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Things to see and do at Birmingham Back to Backs

A volunteer in costume gives visitors a tour in the communal courtyard of the Birmingham Back to Backs, West Midlands.
Enjoy a tour at the Birmingham Back to Backs | © National Trust Images/John Millar

Take a tour around the Birmingham Back to Backs to experience life here and meet characters from the 1840s to the 1970s. Find out more about guided tours, what you’ll see on your visit, and places to eat and shop here.

Guided tours: buildings frozen in time

Step back in time on a guided tour of Birmingham’s last surviving court of back-to-backs; houses built literally back-to-back around a communal courtyard.

Moving from the 1840s through to the 1970s, discover the lives of some of the former residents who crammed into these small houses to live and work. Come and see Mr Levi’s bedroom-turned-workshop, Mrs Oldfield’s mealtime kitchen and peek inside George Saunders’ tailor’s shop.

With fires alight in the grates, and sounds and smells from the past, experience an evocative and intimate insight into life at the Back to Backs.

Tours last an hour and a half so you can visit as part of your day out in Birmingham. Ground floor accessible tours are also available, these are an hour long and visit the ground floor rooms of all the houses as well as the courtyard. Book your tour here.

A small worktable positioned by a window covered with a watchmaker's tools at the Birmingham Back to Backs, West Midlands.
The watchmaker's worktable at Birmingham Back to Backs | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The George Saunders collection

Birmingham Back to Backs houses one of the National Trust’s more unusual collections – the UK’s only collection of work by a Caribbean tailor.

George Saunders arrived in England in 1958 and worked as a tailor at the back to backs from 1974 to 2001. As such, he was one of the last residents to move out when this courtyard of houses was transformed into the museum you see today. George kindly donated some of his items to help preserve this last living link to the houses, and as you explore Back to Backs, you’ll learn more of his story.

The collection donated by George is largely made up of clothes and fabrics, including suits that George tailored, a large sample of the materials he used, and some very exclusive riding jodhpurs he made to fulfil an order from the Queen’s Household Cavalry.

The interior of George Saunders' tailor's shop at the Birmingham Back-to-Backs, showing a variety of garments on hangers, a desked covered with paperwork, and bright red-painted woodwork.
George Saunders' Tailor's Shop | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

Back to Backs exhibition space

The exhibition space at the Back to Backs is free to enter and outside the pay barrier. Hosting 'Gary Lindsay-Moore: It's Not Unusual' a contemporary photography display inspired by the fashion of Kahn & Bell, learn more here. Previews during Birmingham Pride on 27 and 28 May and reopens on 9 June alongside an exhibition inspired by the tailor George Saunders. Students from the School of Fashion and Textiles at Birmingham City University have used George Saunders' story and patterns to inspire their own work, learn more here. Enter through the second-hand bookshop at 61 Hurst Street and head up the stairs to your left.

Second-hand bookshop at the Back to Backs

Visit the second-hand bookshop and browse a wide range of new and used books, or donate your old books. The bookshop is free to enter through the Hurst Street entrance. Every pound you spend and every book you donate helps us to preserve the history of this unique place.

Set in the heart of Birmingham

As a small property, there’s no café at Back to Backs, but we’re located in the city centre where you’ll find plenty of pubs and cafés, as well as shops, restaurants, and other city attractions. We’re also a short walk away from the Bullring and Grand Central.

The historic courtyard of one of the Birmingham Back to Backs, displayed as it would have been in the 1930s with washing on the line, dolly tub, washboard, bicycle and pushchair.

Book your visit

Please note you need to book tickets to Birmingham Back to Backs. You can book for the following day up until 4pm. Every Thursday another week of time slots is added, so you can book up to four weeks in advance.

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The interior of one of the Birmingham Back to Backs, showing books, photo and a candlestick on a shelf with coats hanging below and a historic print hanging alongside, on a wall covered with a floral print wallpaper.

The history of Birmingham Back to Backs 

Find out what life was like in back-to-back housing for the working classes of the 19th and 20th centuries and discover the people who brought the Back to Backs to life.

The historic shopfront of George Saunders, the tailors, on Hurst Street as part of the Birmingham Back to Backs, West Midlands

Black history in Birmingham: the story of George Saunders 

Discover the history behind the George Saunders’ collection at Birmingham Back to Backs, a story that is inextricably linked with Birmingham’s black history.

The interior of George Saunders' tailor's shop at the Birmingham Back-to-Backs, showing a variety of garments on hangers, a desked covered with paperwork, and bright red-painted woodwork.

Our work at the Birmingham Back to Backs 

Explore what goes into caring for a particularly unusual collection, which offers a glimpse into the lives of the ordinary people who helped shaped Birmingham.

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Houses and buildings 

Historic buildings are a treasure trove of stories, art and collections. Learn more about their histories and plan your next visit.