Birmingham, England: Wikis


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—  City and Metropolitan borough  —
Birmingham's skyline with Holloway Circus Tower, The Rotunda and Selfridges Building visible.

Coat of Arms of the City Council
Nickname(s): "Brum", "Brummagem", "Second City", "City of a thousand trades", "Workshop of the World"
Motto: Forward
Birmingham shown within England and the West Midlands
Coordinates: 52°28′59″N 1°53′37″W / 52.48306°N 1.89361°W / 52.48306; -1.89361
Sovereign state United Kingdom United Kingdom
Constituent country England England
Region West Midlands
Ceremonial county West Midlands
Admin HQ Birmingham City Centre
Founded 7th century
Municipal borough 1838
City 1889
 - Type Metropolitan borough
 - Governing body Birmingham City Council
 - Lord Mayor Michael Wilkes
 - Deputy Lord Mayor Chauhdry Abdul Rashid
 - Council Leader Mike Whitby (C)
 - Council Control Conservative / Liberal Democrat Progressive Partnership
 - Total 267.77 km2 (103.4 sq mi)
Elevation 140 m (459 ft)
Population (2008 est.)
 - Total 1,016,800 (Ranked 1st)
 Density 3,739/km2 (9,684/sq mi)
 - Conurbation 2,284,093
 - Ethnicity
(2007 estimates[1])
66.7% White (62.1% White British)
21.0% South Asian
6.7% Black
3.2% Mixed Race
1.2% Chinese
1.2% Other
Time zone Greenwich Mean Time (UTC+0)
 - Summer (DST) British Summer Time (UTC+1)
Postcode B
Area code(s) 0121
ISO 3166 code GB-BIR

Birmingham (pronounced /ˈbɝːmɪŋəm/ ( listen), BUR-ming-əm, locally /ˈbɝːmɪŋɡəm/ BUR-ming-gəm) is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands county of England. It is the most populous British city outside London with a population of 1,016,800 (2008 estimate),[2] and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the United Kingdom's second most populous Urban Area with a population of 2,284,093 (2001 census).[3] Birmingham's metropolitan area, which includes surrounding towns to which it is closely tied through commuting, is the United Kingdom's second most populous with a population of 3,683,000.[4]

Birmingham was the powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution in England, a fact which led to it being known as "the workshop of the world" or the "city of a thousand trades".[5] Although Birmingham's industrial importance has declined, it has developed into a national commercial centre, being named as the second-best place in the United Kingdom to locate a business.[6] Birmingham is a national hub for conferences, retail and events along with an established high tech, research and development sector, supported by its three Universities. It is also the fourth-most visited city by foreign visitors in the UK,[7] has the second-largest city economy in the UK[8] and is often referred to as the Second City.

In 2007, Birmingham was ranked as the 55th-most livable city in the world, according to the Mercer Index of worldwide standards of living.[9] The Big City Plan is a large redevelopment plan currently underway in the city centre with the aim of making Birmingham one of the top 20 most liveable cities in the world within 20 years.[10] People from Birmingham are known as 'Brummies', a term derived from the city's nickname of 'Brum'. This comes in turn from the city's dialect name, Brummagem,[11] which may have been derived from one of the city's earlier names, 'Bromwicham'. There is a distinctive Brummie dialect and accent, both of which differ from the adjacent Black Country.



William Westley's 1731 map of Birmingham. The top of the map is oriented westwards.

Some of the earliest evidence of settlement in Birmingham are artefacts dating back 10,400 years discovered near Curzon Street in the city centre.[12]

In the early 7th century [13], Birmingham was an Anglo-Saxon farming hamlet on the banks of the River Rea.[14] It is commonly believed that the name 'Birmingham' comes from "Beorma inga ham", meaning farmstead of the sons (or descendants) of Beorma.[14] Birmingham was first recorded in written documents by the Domesday Book of 1086 as a small village, worth only 20 shillings.[14] There were many variations on this name. Bermingeham is another version.

In 1166 the holder of the manor of Birmingham, Peter de Birmingham, was granted a royal charter to hold a market in his castle,[12][15] which in time became known as the Bull Ring, transforming Birmingham from a village to a market town. The de Birmingham family continued to be Lords of Birmingham until the 1530s when Edward de Birmingham was cheated out of its lordship by the traitor John Dudley.[16]

As early as the 16th century, Birmingham's access to supplies of iron ore and coal meant that metalworking industries became established.[17]

By the time of the English Civil War in the 17th century, Birmingham had become an important manufacturing town with a reputation for producing small arms. Arms manufacture in Birmingham became a staple trade and was concentrated in the area known as the Gun Quarter. During the Industrial Revolution (from the mid-18th century onwards), Birmingham grew rapidly into a major industrial centre and the town prospered. Birmingham’s population grew from 15,000 in the late 17th century to 70,000 a century later.[18] During the 18th century, Birmingham was home to the Lunar Society, an important gathering of local thinkers and industrialists.[19]

Thomas Attwood addressing the Birmingham Political Union during the Days of May, 1832

Birmingham rose to national political prominence in the campaign for political reform in the early nineteenth century, with Thomas Attwood's Birmingham Political Union bringing the country to the brink of civil war and back during the Days of May that preceded the passing of the Great Reform Act in 1832.[20] The Union's meetings on Newhall Hill in 1831 and 1832 were the largest political assemblies Britain had ever seen.[21] Lord Durham, who drafted the act, wrote that "the country owed Reform to Birmingham, and its salvation from revolution".[22]

By the 1820s, an extensive canal system had been constructed, giving greater access to natural resources to fuel to industries. Railways arrived in Birmingham in 1837 with the arrival of the Grand Junction Railway, and a year later, the London and Birmingham Railway. During the Victorian era, the population of Birmingham grew rapidly to well over half a million[23] and Birmingham became the second largest population centre in England. Birmingham was granted city status in 1889 by Queen Victoria.[24] The city established its own university in 1900.[25]

Birmingham in 1886

Birmingham suffered heavy bomb damage during World War II's "Birmingham Blitz", and the city was extensively redeveloped during the 1950s and 1960s.[26] This included the construction of large tower block estates, such as Castle Vale. The Bull Ring reconstructed and New Street station was redeveloped. In recent years, Birmingham has been transformed, with the construction of new squares like Centenary Square and Millennium Place. Old streets, buildings and canals have been restored, the pedestrian subways have been removed, and the Bull Ring shopping centre[27] has been completely redeveloped. These were the first steps in the ambitious plans of Birmingham City Council for the redevelopment of Birmingham, which has become known as the Big City Plan.[28].

In the decades following the Second World War, the ethnic makeup of Birmingham changed significantly, as it received waves of immigration from the Commonwealth of Nations and beyond.[29] The city's population peaked in 1951 at 1,113,000 residents.[23]


Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in the UK and the largest council in Europe[30] with 120 councillors representing 40 wards.[31] Its headquarters are at the Council House in Victoria Square. No single party is in overall control and the council is run by a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition.

The city is also the seat of regional government for the West Midlands region of England as the home of the region's Government Office,[32] the regional development agency Advantage West Midlands,[33] and the West Midlands Regional Assembly.[34]

Birmingham's eleven parliamentary constituencies are represented in the House of Commons by one Conservative, one Liberal Democrat, one Independent Labour and eight Labour MPs.[35] In the European Parliament the city forms part of the West Midlands European Parliament constituency, which elects seven Members of the European Parliament.[33]

Birmingham was originally part of Warwickshire, but expanded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, absorbing parts of Worcestershire to the south and Staffordshire to the north and west. The city absorbed Sutton Coldfield in 1974 and became a metropolitan borough in the new West Midlands county. Up until 1986, the West Midlands County Council was based in Birmingham City Centre.

Law enforcement in Birmingham is carried out by West Midlands Police, fire and rescue by West Midlands Fire Service and emergency medical care by West Midlands Ambulance Service.


Birmingham is located in the centre of the West Midlands region of England on the Birmingham Plateau – an area of relatively high ground, ranging around 500 to 1,000 feet (150–300 m) above sea level and crossed by Britain's main north-south watershed between the basins of the Rivers Severn and Trent. To the south and west of the city lie the Lickey Hills,[36] Clent Hills and Walton Hill, which reach 1,033 feet (315 m) and have extensive views over the city.

The City of Birmingham forms a conurbation with the largely residential borough of Solihull to the south east, and with the city of Wolverhampton and the industrial towns of the Black Country to the north west. Together these make up the West Midlands Urban Area, which covers 59,972 ha (600 km2; 232 sq mi) and has a population of 2,284,093 (2001 Census).[3]

Much of the area now occupied by the city was originally a northern reach of the ancient Forest of Arden, whose former presence can still be felt in the city's dense oak tree-cover and in the large number of districts such as Moseley, Saltley, Yardley, Stirchley and Hockley with names ending in "-ley": the Old English -lēah meaning "woodland clearing".[37]

View across the city from the Lickey Hills, with Longbridge in the foreground.


