Tag Archives: Local History

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

The Wonderful World of Building plans

The purpose of this blog is to give the briefest of overviews of our holdings of architectural drawings and to help researchers to ascertain whether we might hold a plan for a particular building.

Birmingham Archives and Collections hold an extensive range of architectural plans (something in the order of 200’000). These can be found spread over a number of different collections but by far the largest number of plans is contained in the collections we hold of building plans submitted to the local authority for planning permission (collection reference: BCC/1/GG/D/1/7/2).

A building plan, yesterday

When looking to see if we hold a building plan, the first question researchers need to ask themselves is: when was the building built? Planning permission legislation made the control of building works by local authorities compulsory in 1948; prior to then legislation was permissive, granting a local authority the power to control building works if they chose to enforce it. Birmingham Corporation adopted planning control in 1876 – and for fact fans, the first plan was submitted on 7 August 1876 for a house with shops situated on Angelina Street.

If the building in which you are interested pre-dates 1876, we will only hold plans if we hold any material relating to the architect. The following is a (non-exhaustive) list of the collections we hold relating to architects prominent in Birmingham, please do check on our online catalogue or with staff if you are interested in an architect not listed below:

MS 891 J.A. and P.B. Chatwin [whose work includes the Old Joint Stock Bank, a number of branches of Lloyd’s Bank, numerous churches and schools]
MS 1460 H R Yeoville Thomason [responsible for Birmingham Council House, Aston Union Workhouse amongst other]
MS 1542 Bateman & Bateman
MS 1703 Charles Edge [Birmingham Town Hall, Market Hall]
MS 1536 – Records of Bournville Village Trust, Including Harvey drawings for houses built in Bournville

Continue reading

The Midland Adult School Spring Conference

Programme for the 1933 Midland Adult School Union Spring Conference on Unemployment [Finding Number MS 272/I/20]

The Midland Adult School Union (MASU), to which Adult Schools across the Midlands were affiliated, offered its members a variety of educational opportunities in different formats. These included weekly classes, educational trips and visits, away weekends with programmes of lectures and discussion groups, a lunch-time workers’ club (see our previous blog post on the Birmingham Sandwich Club) and conferences.

The annual Spring Conference, organised by the Union’s Education Committee, was hosted by Geraldine and Barrow Cadbury at the Friends’ Institute, Moseley Road for many years and consisted of a day of lectures on a particular theme. Speakers who were considered experts in their field were invited to participate. In the early years, the Conferences tended to be somewhat introspective with themes relating to the Adult School movement and its progress, such as ‘The Adult School in the Life of the Community’ or ‘Is the Union fulfilling its Mission?’.  However, from the 1930s onwards, the Conferences began to address subjects which related to wider society, with the aim of providing members with the opportunity to acquire knowledge from experts and offering them a forum for discussion of contemporary issues of the time.

One example of this was the 1933 Conference on Unemployment which concluded that despite the worthwhile efforts being undertaken to help the large numbers of unemployed in this period, what was actually needed was a way of providing the unemployed with an income. As a result of the Conference, the Union established an Unemployment Committee to examine in more depth the causes, extent and effects of unemployment, propose ways of helping and providing paid work to the unemployed and to take any action it deemed necessary.

Continue reading

World Bee Day 2019

Guide to the 1980 City of Birmingham Bees and Honey Show [L25.46]

As 20th May marks this year’s World Bee Day, it seemed a perfectly good excuse to comb through the collections for some bee themed material.

We have a selection of guides, starting in the 1950s, running to 1982, for the yearly City of Birmingham Bees and Honey Show. The guides provide information on the regulations for exhibitors and also the classes of honey judged, from light to dark. Each year exhibitors could also enter combs of honey, mead, a hive for observation, and also enter the ‘honey cake’ class – the annual recipe for which is provided in the guides.

Warwickshire Bee-Keepers Association, annual report 1940 [L25.46]

Another bee related series of material we hold are the minutes of the Warwickshire Bee-Keepers Association, instituted 1879, our set starting from the 13th Annual Report, in 1909 to, 75th in 1956, plus newsletters from May 1946-1956. The annual reports while providing information about activities also record lists of the branch heads, members, branch rules, plus information on the association accounts. The newsletters provided members with further details on meetings and also apiary advice. Continue reading

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



Forgotten Stories: a Birmingham burial register

The book I’ve chosen to write about this week is titled “SS. Peter and Paul, Aston: Burials 1790 – 1793”, and is located with the parish registers in the Heritage Research Area. It is a facsimile copy of the original register. The original register (Ref: EP 41/2/1/2/5) is held in our stores; however, due to its condition, it cannot be served. Contained within this register is an insight into Birmingham life in the 18th century. This register is special because, uniquely, the cause of death is recorded. This addition allows researchers an insight into the difficulties of 18th century life for the people of Birmingham.

