The Chris Upton Memorial Lecture, 7th November 2016

He loved the past but lived very much in the present, and through his teaching and his writing left a huge legacy for the future.
Rachel MacGregor, friend and colleague.

At 5:30pm on the 7th November 2016, Birmingham Archives & Collections will be hosting the first Chris Upton Memorial Lecture in Room 101, Level 1, Library of Birmingham.



It has been a year since the passing of Dr Chris Upton of Newman University, friend, colleague and advocate of archives and heritage organisations across the region.

While numerous obituaries and accolades have been published about Chris, here at the Library of Birmingham together with Newman University, Birmingham University, Birmingham Conservation Trust, the Black Country Living Museum and many other organisations, there has been a strong desire to commemorate this clever and generous man. Generous, in the sense of sharing the breadth and depth of his knowledge freely and openly, he had a disarming ability to talk to anyone, conveying complex ideas and theories with simplicity and insightful clarity. He was also a model customer of the Archives & Collections reading room, the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research at the Library of Birmingham… but then he had worked in Archives and Local Studies many moons ago! He also frequented all the record offices and archive services in the Midlands to research an enormous range of subjects and areas of interest.

Among his many roles, Chris was Reader in Public History at Newman University, history consultant for the BBC (notably for Peaky Blinders!), the National Trust, and Birmingham Conservation Trust, and was a central figure in the historical activities of the West Midland region. As well as his academic activities, Chris contributed regularly to local radio and television, and was a much sought after speaker at local history meetings and events across the Midlands and beyond… he rarely turned a request to speak down!

Many of you will know of Chris, and the history of the region, through his publications which, as well as regular weekly columns on a huge range of subjects in Midlands history for the Birmingham Post, include A History of Birmingham, A History of Wolverhampton, A History of Lichfield, and Living Back to Back, and the posthumously published Joseph Chamberlain, International Statesman, National Leader, Local Icon, of which he was joint editor.


An inspiring and encouraging tutor, Chris collaborated with us and many other organisations to host annual placements for his undergraduates. Together we organised placements that enabled students to gain experience in the Archives section here, researching using original sources, cataloguing collections, writing articles for us, and so gaining professional experience that did, at least on one occasion, lead to a student becoming a qualified Archivist! His collaborations crossed disciplines and county boundaries in his work with Archives services across the West Midlands, including Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, the Black Country Living Museum, the National Trust, Aston Hall, Soho House, the Museum of Jewellery Quarter, and many more.

Given Chris’s influence, passion, and desire to share his wealth of knowledge with his infectious and inspiring, if humorously irreverent, approach, we the various people, organisations and institutions that have had the pleasure of working with and knowing him, have come together to organise this first Chris Upton Memorial Lecture. We hope this will be an annual event, with which we want to not only commemorate the man, but also continue with his legacy of making history and heritage accessible, enjoyable and most importantly, for everyone.

For this, the first lecture, the speaker will be Sarah Hayes from Birmingham Conservation Trust who worked with Chris over the last ten years and, in keeping with his philosophy, the lecture will be about bridging the gap between “professional” and public history and making history accessible and fun.

This will be an annual event. If you would like to nominate someone to give, or give one of these lectures yourself on a topic relating to West Midlands History, Public History, or Heritage, please contact

We look forward to seeing you!

Corinna Rayner                                                           Ian Cawood
Archives & Collections Manager                          Head of History
Library of Birmingham                                            Newman University

Memorial Lecture Details

Date: 7th November 2016

Time: 5:30pm

Venue: Room 101, Level 1, Library of Birmingham, Centenary Square, B1 2ND



One response to “The Chris Upton Memorial Lecture, 7th November 2016

  1. Reblogged this on keithbracey and commented:
    #ChrisUpton #YouWillBeMissed #BirminghamHistory

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