Geologically, Birmingham is dominated by the Birmingham Fault which runs diagonally through the city from the Lickey Hills in the south west, passing through Edgbaston, the Bull Ring to Erdington and Sutton Coldfield in the north east.[38] To the south and east of the fault the ground is largely softer Keuper Marl, interspersed with beds of Bunter pebbles and crossed by the valleys of the Rivers Tame, Rea and Cole along with their tributaries.[39] Much of this would have been laid down during the Permian and Triassic eras.[38] To the north and west of the fault, varying from 150 to 600 feet (45–180 m) higher than the surrounding area and underlying much of the city centre, lies a long ridge of harder Keuper Sandstone.[40][41]


The climate in Birmingham is classified as a temperate maritime climate, like much of the British Isles, with average maximum temperatures in summer (July) being around 20 °C (68 °F); and in winter (January) is around 4.5 °C (40.1 °F). Extreme weather is rare but the city has been known to experience tornados – the most recent being in July 2005 in the south of the city, damaging homes and businesses in the area.[42]

Occasional summer heatwaves, such as the one experienced in July 2006 have become more common in recent years, and winters have become milder since the 1990s with snow becoming much less frequent. Similar to most other large cities, Birmingham has a considerable 'urban heat island' effect.[43] During the coldest night recorded in Birmingham (14 January 1982), for example, the temperature fell to −20.8 °C (−5 °F) at Birmingham International Airport on the city's eastern edge, but just −12.9 °C (9 °F) at Edgbaston, near the city centre.[44] Relative to other large UK conurbations, Birmingham is a snowy city, due to its inland location and comparatively high elevation.[44] Snow showers often pass through the city via the Cheshire gap on North Westerly airstreams, but can also come off the North Sea from North Easterly airstreams.[44]

Climate data for Birmingham
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Record high °C (°F) 13
Average high °C (°F) 6.0
Average low °C (°F) 0.3
Record low °C (°F) -12
Precipitation mm (inches) 56
Source: United Nations World Meteorological Organization[45] 26 August 2007

Nearby places


Religion Percentage of
Buddhist 0.3%
Christian 52%
Hindu 2%
Jewish 0.2%
Muslim 19.4%
Sikh 2.9%
No religion 12.4%
No answer 8.4%

Birmingham is an ethnically and culturally diverse city. In 2007 the ONS estimated that 66.7% of the population was White (including 2.4% Irish & 2.2% Other White), 21% Asian, 6.7% or Black, 1.2% Chinese, 3.2% of mixed race and 1.2% of other ethnic heritage.[46] 57% of primary and 52% of secondary pupils are from non-white British families.[47] 16.5% of the population was born outside the United Kingdom.

Canalside apartments in Birmingham City Centre

The population density is 9,451 inhabitants per square mile (3,649/km²) compared to the 976.9 inhabitants per square mile (377.2/km²) for England. Females represented 51.6% of the population whilst men represented 48.4%. More women were 70 or over.[48] 60.4% of the population was aged between 16 and 74, compared to 66.7% in England as a whole.[49]

60.3% of households were found to be owner occupied and 27.7% were rented from either the city council, housing association or other registered social landlord. The remaining 11.8% of households were rented privately or lived rent free.[49]

The Bimingham Larger Urban Zone, a Eurostat measure of the functional city-region approximated to local government districts, has a population of 2,357,100 in 2004.[50] In addition to Birmingham itself, the LUZ includes the Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall, along with the districts of Lichfield, Tamworth, North Warwickshire and Bromsgrove.[51]

Places of interest

See also: Places of interest in Birmingham[52]

The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is the main art gallery and museum in Birmingham. It has renowned displays of artwork that include a leading collection of work by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the world's largest collection of works by Edward Burne-Jones. The council also owns other museums in the city such as Aston Hall, Blakesley Hall, the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Soho House, and Sarehole Mill, a popular attraction for fans of J. R. R. Tolkien. Thinktank in the Eastside is one of the newest museums in the city, replacing the former Science & Industry Museum in Newhall Street. The Birmingham Back to Backs are the last surviving court of back-to-back houses in the city.[53]

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts is both an art gallery and concert hall. It also has one of the world's most detailed and largest coin collections.[54] Cadbury World is a museum showing visitors the stages and steps of chocolate production and the history of chocolate and the company.

There are over 8,000 acres (3,237 ha) of parkland open spaces in Birmingham.[55] The largest of the parks is Sutton Park covering 2,400 acres (971 ha) making it the largest urban nature reserve in Europe.[56] Birmingham Botanical Gardens are a Victorian creation, with a conservatory and bandstand, close to the city centre. The Winterbourne Botanic Garden, maintained by the University of Birmingham, is also located close to the city centre. Woodgate Valley Country Park is in Bartley Green and Quinton.

The city centre consists of numerous public squares including Centenary Square, Chamberlain Square and Victoria Square. The historic Old Square is located on Corporation Street. Rotunda Square and St Martin's Square are two of the newest squares in Birmingham, being located within the Bullring Shopping Centre. Brindleyplace also consists of three squares and the National Sea Life Centre.

Places of worship

Birmingham's diverse population uses a wide variety of religious buildings in the city. St Philip's was upgraded from church to cathedral status in 1905. There are two other cathedrals, St Chad's, seat of the Roman Catholic Province of Birmingham, and the Greek Orthodox Dormition of the Mother of God and St Andrew. The original parish church of Birmingham, St Martin in the Bull Ring, is Grade II* listed.

The oldest surviving synagogue in Birmingham is the 1825 Greek Revival Severn Street Synagogue, now a Freemason's Lodge hall. It was replaced in 1856 by the Grade II* listed Singers Hill Synagogue. Birmingham Central Mosque, one of the largest in Europe, was constructed in the 1960s.[57] However, during the late 1990s a mosque in the Sparkbrook area was re-developed in partnership with the City Council, to supersede the Central Mosque as the largest in the city.


Colmore Row in Birmingham's Business District.

Although Birmingham grew to prominence as a manufacturing and engineering centre, its economy today is dominated by the service sector, which in 2003 accounted for 78% of the city's economic output and 97% of its economic growth.[58]

Two of Britain's largest banks were founded in Birmingham – Lloyds Bank (now Lloyds Banking Group) in 1765[59] and the Midland Bank (now HSBC Bank plc) in 1836[60] – and as of 2007 the city employed 108,300 in banking, finance and insurance.[61] In 2009, Cushman & Wakefield stated that Birmingham was the second best place in the United Kingdom to locate a business, and the 14th best in Europe.[6]

Tourism is also an increasingly important part of the local economy. With major facilities such as the International Convention Centre and National Exhibition Centre the Birmingham area accounts for 42% of the UK conference and exhibition trade.[62] The city's sporting and cultural venues attract large numbers of visitors.

The city's three Universities, (Aston University, University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University) and two University colleges have over 65,000 students and employ around 15,000 staff, making a significant contribution to the city's economy as well as its research and innovation base.

With an annual turnover of £2.2bn, Birmingham city centre is the UK's second largest retail centre,[63] with the country's busiest shopping centre – the Bullring[64] – and the largest department store outside London – House of Fraser on Corporation Street.[65] The City also has one of only four Selfridges department stores, and the second largest branch of Debenhams in the country.[64] In 2004 the city was ranked as the third best place to shop in the United Kingdom, behind the West End of London and Glasgow, being described as a "world-class shopping centre".[66]

Despite the decline of manufacturing in the city several significant industrial plants remain, including Jaguar Cars in Castle Bromwich and Cadbury Trebor Bassett in Bournville.

Although the city has seen economic growth greater than the national average in the 21st century[67] the benefits have been uneven, with commuters from the surrounding area obtaining many of the more skilled jobs. The two parliamentary constituencies with the highest unemployment rates in the UK – Ladywood and Sparkbrook and Small Heath – are both in inner-city Birmingham.[68] Growth has also added to stresses on the city's transport. Many major roads and the central New Street railway station operate over capacity at peak times.


Partly because of its inland central location, Birmingham is a major transport hub on the motorway, rail, and canal networks.[69] The city is served by a number of major motorways and probably the best known motorway junction in the UK: Spaghetti Junction.[70]

The National Express UK headquarters are located on Birmingham's Eastside, alongside the newly developed Birmingham Coach Station, which forms the national hub of the company's coach network.

The nearest airport is Birmingham International Airport, located in the Borough of Solihull to the east of the city. As of 2008, the airport is the sixth busiest by passenger traffic in the United Kingdom.

Local public transport is by bus, local train and tram. The number 11A and 11C ('A' denotes anti-clockwise and 'C' denotes clockwise in relation to the journey's direction around the city) outer circle bus routes are the longest urban bus routes in Europe, being 26 miles (42 km) long[71] with 272 bus stops.[72] Bus routes are mainly operated by National Express West Midlands, which accounts for over 80% of all bus journeys in Birmingham, however, there are around 50 other, smaller registered bus companies.[73] The extensive bus network allows passengers to travel to and from various districts of the city, while there are longer bus routes which take passengers to areas further afield such as Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall, West Bromwich, Halesowen, Stourbridge and the Merry Hill Shopping Centre. The only towns in the West Midlands conurbation that currently lack a direct public transport link with Birmingham are Sedgley, Kingswinford, Wednesfield and Willenhall.

The city's main railway station, Birmingham New Street, is at the centre of the national railway network. Birmingham Snow Hill station, another major railway station in the city centre, is also a terminus for the Midland Metro which operates between the station and Wolverhampton, also serving the nearby towns of Bilston, Wednesbury and West Bromwich.[74] There are plans to extend the Midland Metro route further into Birmingham city centre.[75] Birmingham has a large rail-based park and ride network that feeds the city centre. see Birmingham Rail Stations

Birmingham is also notable for its expansive canal system, and the city is often noted for having more miles of canal than Venice. The canals fed the industry in the city during the Industrial Revolution. Canalside regeneration schemes such as Brindleyplace have turned the canals into tourist attractions.


The city council is England's largest local education authority, directly or indirectly responsible for 25 nursery schools, 328 primary schools, 77 secondary schools[76] and 29 special schools.[77] It also runs the library service, with 4 million visitors annually,[78] and provides around 3,500 adult education courses throughout the year.[79] The main library is Central Library and there are 41 local libraries in Birmingham, plus a regular mobile library service.[80]

Most of Birmingham's state schools are community schools run directly by Birmingham City Council in its role as local education authority (LEA). However, there are a large number of voluntary aided schools within the state system. King Edward's School is perhaps the most prestigious independent school in the city. The seven schools of The King Edward VI Foundation are known nationally for setting very high academic standards and all the schools consistently achieve top positions in national league tables.[81]

Birmingham is home to three universities: the University of Birmingham, Aston University, Birmingham City University; and two university colleges: Newman University College[82] and University College Birmingham.[83] The Birmingham Conservatoire and Birmingham School of Acting, both now part of Birmingham City University, offer higher education in specific arts subjects. The range of Universities and colleges means that there are over 65,000 higher education students in Birmingham, making it the UK's second largest student city to London. The Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower is a campanile located in Chancellor's court at the University of Birmingham. It is the tallest free-standing clock tower in the world.

