Faith and disunity: Samuel Galton and the Quakers

Samuel Galton junior (1753-1832) , portrait by Longastre in Karl Pearson, 'Life of Francis Galton', 1914, Uglow 2002

Samuel Galton junior (1753-1832) , portrait by Longastre reproduced in ‘Life of Francis Galton’, by Karl Pearson, 1914, from, accessed 23/03/2014

The exhibition ‘Faith and Action’ at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery about the Quakers and World War One focuses on the themes of peace, war, conscience, relief and faith, and examines the difficult moral dilemmas Friends belonging to a largely pacifist denomination faced. The theme of peace was not new to the Quakers, who took a stance against war and supported peace early on in their history. By the time of the French Revolution when there was considerable tension and political division in Britain, the Religious Society of Friends became concerned about any involvement of Quakers in the production of weapons, the provision of ships or the financing of war. In 1790, the Yearly Meeting Epistle stated,

‘If any be concerned in fabricating or selling Instruments of War, let them be treated with in love; and if by this unreclaimed, let them be further dealt with as those we cannot own. And we intreat that when warlike preparations are making, Friends be watchful lest any be drawn into loans, arming, or letting out their Ships, or Vessels, or otherwise promoting the destruction of the human Species.’

Yearly Meeting minute 1790 (ref MS 3101/B/16/2)

Yearly Meeting minute 1790 (ref MS 3101/B/16/2)

In Birmingham, this was to force one member of Birmingham Preparative Meeting, Samuel Galton junior (1753-1832), gun maker and member of the Lunar Society, to choose between his business interests and his membership of the Religious Society of Friends, as is shown by records in the Galton Papers (MS 3101) and the Central England Area Meeting  of the Religious Society of Friends (SF). In 1792, concerns were raised in the Birmingham Preparative Meeting about the ethics of accepting subscriptions from Friends whose wealth had been accumulated through the manufacture and trade of guns. The matter was further discussed at the Warwickshire North Monthly Meeting in Tamworth on 8th March 1795, where it was decided that representatives of the Meeting should visit the Galtons:

‘Mention having been made at this, and some former Sittings, respecting the Case of Samuel Galton and Samuel Galton, jun. Members of this Meeting, who are in the practice of fabricating, and selling Instruments of War, concerning which divers Opportunities have been had with the Parties, by several Friends, under the Nomination of Overseers, and others, to some Satisfaction; but thinking it proper that they should be further labored with, respecting the Inconsistency thereof, with our religious principles : We appoint the following Friends to visit them, on behalf of this Meeting, who are desired to make a Report thereof, at a future Monthly Meeting, viz. Sampson Lloyd, Joseph Gibbins, and James Baker together with any other Friends, who are inclined to join them in the Service.’

Following several meetings between the Galtons and Sampson Lloyd, Joseph Gibbins and James Baker, it was reported on the 8th July 1795 that Samuel Galton senior,

‘has relinquished the business & declined receiving any further emolument from it, the minute as far as respects his case is discontinued…’.

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Moony with a lot of cloud: eclipses in Birmingham

Hello bloggers! (Blog readers?)

This Eclipse Special comes not from one of your regular contributors, but from one of your ‘hide in the shadows’ assistants – get it? I’m a bit of a science geek and was hoping to discover something extra ordinary in offering to write this piece at the last minute.

That said, while I failed to find any arcane happenings in my trawl back through the local newspapers, I did find out that: a) British weather rarely fails to spoil what supposes to be a once in a lifetime experience; b) some people never listen to good advice (i.e., don’t look at the sun, it’s bad for your eyes); c) handmade gismos are awesome; and d) you can travel to the ends of the Earth (well, Cornwall), but never find the experience there has as much value as it does at home. Oh, and people love to speculate on folklore.

Simply, for those unaware, a solar eclipse is when the Moon comes between us (the Earth) and the Sun – the three meeting in a brief alignment. The resulting effect, on the land or water mass directly shadowed by the alignment here on Earth, is that the Sun is essentially blotted out. These events occur due to the near perfect positioning of Earth in relationship to the size and distance of the Moon and Sun. Amazing, is it not?

As regards solar eclipses witnessed here in Birmingham, there have been several nearly complete ones over the last century, the most recent on 11th August, 1999.

