Back-to-backs were once the commonest form of housing in England. Built in rows or courts or blocks, the back-to-back was home to the majority of working people in our Victorian cities. There were once half a million of them - vermin-infested slums, damp, overcrowded and disease-ridden, as Giles Worsley graphically describes them - yet they have almost entirely vanished from our urban landscape. Using a mixture of documentary evidence and oral history, Chris Upton uncovers a fascinating corner of our common past and tells the story of the folk who lived in Court 15 in central Birmingham. Such people are all in our family trees, but are all unique - the glass-eye maker from Birmingham, the Jewish watch-maker from Poland, the tailor from St Kitts. What was it like to live in a house with only one bedroom and no running water? How did 11 families share two toilets? Dr Upton, well-known in the West Midlands as a broadcaster and public speaker, started work on back-to-backs as a research project ready for the restoration of Court 15. He realised that he had 'stumbled upon a gold mine ...too good a story to leave on an office shelf'.The rise and fall of the back-to-back is a sobering tale - an extraordinary microcosm of life in England from the boom years of Victorian expansion through to the Hungry Thirties, and beyond.