Surrogates of parish registers in the Heritage Research Area, floor 4, Library of Birmingham

Parishes would record information on burials in various ways. By the 1780s, however, there was an attempt to try and make recording more standardised with the production of the ‘Proposed Form of Register for Burials’ which was printed in the year 1781.

Proposed Form of Register for Burials in ‘SS. Peter and Paul, Aston: Burials 1790 – 1793’

The format is a proposed one which seems to have been one of many trial formats. Despite this standardisation attempt, it seems that other parishes in Birmingham did not use this new system during this period, for instance St. Mary’s, Whittall Street. SS Peter and Paul began using the proposed format by about 1784, as seen in the registers.

The proposed format recorded date of burial, name of the deceased, names of parents, age of deceased, supposed cause of death and where buried. This burial register covers the first three years of the 1790s and during that time 550 burials took place within the parish of SS Peter and Paul. Of those 550, 329 were children, equating to 59 – 60% of the register. Of these 329 children (aged between 1 day and 17 years), 49% (163) were under the age of 12 months.

Burial entries of children in ‘SS. Peter and Paul, Aston: Burials 1790 – 1793’

We can clearly see that the infant mortality rate was extremely high during this period, which must have had a significant effect on families.  The causes of death for children ranged from measles to Chincough (whooping cough), and from small pox to consumption. Probably the most unusual cause of death among this group is that of ‘teeth’ or ‘cutting teeth’; it seems unusual to us in the modern world as one would never think of teeth being a cause of death. However it seems that during the 18th century, ‘teeth’ was used as a term for ailments that were seemingly unknown, and which came at a time when new teeth were growing, but also could have been related to the processes by which pain was relieved. It should be noted all 10 entries of ‘teeth’ as cause of death are children between the ages of 7 and 18 months.

There are other types of entry which invite more questions than answers. For example, an entry dated 15th June 1790 for a Mary Bishop.

Burial entry for Mary Bishop, 17 June 1790 in ‘SS. Peter and Paul, Aston: Burials 1790 – 1793’

Her parents’ names are not entered and her cause of death is recorded as ‘Evil’. When I saw this my first thought was why evil? What had she done? I did some further research and discovered information on a disease called Scrofula, a type of tuberculosis affecting the glands. Scrofula was known as the King’s Evil and it was given this name because people believed it could be cured by the King’s touch. A case could be made for Mary Bishop having had Scrofula, and the death was simply recorded as Evil.

Another interesting case is that of Jacob, son of John and Mary Field who died at the age of 5 years and 3 months and was buried on January 4th 1791. His cause of death reads ‘Burned’.

Burial entry for Jacob aged 5, 4 January 1791 in ‘SS. Peter and Paul, Aston: Burials 1790 – 1793’

This is curious. What happened to him? How was he burned? Was there a fire? Was it an accident? Given that no other family members were interred around the same time, does it suggest that there wasn’t a fire or that the rest of his family managed to survive.

There are many others I could mention, for instance on 19 July 1791, Samuel Jones was ‘Killed at Doctor Priestly’s’, aged 24 years old!

Burial entry for Samuel Jones, 19 July 1791 in ‘SS. Peter and Paul, Aston: Burials 1790 – 1793’

It is possible that this gentleman was a victim of the Priestley Riots which took place in Birmingham between the 14th and 17th July 1791. The riots, it seems began as a protest to a dinner that was taking place at the Royal Hotel, to celebrate the 2nd Anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille. Prominent dissenters, (protestants who did not conform to the Church of England) were targeted due to their support of the French Revolution and were seen as a direct threat. Violent acts of looting and burning of dissenter property were seen all over the city. There is a record of one man being killed during the looting of Baskerville House, however it may not be Samuel Jones. More research would be needed to connect this entry definitively to the Priestly Riots, although it would be interesting to do so. Also there is an entry for an unknown man who was found in a cowshed near Vauxhall and died whilst being conveyed to his lodgings. What happened to this man? Who was he?

Burial entry for a travelling man, 23 August 1791 in ‘SS. Peter and Paul, Aston: Burials 1790 – 1793’

To still have access to these stories almost 230 years on is incredible. From records like this we are able to catch a glimpse of what life was like for the people of Birmingham in the 18th century. If you would like to come and view for yourself these stories, and more about the forgotten people of Birmingham, please come to Level 4 of the Library of Birmingham and speak to a member of staff.

Helen Glenn, Senior Archives & Collections Assistant