The Post and Mail did a wonderful Eclipse Special, which included details about what an eclipse is; the path of totality on that day; how to make a homemade eclipse viewer (very cool!), with a piece about what eclipses were understood to have been from the perspective of historic worldwide cultures. (There was also a reprinted article from the 30th June, 1927, about Edgbaston Observatory which I’ll mention below.) After the eclipse, the newspapers record how shoppers lined New Street for the approximately 95% coverage we had here. It also has reports of scores of people seeking medical advice, suffering dark spots in their eyesight. Sadly, for those Midlanders who’d travelled to Cornwall hoping to see a full corona, (the ring of light around a totally obscured sun) they ended up mainly being greeted by cloud.

From what I’ve gleaned, logged solar eclipses seen from Birmingham in the last century also fell in:  1961, 1954, 1927 and 1925. The Birmingham Evening Mail, 15th February, 1961 records how, ‘Low cloud blots out eclipse over Britain’, leaving the weather forecasters to explain how they got their predictions wrong. In 1954, on the 30th June, again The Birmingham Evening Mail reads, ‘Few see eclipse in the Midlands, but Leamington has a good view’, so it seems like some, at least, managed to get a glimpse that year.

In searching through 1927, I was amused by this advert from the 29th June:

Birmingham Evening Mail 29 June 1927

Birmingham Evening Mail 29 June 1927


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St Patrick’s Day in Birmingham: Devotion and Celebration

MS 4672 Clonmacnoise Crozier An Post

Clonmacnoise Crozier, 1993.Courtesy of An Post  [MS 4672]

Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland and his feast day is the Seventeenth of March.  It is celebrated across the world, wherever Irish people gather:  from Dublin to Derby to Dubai and from Belfast to Barnsley to Brisbane – and all points in between.  Birmingham has a long history of celebrating this day, Thomas Finigan observing the practice amongst Irish immigrants in 1838 [MS 3255 Journal of the Rev. T.A. Finigan].

Birmingham Grand Theatre of Varieties. Monday March 20th 1916. Irish and Proud of It.

Birmingham Grand Theatre of Varieties. Irish and Proud of It. 1916.

These were informal, self-generated affairs, but from 1869, formal events were held at Birmingham Town Hall.  Music Halls also staged entertainments, such as the revue ‘Irish and Proud of It’, shown at the Grand Theatre of Varieties on Corporation Street, in 1916.  Populist entertainments like this chimed with some Irish but for others the simplistic portrayals of evictions and caricatures of drunken Irish strengthened their resolve to have their culture and experiences represented appropriately.  Such sentiments were perhaps strengthened, given the revue’s performance just weeks before the Easter Rising in Ireland ushered in momentous changes to Anglo-Irish relations.

In today’s generally tolerant atmosphere, there is less sensitivity over community representation, with self-parody now playing a part in the City’s St Patrick’s celebrations.  These last for up to two weeks, this year’s festival having been launched on the Sixth of March with a range of events (large and small) scheduled until beyond St Patrick’s Day.  The main feature of this programme is the St Patrick’s Parade, which has a proud history, being the first in Britain [in 1952, beating London’s event by 45 minutes!].  Despite an absence of over 20 years from 1974, it has developed from 1996 to be counted as the third largest in the world after those in Dublin and New York.

What makes 80,000 people stand for hours in dreary March weather in dreary Digbeth to watch a parade?  Why does a procession of [amongst many other things] vintage tractors and over-sized leprechauns excite so many and bring them back year after year?  There are no simple answers, but underpinning the complex reality is a combination of the long standing devotion of many Irish people to the memory of Saint Patrick with the urge to celebrate and promote their Irish identity, wherever they may find themselves.  The Parade showcases components of Irish culture, heritage and sport, giving snapshots of each which can be examined in more detail at various events throughout the Festival.

St Patrick’s Parade, Birmingham [2014] Courtesy of Jim Ranahan. [MS 4672]

St Patrick’s Parade, Birmingham [2014] Courtesy of Jim Ranahan. [MS 4672]

Cynics see St Patrick’s Day as just one more element in the phenomenon known as ‘Marketing March’ where the celebration is commercially exploited along with events including the Six Nations Rugby Championship, Cheltenham horse racing festival and [even] Red Nose Day.  Whilst Irish people are willing participants in all of these events, the more thoughtful recognise that the crux of St Patrick’s Day continues to be something worth nurturing.  Running in parallel with the public, organised celebrations are informal, often private gatherings of friends and family, at home or in small venues.

