Tag Archives: Birmingham

Birmingham boundaries

Birmingham GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

While watching the recent Tolkien biopic, I was confused by a scene in which a young Tolkien is distraught at being told by his mother that they are moving, from their home near Sarehole mill, “to Birmingham”. I later worked out that, while the mill is now in Birmingham, it didn’t become that way until roughly ten years after the scene in question, and would have been part of Yardley Rural District Council at the time.

Birmingham’s borders have expanded a great deal over the years. In the early 1800’s the boundary of the Town of Birmingham didn’t even reach as far as Deritend.

Map of the town and parish of Birmingham shewing the boundaries as perambulated by [the Commissioners of the Street Acts] in the year 1810. [Ref. MAP/14009]

After the 1832 Reform Act Birmingham became a parliamentary constituency, represented by two MPs. As well as the original town the new constituency included Edgbaston, Bordesley, Deritend, Duddeston and Nechells.

In 1891 Saltley, Harborne and Balsall Heath became part of Birmingham. They also became part of Warwickshire, Harborne having previously been part of Staffordshire, and Balsall Heath of Worcestershire. Quinton was added in 1909.

Map of the City of Birmingham, published by order of the Council. W.S. Till, city surveyor, 1892. [Ref. 114544]

The most dramatic expansion of Birmingham came in 1911 thanks to the ‘Greater Birmingham Scheme’. Yardley, Acocks Green, Hall Green, Sparkhill, Moseley, Kings Heath, Bournville, King’s Norton, Selly Oak, Northfield, Handsworth, Aston Manor, all became part of Birmingham (and of Warwickshire).

Map of Greater Birmingham. c.1911. [Ref. MAP/456336]

Perry Barr was ceded to Birmingham in 1928, and Sheldon and Shard End were added in 1931.

The final expansion came in 1974 when Sutton Coldfield joined Birmingham as part of the creation of the West Midlands.

Ward boundary revisions. 1973.

Geoff Burns, Archives & Collections Assistant


Joseph Chamberlain  –  A Reflection in Postcards

Joseph Chamberlain, MS 4067 (2011/118)

For some time now I’ve been intrigued by the substantial collection of Joseph Chamberlain postcards  – portraits and cartoons we retain in the archive (MS 4067/ Acc 2011/118) which I first stumbled upon nearly twenty years ago when I was a callow youth of a library assistant in the Local Studies & History department in the Central Library. The collection has stayed with me ever since – nothing is known of the provenance of the postcards or who may have made the decision to assemble the postcards into a collection.

Joseph Chamberlain (8 July 1836  – 2 July 1914) is one of Birmingham’s most enigmatic historical figures  –  a man of many guises and epithets : Old Joe, the august champion of tertiary education and the soubriquet under which the Chamberlain Memorial Clock at Birmingham University is sentimentally referred to celebrating his position as the first chancellor at the university. This is in sharp contrast to the firebrand title of Radical Joe, the social reformer mayor and visionary striving to improve the living conditions of the labouring classes in Birmingham. He spearheaded large scale slum clearance of the town centre through the powers of the Improvement Scheme Act in the early 1870s which endeavoured to create a Parisian style boulevard running from New Street to Aston Road which was latterly named Corporation Street. And let’s not forget the Chamberlain Clock in the Jewellery Quarter which was erected by his constituents to commemorate Chamberlain’s visit to South Africa as Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1903. This is an often overlooked part of his political career.

MS 4067 (2011/118)

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The Clive Davies Postcard Collection

New Street, Birmingham; c.1910. A hand painted postcard from an original black and white photograph [MS 2703/B/2/1]. The hand coloured treatment adds a unique style and character to the cards.

On the 1st October 1869, the first postcard was issued in Austria – a plain card with a printed two-kreuzer stamp on one side and a space for a message on the other –  one year later in 1870 they were issued in Britain.  In 1884, British Post Office regulations introduced the half penny postage rate – previously a standard rate of a penny for letters – initiating in a rapid use and circulation of postcards.

Alongside the new reduced cost, the chief appeal lay in the suitability for communication.  Mass produced, postcards were cheap and easy to acquire – and prior to the telephone, they remained the most popular way of communication.  Deliveries took place several times a day, making it possible to send a card and get a card with a reply the same day.

During the 1890s, postcards advanced to featuring a picture on one side, with a divided space on the other to fit an address and message.   By the turn of the century, picture postcards were embraced by the nation, becoming a welcome commodity in everyday life.

A series of postcards taken from the Cannon Hill Park album, [MS 2703/B/2/4]. Donated to the people of Birmingham by Louisa Ryland, the park opened on 1 September, 1873. One of the City’s premier parks, it boasts many facilities, and over the years has been host to a wide variety of events, as illustrated in these cards. Popular attractions of the time included an Avery, bandstand, and fields for sports. A more unusual feature was a giant boulder; also known as ‘The Moon Rock’ or ‘The Meteor’, it was found while excavating the lake and believed to have been deposited by a glacier that ran from the Arenig mountains in Wales 18,000 years ago.

The Clive Davies postcard collection [MS 2703] consists of over 8000 postcards, and provides an illustrated history of Birmingham and surrounding suburbs, and of the production history of post cards, through a series spanning from the late 19th century, through to the 1990s. Continue reading

Moseley Road Baths to the Rescue

Pool 2 at Moseley Road Baths. (c) MRB OIC.