Sutton Coldfield College merged with North Birmingham College in 2003 and Josiah Mason College in 2006 to form one of the largest further education colleges in the country.[84] In 2009, it merged with Matthew Boulton College (which had an Eastside branch opened in 2005) to form Birmingham Metropolitan College. Joseph Chamberlain College is the only sixth form college in Birmingham and Solihull to have been awarded both Beacon Status and an overall OFSTED grade 1 (Outstanding).[85]

Since the 1970s, most secondary schools in Birmingham have been 11-16/18 comprehensive schools, while post GCSE students have the choice of continuing their education in either a school's sixth form or at a further education college. Birmingham has always operated a primary school system of 5-7 infant and 7-11 junior schools.


Birmingham has played an important part in the history of sport. The Football League – one of the world's first league football competition – was founded by Birmingham resident and Aston Villa director William McGregor, who wrote to fellow club directors in 1888 proposing "that ten or twelve of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home-and-away fixtures each season".[86] The modern game of tennis was developed between 1859 and 1865 by Harry Gem and his friend Augurio Perera at Perera's house in Edgbaston,[87] with the Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Society remaining the oldest tennis club in the world.[88] The Birmingham and District Cricket League is the oldest cricket league in the world,[89] and Birmingham was the host for the first ever Cricket World Cup, a Women's Cricket World Cup in 1973.[90] Birmingham was the first city to be named National City of Sport by the Sports Council.[91]

Today the city is home of two of the country's oldest professional football teams: Aston Villa, who were founded in 1874 and play at Villa Park; and Birmingham City, who were founded in 1875 and play at St Andrew's. Rivalry between the clubs is fierce and the fixture between the two is called the Second City derby.[92] Aston Villa have won the fixture 50 times as opposed to Birmingham City's 38 wins. Both teams have won trophies, with Villa having been League champions on seven occasions and European Champions in 1982.

Six times County Championship winners Warwickshire County Cricket Club play at Edgbaston Cricket Ground, which also hosts test cricket and one day internationals. The venue was the scene of the highest ever score by a batsman in first-class cricket, when Brian Lara scored 501 not out for Warwickshire in 1994.[93]

International track and field meetings take place at Alexander Stadium, the home of Birchfield Harriers which has many international athletes amongst its members. The GMAC Gymnastics and Martial Arts Centre, alongside Alexander Stadium, opened in 2008 and houses an international standard gymnastics hall and three martial arts dojos, including the headquarters of the Aikido Fellowship of Great Britain. The National Indoor Arena (NIA), opened in 1991,[94] is a major indoor athletics venue, hosting the 2007 European Athletics Indoor Championships and 2003 IAAF World Indoor Championships as well as many WWE wrestling events.

ATP international tennis is still played at Edgbaston's Priory Club.[95] Birmingham also has a professional Rugby Union side, Moseley RFC, who play at Billesley Common, and there is professional basketball team, Birmingham Panthers, as well as professional boxing, hockey, skateboarding, stock-car racing, greyhound racing and speedway in the city.

Food & drink

The fruit and vegetable section of the Birmingham Wholesale Markets

Birmingham's development as a commercial town was originally based around its market for agricultural produce, established by royal charter in 1166. Despite the industrialisation of subsequent centuries this role has been retained, and the Birmingham Wholesale Markets remain the largest combined wholesale food markets in the country,[96] selling meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and flowers and supplying fresh produce to restaurateurs and independent retailers as far as 100 miles away.[97]

Birmingham is the only English city outside London to have three Michelin starred restaurants: Simpson's in Edgbaston, Turners in Harborne and Purnell's in the city centre.[98]

Birmingham based breweries included Ansells, Davenports and Mitchells & Butlers.[99] Aston Manor Brewery is currently the only brewery of any significant size. Many fine Victorian pubs and bars can still be found across the city. The oldest inn in Birmingham is the Old Crown in Deritend (circa 1450[citation needed]). The city has a plethora of nightclubs and bars, notably along Broad Street.[100]

The Wing Yip food empire first began in the city and now has its headquarters in the Nechells.[101] The Balti, a type of curry, was invented in the city, which has received much acclaim for the 'Balti Belt' or 'Balti Triangle'.[102] Famous food brands that originated in Birmingham include Typhoo tea, Bird's Custard, Cadbury's chocolate and HP Sauce.

Culture and arts


Black Sabbath, a pioneer band in heavy-metal music, was formed in Birmingham.

Birmingham has had a vibrant and varied musical history over the last century. Birmingham bands have made a major contribution to the musical culture of the United Kingdom, with many contemporary bands citing Birmingham bands as a major influence. In the 1960s, the "Brum Beat" era featured blues and early progressive rock bands, such as The Moody Blues. The city is often described as the birthplace of heavy metal music,[103] with Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Magnum and two members of Led Zeppelin being local. Then later on during the 80s bands such as Napalm Death, joined the Birmingham heavy metal scene. In the 1970s, members of The Move and The Idle Race formed the Electric Light Orchestra and Wizzard. The 1970s also saw the rise of reggae and ska in the city with such bands as Steel Pulse, UB40, Musical Youth and The Beat, expounding racial unity with politically leftist lyrics and multiracial lineups, mirroring social currents in Birmingham at that time. Seminal 1980s pop band Duran Duran are also from Birmingham.

Jazz has a following in the city, and the annual Birmingham International Jazz Festival is the largest of its kind in the UK.[104] Venues for the festival are also located out of Birmingham in Solihull. It was first held in 1984.[105]

The internationally-renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's home venue is Symphony Hall. There is a City Organist; since 1834 only seven men have held this position. The current holder, Thomas Trotter, has been in post since 1983.[106] Weekly recitals have been given since the organ in Birmingham Town Hall was opened[107] but are now held in St. Philip's Cathedral, until the Town Hall organ opens in October 2007, following restoration. The Birmingham Royal Ballet[108] resides in the city as does the world's oldest vocational dance school, Elmhurst School for Dance.[109]

The Birmingham Triennial Music Festivals took place from 1784 to 1912. Music was specially composed, conducted or performed by Mendelssohn, Gounod, Sullivan, Dvořák, Bantock and Edward Elgar, who wrote four of his most famous choral pieces for Birmingham. Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius had its début performance there in 1900. Composers born in the city include Albert William Ketèlbey and Andrew Glover.

Birmingham's other city-centre music venues include The National Indoor Arena, which was opened in 1991, 02 Academy on Bristol Street, which opened in September 2009 replacing the 02 Academy in Dale End, The CBSO Centre, opened in 1997, Barfly in Digbeth and the Adrian Boult Hall, which was built along with Paradise Forum and Birmingham Central Library, at Birmingham Conservatoire.

Among the many theatres in Birmingham, the largest are the Alexandra ("the Alex"), The Rep, the Hippodrome and the Old Rep. The Crescent Theatre and Old Joint Stock Theatre are other city centre theatres. Outside of the city centre are the Drum Arts Centre (on the site of the former Aston Hippodrome) and mac.[110] The Fierce! festival collaborates with The Rep to present an annual series of performances from local and national companies.

Literary figures associated with Birmingham include Samuel Johnson who stayed in Birmingham for a short period and was born in nearby Lichfield. The Birmingham Central Library holds some two thousand volumes of his work. Arthur Conan Doyle worked in the Aston area of Birmingham whilst poet Louis MacNeice lived in Birmingham for six years. American author Washington Irving produced several of his most famous literary works whilst staying in Birmingham such as Bracebridge Hall and The Humorists, A Medley which are based on Aston Hall. Other authors who were born in or have resided in Birmingham include David Lodge, Jonathan Coe and J. R. R. Tolkien, who is said to have been inspired by areas and buildings in the city. Influential poets associated with Birmingham include Roi Kwabena, who was the city's sixth poet laureate,[111] and Benjamin Zephaniah, who was born in the city.

Birmingham is the home of the UK's longest-established local science fiction group, launched in 1971 (although there were earlier incarnations in the 1940s and 1960s) and which organises the annual sf event Novacon.

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery has one of the largest collections of Pre-Raphaelite art in the world. Edward Burne-Jones was born in Birmingham, spent his first twenty years in the city, later becoming president of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists. The Barber Institute of Fine Arts was declared 'Gallery of the Year' by the 2004 Good Britain Guide.[112] The Ikon Gallery hosts displays of contemporary art, as does Eastside Projects. Notable local artists include David Cox, David Bomberg, Pogus Caesar, Keith Piper and Donald Rodney.OOM Gallery a photographic archive has collaborated with organisations such as Fazeley Studios Three White Walls and Kinetic AIU.

Birmingham's role as a manufacturing and printing centre has supported strong local traditions of graphic design and product design. Iconic works by Birmingham designers include the Baskerville font,[113] Ruskin Pottery,[114] the Acme Thunderer whistle,[115] the Art Deco branding of the Odeon Cinemas[116] and the Mini.[117]

Festivals and shows

Birmingham is home to many national, religious and spiritual festivals including a St. George's Day party. The Birmingham Tattoo is a long-standing military show. The Caribbean-style Birmingham International Carnival takes place in odd numbered years. Birmingham Pride takes place in the gay village and attracts up to 100,000 visitors each year. From 1997, the city hosted an annual arts festival ArtsFest, the largest free arts festival in the UK. In December 2006, the City Council announced that it would no longer hold Artsfest.[118] The city's largest single-day event is its St. Patrick's Day parade (Europe's second largest, after the one in Dublin).[119] Other multicultural events include the Bangla Mela and the Vaisakhi Mela. The Birmingham Heritage Festival is a Mardi Gras style event in August. Caribbean and African culture are celebrated with parades and street performances by buskers. Other festivals in the city include Moseley Folk Festival (since 2006), which takes place in Moseley private park and mixes new with established folk acts, the Birmingham International Jazz Festival, and the Birmingham Comedy Festival (since 2001), which has been headlined by such acts as Peter Kay, The Fast Show, Jimmy Carr, Lee Evans and Lenny Henry. The festivals, shows and other activities make Birmingham are part of Birmingham's 2026 vision, publicised by Be Birmingham (a Local Strategic Partnership to Birmingham) which aims to improve the range of public festivals and activities in the city[citation needed].