St Patrick’s Day remains at heart a religious festival and whilst contemporary society in Ireland and across the Irish Diaspora is no longer so overtly religious, many people still recognise this element of the celebrations.  The Parade’s opening Mass may not be as well attended now and the days of it ending at St Chad’s Cathedral are long gone, but many people still sing the hymn ‘Hail glorious Saint Patrick’ with a feeling of gratitude for his recorded decision to trust and minister to the Irish [Patrick was a Briton, kidnapped by Irish raiders, who escaped and subsequently returned to support Christianity amongst a mainly pagan Irish society].  The customary wearing of shamrock still reminds many people of Saint Patrick’s legendary use of the plant to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity.  For many years the ceremonial highlight of St Patrick’s Day was the arrival via Aer Lingus of a consignment of shamrock from Dublin, to be blessed at St Chad’s Cathedral for distribution amongst congregations.  Private devotions to the Patron Saint by their nature cannot be quantified, but are undoubtedly still observed in the City.
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Read All About It!

Birmingham Collection in the Heritage Research Area, floor 4, Library of Birmingham

Birmingham Collection in the Heritage Research Area, floor 4, Library of Birmingham

A sumptuous listing of choice cuts recently added to the various printed book collections stored in Archives, Heritage & Photography service. Please feel free to contact us for further details of how to view materials and make your own suggestions for future acquisitions. ( Birmingham Collection titles are available on the open shelves in the Heritage Research Area on floor 4 of the Library of Birmingham.)


1. Abbott, Colin J.
Seventh Heaven : Aston Villa’s Victorious ’57 Cup Campaign
Published 2012
Birmingham Collection 25.14

2. Ashu, Frederick Ebot
New African Leaders. Contributions of Africans in Birmingham from 1950
Published 2012
Birmingham Collection 21.85 ASH

3. Bartley Green District History Group
History of Brick & Tile Making. 18th – 20th Century
Published 2010
LP 92.5 WEO

4. Beauchampe, Steve
Pool of Memories. A History of Moseley Road Baths.
Published 2013
Birmingham Collection 25.2

5. Brookes, Paul
Church of Saint Patrick’s C of E, Frank Street, 1896 – 1964
Published 2013
LF 15.26

6. Capper, Mary
A Memoir of Mary Capper, late of Birmingham , England. A Minister of the Society of Friends
Published 2013
L 78.1 CAP

7. Chinn, Carl
In Accord. A History of the Accord Group
Published 2012
Birmingham Collection 41.8

8. Clark, Urszula & Asprey, Esther
West Midlands English : Birmingham and the Black Country. Dialects of English
Published 2013
Birmingham Collection 51.9

9. Clawley, Alan
Batsford’s Birmingham Then & Now
Published 2013
Birmingham Collection 85.4 CLA

10. Collins, Anthony
Alderman John Bowen J.P., ‘Honest John’
Published 2014
LP 78.1 BOW

11. Debney, Jean
Jewels of Our City. Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter
Published 2013
Birmingham Collection 67.1

12. Dickinson, H. W.
The Partnership of James Watt and Matthew Boulton
Published 2011
Birmingham Collection 65.225

13. Griffiths, Ann
A History of the Ellis Family. The Sorrento Connection
Published 2013
Birmingham Collection 77.2 ELL

14. Grimley, Terry
Symphony Hall. A Dream Realised
Published 2012
Birmingham Collection 55.51 GRI

15. Harris, Helen D.
Helen Hart. Founder of Women’s Suffrage in Australia
Published 2009
Birmingham Collection 78.1 HAR

16. Hodder, Michael
The Archaeology of Sutton Park
Published 2013
Birmingham Collection 27.3

17. Horton, Charles & Le Vack, Dale
Stretcher Bearer. Fighting for life in the trenches
Published 2013
Birmingham Collection 78.1 HOR

18. Jones, Ian
The Local Church and Generational Change in Birmingham, 1945 – 2000
Published in 2012
L 10 JON

19. Limbrick, Gudrun
The Children of the Homes. A Century of Erdington Cottage Homes.
Published 2012
Birmingham Collection 41.31 LIM

20. Limbrick, Gudrun
Deeds of Love. The Story of Sir Josiah Mason’s Orphanage & School
Published 2013
Birmingham Collection 41.31

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‘My whole time is given to the service of my fellow citizens’ – the first women elected to Birmingham City Council

As we look towards International Women’s Day and the forthcoming national and local elections, it seemed a timely moment to revisit the Library’s wonderful, but surprisingly little-used, collection of election literature for evidence of the first women elected to the City Council. Although limited parliamentary suffrage was not granted to women until 1918, they had been able to vote and stand for election in local political contests for some time as members of School Boards, Poor Law Guardians and local councillors.

