Tag Archives: Local History

The Old Meeting House

MS 1061-2-5-1

Copy of a sketch of Bull St. Quaker Meeting House (3rd building from the left) in 1702, n.d. [Ref MS 1061/2/5/1]

It is thought that a small Quaker community established in Birmingham in the 1650s. Initially meetings for worship were held in private houses but in 1661 a house and garden were bought in New Hall Lane for use as a meeting house and burial ground. New Hall Lane became known as Bull Lane (and later Monmouth Street) and was located at the end of what is now Colmore Row. The meeting house was located roughly where the entrance to the Great Western Arcade is today. Unfortunately, no plan of the meeting house has survived in the Central Area Meeting Archives deposited here, but there is a plan of the graveyard, drawn by the banker Charles Lloyd (1748 – 1828), with a key containing a list of names of those buried there.

SF (2014-213) 1262 e

Plan of the Friends’ graveyard in Bull Lane drawn by Charles Lloyd, n.d. [Ref SF (2014-213) 1262]

SF (2014-213) 1262 d

Key to the plan of the Friends’ graveyard in Bull Lane, compiled by Charles Lloyd, n.d. [Ref SF (2014-213) 1262]

The meeting house on Monmouth St. needed frequent repairs, so in 1702, it was decided to build a new meeting house, paid for by members of the meeting. This was on Bull St., on the site of where the current meeting house entrance gates now stand. Land behind the meeting house was used as a burial ground.  Continue reading

Charles Reece Pemberton (1790-1840) ‘Poet, teacher and friend of the poor man; of the working man.’

This is one of those ‘Archives tales’ which shows the way something selected at random can lay trails for the curious; opening doors on, and raising questions about all sorts of subjects. I started with a volume titled ‘Charles Reece Pemberton. Lecturer on Poetry, Eloquence etc. 1790-1840’. I knew nothing about him. The word ‘poetry’ and his dates had drawn me in.

The volume in question, bought for 6 guineas by Birmingham Reference Library in 1888, contains letters, printed pamphlets and notices, newscuttings, an etched portrait and ‘A Sketch of the Life and a few of the Beauties of Pemberton’, written by George Jacob Holyoake of Birmingham, 1842. Holyoake had started work in a foundry in Birmingham aged 8 years. He had attended lectures at the Mechanics’ Institute from 18 years where he discovered the socialist writings of Robert Owen. He became an assistant lecturer and then an Owenite Social Missionary.

Title page of [MS 3022]

Title page of ‘A Sketch of the Life and a few of the Beauties of Pemberton’ [MS 3022]

Holyoake states that Pemberton was born in Pontypool, South Wales, in 1790, and that his father was a mechanic. He was brought to Birmingham and was educated at the Unitarian Charity School in Park Street. Apprenticed to a merchant uncle, he ran away to Liverpool where he was seized by the Press Gang and sent to sea. He spent several years at sea serving in various battles. During his wanderings he became proprietor and manager of several theatres in ‘the East’ and married a lady ‘of talent as extraordinary as his own’. After an ‘unlooked for occurrence’ separated them, he continued ‘a solitary wanderer’ through the world.

Portrait of Charles Reece Pemberton [MS 3022]

Portrait of Charles Reece Pemberton
[MS 3022]

The Dictionary of National Biography gives a little more information, sometimes contradicting Holyoake’s version. It states that Pemberton’s father was a Warwickshire man, his mother Welsh, and they came to Birmingham when he was about 4 years old. He studied under Daniel Wright at the Unitarian school and his uncle to whom he was apprenticed, is described as a brass founder. His naval service was apparently near Cadiz and after the war he became an actor and ran several theatres in the West Indies where he made an unhappy marriage to one Fanny Pritchard, and they soon separated. The DNB records that he returned to England in 1827.

Holyoake continues that Pemberton had acquired the skills of oratory as an actor. He first saw a play in Birmingham and was inspired to act. According to the DNB, on his return to England Pemberton acted the tragic characters of Shakespeare, such as Macbeth and Shylock, in Bath, Hereford, at Covent Garden and in Birmingham. Sergeant, later Sir Thomas Talfourd (1795-1854), judge, politician and author of several plays seems to have been very impressed by his performances; others less so. After a few years Pemberton seems to have abandoned acting and he became a lecturer on Shakespeare, and an author. He gave a lecture on Brutus at Birmingham Mechanics’ Institute and Holyoake said of him: ‘as a Lecturer on Oratory & Poetry he was equally great and instructive and was probably without a living equal. His illustrations, being gathered from the study of men and things in all climes, seldom failed to awaken new and elevated ideas.’  An obituary notice in the Sheffield ‘Iris’ says: ‘Many will remember the thrilling effect which his original and splendid lectures in illustrating the creation of the poet’s [i.e. Shakespeare’s] fancy produced.’

From 1833-1835 he wrote sketches of his life under the title ‘The autobiography of Pel Verjuice’ in the Monthly Repository, London.  In 1838 he fell ill, but thanks to the generosity of Talfourd and many other friends, he travelled to Egypt for two years in the hope of recovering his health. He published a series of letters in the Iris, describing Egypt and the Mediterranean. [If this is the Birmingham literary magazine, Isis, then, sadly, Archives & Collections holds only one volume, for 1830, at L08.2]. Continue reading

Uncovering Quaker Heritage: a pop-up exhibition

pop-up-image

Monday 23rd January 2017 4.00-6.30pm

Wolfson Centre, Level 4, Library of Birmingham

Since the middle of the 17th century Birmingham and Warwickshire have been major centres of Quaker activity. Despite being a minority group, Quakers have been highly influential in the social, economic, philanthropic and political development of the region.

