Henry Parr, the first landlord of the Cottage of Content, Sheepcote Lane, was an active supporter of reformist causes. Following the execution of Louis XVI in January 1792 and the French declaration of War with Britain in the February, any public expressions of support for democratic principles or expressions of concerns of the effects of the war on trade were met with both popular loyalist and Government hostility. In May 1794 James Watt observed that :
‘there are King’s messengers in Birmingham, who have taken up on Parr, who kept a reforming club 1 at his house, and on one or two others. The soldiers were ordered under arms to prevent tumult.’ 2
Birmingham’s reformers are said to have enjoyed a ‘revival of support’ in 1795 and1797.3 Their last incarnation, The Birmingham United Corresponding Society,4 was deemed by loyalist elements to be a ‘Jacobin’ organisation.
At their last recorded meeting, fifteen members gathered at Henry Parr’s Cottage of Content on August 3, 1797 with John Binns,5 a London delegate who had been recently arrested, tried at Warwick and acquitted, present. They were spied upon and disturbed by a gang of drunken loyalists from the nearby White Horse in Friday Street. The rights and wrongs of the meeting and its opponents were debated in a public exchange of letters.6
Concerns, even in the reformist movements, over the increasing authoritarianism and militarism displayed by the French Revolutionary state made any radical cause, especially one opposed to war with France, extremely unpopular. Despite the Society’s claim following John Binns trial that they were ‘daily increasing in numbers’, there is no record of their survival after 1797.7
From left to right: Kempson 180810 , E. Robins 182011, J. Piggot-Smith 1824 – 1825 12 .
We know that by 1750 the site on the corner of Coleshill Street and Leek Street was occupied by ‘Turner’s Brass House.’1
In 1753 it can be seen to the right of St Bartholomew’s chapel on the East Prospect of Birmingham.2
Samuel Bradford’s Plan of Birmingham 1750
Samuel Buck and Nathaniel Buck. East prospect of Birmingham, 1753.
In 1754 it was visited by Reinhold Angerstein, who noted:
The brass-works … belongs to Mr Turner and consists of nine furnaces with three built together in each of three separate buildings. The furnaces are heated with mineral coal, of which 15 tons is used for each furnace, and melting lasting ten hours. Each furnace holds nine pots, 14 inches high and nine inches diameter at the top. Each pot is charged with 41 pounds of copper and 50 pounds of calamine. Mixed with [char]coal. Duiring charging I observed that a handful of coal and calamine was first placed on the bottom of the pot, then came the mixture, which was packed in tightly, followed by about a pound of copper in small pieces, and finally again coal and calamine without copper, covering the top. This procedure was said to lengthen the life of the pot both at the top and the bottom. The result of one charge was 75 pounds of brass, with a value of £4.10s per cwt. The calamine comes from Derbyshire,… , but the copper is brought from Wales. The foremans wages were 14 shillings and those of the labourers 9 shillings per week. There are six workers for the nine furnaces and casting takes place twice every 24 hours. The yearly production amounts to 300 tons. The price of the copper is 12d per pound and of the brass 10d per pound. 3 Continue reading
In December 2018, we received a deposit of material from the Fighting for our Heritage project, which was run from the Pat Benson Boxing Academy (MS 4948, Acc 2018/067). The project was funded by the National Lottery to document the history of amateur boxing in Birmingham and the collection includes some wonderful photographs of boxers in the 1940s and 1950s, along with promotional material and programmes.
Photograph of Billy Biddles c.1940s (MS 4948, Acc 2018/067)
The Pat Benson Boxing Academy has had many changes of name and locations over the years. Its origins date back to 1931 when it was founded by Stephen Hayden from Kilkenny as the Irish Foresters and operated from The Hen and Chickens, Custard House and Sydenham pubs. Stephen built the foundation of a community club that would retain its Irish roots and identity and over the decades, the club has grown and ‘nurtured talent from the black and minority ethnic communities, mirroring and celebrating Birmingham’s ever more diverse cultural make up’.
On the death of Stephen, his son, Steve, took over the club and moved it to the Hobsmoor pub. When Steve died suddenly in the 1960s, Pat Benson took over as coach, ensuring the future success of the club. In 1967, Pat moved the club to the Harp in Moseley Street and it was around this time that they joined with the Kyrle Hall Boxing Club, becoming the Small Heath Golden Gloves.
For a while, the club was run out of Small Heath Leisure Centre, changing its name to the Small Heath Boxing Club. The club temporarily returned to Small Heath Leisure Centre in 1983 after a fire at their Fazeley Street premises. By this time, the club had many successful boxers and Pat was forced to move them out to other clubs so they could continue to compete. It was also around this time that the Chelmsley Wood Boxing Club and St. Francis Boxing Club were established, with ‘a helping hand and sound advice from Pat’.
This blog is to remember the 90th anniversary of the death of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who died 10 December 1928.
There’s a wonderful illustrated letter  in Archives & Collections in the Gaskin collection, MS 2945, from Joseph Southall about a visit he and Arthur Gaskin made to Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald in about 1905.
Dearies,  both of you
Tis so pleasant to get your letters in the morning & to hear that you feel better. Well I am having a busy time here but very interesting & of course it is flattering to hear that one is well thought of including you my dear — all this in fact we seem looked upon as one.
We went for a game this morning such pretty links I did not shine with borrowed clothes & club tho’ I put my man 5 down.
Well last night we went to call on the Mackintoshs. Now Mackintosh & his wife are the inventors of the Glasgow School. She that is Mrs Mac is a most charming young lady – I was quite gone. I assure you. I also think that you would like her. Let me see if I can draw you the room.
Mrs Mac (rather early 60s. beautiful hair) Mrs Newby (aesthetic, intense)
Letter illustrated with a drawing of two women either side of a fireplace [Ref MS 2945/1/2/79]
The room is tones of white.
Two pipe racks in fender. Smoked and signed by more or less notable people. Your’s ‘umbly for instance.
They are interested in your work & she is to my mind especially charming. He is rather stout and jovial but their art has such a queer mad look though they are both extremely able.
Drawing of two men smoking pipes, in a room with stained glass and a chandelier [Ref MS 2945/1/2/79]
Ta ta lots of love to you both
This archive collection is a joy to look at, with many illustrations in Southall’s letters to Gaskin. Many of these illustrate Gaskin playing golf – obviously a hobby he enjoyed, and was teased about.
As it draws towards the season of the perpetual runny nose, here are some remedies from our Early & Fine Printing and Archives collections.
The New Family Herbal, by William Meyrick, 1790, is set out alphabetically by plant, provides visual description, and details their medical usage and preparation. There is also an index at the back by complaint, and closing the volume are some beautiful illustrations of a number of the plants covered.
The index page beginning with ‘C’, lists catarrhs, colds, and coughs. Highlighting the desire for remedies are the number of plants listed as useful treatments.
Index, The New Family Herbal [EFP 07.2 PEA]
Some of the suggestions are familiar, such as lemon and acacia. Looking to one of the first listed alphabetically, on page 7, for a cold I found the delightfully named ‘alehoof’ (it was used to flavour beer).
Entry for ‘alehoof’ in The New Family Herbal [EFP 07.2 PEA]
The page over suggests:
A conserve made of the young tops in the spring, or the juice made into a syrup, is excellent for colds, coughs, and shortness of breath : and a strong infusion drank in the manner of tea, is serviceable in all complaints of the breast and lungs.
Alehoof seems a good all-rounder then!