1902 Encyclopedia > Birmingham, England

Birmingham, England

BIRMINGHAM, the fourth town in size and population in England, and the fifth in the United Kingdom, is situated at the extreme north-west of the county of Warwick, in 52° 59' N. lat. and 1° 18' W. long. It is 102 miles in 8 straight line N.W. of London, from which it is distant 112 miles by the North-Western Railway. The Roman Road, known as the Ikenield Street, runs through the town. On the north Birmingham touches Staffordshire, and on the south and west Worcestershire, the suburbs of the town extending largely into both these counties—Har-borne and Handsworth being in the former and Balsall.

Moseley, and Yardley in the latter. The borough itself, however—both parliamentary and municipal, the bound-aries being identical—is wholly in the county of Warwick. It covers an area of 8420 acres (of which 5900 are built upon), and includes the whole of the parishes of Birming-ham and Edgbaston, and about one-third of the parish of Aston. It is nearly 6 miles long, has an average breadth of 3 miles, is 21 miles in circumference, and has 190 miles of streets and roads. The population, at the census of 1871, was 343,000; and in June 1875 it was estimated by the registrar-general at 360,000. Birmingham was enfranchised by the Reform Act of 1832, when two repre-sentatives were assigned to it—and Mr Thomas Attwood and Mr Joshua Scholefield (leaders of the Political Union) were elected; by the Reform Act of 1867 this number was raised to three. A grant of incorporation was made to the town in 1838, when the first municipal council was elected. In 1870 a School Board of fifteen members was elected, under the Elementary Education Act passed in that year.
The town is built upon the New Red Sandstone, on a boldly undulated site, varying from 200 to 600 feet above the sea-level, steadily rising towards the north and west, so that when looked at from the heights on the south-east side it presents the appearance of a vast semicircle, pic-turesquely disposed, the masses of houses being broken by spires and lofty chimneys, and the south and west sides being thickly wooded on the slopes. The plan of the town is irregular, and the streets are mostly winding, and many of them somewhat narrow. In the centre, however, is a large open space, known as the Bull Ring and High

Street, at the foot of which stands the mother church of St Martin, and in which is situated the Market-Hall, one of the largest buildings of its kind in the kingdom. From this centre access is obtained to the principal streets, New Street and High Street; the former, about a quarter of a mile in length, derives a most picturesque appearance from its slightly curved form, and from the effective manner in which the sky-line is broken by lofty buildings alternating with others of lower altitude. This street contains the Exchange, the Grammar School, the Theatre Royal, the rooms of the Royal Society of Artists, which have a fine Corin-thian portico stretching across the pavement. At the upper end of the street is the Town-Hall, and close to this are the corporate buildings and the Post-Office. The last quarter of a century has seen a great advancement in the style and accommodation of the public and commercial edifices ; streets have been widened and new roads opened, and the place has altogether put on a livelier and wealthier look Excepting in some of the older and poorer districts, the private houses have undergone a corresponding im-provement. The richer classes live chiefly in the parish of Edgbaston, which belongs almost entirely to Lord Calthorpe, and in which, strict rules as to the description, position, and area of the houses are enforced. The streets inhabited by the working-classes are, of course, more crowded, and many of the houses are built in enclosed courts, access to which is gained from the street, either by openings between the houses, or by narrow entries, too commonly built over, and thus impeding the free passage of air. Many of the courts, however, are wide enough to allow of small gardens in front of the houses, while in the suburbs almost every house is provided with a garden of some kind; and in a considerable number of cases the houses, through means of building societies, have become