The Mailbox, headquarters of BBC Birmingham.

Birmingham has several major local newspapers – the daily Birmingham Mail and the weekly Birmingham Post and Sunday Mercury, all owned by the Trinity Mirror who also own What's On magazine, a fortnightly listings title which has been running for 30 years. Forward (formerly Birmingham Voice) is a freesheet produced by Birmingham City Council, which is distributed to homes in the city. Birmingham is also the hub for various national ethnic media and the base for two regional Metro editions (east and west Midlands). Birmingham has a long cinematic history. The Electric Cinema on Station Street is the oldest working cinema in the UK,[120] and Oscar Deutsch opened his first Odeon cinema in Perry Barr during the 1920s. Birmingham-born architect Harry Weedon collaborated with Oscar Deutsch to design over 300 cinemas across the country, most in the distinctive Art Deco style.[121] Star City is said to be Europe's largest leisure and cinema complex and is not far from the Britain's only permanent drive-in cinema; both are in Nechells. An IMAX cinema is located at Millennium Point in the Eastside.[122] Birmingham has also been the location for films including Felicia's Journey of 1999, which used locations in Birmingham that were used in Take Me High of 1973 to contrast the changes in the city.[123]

As well as being the location for television dramas, Birmingham is also a national hub for television broadcasting. The BBC has two facilities in the city. The Mailbox, in the city centre, is the location for the national headquarters of BBC English Regions,[124] the headquarters of BBC West Midlands and the BBC Birmingham network production centre, which were previously located at the Pebble Mill Studios in Edgbaston. The BBC Drama Village, based in Selly Oak, is a production facility specialising in television drama and in the newest UK soap opera and the only soap opera in the West Midlands region, Doctors what is the only daytime soap in the UK.[125] It was announced in October 2007 that BBC Birmingham was to lose 43 out of 2,500 jobs nationwide.

Central/ATV studios in Birmingham were the location for the recording of many programmes for ITV including Tiswas and Crossroads until the complex was closed.[126] When Central TV moved to its current Gas Street studios, it was also the main hub for CITV until CITV was moved to Manchester in 2004. All of ITV Central's output from Birmingham now consists of the West and East editions of the regional news programme Central Tonight.

The city is served by numerous national and regional radio stations, as well as local radio stations. These include 96.4 BRMB, Galaxy, Heart FM, Kerrang! 105.2, New Style Radio 98.7FM, Smooth Radio 105.7FM and BBC WM.[127] The Archers, the world's longest running radio soap, is recorded in Birmingham for BBC Radio 4.[128]


The proposed VTP200

Two major developments have regenerated two parts of the city in recent years. Brindleyplace is a major canalside development with restaurants and office buildings along with the National Sea Life Centre. The other development was the Bullring Shopping Centre, which replaced a previous shopping centre. The Mailbox, a canalside development, features designer stores as well as offices and apartments. The Cube, designed by MAKE Architects is a 17 storey mixed-use development which is under construction as part of the Mailbox masterplan. The National Indoor Arena is one of the busiest large scale sporting and entertainment venues in Europe. Outside of the city centre is Star City entertainment complex on the former site of Nechells Power Station.[129]

The nightlife in Birmingham is concentrated mainly along Broad Street and into Brindleyplace. However, in recent years, stylish clubs and bars have started to establish themselves outside the Broad Street area. The Medicine Bar in the Custard Factory, The Sanctuary, Rainbow Pub and Air are large clubs and bars in Digbeth. Near Digbeth, there are bars and club nights in areas such as the Arcadian and Hurst Street Gay Village by the Chinese Quarter. Summer Row, The Mailbox, and St Philips/Colmore Row – where once a month there is a party night held for Polish residents in Birmingham – and Jewellery Quarter also feature clubs. There are number of late night pubs in the Irish Quarter.[130]

Planning permission has been granted to build a fifty-metre Olympic sized swimming pool in Ladywood next to the NIA. The "Birmingham Aquatics and Leisure Centre" or "BALC" will cost £58 million and was originally planned to be completed in time for the 2012 Olympic Games in London so that the Chinese Swimming Team could use it for practice sessions, although due to budget constraints it will not be built in time.[131] Building work is unlikely to start any time soon despite planning permission being granted. The pool has been a source of heated debate with local residents due to its proximity to other large sporting venues.[132]


17 & 19 Newhall Street in Birmingham's characteristic Victorian red brick and terracotta

Birmingham is chiefly a product of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries; its growth began during the Industrial Revolution. Consequently, relatively few buildings survive from its earlier history, and those that do are protected. There are 1,946 listed buildings in Birmingham and thirteen scheduled ancient monuments.[133] Birmingham City Council also operate a locally listing scheme for buildings that do not fully meet the criteria for statutorily listed status.

Traces of medieval Birmingham can be seen in the oldest churches, notably the original parish church, St Martin in the Bull Ring. A few other buildings from the medieval and Tudor periods survive, among them the Lad in the Lane[134] and The Old Crown, the 15th century Saracen's Head public house and Old Grammar School in Kings Norton[135] and Blakesley Hall.

Selfridges, by architects Future Systems.

A number of Georgian buildings survive, including St Philip's Cathedral, Soho House, Perrott's Folly, the Town Hall and much of St Paul's Square. The Victorian era saw extensive building across the city. Major civic buildings such as the Victoria Law Courts (in characteristic red brick and terracotta), the Council House and the Museum & Art Gallery were constructed.[136] St Chad's Cathedral was the first Roman Catholic cathedral to be built in the UK since the Reformation.[137] Across the city, the need to house the industrial workers gave rise to miles of redbrick streets and terraces, many of back-to-back houses, some of which were later to become inner-city slums.[138]

Postwar redevelopment and anti-Victorianism resulted in the loss of dozens Victorian buildings like Birmingham New Street Station, and the old Central Library.[139] In inner-city areas too, much Victorian housing was redeveloped. Existing communities were relocated to tower block estates like Castle Vale.[140]

Birmingham City Council now has an extensive tower block demolition and renovation programme. There has been a lot of construction in the city centre in recent years, including the award-winning[141] Future Systems' Selfridges building in the Bullring Shopping Centre, the Brindleyplace regeneration project and the Millennium Point science and technology centre.

Highrise development has slowed since the 1970s and mainly in recent years due to enforcements imposed by the Civil Aviation Authority on the heights of buildings as they could affect aircraft from the International Airport, (e.g. Beetham Tower).[142]


Birmingham has many corridors of wildlife that lie in both informal settings such as the Kingfisher Project and Woodgate Valley Country Park and in a selection of parks such as Handsworth Park and Small Heath Park. Wildlife is nurtured in a good many gardens and helped along by Birmingham City Council's dedication to replanting street trees when they die or are removed. The City's horticultural training facility at King's Heath Park is paired up with Pershore College. More traditional environmental concerns are constantly raised by volunteer pressure group Birmingham Friends of the Earth. That group advocate gentler travel such as through local rail revival, walking and cycling, reduction in energy demand and waste generally, and see a great future for environmental technologies in the city.

Crime and policing

Digbeth Police Station

West Midlands Police serves Birmingham and the West Midlands county. The headquarters are located at Lloyd House in the city centre of Birmingham. Birmingham has been the location for many high profile incidents such as the 31 January 2007 Birmingham raid, New Year Murders, the 2005 Birmingham race riots and in 1974, the Birmingham pub bombings.

Crime figures for 2008/2009 (shown below) demonstrated that Birmingham was above the English average in most, but not all, fields. Of England's 'core cities' (Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, and Sheffield), Birmingham has the lowest crime rate.[143]

In an attempt to reduce crime in the city, a Crime and Disorder Partnership has been established in the city, the largest of its kind in the country.[144] The partnerships work in developing five neighbourhood based community safety projects in Birmingham was recognised when it was awarded first prize at the European Community Safety Awards in December 2004.[144] Crime rates are particularly high in areas such as Aston, Handsworth, Small Heath and Bordesley Green.[144]

Crime figures for 2008/2009 in Birmingham[145][146]
Crime Birmingham average
(per 1,000 of the population)
English average
(per 1,000 of the population)
Total recorded offences 94.92 86
Violence against a person 21.55 16
Sexual offences 1.24 1
Robbery offences 3.88 2
Burglary 12.19 11
Offences against vehicles 14.34 11
Other theft offences 15.24 20
Criminal damage 15.9 17
Drug offences 5.22 4

Notable residents

Birmingham has a number of notable residents from various walks of life. Joseph Chamberlain, who was once mayor of Birmingham and later became an MP, and his son Neville Chamberlain, who was lord mayor Birmingham and later the British Prime Minister, are two of the most well-known political figures who have lived in Birmingham. Politician Enoch Powell was also born in Birmingham attending King Edward's School. Author J. R. R. Tolkien was brought up in Birmingham with many locations in the city such as Moseley bog, Sarehole Mill and Perrott's Folly supposedly being the inspiration for various scenes in The Lord of the Rings. Writer W. H. Auden grew up in the Harborne area of the city. The American author Washington Irving lived in Birmingham during the 1820s and wrote both Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow whilst living in the city. Entertainers who were born or who have lived in Birmingham include comedians Sid Field, Tony Hancock, and Jasper Carrott and the actors Trevor Eve, Adrian Lester, Julie Walters and Martin Shaw. Birmingham has also produced a number of popular bands and musicians including Led Zeppelin, Electric Light Orchestra, UB40, Duran Duran, Steel Pulse, Ocean Colour Scene, Moody Blues, The Move, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Napalm Death, Musical Youth, and The Streets. Musicians Jeff Lynne, Ozzy Osbourne, Carl Palmer, John Lodge, Roy Wood, Joan Armatrading, Ruby Turner, Toyah Willcox, Denny Laine and Steve Winwood all grew up in the city. Other famous residents include the inventor of the steam engine James Watt; award winning political playwright David Edgar; and Booker Prize winning novelist David Lodge.