Moseley Road Baths was opened in 1907 with 2 pools and 46 individual bathing cubicles, known as ‘slipper baths.’ Although only one pool is still open for swimming, this stunning Grade II* listed building, full of stained glass, glazed bricks and cast iron has been at the heart of the Balsall Heath community for nearly 112 years.

There’s something about Moseley Road Baths which draws people in, I have been involved for around three years, first as a student writing a Conservation Plan for the building, then as a campaigner in the Action Group, and now as a trustee of Moseley Road Baths CIO. After a very successful Crowdfunder campaign, in April of 2018 MRB CIO took over the swimming operation and since then we have had a whirlwind 15 months learning how to run a historic swimming pool! Continue reading

Windrush Strikes Back

Selection of material from the collections consulted by Windrush Strikes Back Decolonial Detectives in the Wolfson Centre, Library of Birmingham, May 2019

The 22nd June marks the anniversary of the arrival of HMT Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks in Essex in 1948, bringing c. 500 people from Jamaica and Trinidad to the UK. Many went on to fill some of the post-war employment shortages, particularly in state-run services.

In the years following the arrival of Windrush, greater numbers of people travelled from the Caribbean and settled in the UK. This included in Birmingham and the surrounding areas, and their experiences, and those of their descendants, have become a significant part of the history of the post-war period. However, although there is some archival material documenting the experiences, many stories of the experiences of British African Caribbean people have yet to be discovered.

Last month we welcomed the Windrush Strikes Back: Decolonising Global Warwickshire project to Archives and Collections. This is a six-month community-engaged project aiming to uncover the hidden histories written by British African Caribbean people in Warwickshire, Coventry, Birmingham and the surrounding areas. Facilitated by the Global Warwickshire Collective, the project intends to,

…inspire community members to take more active ownership of and involvement in the production of our histories, and to challenge the exclusivity of historical scholarship in Britain.


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Surveying Posters from the Shakespeare Collection

Regular readers of the blog may recall a blog post I wrote earlier this year called ‘The Shakespeare Collection- Everything to Everybody’. If not, you can find it by clicking here.

Since then I have been busy assessing various objects within the collection of posters from the Shakespeare collection. The main aims of assessing these objects are to work out:

  1. The overall condition of the collection
  2. What % of the collection requires conservation treatment
  3. What % of the collection requires re-housing

The survey will also show whether there are any conservation issues which could be potentially hindering access to the Shakespeare collection and inform other aspects of potential future project work.

Surveying the poster collection

Whilst surveying and assessing the posters it became clear that this was a collection which started acquiring material from the 1930s until the 2000s. The collection gives us a snapshot of various techniques of graphic and commercial art from these periods. The earliest posters in the collection were usually drawn by hand but once you get to around the 1960s, silk screen printing really takes off. By the 1990s the bulk of the posters were created using some form of digital printing.

Cracks and losses on the paint layer of a hand drawn poster

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What’s new in the Archives?!

We had a very varied year in terms of additions to the Archives & Collections holdings here at the Library of Birmingham during 2018, so we thought we’d showcase a few highlights for you!

As you probably know, Archives & Collections is the archives repository for the City of Birmingham and as such we are committed to making your unique and precious collections – written and digital, images, maps, film and other media – accessible and relevant to everyone, and we continue to collect documents, in all forms, that will tell the story of today for people in the future.

To make this possible, we ensure that significant records, whether in traditional or digital format are actively collected and described, are preserved for future generations, are accessible and set in a context that helps us understand them, and, all records received are held for the benefit of the public.

So… in 2018 we took in about 78 cubic metres of new records for permanent preservation here in the Archives!

The first material that came in 2018 were the records of the National Adult School Organisation (NASO), and the last material that came in during 2018 was additional material relating to one of our Photography collections – and included images documenting the development of the city centre during the late 20th cent (MS 2820 Additional).

Over the year we supported a number of community heritage projects, and took  in the material they generated including:

MS 4948 (2018/067): Records of amateur boxing history in Birmingham and the surrounding areas.

The project ‘ Fighting for our Heritage’ was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and aimed to draw together the history of the boxing club and amateur boxing in Birmingham. It ran for about 2 years in 2016 – 2018 during which time the project team researched the history and curated an exhibition at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery entitled ‘Fighting for our Heritage’.

Photograph of Billy Biddles c. 1940s

You can find out more about this project in this blog post which we posted earlier in the year.

MS 4949 (2018/068): The History of Asian Youth Culture Project

The project collected the oral histories and photographs. ‘Asian Youth have played a huge role in shaping the social, cultural and political life of Birmingham and wider Britain. ‘Asian Youth Culture explores the heritage and history of lives and contributions of young  Asian people in three distinct periods: 1950s-1960s, 1970s-1990s, 2000s-2018.

You can find out more about the project here:

Other collections we have added to this year include:

  • Central England Area Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (SF)
  • Birmingham Civic Society (MS 4751)
  • Lench’s Trust (MS 904)
  • Yardley Wood School (S 221)
  • Birmingham Coroners’ Court (CO)
  • Birmingham Magistrate’s Court (PS B)
  • John Hardman & Co. (MS 175)
  • Dudley Road Hospital (HC DR)

… and many more!

Every year we produce a return of what we have taken in and send it to the National Archives (TNA), and they publish it along with those from other Archive services on an annual basis. Returns for 2018 will be made available here in due course for you to have  a look at (as well as the return of other Archives services across the country)!

Corinna Rayner, Archives & Collections Manager