Birmingham Municipal Elections Literature, 1909 - 1911.  Municipal Election 1911, Edgbaston Ward, Mrs Ellen F Pinsent and two other Unionist Candidates.  [LFF35.2]

Birmingham Municipal Elections Literature, 1909 – 1911. Municipal Election 1911, Edgbaston Ward, Mrs Ellen F Pinsent and two other Unionist Candidates.

In 1911 two women were elected to serve on Birmingham City Council for the first time. Before this, a few women had served on City Council committees as co-opted, unelected members, particularly committees concerned with education, and the health and welfare of women and children. This had been the case with the first elected female councillor Ellen Pinsent, also known as Mrs Hume Pinsent and later Dame Ellen. Elected as a Liberal Unionist for the Edgbaston Ward on 1 November 1911 she had previously served for some years as a co-opted member of the Education Committee and Chairman of the Special School Sub-Committee. Well known nationally for her work with children who had special educational needs (or in the parlance of the time ‘feeble-minded’), she had served on the national Royal Commission on the Care and Control of the Feeble-Minded from 1904 to 1908. Her stint as an elected councillor was cut short in October 1913 when she was appointed as an unpaid Commissioner for the Board of Control.

Ellen was rapidly followed by Margaret Frances Pugh, elected in North Erdington on 22 November 1911 and nominated by the Birmingham Women’s Local Government Association who campaigned for the election of women to local councils. Educated at King Edward’s High School for Girls, Margaret was a keen supporter of women’s suffrage and a teacher in an adult education school for women. Defeated at her first attempt by 59 votes she stood again when the successful candidate was made an alderman and this time, in the words of the Women Workers magazine, ‘was returned by the triumphant majority of 790.’ As a result two of Birmingham City Council’s 120 elected councillors were women, with a further eight serving as co-opted members of committees.

Like Ellen, Margaret served only a short time as a councillor, resigning her seat in November 1913.  The third woman elected however spent over 19 years on the Council. Clara Martineau represented Edgbaston from 14 October 1913 until her death in 1932 at the age of 57. Like Ellen she benefitted from family connections among the City’s elite families.  For the daughter of former Mayor Sir Thomas Martineau, sister of wartime Lord Mayor Ernest Martineau, and niece of Alderman Sir George Kenrick, civic service was a family tradition. Like all the early women councillors, Clara had a long track record of working in philanthropic and social causes in the city, including the Women’s Settlement and the Charity Organisation Society, and had served as a co-opted committee member before being finally elected in her own right.

Birmingham Municipal Elections Literature, 1920 - 1924.  Municipal Election 1920, Selly Oak Ward, Mrs Cottrell, Co-operative and Labour Candidate.  [LFF35.2]

Birmingham Municipal Elections Literature, 1920 – 1924. Municipal Election 1920, Selly Oak Ward, Mrs Cottrell, Co-operative and Labour Candidate.

As local government dealt with social issues that affected people’s daily lives, standing for election was a natural extension for women who had been involved in local political and social activism. The first woman Labour Councillor, Mary E. Cottrell, who was elected unopposed in Selly Oak in February 1917 had been a long standing activist in the Women’s Co-operative Guild and had formerly stood for election as a Poor Law Guardian.

Mary’s election leaflet from 1920 illustrates the breadth of her interests. She advocated a number of policies – change to the rating system, capital expenditure to ease the housing shortage, indoor water supply in more homes, making local hospitals part of ‘an efficient State Health Service’, free secondary education with more schools, playing fields and smaller classes, a ‘good and cheap’ tramway system for the suburbs, more allotments, a municipal milk supply, and City Council labour schemes  for the unemployed. She concluded by stressing the need for women councillors.

Mary also went on to play a national role.  In 1921 she became the first woman to be elected to the board of the Co-operative Wholesale Society and consequently resigned her City Council seat in 1922 due to pressure of work. During the Second World War she was a government advisor on rationing.

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Urban Renewal – Vision and Reality: The Birmingham Civic Centre Scheme 1926-1965

The following drawings form part of a large deposit of rolled plans of public buildings and urban planning schemes. They were transferred to our archives from the Birmingham City Council Urban Design Department in 2008.