the property of the workmen themselves. The habit exists among all classes of each family (with rare exceptions) occupying a separate house, a practice which greatly affects the area of the town Thus, to a population of 360.000 there are about 76,000 inhabited houses, giving an average of five persons to a house. Birmingham is a town of rapid growth. In 1700 the population was about 15.000. A century later, at the census of 1801, it had increased to 73,000 In the next thirty years the popu-lation doubled, being 147,000 in 1831. The same pro-cess was repeated in the following term of thirty years, the population in 1861 being 296,000. Between 1861 and 1871 the increase was 47,000, and the returns of the registrar-general show that the same rate of progress is still going on It is, however, likely to be checked by the increasing value of land within the borough, by the absorp-tion of available sites for building, and by the consequent overflow of population into the suburbs. If these, inhabited solely by borough people,are takeninto account, the real popu-lation at present is probably not far short of half a million.
Government.—The government of the town resided originally m 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 becamo 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 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 Under this Act, and another local Act obtained in 1862, the affairs of the town are now administered, the whole municipal government being in the hands of the Town Council. The importance of the duties discharged by the Council may be inferred from the fact that it has under its control nearly 200 miles of street and road, that it has a police force of nearly 500 men, and that its revenue, derived from tolls and rates, amounts to about £300,000 a year. These responsibilities have been increased by the purchase in 1875 of the gas and water-works (the latter with a daily supply of 17,000,000 gallons), the two purchases making a cost of more than £3,000,000. The growth of the revenue and expenditure of the town, its rateable value, and its ordinary debt, ex-cluding the gas and water-works, will be seen from the following tabular statement:—

Tear. Amount of Assessment to the liorouga Ratt. Total Amou.it of Rate in tub £ Incoino Expenditure. Balance of Public Debt.

1854 1859 1864 1869 1874 £
645,349 824,869 920,191 1,052,796 1,254,911 1. d.
3 5 3 i 3 8 3 2 3 10| £
120,237 157,121 187,620 195,155 289,655 £
131,723 136,987 185,537 199,950 271,807 366^95 467,002 638,303 588,449 664,959 J
N.B.—The amount of property possessed by the Corporation on 31st December 1874, taken at its original cost, was £1,259,047.

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 pa-rish, situated at Birmingham Heath, is capable of receiving over 2000 inmates.
In the week ending June 19, 1875, there .
i ii . IT. _ V /o i j- Arms of Birmingham, were chargeable to the parish (including
lunatics and persons receiving outdoor relief) 6949 paupers, a very small number in proportion to population.
Birmingham has a grant of quarter sessions, with a recorder, and petty sessions are held daily at the Sessions Court, in Moor Street, before a stipendiary magistrate, and a bench of borough justices. The justices for the borough and Aston division of Warwickshire also sit here occasionally. The borough justices have charge of the administration of the gaoL The town is the head of a county court district, and is the seat of the probate regis-try for Warwickshire.
Religious Denominations, Buildings, etc.—Until the year 1821 Birmingham was in the diocese of Lichfield and Coventry; it is now in the diocese of Worcester and archdeaconry of Coventry, and is a rural deanery. There was formerly a religious house, the priory of St Thomas the Apostle, and a Guild of the Holy Cross, an associa-tion 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 Guild of the Holy Cross were granted by Edward VI. to trustees for the support of a free gram-mar school; they are now of the value of nearly £15,000 a year. Until 1715 there was but one parish church, St Martin's, a rectory, having the tithes of the entire pal ish 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 new and larger edifice was erected in its place, at a cost of nearly £30,000. The new church constitutes the chief ecclesiastical edifice in Birmingham, and indeed the handsomest structure in the town. St Philip's, a stately Italian structure, designed by Archer, a pupil of Wren, was the next church erected. It was consecrated in 1715. 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, which need not be mentioned, followed in due course. At present the mother parish is divided into five rectories, and there are within the borough, including those mentioned, 42 churches (each having an ecclesiastical district assigned to it) of the Church of England, most of these having schools and missions attached to them.
Under the Commonwealth Birmingham wes a stronghold of Puri-tanism. Clarendon speaks of it and the neighbourhood as "the most eminently corrupted of any in England." Baxter, on the oilier 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 main-tained by the town, all varieties of dissenters being numerous and influential.
The Unitarians, the oldest body established here, have six chapels. One of these, the Old Meeting, is historically interesting, the congregation having been formed on the Presbyterian model by a number of ministers ejected under the Act of Uniformity. Another chapel, the New Meeting, in Moor Street (now occupied by the Roman Catholics), is memorable as having been the place of Dr Priestley's ministerial labours. In 1862 the Unitarians removed from this place to a new Gothic edifice, called the Church of the Messiah, in Broad Street, where they still preserve a monument of Priestley, with a medallion portrait in profile, and an inscription written by Priestley's friend, Dr Parr. The Society of Friends, whose first meeting-house dates from about 1690, have now three places of meeting. The Independents have now eleven chapels, several of them large and flourishing. The Baptists first erected a chapel in Cannon Street in 1738. They have now 16; one of them, Wycliffe Chapel, Bristol Iioad, is a singularly handsome structure of 14th century Gothic. The Wesley an Methodists were established in Birmingham by John Wesley himself in 1745, when he was roughly handled while preaching on Gosta Green. For some years they