The 'Walk of Stars', was unveiled on Broad Street in July 2007 to honour the famous residents of Birmingham[147].

See also: Blue Plaques erected by the Birmingham Civic Society.

Science and invention

Birmingham has been the location for some of the most important inventions and scientific breakthroughs. Local inventions and notable firsts include: gas lighting, custard powder, Brylcreem, the magnetron, the first ever use of radiography in an operation,[148] Lewis Paul and John Wyatt's first cotton Roller Spinning machine and the UK's first ever hole-in-the-heart operation, at Birmingham Children's Hospital.[149]

Among the city's notable scientists and inventors are Matthew Boulton, proprietor of the Soho engineering works, Sir Francis Galton, originator of eugenics and important techniques in statistics, Joseph Priestley, chemist and radical and James Watt, engineer and inventor who is associated with the steam engine. Many of these scientists were members of the Lunar Society, which was based in the city.[150]

Twin cities

Birmingham has seven partner or sister cities[151]. They are:

There are also Treaties of Friendship between Birmingham and Guangzhou in China,[151][156] and between Birmingham and Mirpur in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan from where about 90,000 Birmingham citizens originate.[157]

Birmingham, Alabama, USA, is named after the city and shares an industrial kinship.[158]

See also



  • Gordon E. Cherry (1994). Birmingham A Study in Geography, History and Planning. ISBN 0-471-94900-0. 
  • Canon Doctor Terry Slater (1981). A History of Warwickshire. ISBN 0-85033-416-0. 
  • Johnathan Berg (1994). Positively Birmingham. ISBN 0-9523179-0-7. 
  • A. J. Gerard; Canon Doctor Terry Slater (1996). Managing a Conurbation: Birmingham and its Region. ISBN 1-85858-083-8. 


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  158. ^ "Birmingham, Alabama". BirminghamNet. Retrieved 7 June 2008. 

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Coordinates: 52°29′1″N 1°54′23″W / 52.48361°N 1.90639°W / 52.48361; -1.90639

1911 encyclopedia

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From LoveToKnow 1911

="">See Birmingham (disambiguation) for articles sharing the title Birmingham.

BIRMINGHAM, a city and a municipal, county, and parliamentary borough, the metropolis of one of the greatest industrial districts in England. Pop. (1901) 522,204, It lies in the northwest of Warwickshire, but its suburbs extend into Staffordshire on the north and west, and into Worcestershire on the south. It is 113 m. north-west from London by the London & NorthWestern railway, lying on the loop line between Rugby and Stafford; it is also served by the northern line of the Great Western, and by the north and west (Derby-Bristol) line of the Midland railway.

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Birmingham, built upon the New Red Sandstone, is situated in the valleys of the Rea and other small feeders of the river Tame, near their sources, and upon the rising ground between these valleys. The site is, therefore, boldly undulating, varying from 200 to 600 ft. above sea-level, steadily rising towards the north and west, while the well-marked line of the Lickey hills skirts the site on the south-west, extending thence south-eastward. From the high ground to the south-east Birmingham thus presents the appearance of a vast semicircular amphitheatre, the masses of houses broken by innumerable factory-chimneys; the whole scene conveying a remarkable impression of a community of untiring industrial activity. The area of the town is nearly 20 sq. m., the greatest length from north to south 7 m., and the greatest breadth about 4 m. Yet Birmingham is a fraction only of an industrial district, of which it forms the south-eastern extremity, which itself resembles one vast city, and embraces such famous manufacturing towns as Dudley, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Wednesbury and many others. This is the district commonly known as the "Black Country," which forms part of the South Staffordshire industrial district. Birmingham, however, does not lie actually within the "Black Country" properly so-called.

Streets and Buildings

The plan of the town, as dictated by the site, is irregular; the streets are mostly winding, and often somewhat narrow. In the centre are several fine thoroughfares, containing nearly all the most important buildings. New Street, Corporation Street and Colmore Row are the chief of these. At the western end of New Street is a fine group of buildings, including the council house and art gallery, the town hall and post office. The council house and art gallery, begun in 1874 and completed in 1881, is in Renaissance style, and the material is Darley Dale, Spinkwell and Wrexham stone. The entrance is surmounted with a pediment filled with groups of excellent sculpture. The erection of that part which forms the art gallery was the work of the gas committee, to whom the council granted the site on condition that they would build such a gallery over their own office, the council having no powers at the time to raise the required funds. The art gallery contains a fine collection of modern paintings, including masterpieces of David Cox, Millais, Hunt, Henry Moore, Albert Moore, Briton-Riviere and Burne-Jones. In the industrial hall are rich stores of Oriental metal work, Limoges enamel, English and foreign glass and Japanese ceramics. In the side galleries are various textiles, and Persian, Rhodian, Gres de Flandres and other pottery. There is a remarkable collection of Wedgwood. Notable also is the collection of arms, which is probably the most complete in existence. The purchase of pictures has been made from time to time by means of an art gallery purchase fund of f 12,000, privately contributed and placed under the control of the corporation. Many valuable works of art are the gift of individuals. In 1906 plans were obtained for additional municipal offices and another art gallery on a site on the opposite side of Edmund Street from the council house. The town hall, completed in 1850, is severely classic, modelled upon a Greek temple. The lower stage consists of a plinth or basement, 23 ft. high, upon which is reared a facade of peripteral character, with eight Corinthian columns (36 ft. high) at the two principal fronts, and thirteen columns on each side. These columns (imitated from those of the temple of Jupiter Stator at Rome) support a bold and enriched cornice, finished at each end with a lofty pediment and entablature. The exterior of the hall is built of Anglesea marble. The interior consists chiefly of a regularly-built room, designed specially for meetings and concerts, with an orchestra containing a fine organ. The hall seats upwards of 2000 persons, but when cleared of benches, as is the case at great political meetings, over 5000 may find standing room. The Midland Institute, adjacent to the town hall on the west, has a fine lecture theatre. To the south lie the post office, the inland revenue office and Queen's College. To the north is the Gothic building of Mason College, an institution merged in the university. The Central free library, adjoining the Midland Institute, was rebuilt in 1879, after a fire which destroyed the fine Shakespeare library, the Cervantes collection, and a large series of books on, and antiquities of, Warwickshire, known as the Staunton collection. The Shakespeare series was as far as possible replaced, and the whole forms one of the largest reference and lending libraries in England. Edmund Street and Colmore Row are fine thoroughfares running parallel in a north-easterly direction from either side of the council house; in the first the principal building is the school of art, in the second are several noteworthy private buildings. Both terminate at Snow Hill station, that of the Great Western railway. New Street station, that of the London & North Western and Midland railways, lies close to the street of that name, fronted by the Queen's hotel. The station is nearly a quarter of a mile in length. The roof of the older portion consists of a vast arch of glass and iron, carried on pillars on each side, and measuring 1100 f t. in length, 80 ft. in height, and 2 1 2 ft. in width in a single span. The building of the Royal Society of Artists fronts New Street itself with a fine classic portico; here are also the exchange (Gothic) and the grammar school of King Edward VI., a Perpendicular building dating from 1840, designed by Sir Charles Barry. Corporation Street was the outcome Of a great "Improvement scheme" initiated in 1875, with the object of clearing away a mass of insanitary property from the centre of the town and of constructing a main thoroughfare from the centre to the north-eastern outlet, starting from New Street, near the railway station to Bull Street, and thence continuing to the Aston Road. The scheme received parliamentary sanction in 1876, and was finished in 1882 at a cost of £1,520,657. This led to an almost total extinction of the residential quarter in the centre of the town. The finest building in this handsome street is the Victoria assize courts. The foundation stone was laid by Queen Victoria in 1887, after Birmingham had been created an assize district; the building was completed in 1891. There is a handsome entrance, and within is a great hall, 80 ft. by 40, with a series of stained-glass windows. The exterior is red, and highly ornamented in the style of the Renaissance.

Among other noteworthy buildings are the county court, education offices and military drill hall. Among a fine series of statues and monuments may be mentioned the statue of Nelson by Richard Westmacott, in the Bull Ring; those of Joseph Sturge, at the Five Ways, and of Thomas Attwood, the founder of the Political Union, in Stephenson Place, both by J. E. Thomas; James Watt, a singularly beautiful work, in Ratcliff Place, by Alexander Munro; Sir Robert Peel, in New Street, by Peter Hollins; Albert, prince consort, in the council house, by J. H. Foley; and Queen Victoria, by Thomas Woolner; Sir Rowland Hill, in the hall of the post office, by Matthew Noble; and Dr Priestley, in New Street, by F. J. Williamson. There is also a fountain behind the town hall, commemorative of the mayoralty of Mr Joseph Chamberlain, and flanked by statues of Sir Josiah Mason, and George Dawson, who took active part in the municipal reform movement previous to Mr Chamberlain's years of office. Sir Francis Chantrey's famous statue of James Watt is in a special chapel at Handsworth church.