Image 1: View of equestrian statue & adjacent hall of marriages & same from Civic Court. Aerial view toward cathedral overlooking Civic Court City Hall & Museum group relating to existing plan for Civic Centre layout, Broad Street (Ref: BCC Additional Accession 2008/087 Tube roll 1)

This particular sheet shows amended versions of the layout of grounds and buildings of the proposed new Civic Centre at Centenary Square. The plans were created by a number of individuals, this one bearing the signature of Herbert Manzoni, City Engineer and Surveyor. He was to play a leading role in planning the redevelopment of Birmingham after 1945 following the devastation unleashed on the city during the Blitz. The drawings capture perfectly the utopian dreams and aspirations of the architects and city planners charged not simply with reconstruction but also rethinking how urban development should be planned and how urban spaces should be utilised, creating new cities from the ruins of the old.

The Civic Centre scheme had been in the pipeline since 1926, when the Council organised a competition to obtain the best plans. The competition received an international response from architects and planners, and several grand schemes were proposed, which were rejected by the General Purposes Committee on the grounds of being too ambitious for an English provincial city. The City Engineer was authorised to prepare a more modest scheme in partnership with James Swan, another competitor, and S.N. Cooke, who had designed the Hall of Memory.

Various new proposals and modifications were submitted to and discussed by the Council throughout the inter-war and post-war periods by architects and planners including Manzoni, John Madin, William Haywood, and Alwyn Sheppard-Fiddler, later City Architect for Birmingham. Progress of the scheme was interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1939, though it was fully intended to continue with the project when hostilities ended, assuming Britain pulled through.


Image 2: Aerial view of proposed traffic gyratory system & fly-over one way traffic bridge (Ref: BCC Additional Accession 2008/087 Tube roll 1)

In partnership with various Council committee and departmental officials, the architect William Haywood was requested to prepare a new scheme. He had already designed the Baskerville House complex of municipal offices, which opened in 1940 (visible on Image 2, top left, just to the north of the Hall of Memory). This comprised the first phase of a much larger Civic Centre area. A formal report was prepared by the General Purposes Committee to Council on 8 February 1944. Plans, together with a large scale model, were also submitted.

The report proposed a new Civic Centre Gardens, including a huge central square laid out as a parade ground, envisaged to accommodate large public meetings and civic events, built over an underground car park that could house 1200 cars. Additional new civic buildings were originally to be built in a large block on the north west corner of the gardens divided into three parts, comprising a 3000 capacity City Hall, two smaller halls (500-700 capacity), with the remaining sections to be used as a new central library, museum and art gallery. A Planetarium and Hall of Memory was also intended to be built by the Hall of Memory, including a circular lecture hall (600-700 capacity), and covered by a great dome. Externally, the Planetarium would be enclosed by a colonnade, upon which would be recorded, in accordance with more patriarchal attitudes still prevalent at the time, the names of the ‘great men’ of the city, and its history. The committee also proposed that the scheme would include a decorative column at the centre of the gardens intended to symbolise the traditional energy and dynamism of the city. Some of the proposed buildings are shown in Image 1, above, and Image 3, below, namely the Hall of Marriages, City Hall and Museum buildings.

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1821 Census of Sheldon

EP 42

EP 42 Sheldon Parish Box 6/3

Delving into the parish chest records for St Giles Sheldon in search of material to use in a family history workshop I came across a rather bland looking reference: EP 42 Box 6. Item 3.  Sheldon Population 1821. I was almost more taken by Item 1: An Act more effectually to prevent profane cursing and swearing (1745) – and wondered whether it was still on the statute books!

But knowing that there was a civil census taken in 1821, for which nationally there are only statistical returns available, I was interested enough to take a look. And I was rewarded by discovering that it is indeed the local parish listing compiled for the purposes of the census and listing the names of 79 heads of household.

I was really excited by the find as the most up-to-date guide to early Census schedules and listings available here: recognises its existence but describes its location as unknown.  So I thought I had made a truly valuable find. However the earlier 1992 3rd edition of Gibson & Medlycott’s Local Census Listings 1522-1930 does list it and even correctly identifies it as being Item 3 in Box 6 of the St Giles Parish collection.  So I was a little deflated but still fascinated by seeing a relatively rare survivor of early census records. There are known to be surviving household lists from just 231 parishes out of a total of over 10,000 parishes in existence in 1821.

Sadly it doesn’t name all the inhabitants but it does give the age and gender breakdown for each household which could be used with the parish registers and other data from the rich collection of records from the parish chest to allow some family reconstitution. The listing is dated 2nd July 1821 and signed by the compiler Charles Curtis JP.  The Overseers or other local officials were required to undertake a survey by going from house to house on 28th May 1821 to gather data to furnish the statistical returns required of them.

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