worshipped in temporary premises. They have now 17 places of worship ; and the other divisions of the Methodist body have 24 in the aggregate. The Presbyterians possess 5 places of worship, and the Jews have a handsome synagogue. The Roman Catholics have paid special attention to Birmingham. From the Revolution of 1688 until 1789 they had no place of worship here. They now have a bishop (who assumes a title from the town), a cathedral, and 9 other churches or chapels, a cemetery, and other establish-ments in the suburbs, including several religious houses, including the Oratory, founded by Dr Newman. The principal edifice is the cathedral of St Chad, built from the designs of Mr Pugin, at a cost of more than £30,000.
The religious institutions and societies in Birmingham are very numerous, and with these are associated many establishments of a benevolent character, such as almshouses, asylums, refuges, societies for the aid of discharged prisoners, and for the promotion of religious education in Board schools, training institutions for nurses and servants, and others of various kinds, in the management of which persons of different religious opinions are commonly found working together in friendly association.
Charities.—These are numerous. The principal is the General Hospital, Summer Laue, opened in 1779 ; it was founded by Dr Ash, an eminent local physician. The yearly average of in-patients is about 2300, of out-patients, 25,000. The Queen's Hospital, Bath Row, the other large hospital of the town, was founded in 1840 by Mr \V. Sands Cox, F.R.S., an eminent local surgeon, who also founded the Queen's College as a medical school. This hospital receives annually about 1300 in-patients and 17,000 out-patients. The General Dispensary, the ollicers of which visit patients at their own homes, relieves about 8000 yearly. The Children's Hospital (free), established in 1864 by Dr Heslop, relieves about 15,000 out and 1000 in-patients. It has two establishments—for out-patients (a very 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 deformi-ties, and the teeth ; and a homoeopathic hospital. The parish of Birmingham maintains a large infirmary at the workhouse (Birming-ham Heath), and a dispensary for out-patients in Paradise Street.
Nearly all these medical charities depend upon subscriptions, donations, legacies, and income from invested property ; and the sum raised in this way is probably nearly £30,000 a year. 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, called the Hospital Sunday, estab-lished in 1859, and now yielding over £5000 a year ; the other is the Saturday Hospital collection, made by the work-people in March, which was established in 1873, and yields about £4000.
There is also a Sanatorium at Blackwell, near the Lickey Hill, about 10 miles distant, 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, which receives 300 orphan children, and was built and endowed at the cost of about £259,000 solely by Sir Josiah Mason, a Birmingham peumaker. There are also in the town numerous almshouses for aged persons, the chief of which are Lench's Trust, the James Charities, the Licensed Victuallers' Asylum. Besides the general benelit 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.
Education.—The oldest and principal institution is the Grammar School of King Edward the Sixth, founded in 1552, out of the lands of the Guild of the Holy Cross, then of the annual value of £21, but now yielding about £15,000 a year, with a prospect of large increase. The principal or high school, in New Street, was erected in 1840, in the Perpendicular period of the Gothic style, from designs by Sir Charles Barry, at a cost, including land, of £71,000. This school is divided into two departments, classical and English, and educates about 600 boys; while connected with it there are four elementary schools for boys and girls, used chiefly by the lower middle class, the number of pupils being 1500. The classical school has ten exhibitions of £50 each, tenable at Oxford or Cambridge. The next most important foundation is that of the Midland Institute, which includes a general