museum on any changes or additions needed ahead of time.

All three have historical links to the butchers, with sisters 68-year-old Lynn and 71-year-old Eileen's father, Bernard Gordon, having worked at the butchers for 40 years, including 20 years as manager before its closure in 1978; while 73-year-old Graham worked for Marsh & Baxter's carriage department in the 1960s

All three have links to the shop and have helped with getting it ready for the official opening

It was an emotional moment for all three as they took in the surroundings of the shop, talking to museum researcher Clare Weston about what they recognised and what could be added or changed, and reminiscing on days gone by.

Eileen and Lynn had donated some of their father's butchery items and said he would be so proud of the place and that the recreated shop evoked a lot of memories for them.

Eileen said: "We've asked about having sawdust added to the shop," said Eileen.

"But everything we've seen really brought back memories of coming here, then going to Stantons to buy records.

"I think people will definitely get the flavour of the time, especially the pork pies, and it'll be great to see people's responses to seeing things like the carcass in the window, which you don't tend to see anymore."

The interior is a mixture of donated items and faithful recreations

Lynn said: "Some of the younger people might not even realise that that is where their meat comes from, so it'll be a great chance for them to learn more about it.

"I do think Dad would be so proud of seeing this place, as he worked there virtually his whole life from his days at Brierley Hill right through to the larger shops."

Graham Taylor said he had helped by talking about the tomato sausage that the shop was famous for and said he thought it was a cracking recreation of the shop.

A range of pork pies on sale

He said: "It's absolutely fantastic how they've done it and while there's a lot of meat, artificial meat, to put in, I think they've done a cracking job with it and the only thing missing was the sawdust on the floor.

"The whole project is great because it brings back memories, like going to Stantons to buy records and the newsagents, which I used to frequent quite a lot, and the butchers has a lot to remind me of back in the day.

"Marsh & Baxter was very well known in Brierley Hill and, I dare say, people will remember it from anywhere as it was a big employer."

The apron carries the name of the popular butchers

The interior and exterior of the shop contain many reminders of life back in 1953, with pork chops, black pudding and pigs' trotters among the fare displayed in the window, while the till matches the same used in 1953 and the poster and pictures were either recreations or, in some cases, actual posters from the time.

BCLM researcher Clare Weston said she had spent seven years researching the shop as part of the development, and said a press appeal had helped with bringing the right items in, particularly from Graham.

She said: "A lot of research has gone into collecting old images of March & Baxter shops and we did a press appeal, which saw people like Graham come forward with memories, such as the tomato sausage, which he told us was to die for.

All the items inside the butchers are period items

"That has become an important product to reflect in the shop, as have the memories and donations from Eileen and Lynn, and it's been lovely to be able to show them the shop and the items in the collection.

"They've responded really well to things like the model pigs and there's some cheese missing that they've told me about, but they've been looking at the products and it's all been bringing back some lovely memories for them."

BCLM chief executive Andrew Lovett had watched the project grow and said he was amazed to see it standing up live and in colour.

Bacon lies next to the slicer inside the butchers

He said: "We started with this vision six or seven years ago and to have it come here after so long and see it come to fruition is amazing, and to hear the stories of the people whose family worked in the shops has been been truly wonderful.

"It's so important in an open air museum to give people something personal and something they remember and it's a lovely joy of this place that we can draw on people's memories and make sure we can get it right for them."

The butchers is a recreation of the shop from the early 1950s

Marsh & Baxter Butchers opens to the public on Saturday.

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