Birmingham City Council Collection: Catalogues now LIVE!

New catalogues for the records of Birmingham City Council are now live on our on-line archives catalogue, CalmView.


Chamberlain Square, Birmingham. Photographed by Thomas Lewis, late 19th cent. Showing Council House, Museum & Art Gallery and Clocktower    [MS 2724 WK/B11/278]

As well as collecting records relating to individuals, families, businesses and other corporate bodies with historical links to the city, the Archives, Heritage and Photography Department at the Library of Birmingham is the in-house repository for the historic records of Birmingham City Council.

The vast majority of the records date from the granting of the Charter of Incorporation in 1838 that conferred upon the town the status of municipal borough. A few classes of records, most notably Town Clerks Deeds (Collection BCC/1/AM/D/1/3/1) go back before this date; the earliest surviving title deed for example is written in Latin and dates from the late seventeenth century.

Comprising several thousand entries, the current catalogue still only represents a fraction of the surviving administrative records of local government in our care.

We continue to receive on average about 20 new accruals to the Birmingham City Council archive per year. These deposits can vary in size from a single booklet or framed photograph to whole runs of bulky committee minutes.

In summary, the Birmingham City Council archive comprises the legislative records (minutes, agendas, reports etc) of Birmingham City Council and its committees (1838 to 1974); operational records of council department; operational records of institutions managed by the City Council (i.e. care homes); property deeds; maps and charts (mainly relating to town planning schemes); photographs; building plans.

Pages 40 & 41 from volume ot Housing - Interviewing Sub-committee Minutes, 4 March 1908. [BCC/1/BF/3/1/1]

Pages 40 & 41 from volume of the Interviewing Sub-Committee of the Housing Committee Minutes detailing proceedings of a meeting of 4 March 1908. [BCC/1/BF/3/1/1]

Included here are a couple of digital images of items from the collection to give a flavour of the scope and content of this huge archive.

To search the Birmingham City Council catalogue on-line, simply follow the links to the Library Catalogue at the top right hand corner of the Library of Birmingham website or link

1. Click Advanced Search, then add search term BCC to RefNo field then click Search.

2. On next screen click on blue underlined text BCC.

3. The next screen will show the Collection Level record giving a brief summary of the scope and content of the collection and an administrative history charting the key developments in the history of local government in Birmingham prior to and from the establishment of the Corporation in 1838.

4. Click on the blue underlined text BCC again.

5. You can now open and close the relevant sub sections in the tree structure to check the for relevant committee and departmental records by clicking the +/- buttons beside each level of the catalogue tree structure.

6. To search within the BCC Archive for material relating to a specific place, person or subject, click on Advanced Search add search term BCC* in RefNo field and search term (street / place name, personal name, subject etc) into the AnyText or Title field then click Search.

7. Further guidance as regards searching the on-line catalogue is available on the CalmView webpages, following the links above.

The records comprise an information-rich archive of qualitative, quantitative and visual data relating to the provision of local government services in the city of Birmingham.

The collection is heavily used by students, academics and other researchers investigating the history of public policy, particularly education, social care and infrastructural development in Birmingham from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day.

The deposited building plans and planning photographs remain a heavily-used resource amongst our users, from architectural historians to members of the public looking into the history of their property.

BCC/1/AO/D/3/8/1/28 Photo Box 10/28 Irving Street

Irving Street, Birmingham. Photographed by Birmingham City Council Public Works Department in 1965. Showing cleared site and dilapidated housing earmarked for demolition [BCC/1/AO/D/3/8/1/28 Irving Street]

The collection includes fascinating documentation relating to particular streets and places. Much of this is visual, and is particularly rich amongst the Planning and Architecture Photographs and the Town Clerk’s Deeds bundles.

The archive continues to be used by Councillors and local government staff for the purposes of informing retrospective decision making, case work, public planning and meeting the local authority’s legal and democratic accountability as regards Freedom of Information and other legislation. Hence there was a sound business need to improve the documentation of this collection.

With the large metropolitan local authorities in particular now facing crippling cutbacks to staffing and resources, it is perhaps worth reflecting on the historic achievements of Birmingham’s Council, including bringing the city’s gas and water supply under municipal control in 1875 and the construction of 50,000 municipal homes between 1918-1939, in spite of the economic uncertainties of the inter-war years.

All of the main developments, achievements and, indeed, the controversies, are documented across the collection.

Block plan showing drainage by Thomas A. Turner, Architect, Hockley Heath, Birmingham. dated January 1915. Scale: 8 feet to 1 inch. Houses numbered 25 - 29 fronting St Georges Street and houses numbered 1 - 9, 2 washhouses and an ash pit in yard at the back. Part of BCC Town Clerk Deeds bundle BCC 10/BPS/3/1/67 (Numbers 533 - 542).  bcc-10-bps-3-1-67 no 542.

Block plan dated 1915 found amongst Birmingham City Council Town Clerk’s Deeds bundles. Showing houses at 25-29 St Georges Street and houses numbered 1 – 9, including ash pits, washhouses and drainage. [BCC/1/AM/D/1/3/1/542]

Additional historic printed and archival material relating to Birmingham City Council also appears across our other Archive Collections as well as the Local Studies and History Printed Collections. Where possible, related material is listed with full references in the series level descriptions for Council committees and departments as they appear in the on-line catalogue.

Other secondary works relating to the history of local government in the city of Birmingham can be found on the Birmingham Collection shelves in the Heritage Research Area, 4th Floor, Library of Birmingham.

Michael Hunkin, Archivist


One response to “Birmingham City Council Collection: Catalogues now LIVE!

  1. I think that Birmingham City Council has undergone substantial difficulties. Recently we saw the city under pressure to cut its spending by almost 100,000,000 pounds. This pronominal change has resulted in many pressures for the city although I see these photos on here of the journey that the city has gone through it leaves me in no doubt about the turbulent future ahead.

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