literary department (lectures, museums, and reading-rooms), and an industrial depart-ment, with classes in science, languages, mathematics, arithmetic, history, literature, and the laws of health. There are about 600 science students, and about 1600 in the other departments. The Queen's College, originally a school of medicine, founded in 1828, obtained a royal charter in 1843 as a kind of university, with departments of literature, theology, law, science, and engineering. All these branches have now fallen into disuse, excepting medicine and theology; in the latter the college educates candidates for the ministry of the Church of England. An important foundation is Sir Josiah Mason's Scientific College, for the endowment of which Sir Josiah has con-veyed to trustees property valued at nearly £100,000, and a capacious building, estimated to cost probably £40,000, is now in erection in Edmund Street, near the Town-Hall. Among the other educational foundations may be men-tioned Spring Hill College, Moseley, for the education of Congregational ministers; four industrial schools ; a large reformatory for boys at Saltley, and one for girls at Smeth-wick. For general education there are many private schools, of a good class, for boys and girls. Elementary education is provided in the Church of England day schools, Roman Catholic schools, and Board schools. A. total pro-vision, in all the public elementary schools, is made for 41,791 children; there are (July 1875) 51,334 on the books, with an average attendance for the previous quarter of 37,894. The School Board, though it was elected only in 1870, has, by the provision of new schools, and the exercise of compulsory powers, more than doubled the school attendance. It has already built and opened 9 schools, with accommodation for'8800 children, at a cost, for land and buildings, of about £86,000 ; and 8 other schools are now in progress, providing accommodation for 7400 children, at an estimated cost of about £103,000— making a total expenditure of nearly £200,000, and pro-vision for a total of about 16,000 children.
Libraries, <kc.—The principal libraries of the town are the Birmingham Library (belonging to a body of proprietors), founded in 1798 by Dr Priestley, and containing about 40,000 volumes, and the Corporation Free Libraries, in Ratcliff Place, commenced in 1861. These consist of a central reference library and lending library (the former containing 36,000 volumes of carefully chosen books), to which is attached a central reading-room. There are also four lending libraries and news-rooms in other parts of the town, and news-rooms are about to be opened by the Corporation in connection with the Board schools. The total issue of books from the libraries for 1874 was 521,991. Included in the reference library are a special Shakespeare library, containing almost all known editions of the plays and of works illustrating them; a library of nearly 1000 volumes, illustrating the works of Cervantes (presented by Mr W. Bragge of Sheffield); and a large and unique collection of Warwickshire books and anti-quities, known as the Staunton collection. An A rt Gallery and Industrial Museum is attached to the Free Libraries ; and there is at Aston Hall another museum of natural history, &c, belonging to the Corporation. Art instruc-tion is provided by the Royal Society of Artists, which has classes and lectures for students, and which holds two general exhibitions annually; and by the School of Art, which has 900 students, together with affiliated classes ID schools, containing nearly 1700 students.
Miscellaneous Institutions, Parks, &c.—These include 8 banks, 4 principal clubs—the Union, the Midland, the Arts, and the Conservative—to which a Liberal Club is about to be added. There are 3 morning and 2 evening daily papers—4 of them Liberal and 1 Conservative - and 2 weekly papers. There are 2 theatres, 2 large music-halls, and several smaller ones. Musical festivals for the benefit of the General Hospital are held triennially, and are usually marked by the production of new and important works, and by the engagement of most of the leading