The principal streets radiating from central Birmingham to the suburbs are served by electric tramways worked by the corporation, and also by motor omnibuses. The principal suburbs are as follows. Edgbaston and Harborne lie south-west of the centre of the city, being approached by Broad Street. These form a residential district principally inhabited by the richer classes, and owing to the enforcement of strict rules by the ground landlord, retain a remarkable semirural character, almost every house having a garden. Here, moreover, are Calthorpe Park, the botanical gardens, and the large private grounds attached to Edgbaston Hall, also the Warwickshire county cricket ground. To the south of Edgbaston, however, are the growing manufacturing districts of Selly Oak and Bourneville, and south of these, Northfield and King's Norton, in Worcestershire. The districts to the east of central Birmingham are Balsall Heath, Sparkbrook, Small Heath and Saltley. On the south-east is the residential suburb of Moseley, and on the east that of Yardley. Between Moseley and King's Heath to the south, is Highbury, the seat of Mr Joseph Chamberlain, whose active interest in the affairs of the town, both during his mayoralty (1873-1876) and at other times, was a principal factor in such works as the municipalization of the gas and water supply, the Corporation Street improvement, and the foundation of Birmingham University. On the east side the transition from town to country is clearly marked. This, however, is not the case on the west side, where the borough of Smethwick adjoins Birmingham, and the roads through West Bromwich and towards Oldbury and Dudley have the character of continuous streets. On this side are Soho and Handsworth, which gives name to a parliamentary division of Staffordshire. To the north lies Aston Manor, a municipal borough of itself, with Perry Bar beyond. To the north-east a populous district extends towards the town of Sutton Coldfield. Aston Hall is a fine Jacobean mansion standing in an extensive park. Aston Lower Grounds is an adjacent pleasure-ground. Besides these and the Edgbaston grounds the chief parks are Summersfield Park, towards Smethwick; Soho Park; Victoria Park, Handsworth; Adderley Park, towards Saltley; and Victoria Park, Small Heath. There is a race-course at Castle Bromwich, 3 m. east of the town.

Churches and Religion

Birmingham is not rich in ecclesiastical architecture. It became a bishopric under the Bishoprics of Southwark and Birmingham Act 1904, including the archdeaconry of Birmingham and the rural deanery of Handsworth, previously in the diocese of Worcester. Before 1821 it was in the diocese of Lichfield. There were formerly a religious house, the priory of St Thomas the Apostle, and a Gild of the Holy Cross, an association partly religious and partly charitable, having a chantry in the parish church. The possessions of the priory went to the crown at the dissolution, and the building was destroyed before the close of the 16th century. The lands of the Gild of the Holy Cross were granted by Edward VI. to trustees for the support of the free grammar school. Until 1715 there was but one parish church, St Martin's, a rectory, having the tithes of the entire parish of Birmingham. St Martin's was erected about the middle of the 13th century, but in the course of ages was so disfigured, internally and externally, as to present no traces, except in the tower and spire, of its former character. In 1853 the tower was found to be in a dangerous condition, and together with the spire was rebuilt. In 1873 the remaining part of the old church was removed without.disturbing the monuments, and a larger edifice was erected in its place. St. Philip's, a stately Italian structure, designed by Archer, a pupil of Wren, was the next church erected. It was consecrated in 1715, enlarged in 1884, and became the pro-cathedral on the foundation of the diocese. It contains a rich series of stained-glass windows by Burne-Jones. Then followed St Bartholomew's in 1749, St Mary's in 1774, St Paul's in 1779, St James's, Ashted, in 1791, and others. St Alban's is a good example of J. L. Pearson's work, and Edgbaston church is a picturesque Perpendicular structure.

Under the Commonwealth Birmingham was a stronghold of Puritanism. Clarendon speaks of it and the neighbourhood as "the most eminently corrupted of any in England." Baxter, on the other hand, commending the garrison of Coventry, says it contained "the most religious men of the parts round about, especially from Birmingham." The traditional reputation for Nonconformity is maintained by the town, all varieties of dissenters being numerous and influential. The Unitarians, the oldest body established here, have among their chapels a handsome structure in Bristol Road, the Old Meeting, which in 1885 replaced the building in which the congregation was formed on the Presbyterian model by a number of ministers ejected under the Act of Uniformity. Another chapel, the New Meeting, in Moor Street, is memorable as having been the place of Dr Joseph Priestley's ministerial labours from 1780 onwards. In 1862 the Unitarians removed from this place to a new Gothic edifice, called the church of the Messiah, in Broad Street, where they preserve a monument of Priestley, with a medallion portrait in profile, and an inscription written by Priestley's friend, Dr Parr. The first meeting-house of the Society of Friends dates from about 1690. Among Independent chapels, that of Carr's Lane had John Angell James and Robert William Dale as ministers. The Baptists first erected a chapel in Cannon Street in 1738. The Wesleyan Methodists were established in Birmingham by John Wesley himself in 1745, when he was roughly handled while preaching on Gosta Green. In 1903 a very fine central hall, with lofty tower, was opened by this body, in the style of the Renaissance, fronting upon Corporation, Ryder and Dalton streets. The Presbyterians have also places of worship, and the Jews have a synagogue. From the revolution of 1688 until 1789 the Roman Catholics had no place of worship here; but Birmingham is now a Roman Catholic bishopric. The cathedral of St Chad was built from the designs of A. W. Pugin. At Erdington, towards Sutton Coldfield, is a large Benedictine Abbey (1897) of the Beuron congregation, founded as a monastery in 1876; and in the vicinity, at Oscott, is St Mary's College, where the chapel is a fine example of Pugin's work. Cardinal Newman was superior of the Oratory of St Philip Neri from its foundation in 1851.


The government of the town resided originally in the high and low bailiffs, both officers chosen at the court of the lord of the manor, and acting as his deputies. The system was a loose one, but by degrees it became somewhat organized, and crown writs were addressed to the bailiffs. In 1832, when the town was enfranchised, they were made the returning officers. About the beginning of the 19th century, however, a more regular system was instituted, by an act creating a body of street commissioners, who acted for the parish of Birmingham, the hamlets outside its boundaries having similar boards of their own. The annoyance and difficulty caused by these bodies, thirteen in number, led to a demand for the incorporation of Birmingham as a borough; and a charter was accordingly granted by the crown in 1838, vesting the general government in a mayor, sixteen aldermen and forty-seven councillors. The powers of this body were, however, unusually restricted, the other local governing bodies remaining in existence. It was not until 1851 that an act of parliament was obtained, abolishing all governing authorities excepting the town council, and transferring all powers to this body. Another local act was obtained in 1862, and in 1883 these various acts were combined into the Birmingham Corporation Consolidation Act. In 1889 Birmingham was created a city, and a grant made of an official coat of arms carrying supporters. The title of lord mayor was conferred on the chief magistrate in 1897. The city council consists of eighteen aldermen and fifty-four councillors, selected from eighteen wards; it is divided into seventeen committees, most of which consist of eight members. The corporation is the largest employer of labour in the borough, and is also a large landowner.

The gas, electric and water supplies are in its hands. The gas supply was taken over in 1875, and the electric in 1900 for £420,000. The local sources of water-supply are the rivers Bourne and Blythe, the Plant Brook and the Perry Stream, and eight deep wells. These works can provide 20 million gallons daily in dry weather. A large area outside the city boundaries is supplied, and in 1891, the demand having risen to nearly 17 millions a day, new sources had to be considered, and it was determined to seek an entirely new supply in Wales. By an act of 1892 power was given to acquire the watershed of the rivers Elan and Claerwen, tributaries of the Wye, lying west of Rhyader in Wales, and to construct the necessary works, the capital authorized being £6,000,000. About £5,900,000 had been spent when, on the 2rst of July 1904, King Edward VII. formally opened the supply. Two reservoirs on the river Elan, formed by masonry dams from 98 to 128 ft. above the river-bed, were then completed, the construction of the three planned on the Claerwen being deferred until necessity should arise. Nearly a mile below the confluence of the rivers the great Caban Coch dam, 122 ft. high, and the same in thickness at the base, and 600 ft. long at the top, holds up the water for over 4 m. in the Elan, and over 2 in the Claerwen, having a capacity of 1500 million gallons.

A series of thirty filter beds is included in the original scheme; and the water travels 73.3 m. from the source to Birmingham by gravity alone with a fall of about 170 ft. The area of the gathering ground is 45,562 acres, the mean annual rainfall in the district being 63 in. The complete scheme provided water for fifty years in advance, and a maximum of 75 million gallons a day was taken into account, in addition to 27 million gallons for compensation water to the river. The part of the works opened in 1904 provided about 27 million gallons of supply daily to the city. The corporation is obliged by the act to supply towns within 15 m. of the line of the aqueduct. A village for the accommodation of workmen was established near the Caban Coch dam; and the corporation adopted a modified form of the Gothenburg system in respect of the supply of intoxicating liquors, permitting no publican to open a licensed house.

The administration of the poor-law is vested in a board of guardians of sixty members for the parish of Birmingham. The parish of Edgbaston (wholly within the borough) is in the poor-law union of King's Norton, and that part of the parish of Aston included in the borough is in the Aston Union. There are three workhouses - that for Birmingham parish, situated at Birmingham Heath, is capable of receiving over 2000 inmates. In 1882 a superintendent relieving officer was appointed, and a system of cross-visitation started for the purpose of checking abuses of outdoor relief. Workhouses, infirmaries and cottage homes are managed by the board, on which women first sat in 1880. The administration of justice was performed from 1838 to 1884 by a court of quarter sessions, with a recorder, and a court of petty sessions. In 1884 Birmingham was made an assize district of Warwickshire. In 1905 a special juvenile offenders' court was initiated. The borough gaol is at Winson Green towards Smethwick. The drainage system is managed by the Birmingham, Tame and Rea District drainage board, constituted in 1877, and consisting of members from the city council and from districts outside the municipal area.