To find out more about the records we hold, come and view a selection of original Quaker material dating from the 17th century to the 20th century from the archive of the Central England Area Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Made available via the Birmingham & Warwickshire Quakers project, a cataloguing project funded by a National Archives Cataloguing Grant and a bequest from a member of Central England Area Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Entry is free. All are welcome!

A parcel for Christmas

ms-703-acc-2015-082-christmas-letter

Christmas letter sent by members of Moseley Road Men’s Early Morning School to absent class members at the front, December 1915 [MS 703 (2015/082) 247]

During the festive season, we often give a thought to those who are absent and it was no different in December 1915 when scholars of the Men’s Early Morning School and the Men’s Afternoon Bible Class at Moseley Road Friends’ Institute decided to send Christmas parcels to absent members who were contributing to the war effort in the armed forces or as munition workers.

In both the Early Morning School and the Afternoon Bible Class, several collections were made and a number of scholars who were to be awarded prizes for their class work, were asked to give these up in order that the money for the prizes could instead be allocated to providing a Christmas parcel to their fellow scholars at the front.

Barrow Cadbury,  President of the Early Morning School and Institute and teacher of Class XV of the Men’s Early Morning School, offered to contribute a small fellowship hymn book, a copy of the new edition of the adult school song book and a supply of chocolate for each parcel. Class XV decided to send cigarettes while other Early Morning School classes provided other useful items to be added to the parcels. In total, sixty-two parcels were sent to the front, and enclosed in each one was,

…a most unique greeting, consisting of a message from the school, followed by a reproduction of the signatures of practically all our regular attenders.

(Moseley Road Early Morning School minute book (MS 703 (2015/082) 247)

Continue reading

Wish you were there?

Horizons Midlands holiday brochure winter 1975-6

Horizon Midlands holiday brochure, winter 1975-6

Now the weather turns chillier, why not cushion yourself in the eventide glow of a Mediterranean clime? How much will this cost me I hear you chime, not a penny dear reader when you experience all that the more climatically forgiving realms of this continent have to offer by perusing a copy of a Horizon Midlands brochure.

The Archives & Collections service recently received a donation of historic brochures and literature from an employee of Horizon Midlands which was an independent travel agents based in Birmingham from the late 1960s through to the early 1990s. The donation, which has been added to our Birmingham trade catalogue collection, also includes a series of annual reports and accounts for the company covering the period from 1975 – 1986 along with paperwork detailing a proposed joint venture with Bass PLC in 1985 amongst other documents. The company appears to have been based originally at 214 Broad Street and ended its days not too far away at 4 Broadway, Five Ways.

Horizons Midlands

Horizon Midlands map of holiday destinations

Continue reading

‘…in honour to our scholars’

Moseley Rd. Friends’ Institute memorial service sheet, 1917, showing members of the Institute with the caption ‘In the hope of a better life’ [LF18.6]

On 11th November 1919, a year after the signing of the Armistice had brought an end to the hostilities between the Allies and Germany, a two minute silence was observed across the country. While this marked the anniversary of the end of the war and became the first national day of remembrance for those who had died, support and remembrance for the troops on a more local and community level had been taking place throughout the war years.

This can be seen in the records of Moseley Road Friends’ Institute, which opened in 1897 and was one of a number of Quaker initiated centres across the city of Birmingham, run by volunteers and established to provide adult education, missionary and social work activities for the benefit of the local community. Moseley Road Men’s Early Morning School, along with other adult schools, had fostered a strong sense of community and fellowship since its opening, not only through education but also via numerous social, musical, horticultural, sporting and other activities. It is not surprising then, that members of the school remaining in Birmingham during the war wanted to demonstrate their support and friendship to those who were fighting. Continue reading

150 years of Our Libraries (a.k.a. 155 years, 6 months and 22 days of Our Libraries.)

First things first: “150 years” is something of a miscalculation. The first public library (the Northern District Lending library, based in rented premises on Constitution Hill) opened 3rd April 1861 (a Wednesday, fact fans), hence the alternative title of this blog 155 years, 6 months and 22 days of our libraries.  The 150 years refers to the sesquicentennial of Birmingham Reference library, which opened on the 26th October 1866, the same day as the laying of the foundation stone at Gosta Green and the opening of Deritend library.

City Librarian’s desk, [L53.31 Photographs: Central Public and Commercial Libraries in Birmingham]

With that pedantry out of the way: what’s happened in those 155 years, 6 months and 22 days?  Well, the aim of this blog is to provide a recap of the events of the last 150 odd years to record notable events, the opening dates of branch and community libraries and other odd titbits of information.  I will say that there is a great deal more I could, and would like to, add to this timeline but the constraints of time see this very much as a potted history.

Like some kind of history-blog sommelier, I would suggest you pair this timeline with the gallery of images from our collections to be found here as many of the places and events mentioned below can be found depicted in the photos/drawings in the online gallery. Continue reading