vocalists and instrumental performers. There are 5 parks and pleasure grounds belonging to the Corporation— Aston Park and Hall, 45 acres; Calthorpe Park, about 35 acres; Cannon Hill Park, 65 acres; and Adderley and Highgate Parks, each about 12 acres. Beside these there are numerous pleasure-grounds—the Botanical Gardens, Edgbaston, open to subscribers, and the Lower Grounds, a beautiful series of gardens at Aston, in which important dower shows are periodically held. Sutton Park, about 8 miles distant, and including about 3000 acres, is also much used by the Birmingham people. The Corporation has several sets of baths and wash-houses in various parts of the town. There are several extensive cemeteries.
Public Buildings.—Of these the Town-Hall, a nobly-proportioned and impressive edifice, is the principal. It stands at the top of New Street, and on three sides is isolated from all other buildings by broad and handsome streets. The hall, completed in 1850 at a total cost of £-52,000, is severely classic, modelled upon a Greek temple. The lower stage consists of a vast plinth or basement, 2 3 feet high, upon which is reared a fayade of peripteral character, with 8 Corinthian columns (36 feet high) at the two principal fronts, and 13 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 pedi-ment 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 one of the finest organs in the kingdom. The seats are arranged for an audience of 2265 persons, but when cleared of benches, as is the case at great political meetings, 5000 persons may find standing room. On one side of the Town-Hall are the buildings of the Midland Institute and the Free Libraries (of Italian design), occupying the whole of Ratcliff Place, with fronts to Paradise Street and Edmund Street. A new Art Gallery is in course of erection, front-ing the latter street. At the back of the Town-Hall is the site of the new building oi the Mason College (Gothic), and in front of the hall, in Paradise Street, are Christ Church (classic), the Queen's College (Gothic), and the Post-Office. On the side of the hall in Ann Street, opposite to the Midland Institute, are the new Corporate Buildings (Italian), now being erected at a cost of nearly £200,000. These will give accommodation for the Town Council, law courts, public offices, and the mayor of the borough. Lower down New Street is the building of the Royal Society of Artists (classic), with a noble portico; then comes the Exchange (Gothic) in Stephenson Place; and at the bottom of the latter street is the Central Railway station, used by the North-Western, the Midland, and their branch railways, and fronted by the Queen's Hotel. The station is more than a quarter of a mile in length. The roof, a magnificent specimen of engineering, consists of a vast arch of glass and iron, carried on pillars on each side, and measuring 1100 feet in length, 80 feet in height, and 212 feet in width in a single span. The glass in the roof weighs 115 ton3, and the iron-work 1400 tons. Below the station, in New Street, is the Grammar School; and in High Street, close at hand, is the Market-Hall, a magni-ficent classic building, erected in 1833 at a cost of nearly £70,000, with an area of 4380 square yards, and affording room for 600 stalls. Amongst the other public buildings are the Borough Gaol at Winson Green, with 467 cells, arranged on the separate system ; near this the Lunatic Asylum, with accommodation for 600 patients ; and close at hand the workhouse, which receives about 2000 inmates. The General and Queen's Hospitals are also handsome buildings, the latter especially so, it being remarkable for a very noble out-patient hall. Thi3 and the out-patient hall at the Children's Hospital in Steelhouse Lane (Gothic) are perhaps the finest rooms of their kind in the kingdom.
Birmingham had till very recently only one public monu-ment, the statue of Nelson, by Westmacott, in High Street; but several others have been erected—namely, those of Joseph Sturge, at the Five Ways, and of Thomas Attwood, the founder of the Political Union, in Stephenson Place, both of them by the late Mr Thomas; James Watt, a singularly beautiful work, in Ratcliff Place, by the late Mr Munro j Sir Robert Peel, in New Street, by Mr P. Hollin-i; the late Prince-Consort, in the Art Gallery, by Mr Foley; Sir Rowland Hill, in the hall of the Post-Office, by Mr Noble; and Dr Priestley, in New Street, by Mr F. J. Wil-liamson. Chantrey's famous statue of James Watt is in a special chapel at Handsworth church.
Manufactures.—From an early period Birmingham ha,s been a seat of manufactures in metal. Hutton, the his-torian of the town, claims for it Saxon or even British antiquity in this respect, but without the shadow of founda-tion. The first or 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 toóles, 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 well-ascertained 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 guilds, 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, and was then disused for quite 70 years, when an experiment in steel-making (still carried on) was made by a single firm. Cotton-spinning was begun in Birmingham by John Wyatt, and Lewis Paul, and Thomas Warren as early as 1730; but the speculation was 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, which employs several hundred masters, and about 10,000 work-people, and consumes probably 50,000 tons of metal annually, which is worked up into an infinity of articles of ornament and utility. Iron-working, though largely carried on, is a much less important trade, works of this kind being chiefly established in the Staffordshire district. Jewellery, gold, silver, and gilt come next to brass. Then follow small arms of all kinds, some of the larger establishments being capable of turning out 2000 stand per week. Buttons, hooks and eyes, pins, and other articles used for dress, constitute a large class of manufac-tures. 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—as much as, probably, 15 tons or more of steel being the weekly consumption of these articles ; the largest maker, Sir Josiah Masou, rolls 5 tons weekly for his own con-sumption, and has about 60 tons of Dens constantly in manufacture in various stages. About 20,000,000 pens are made weekly in the town, and are sold at prices rang-ing from 1 Jd. to 12s. per gross of 12 dozen. The fact that each gross requires 144 pieces of steel to go through

