Whilst on the bus Friday evening coming home from work, I overheard a comment which I found fairly annoying, and typically judgemental of our fair City.
Two young girls, I would estimate in their early twenties, where talking about the night clubs and pubs in Birmingham and it’s surrounding areas. One claimed that the only thing Brum ( nick name for Birmingham) was any good for where the pubs and clubs up Broad Street, and the designer shops in the Bull Ring, other than that Brum held no other interest either now or in the past.
I couldn’t help but smile and tut inwardly at the same time for their ignorance and lack of knowledge of Birmingham’s history and places of interest, but after all it wasn’t their fault that they were not to realise the significance of how Birmingham has for well over a hundred years ago played a major roll in the shaping of this country.
Although I live in an area of Solihull, which is on the outskirts of Birmingham, I have always had a keen interest in the history of Birmingham, and have collected several books over the years on the history and development of this major UK city.. My father was born and raised in an area known as Knowle in Solihull, which is mostly country and farm land. On my mothers side of the family they were all born in Birmingham, and for most of their lives my Aunts, Uncles and Cousins have all lived in either Birmingham or Solihull area. I have worked near Aston, which is about half a mile or so outside the City Centre, for these last twenty years.
Birmingham is steeped in history, and it is worthwhile remembering it played a significant part in the development of industry and commerce in this country as well as in Europe.
As a child, I can remember our frequent family shopping visits to the Bull Ring markets, which were built in the early 60’s. It boasted one of the biggest outdoor markets in the UK, and adjacent to this via the Woolworths store, was the indoor market. In addition to this we also had another market further up the road known as the Rag Market, this also consisted of an indoor and outdoor market. You could literally get anything at these markets……if you couldn’t get it at the Bull Ring, you had little chance of getting it at any other market anywhere else. The whole area was situated below the Rotunda Building, which still stands in all it’s glory as the landmark of Central Birmingham, and Birmingham itself is the central point of the West Midlands.
As a child growing up in the 70’s, I saw a great deal of what we now refer to as ‘ old Birmingham’ and the ‘old Bull Ring’. And I have to admit over many years I have seen a very large number of changes going on in Brum……but it is still one of the best places in the UK to visit for art, culture, historic buildings and leisure. The city itself is always updating and expanding, and is a hive of activity day and night. Similar to the City of London, Birmingham has its own financial sector, consisting of an area of banks, building society’s and insurance companies.
So lets see what else Birmingham is historically known for! Probably the most well-known and favourite chocolate in the world….Cadbury’s.
Birminghams past history includes the old Longbridge car plant , originally known as the Austin Motor Co Ltd, where in the 60’s they built the Austin car and which in the and 70’s’ and 80’s was once one of the biggest car plant employers in the Midlands and UK along with the Rover plant in Solihull (of which the Rover is still going very strong despite turbulent times in the past), and I am fortunate to be able to say is only a five minute walk across the road from my flat.
In addition to these two car plants, Birmingham also had the Fort Dunlop plant, unfortunately although this is now no longer in operation, it too employed a significant number of people over the years and again became an historical landmark for Dunlop products sold all over the world, including of course Dunlop tyres. Another icon of business was Lucas Aerospace.
New Street station (now under a major modernisation programme) is, and always has been a major rail link across the UK. Major shops like Lewis’s, which hundreds of thousands of people each year used to come and visit before its closure in the early 80’s……it was at one time known as the Harrods of Birmingham. Rackhams is still going strong which is yet another iconic store.
In addition to all this Birmingham has a rich network of canals, which during the early part of the last century was important for transporting good across the country which played a major part in Birmingham’s economy and major industrial development.
Many famous people, actors, politicians, sports celebrities, musicians from all over the world, over the years have have graced Birmingham with their presence.
There are just too many places to mention, but I wonder how many of my blog readers, especially from the UK have heard of some of these places old and new:-
Broad Street, Alexandra Theatre, The Hippodrome, Rackhams, Birmingham Cooperative Society, BBC Pebble Mill Studio, ATV Studio (some of the programmes recordered in and around Birmingham…..Crossroads, The Golden Shot with the late Bob Monkhouse) The Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham Art Museum and Gallery, Spaghetti Junction, Aston Expressway, Aston University, Birmingham Childrens Hospital, The Jewellery Quarter, West Midlands Police HQ, Birmingham City Football Club………oh and I suppose I had better mention that other football team….. Aston Villa!
Many famous people born in or came from Birmingham, Ozzy Osbourne (singer/musician), Don McClean (comedian), Ian Lavender (actor), Jasper Carrott (comedian), Terence Rigby (actor), Toyah Wilcox (singer), Pat Roach (wrestler turned actor), Trevor Eve (actor), Martin Shaw (actor), Tony Hancock (actor/comedian), Tony Britton (actor) John Wyndham (writer) Neville Chamberlain (politician/PM) Robert Kilroy Silk (MP/presenter), Murray Walker (commentator), Steve Winwood (musican/singer) Lenny Henry ( comedian) James and Oliver Phelps (actors of Harry Potter fame)……….and the list is endless.
So you see….Birmingham does have a great deal to offer past and present, it is full of remarkable history, entertainment and culture……..far far more than most people can imagine, it’s not just a city that has great clubs, pubs, restuarants and designer shops……Birmingham is a lot more than that, and I hope it always will be.
I love Birmingham.