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An Introduction To Birmingham

History of Birmingham


When Birmingham is mentioned, things that come to mind include the famous Cadbury’s chocolate, the pen, historical churches and cathedrals, Britain’s second largest city, The Lunar Society and much more.

Once referred to as the City of a Thousand Trades’, Birmingham grew from humble beginnings to become one of the most famous cities not only in the United Kingdom but also in the world. A group of philosophers, industrialists and intellectuals played a critical role in the growth and industrialization of the city of Birmingham.

History shows that the city existed as many as 10,500 years ago during the Stone Age. It was founded along the River Rea valley where a small Anglo-Saxon settlement has been discovered in Digbeth region. The name Birmingham comes from this settlement and comprises of two words “Beorma” which means followers and “Ham” meaning settlement.

According to records, Peter de Birmingham was the holder of the  manor at the beginning of the 12th century. He held the rights to the weekly market which comprised 9 houses, all valued at £1. Later on and with the help of the 1166 market charter, he was able to expand the market which paved way for the small market to become an industrial center and also shaped the industrialization of the UK.

The term of a “thousand trades” came about because of the many trades that took place in the regions. Artifacts show many industries that dealt in cutlery, weapons, buttons, jeweler, steel pen nibs, blade-making, coins, medals, and much more. A closer look at the city landscape, roads, and architecture also show a great influence of the Romans who established a fort in the Harborne region.

By the 18th century, Birmingham was the leading manufacturer of buttons, buckles, small boxes, and jewelry in Europe. It was also a source of raw materials for other products and a strategic trading center. A group of industrialists and philosophers, known as the Lunar Society attained world recognition for their innovative thinking that saw new products and inventions take place in the region. Members of the group included s John Taylor, James Watt, Matthew Bolton and Erasmus Darwin.

The City gained fame as the “Toyshop of Europe” thanks to toy production. It still is the key producer of handmade jewelry in the UK and accounts for more than 40% of the total production. The region continued to thrive and this saw the population grew pretty fast. However, during the Second World War, it was severely hit and many industries were damaged.

In the 20th century, car manufacturing and electrical engineering were the main industries in the region. Today, Birmingham is experiencing a growth in the service economy making the city a regional capital. Computer programming, graphic design, and commerce are the key industries.

a picture of birmingham city centre

Birmingham local attractions

st martin church in birmingham
Saint Martin Church

Situated in the heart of the city is the St Martin’s church. It’s one of the oldest churches and buildings in the region and records show it was built as early as 1290. The church is surrounded by markets and probably served as the main religious center. It boasts of many historical treasures that shed light on the city’s rich history.

The Pen Room

Birmingham is known as a pioneer for the steel nib pen. The region produces many nibs and pens with the Birmingham pen being the most famous. A visit to the Pen Room will help you understand the growth of the pen. You’ll come across the earliest type that required dipping the nib into an ink pot in order to write. You’ll also see early writings, take part in the art of beautiful handwriting or calligraphy, and learn about Braille and much more.

Cadbury World

The Cadbury’s brand of chocolate is among the most-celebrated chocolates not only in the UK but also the world. It originated in the city and still continues to appeal to many people. If you are a “Chocoholic” or are little curious about chocolate, then a stopover at Cadbury World will be worthwhile. The center comprises 14 zones showing the history of the chocolate industry in the region, a picturesque model village, Bourneville village and much more.

Sandwell Valley Country Park

If you visit Birmingham and would like a place to simply relax and enjoy the outdoors, then Sandwell Valley Country Park is the place to be. It spans 2, 000 acres and features a Victorian farm, a small museum, an open water spot, a cycling track, and much more. You will enjoy the panoramic views of the surrounding, the well-kept grounds, cycling, rambling, sporting activities, and fishing as well. It is run by the local council and draws many victors both local and foreign.

Ruskin Glass Centre

Birmingham was a popular glass centre and specialise in all kinds of glass. The Ruskin Glass Centre showcases the glass industry and allows the visitors to get an idea of the different glass processes. You will see how the glass is produced from start to finish. Prior to being transformed into a glass center, this location was the home to Royal Dolton. You will see many beautiful pieces all over the place and you also have the chance to purchase the pieces.

Aston Hall

The Aston Hall is among the greatest and most famous Jacobean houses ever to be built in the UK. It was home to Sir Thomas Hole (1618-1635) and James Watt Junior (1817-1848) and was built between 1618 and1635. Visitors get a chance to go through the different rooms, view the stunning interiors and remarkable architecture, and also learn about the cities heritage.

The Jewellery Quarter

Chamberlain Clock, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham UK
Chamberlain Clock, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham UK

This is home to 400 plus jewellery businesses and is a top attraction to jewellery lovers and people interested in the growth of the industry. It was started more than 2 centuries ago and comprises of remarkable Victorian and Georgian surroundings. The setting is unique and is home to St Paul’s Church, Jewry retailers, a jewellery Museum, the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, Birmingham Assay Office, The Pen Museum, and Birmingham Conservation Trust.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

This is a perfect stopover for anyone who loves arts, crafts, and history. The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is home to large collections of items that were produced in the region more than 200 years ago. It boasts of internationally acclaimed pieces including pre-Raphaelite artwork. There is an Edwardian tea room nearby for you to enjoy authentic English tea.

Adventure Island Mini Golf

If you love a round golf, a visit to the Adventure Island Mini Golf is certainly a plus. It is strategically located for easy access and comprises an 18-hole golf course. The area features volcanoes, palm trees, waterfalls, and large open spaces and is suitable for the entire family. And since it is confined in a closed space, you don’t need to worry about getting rained on. There is a bar nearby just in case you need food and drinks.

Other attractions include St. Phillip Anglican cathedral, Roman Catholic Saint Chad Basilica, Theotokos and St. Andreas Greek Orthodox cathedral, Lichfield Cathedral, War stone Lane Cemetery, Shoo House, The Oratory,  Botanical Gardens, and Nuckolls & Perks.

Some History and Info on Birmingham City