12 different processes, renders this cheapness of sale one of the greatest marvels of manufacturing skill and industry. Electro-plating, first established about 1848 by Messrs Elkington and Mason, is one of the leading trades. Amongst other branches of manufacture are wire-drawing, bell founding, metal rolling, railway carriage building (a large and important industry), steel-toy making (including cut-ting implements and tools of all kinds), die-sinking, papier-mache making, and a variety of others, for which refer-ence may be made to a volume entitled Birmingham, and the Midland Hardware District, prepared on the visit of the British Association in 1865, and extending tc more than 700 pages. It is impossible, indeed, in smallei com-pass to give an adequate idea of the variety and extent of Birmingham industry. To quote a modern writer:— .
"We cannot move without finding traces of the great hive of metal-makers—the veritable descendants of Tubal-cain. At home or abroad, sleeping or waking, walking or riding, in a carriage or upon a railway or steamboat, we cannot escape reminiscences of Birmingham. She haunts us from the cradle to the grave. She supplies us with the spoon that first brings our infant Hps into acquaintance with ' pap,' and she provides the dismal ' furniture ' which is affixed to our coffins. In her turn Birmingham lays the whole world under contribution for her materials. For her smiths, and metal workers, and jewellers, wherever nature has deposited stores of useful or precious metals, or has hidden glittering gems, there industrious miners are busily digging. Divers collect for her button makers millions of rare and costly shells. For her, adven-turous hunters rifle the buffalo of his wide-spreading horns, and the elephant of bis ivory tusks. There is scarcely a product of any country or any climate that she does not gladly receive, and in return stamps with a richer value."
These labours Birmingham performs with the aid of many thousands of willing hands, moved by busy and ingenious brains, and aided by her own great invention, the steam-engine; for by the genius of Watt and the intrepid courage of Boulton, Birmingham may claim the perfection of this discovery as her own. The memory of the great Soho factory is one of the most precious heritages of the town, and the name remains, for though the old factory has long since disappeared, the firm of Boulton and Watt still con-tinue to make steam-engines in the immediate neighbour-hood ; and James 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 con-nected with Birmingham Johnson was a frequent visitor here to his friend Hector, the surgeon, on whose house in the Old Square a tablet (erected by the Shakespeare Club) bears witness to the residence of the great moralist. Then Baskerville, the printer, carried on his work here. The famous Lunar Society, fully described by Mr Smiles in his Lives of the Engineers, brought together a brilliant company—Watt, Boulton, Priestley, Josiah Wedgwood, Darwin, Parr, Withering, Edgeworth, Sir Joseph Banks, Herschel, Dr Solander, Fothergill, Roebuck, Galton, Keir, and many others. Murdoch, 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. Rickman, the reviver and historian of Gothic architecture, practised as an architect in Birmingham. Hutton, the antiquary and historian, carried on his bookselling business here. Many of the best engravers were Birmingham men, notably Willmore and Pye, the special translators of Turner's marvellous creations. In the ranks of landscape painters the name of David Cox will ever confer honour upon the town. Attwood, Joseph Parkes, and Bright speak for it in the region of politics and statesmanship. The series of inventors is continued to our own day by the names of Gillott, Elkington, Chance, Mason, and others.
In many respects Birmingham is a peculiar town, and in none more than the hold it has upon the affections of its people. A " Birmingham man " is usually a man of strong individuality, independence of character, facility of resource, and with an enduring love for "the old town." These traits of character are the result of a variety of circum-stances. Birmingham is peculiar in opening a career even to the humblest who are gifted with ingenuity and industry. The great number of trades keeps work fairly constant, the skill required in them sustains wages of artizans at a high level, and the distribution of labour, and its dependence upon direct personal aptitude, afford chances of rising in the social scale which cannot be found in places where manufactures are mainly of one class and are conducted in factories demanding large capital. It is easy in Birming-ham for a man to become a small master, and gradually to push his trade until he is able to establish a factory. Many of the largest employers have either been workmen themselves or are the sons of workmen; while of the smaller manufacturers almost all take a direct part in the handicraft work carried on in their places of business.
Wealth is more evenly distributed than in most other places. There are no colossal fortunes in Birmingham, and comparatively few large ones, and of these very few are made by speculative operations. To compensate for these distinctions there is an unusually large comfortable class— people of good though not excessive incomes derived from solid trade, or from savings made by hard personal and associated work. This class, touching the actually wealthy on one side, by easy and almost imperceptible stages touches the actual working-class on the other, and this latter class is constantly rising into the middle rank.
The Birmingham work-people, in their way, are courteous and helpful. This is probably owing to the free and open and common discussion of subjects of political and social interest engaged in without distinction of class. The same principle is adopted educationally—in the Mid-land Institute, for example—the Act of Parliament which established the Institute providing that the governing council shall always include artizan members. Another noticeable characteristic of the town is the development of means of self-instruction and of self-help. Birmingham was amongst the earliest places to establish a mechanics' institution, the place of which is now more efficiently sup-plied by the Midland Institute. Birmingham, again, was the birthplace of the freehold land and building societies, by which workmen are enabled, on easy terms, to acquire houses of their own ; and in addition to these institutions, which are numerous and flourishing, it has a very large number of sick and friendly societies, savings-clubs, and other organizations of a provident kind,—more in proportion to population than, probably, any other of the large towns in England. Amongst the social characteristics it should be mentioned that there are few serious disputes between masters and workmen, and that strikes are infrequent, and when they do occur are found capable of easy adjustment by friendly negotiation. One point more is worthy of record—the constancy of the town to those who serve it. Many of the leading manufacturers and other citizens are members of the local governing bodies, and these and the parliamentary representatives are rarely changed by their constituents.
History,—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 is really one of the oldest in the country, and was in existence as a community in the Saxon period. Proof of this was given in 1309 by William de Berminghain, 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 sup-posed Soman station called Bremenium, but this claim has long since been abandoned as fabulous. The origin of the name is un-traceable ; the spelling of it is traceable in about 100 different forms. Dugdale, the historian of Warwickshire, adopts Brom-

