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Birmingham Back-to-Backs


master brummie
I worked for the local authority housing department many years ago and indeed they would supply gas boilers.

When first built, a lot of the pre war social houses had a bath but did not have a hot water system to fill it. Tenants were given a gas boiler to wash clothes and heat water for the bath. The gas boilers had a bayonet gas cock, so it could be plugged in to the gas main. The boiler was normally stored under the draining board, people would fit a curtain across to hide the boiler.

My mom kept hers in the bathroom. She would fill it with a bucket from the sink and then plug it in. To light it she switched the gas cock on, then used a lighted taper of newspaper lit from the stove. The whole contraption would go WHUMP! As the gas caught the flame. Use to scare me half the death. I’m sure I heard her hair crackle as the flame singed it.

In later years, the council started to supply electric wash boilers, but my mom was having none of that modern nonsense. The gas boiler was temperamental, but she knew it and how to work it.
I so remember the whump! and the bop! Mum used to shout,"the gas's gone out!" dad would groan and go up with his spills. My Nan had a boiler under the sink. Square. With the curtain, a sort of plastic and yet not plastic. Wax almost, floral. You needed to be an octopus to make it work. When I lived there I dreaded when it went out. I used to sit on the floor, prop the pilot light door open with a massive screwdriver vertically, then I had to push a button in with my knee, hold down another button and one to pump the gas. When I rented it out I had to have a new one. I had put up with it for years. And other things. Or the lack of.
My gran had a black grate like the picture but it was symetrical and not so fancy. My aunty in Selly Oak had a lovely one, with brightish green doors, my friend had one with pale green doors. For the ovens and the thing to draw it.