Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Birmingham, a municipal and parliamentary borough in Warwickshire, 102 miles N.W. of London, with suburbs extending into Staffordshire and Worcestershire. It is in size and population the fifth town in the United Kingdom, having risen into importance since the great Civil war, owing to its proximity to the great coal and iron fields of the Midlands. The population in 1801 was 73,000, and it is now about half a million. It was not, however, represented in Parliament until 1832, but since 1885 has had seven members. The prosperity of the place mainly rests upon metal manufactures, ranging from steamboilers and locomotives to pins and pens. Gun-barrels and swords are made in great quantities; brass-wares, jewellery, electro-plate, railway plant and stock tools of all kinds, screws, nails, pins, and bells are among the staple products. The manufacturers of Birmingham at one time obtained a reputation for the production of counterfeit goods, owing to the large number of electro-plate, etc. articles that issued from the town. Hence, the term "Brummagem goods" came into use, "Brummagem" being a corruption of Birmingham. There are large glass and papier-mache works.and factories for dealing with wood and leather in connection with the leading hardware trades. An interesting factor in the development of these great industries has been the non-existence in the town of the guilds, companies, and other restrictive institutions that fettered freedom elsewhere. To this same cause must be attributed the independent and liberal spirit of the working-classes, and their generally prosperous and contented state. Whilst colossal fortunes have been comparatively rare, probably in no town have men risen more frequently from the humblest to the highest positions by thrift and industry. Among the names most intimately connected with the advancement of various branches of trade are Watt, Boulton, Wedgwood, Murdoch (the inventor of gas), Gillott (the pen-maker), Elkington, Mason, Chance, and Chamberlain. But it is the pride of Birmingham that science and art have always found a home there, and that literature has never been neglected in the zealous pursuit of business. Priestley, Erasmus Darwin, Herschel, Banks, Galton, Solander, and Fothergill are worthy representatives in the scientific sphere. Dr. Johnson was a frequent visitor to the place, and with the cultured social circle that existed, especially at Edgbaston, early in the century, are associated the Edgeworths, Dr. Parr, W. Hazlitt, Hutton, and many advanced minds of the 18th century. David Cox, the painter, Wilmore and Pye, the engravers, Rickman, the architect, and Baskerville, the printer, were Birmingham men. Music has long been enthusiastically loved there, and the greatest modern composers have produced their works for the first time at the annual festivals. Political feeling for a century has run high in the midland capital. It is one of the few towns in which the local aristocracy of birth and wealth has hitherto been on the side of advanced Liberalism, though since the death of John Bright there are signs of a reaction. The love of religious liberty has here also been conspicuous, and Unitarians, scouted throughout England, have met with respect and encouragement. Birmingham early adopted such organisations for self-help and self-instruction as mechanics' institutes, building and friendly societies, and savings-banks. Standing on high ground, it is a healthy city, and of late years much has been done to beautify its streets and make its sanitation perfect. The town hall is a handsome building in Greek style, and cost £52,000. King Edward's school, a valuable foundation, was rebuilt by Barry on Tudor lines. Mason's College, Queen's College, and the Exchange are good specimens of modern Gothic. The Midland Institute, the corporation buildings, the free libraries, the market hall, and the rooms of the Royal Society of Artists exemplify various forms of classical or Italian schools. Statues of Prince Albert, Nelson, Peel, Watt, Priestley, Rowland Hill, and other notabilities adorn the public piaces, while St. Martin's church, the Catholic cathedral of St, Chad, and St. Philip's church, are worthy of mention. There are five parks, the largest being in the pleasant suburb of Aston, and a handsome picture gallery has recently been erected. Birmingham is the centre of a vast railway system communicating with every part of the kingdom. Most of these lines, being part of the North-Western or Midland Railways, unite under the broad roof of the Central station, but the Great Western has a separate depot in Snow Hill. The canals, which served for traffic before steam locomotion was introduced, still serve for the conveyance of enormous quantities of goods, and it has even been contemplated to put Birmingham in direct connection by water with the sea. The principal streets are New Street, Corporation Street, and High Street.