wvcham, 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. As regards the history of the town, we must agree with Hutton that "the way is long, dark, and slippery." In Domesday Book it 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 1205, fighting with Simon de Montfort and the barons against Henry the Third. The sou of this William after-wards took part in the French war, and was made prisoner; his father's estates, forfeited by treason, were restored to him. Thence-forward we find the family engaged in various local and other offices, but seemingly abstaining 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 Berks-well, 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 I., 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 Parliamen-tarians to cannonade the hall and to levy a fine upon Sir Thomas Holte. They also set to work, and 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 towns-people resisted, but were beaten, many persons being killed oi 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 £100,000 of the present value of money, This bittet lesson kept Birmingham quiet during the rest of the civil war, though the sympathies of the people with the Parliamentarians wire unabated. In 1665 Birmingham suffered heavy losses by the plague, great numbers of dead being buried in the Pest Field, at Lady-wood, 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 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 lament-able outbreak of popular fury knowu 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 de-sirous of relief from the political and religious disabilities under which they laboured. The leaxler 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 Bir-mingham Liberals was held at the Royal Hotel to celebrate the destruction of the Bastille. This was the signal of a popular out-break. A Church and King mob, encouraged and organized by leaders of better station, but who were too cowardly to show themselves, began an attack upon the Unitarians. Dr 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 and antiquary, 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 per-secuted Unitarians recovered a small part of their losses from the county ; but Dr Priestley himself, owing to the unworthy preju-dice against him, was in a great measure 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 a thoroughly Liberal and, 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 dis-
turbed by riots, Birmingham remained quiet. Even when some of
the inhabitants were tried and punished for demanding parlia-
mentary 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
1831-32 the Political Union was formed, under the leadership of
Thomas Attwood, to promote the passing of the Reform Bill. Al-
most 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 100,000 strong;
but, owing to the firmness and statesmanship of Mr Attwood
and his associates, there was no rioting or any sign of violence.
Ultimately the Political Union succeeded in its object, and Bir-
mingham 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 Mr Feargus O'Connor
and some of his associates, nightly meetings of a threatening char-
acter 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. Ou the 15th of the same month
another meeting took place, and the mob, strongly armed and num-
bering 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. (J. T. B.)


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