Birmingham was enfranchised in 1832, when two representatives were assigned to it, and Thomas Attwood and Joshua Scholefield, leaders of the Political Union, were elected. In 1867 three members were assigned, and in 1885 the number was increased to seven, and a corresponding number of parliamentary divisions created, namely Bordesley, Central, East, Edgbaston, North, South and West. By the Provincial Local Government Board Act of 1891 four local board districts were added to the city of Birmingham for local government - Harborne (Staffordshire), Balsall Heath (Worcestershire), Saltley and the rural hamlet of Little Bromwich (Warwickshire). These districts were by the act declared to be in the county of Warwick, though still remaining in their respective counties for the exercise of freehold votes. By this act the boundaries of the city were made conterminous for parliamentary, municipal and school board purposes. The area is 12,639 acres.

The population of Birmingham in 1700 was about 15,000. In 1801 it was 73,000, and it increased rapidly through the century. In 1891 it was 478,113 and in 1901, 522,204.


The oldest educational institution is the grammar school of King Edward VI., founded in 1552 out of the lands of the Gild of the Holy Cross, then of the annual value of £2 1. The endowments now yield upwards of £37,000. The principal school included in the foundation is the boys' high school, held in the building in New Street. It has a classical and a modern side, and educates about 50o boys. Adjoining it, in a new building opened in 1896, is a large high school for girls, with 300 pupils. There are also on the foundation seven middle schools, called grammar schools, four for girls and three for boys, situated in different parts of the city, and containing about 1900 pupils altogether. The schools have numerous scholarships tenable at the schools as well as exhibitions to the universities and other places of higher education. Queen's College, founded in 1828 as a school of medicine, subsequently embraced other subjects, though in 1882 only the medical and theological departments were maintained. In 1882 a large part of the scientific teaching, hitherto done by special professors in Queen's College, was taken over by Mason College, and in 1892 the whole medical department was removed to the same institution under an order from the court of chancery. This change helped to advance the Birmingham medical school to a position of high repute. The theological students (Church of England) of Queen's College are few. The idea of developing Queen's College into a university had long existed. But it was destined to be realized in connexion with Mason College, founded by Sir Josiah Mason in 1870. Subsequent deeds (1874 and 1881) added Greek and Latin to the practical, mechanical and artistic curriculum of the original foundation, and provided that instruction may be given in all such other subjects as the trustees may from time to time judge necessary, while once in every fifteen years the provisions of the deed may be varied to meet changing needs - theology only being definitely excluded. In 1897 a new act was passed at the instance of the trustees, creating a court of 180 members, and removing the theological restriction. A measure of popular control is given through the appointment by the city council of five out of the eleven trustees. In 1898 a public meeting carried a resolution in favour of creating a university. It was estimated that a quarter of a million was needed to endow and equip a university on the scale proposed. Including 50,000 offered by Mr Andrew Carnegie, an equal amount from an anonymous donor, and the rest from local subscribers, in the autumn of 1899, 325,000 had been subscribed, and the privy council was at once petitioned for a charter, which was granted. The draft provided for the the incorporation of the university of Birmingham with faculties of science, arts, medicine and commerce, with power to grant degrees, and for its government by a court of governors (of which women may be members), a council and a senate. Mason College was merged in the university. The faculty of commerce constitutes a distinctive feature in the scheme of the university, the object being to bring its teaching into close touch with the industrial life of the city, the district and the kingdom. In 1905 Sir Edward Elgar (who resigned in 1908) became the first occupant of a chair of music, founded owing to the liberality of Mr Richard Peyton. From the same year great strides were made in the development of the scientific departments of the university. A site at Edgbaston was given by Lord Calthorpe, and the erection of a complete and costly set of buildings was undertaken.

The Municipal School of Art was formed by the transference to the corporation in 1885 of the then existing school of art and the society of arts, and by the erection of the building in Margaret Street, the site having already been given and a portion of the cost provided by private donors. There are one central school and two branch schools. Evening classes are also held in some of the provided schools. The Midland Institute, the building of which was founded in 1855, and enlarged subsequently, includes a general literary and an industrial department. A marked development took place in 1885, when, fresh room having been provided by the removal of the school of art hitherto held in the building, the industrial department was greatly enlarged, resulting in the creation of one of the best metallurgical schools in the kingdom. The Municipal Technical School was established in 1893 in the building of the Midland Institute, and in 1895 was housed in a fine building of its own, in Suffolk Street, whither the whole of the scientific teaching of the institute was transferred. It contains metallurgical and engineering workshops and laboratories, lecture theatres for the teaching of chemistry and physics, a women's department, and rooms for the teaching of machine drawing and building con struction. Among other educational foundations may be mentioned a number of industrial schools, reformatories and private schools of a good class.

The principal libraries are the Birmingham library, founded in 1798 by Dr Priestley, in a modern building, the Central free library, and other free libraries in different parts of the city, each with a lending department and a reading room.


The general hospital, the foundation of Dr Ash, an eminent local physician, was opened in 1779. The old building was replaced in 1897 by a splendid new one in St Mary's Square, costing £206,000. The Queen's hospital, Bath Row, the other large hospital of the town, was founded in 1840 by W. Sands Cox, F.R.S., an eminent local surgeon, who also founded the Queen's College as a medical school. The general dispensary, the officers of which visit patients at their own homes, relieves about 8000 yearly. The children's hospital (free) established in 1864 by Dr Heslop, has two establishments - for outpatients (a handsome Gothic building) in Steelhouse Lane, and an in-patient department in Broad Street. There is also a women's hospital (free) for the special diseases of women; a lying-in charity; special hospitals for diseases of the eye, the ear, bodily deformities, and the teeth; and a homoeopathic hospital. The parish of Birmingham maintains a large infirmary at the workhouse (Birmingham Heath), and a dispensary for out-patients in Paradise Street. The majority of the hospitals and dispensaries are free. Nearly all these medical charities depend upon subscriptions, donations, legacies and income from invested property. There are two public organizations for aiding the charities, both of which were begun in Birmingham. One is a simultaneous collection in October in churches and chapels, on the Sunday called Hospital Sunday, established in 1859; the other is the Saturday Hospital collection, made by the work-people in March, which was established in 1873. A musical festival is held triennially in aid of the general hospital. There is a sanatorium at Blackwell, near the Lickey Hill, 10 m. south of Birmingham, common to all the hospitals. Amongst the non-medical charities the principal are the blind institution and the deaf and dumb asylum, both at Edgbaston; and Sir Josiah Mason's orphanage at Erdington. There are also in the town numerous almhouses for aged persons, the chief of which are Lench's Trust, the James Charities, and the Licensed Victuallers' asylum. Besides the general benefit societies, such as the Oddfellows', Foresters', &c., which are strongly supported in Birmingham, the work-people have numerous clubs of a charitable kind, and there are several important local provident societies of a general character, with many thousand members.


From an early period Birmingham has been a seat of manufactures in metal. Hutton, the historian of the town, claims for it Saxon or even British antiquity in this respect, but without foundation. The first direct mention of Birmingham trades is to be found in Leland's Itinerary (1538). He writes: "I came through a pretty street as ever I entered into Bermingham towne. This street, as I remember, is called Dirtey (Deritend). In it dwell smiths and cutlers. There be many smithes in the towne that use to make knives and all manner of cutlery tooles, and many lorimers that make bittes, and a great many naylors, so that a great part of the towne is maintained by smithes, who have their iron and sea-cole out of Staffordshire." The cutlers no longer exist, this trade having gone to Sheffield; but the smiths remain, and the heavier cutting tools are still largely made here. The wide importance of Birmingham as a centre of manufactures began towards the close of the 17th century, one great source of it being the absolute freedom of the town, there being no gilds, companies or restrictions of any kind; besides which the easy access to cheap coal and iron indirectly helped the development. It is remarkable that two important trades, now located elsewhere, were first established here. Steel was made in Birmingham until 1797, but then ceased to be so for about seventy years, when an experiment in steel-making was made by a single firm. Cottonspinning was begun in Birmingham by John Wyatt, Lewis Paul and Thomas Warren as early as 1730; but the speculation was Univer. sity. abandoned before the end of the century. The great staple of Birmingham is metal-working in all its various forms. The chief variety is the brass-working trade. Iron-working, though largely carried on, is a much less important trade, works of this kind being chiefly established in the Staffordshire district. Jewelry, gold, silver and gilt come next to brass. The remarkable development of this branch of industry is demonstrated by the increase in the amount of gold and silver marked, as recorded by the Assay office - the figures of 48,123 oz. of gold and 84,323 oz. of silver in 1870 had been increased to 363,000 oz. of gold and nearly 3,000,000 oz. of silver by the end of the century. Then follow "small arms" of all kinds. Until 1906 a Royal Small Arms factory was maintained by the government at Sparkbrook, but it was then transferred to the Birmingham Small Arms Company, which had already extensive works in the district. Buttons, hooks and eyes, pins and other articles used for dress, constitute a large class of manufactures. Glass, especially table glass, is a renowned staple of the town. Screws, nails, &c., are made in enormous quantities; indeed, Birmingham has a monopoly of the English screw trade. Steel pens are also a specialty, the name best known in this connexion being that of Sir Josiah Mason. Electro-plating, first established in 1841 by the firm of Elkington, is one of the leading trades. Among other branches of manufacture are wire-drawing, bell founding, metal rolling, railway-carriage building (a large and important industry), the manufacture of cutting implements and tools of all kinds, die-sinking, papier-mache making and a variety of others. In 1897 there was a sudden development of cycle manufacturing, followed in 1899 by an almost equally sudden collapse, but this industry is maintained and accompanied by the manufacture of motor cars, tyres and accessories, for which Birmingham is one of the principal centres in Great Britain.

Birmingham may claim as her own the perfection of the steam engine, through the genius of James Watt and the courage of Matthew Boulton. The memory of the great Soho factory is one of the most precious heritages of the town, and Watt's own private workshop continues just as he left it, with no single article disturbed, carefully preserved in the garret of his house at Heathfield. The mention of Watt and of Soho recalls the memories of distinguished inventors and others who have been connected with Birmingham. Here John Baskerville, the printer, carried on his work. An institution called the Lunar Society, which met each month about the time of full moon, brought together a brilliant company - Watt, Boulton, Joseph Priestley, Josiah Wedgwood, Erasmus Darwin, Samuel Parr, Dr William Withering, Richard Lovel1Edgeworth, Sir Joseph Banks, Sir William Herschel, Dr Solander, John Roebuck, James Keir and many others. William Murdock, the inventor of gas, was a Soho man, and first used his invention to light the Soho factory at the peace of Amiens in 1802. The series of inventors is continued by the names of Gillott, Elkington, Chance, Mason and others. Thomas Rickman, the reviver and historian of Gothic architecture, practised as an architect in Birmingham. William Hutton, the antiquary and historian, carried on his bookselling business here. Many of the best engravers were Birmingham men, notably James Tibbitts Willmore and John Pye, the special translators of Turner's marvellous creations. Attwood, Joseph Parkes, John Bright and Joseph Chamberlain speak for Birmingham in the region of politics and statesmanship.

One of the most marked features of social life in Birmingham is the fact that contrasts in the distribution of wealth are less strongly marked than in most other great cities. The distance between the poorest and the richest is bridged over by a larger number of intermediate gradations. Colossal fortunes are few; on the other hand there is a numerous class of rich men. These, however, for the greater part are actually engaged in trade or manufactures, and hold their place in local life rather on account of industry pursued than of wealth possessed. The number of the leisured class, enjoying large incomes without participating in any local industry, is relatively small, but is said to be on the increase. There are many manufacturing companies, but great private firms are also numerous. In regard to labour conditions, the system of small masters holds its own in the manufactures of Birmingham, and shows no signs of extinction. One effect of this condition is that capital and labour are not brought into enmity, and consequently strikes and disputes are infrequent. As regards the condition of the working classes it may be noted that Birmingham was the birthplace of the freehold land and building societies, by which workmen are enabled on easy terms to acquire houses of their own. The risk of an overcrowded population is consequently minimized; the houses, moreover, are generally well situated as regards light and air, and many have small gardens. Among industrial communities where peculiar attention is paid to the housing of workmen and their families, that of Bourneville, occupied by the employes of Messrs Cadbury, chocolate manufacturers, is well known.


Owing to its rapid expansion, and the consequent newness of most of the public and other buildings, Birmingham is often supposed to be a modern town. It was, however, in existence as a community in the Saxon period. Proof of this was given in 1309 by William de Bermingham, then lord of the manor, who showed in a law-suit that his ancestors had a market in the place and levied tolls before the Conquest. Some authors have endeavoured to identify the town with the supposed Roman station called Bremenium, but this claim has long been abandoned as fabulous. A Roman road runs north and south across the site of the town, but no remains have been found other than a very few coins. The origin of the name is untraceable; the spelling itself has passed through about loo different forms. Dugdale, the historian of Warwickshire, adopts Bromwycham, and regards it as of Saxon derivation. Hutton, the historian of Birmingham, has the fanciful etymology of Brom (broom), wych (a descent), and ham (a home), making together the home on the hill by the heath.

In Domesday Book Birmingham is rated at four miles of land with half a mile of woods, the whole valued at £203. Two hundred years later the family of de Bermingham, the owners of the place, come into sight, one of them, William, being killed at the battle of Evesham, in 1265, fighting with Simon de Montfort and the barons against Henry III. The son of this William afterwards took part in the French war, and was made prisoner; his father's estates, forfeited by treason, were restored to him. Thenceforward the family engaged in various local and other offices, but seemingly abstained from politics. They held the place until 1527, when Edward de Bermingham was deprived of his property by means of John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, who trumped up a pretended charge of riot and robbery against him and procured Birmingham for himself. On the attainder of Dudley the manor passed to the crown, and was granted to Thomas Marrow, of Berkswell, from whom by marriage and descent it went to Christopher Musgrave, and finally, as regards the only valuable part - the market tolls - by purchase to the town itself. In the Wars of the Roses it does not seem that Birmingham took any part; but energy revived in the Civil War under Charles when the town sided actively with the Parliamentarians. In 1642, when Charles was marching from Shrewsbury to relieve Banbury, the Birmingham people seized part of his baggage, including much plate, money and wine, which they sent to the Parliamentary garrison at Warwick. Before the battle of Edgehill Charles rested for two nights at Aston Hall, near the town, as the guest of Sir Thomas Holte. The Birmingham people resented this by helping the Parliamentarians to cannonade the Hall and to levy a fine upon Sir Thomas Holte. They also supplied the Parliamentary army with 15,000 sword blades, refusing to make a single blade for the Royalists. These manifestations of hostility were avenged in April 1643 by Prince Rupert, who, with 2000 men and several pieces of artillery, attacked the town, planting his cannon on an eminence near Sparkbrook, still known as Camphill. The townspeople resisted, but were beaten, many persons being killed or wounded. Amongst the former was Lord Denbigh, one of the Royalist officers. Having captured the place, Prince Rupert allowed his troops to plunder it, to burn about eighty houses and to set their prisoners to ransom. He also levied a fine of £30,000, equal to at least ioo,000 of the present value of money. This bitter lesson kept Birmingham quiet during the rest of the Civil War, though the sympathies of the people with the Parliamentarians were unabated. In 1665 Birmingham suffered heavy losses by the plague, great numbers of dead being buried in the Pest Field, at Ladywood, then a lonely place far outside the town, but long since thickly covered with buildings. In 1688 the Revolution provoked a temporary outbreak of Protestant feeling. James II. had given timber from the royal forest of Needwood, near Burton, to build a Roman Catholic chapel and convent in a place still called Mass-house Lane. This edifice the mob promptly destroyed when James gave place to William and Mary. Rather more than a century of quiet prosperity ensued, and then occurred the serious and most lamentable outbreak of popular fury known as the Church and King riots of 1791. For some years there had been much political activity in Birmingham, the dissenters, particularly the Unitarians, being desirous of relief from the political and religious disabilities under which they laboured. The leader in these movements was the famous Dr Priestley, who kept up an active controversy with the local clergy and others, and thus drew upon himself and his co-religionists the hatred of the more violent members of the Church and Tory party. The smouldering fire broke out on the occasion of the French Revolution. On the 14th of July a dinner of Birmingham Liberals was held at the Royal hotel to celebrate the destruction of the Bastille. This was the signal of a popular outbreak. A Church and King mob, encouraged and organized by leaders of better station, who were too cowardly to show themselves, began an attack upon the Unitarians. Priestley was not present at the dinner, but his house at Fair Hill, Sparkbrook, was one of the first to be sacked and burnt - his library and laboratory, with all his manuscripts, the records of life-long scientific and philosophical inquiries, perishing in the flames. The house and library of Hutton the historian were also destroyed. The Unitarian chapel was burnt, and several houses belonging to members of the sect were sacked and burnt. The riot continued until a strong body of troops was marched into the town, but before their arrival damage to the amount of more than £60,000 had been done. Some of the rioters perished in the burning buildings, in the cellars of which they drank themselves into stupefaction. Others were tried and imprisoned, and four of the prisoners were hanged. The persecuted Unitarians recovered a small part of their losses from the county; but Priestley himself, owing in a great measure to the unworthy prejudice against him, was forced to remove to the United States of America, where he spent the rest of his life. A late atonement was made by the town to his memory in 1873, by the erection of a statue in his honour in front of the town hall and the foundation of a Priestley scholarship at the Midland Institute.

As if ashamed of the excesses of 1791, Birmingham thenceforth became, with one or two exceptions, a peaceful town. In the dismal period from 1817 to 1819, when the manufacturing districts were heavily distressed and were disturbed by riots, Birmingham remained quiet. Even when some of the inhabitants were tried and punished for demanding parliamentary representation, and for electing Sir Charles Wolseley as their delegate, there was no demonstration of violence - the wise counsels of the leaders inducing orderly submission to the law. The same prudent course was observed when in the Reform agitation of 1831-1832 the Political Union was formed, under the leadership of Thomas Attwood, to promote the passing of the Reform Bill. Almost the whole town, and great part of the surrounding district, joined in this agitation; vast meetings were held on Newhall Hill; there was much talk of marching upon London oo,000 strong; but, owing to the firmness and statesmanship of Attwood and his associates, there was no rioting or any sign of violence. Ultimately the Political Union succeeded in its object, and Birmingham helped to secure for the nation the enfranchisement of the middle classes and other political reforms. One exception to the tranquillity of the town has to be recorded - the occurrence of riots in 1839, during the Chartist agitation. Chartism took a strong hold in Birmingham, and, under the influence of Feargus O'Connor and some of his associates, nightly meetings of a threatening character were held in the Bull Ring. The magistrates resolved to put these down, and having obtained the help of a detachment of the metropolitan police - the town then having no local police force - a meeting was dispersed, and a riot ensued, which resulted in injury to several persons and required military force to suppress it. This happened on the 4th of July. On the i 5th of the same month another meeting took place, and the mob, strongly armed and numbering many thousands, set fire to several houses in the Bull Ring, some of which were burned to the ground and others were greatly damaged. The military again interfered, and order was restored, several of the ringleaders being afterwards tried and imprisoned for their share in the disturbance. There was another riot in 1867, caused by the ferocious attacks of a lecturer named Murphy upon the Roman Catholics, which led to the sacking of a street chiefly inhabited by Irishmen; but the incident was comparatively trivial and further disorders were prevented by the prompt action of the authorities.

See W. Hutton, History of Birmingham (2nd ed., Birm., 1783); J. A. Langford, A Century of Birmingham Life, 1741-1841 (Birm., 1868), and Modern Birmingham and its Institutions, 1841-1871 (Birm., 1873); J. T. Bunce, History of the Corporation of Birmingham (Birm., 1885).

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