Skip to content
Bradshaw’s Guide

Birmingham

This is the great centre of the manufactured metal trades, being situated in North Warwickshire, on the border of the South Staffordshire iron and coal district  —  112 miles from London by the North Western railway, or 129 miles by the Great Western railway. The town stands upon a series of sandstone hills, of moderate elevation; it is well-drained, and very healthy, although containing a population of 296,076 inhabitants.

Steam power is here used extensively, scarcely a street being without its manufactory and steam-engine; at same time a considerable amount of the labour is of a manual kind, earned on in small workshops attached to the dwelling-houses of the artisans; and, it is worthy of remark, that the houses of the poorer classes here are very superior to those usually met with in large manufacturing or densely inhabited towns.

The public buildings most worthy of note in Birmingham are—first the Town Hall, at the top of New Street, a beautiful Grecian Temple, of Mona marble, 160 feet by 100, on a basement 23 feet high, surrounded by rows of Corinthian pillars, 40 feet high; it has a splendid public-hall, 145 feet long, at one end, of which is the famous organ by Hill, one of the finest in Europe, containing 4,000 pipes, acted upon by four sets of keys. In this hall is held the celebrated Triennial Musical Festival, perhaps the most successful of anything of the kind, drawing together talented artistes from all parts of the world to aid in, the performances; here also is a line bust of Mendelssonn, who presided in this Hall in 1846, at the first performance of his Elijah. The Market Hall is a fine building of stone, 365 feet long, 103 feet wide, and 60 high, with 600 stalls. It is situated in High Street. King Edward the Sixth’s Grammar School in New Street, founded in 1022, and endowed with twenty pounds’ worth of land by the monarch whose name it bears, was rebuilt by Barry, in the Gothic style, with a frontage of 174 feet long and 60 feet high. Its income is now about £11,000 a-year, arising principally from the increased value of its lands The Queen’s College, in Paradise Street, founded by Mr Sands Cox, in 1S43, and built in the Tudor style has various professorships attached to it, some of them endowed by that liberal contributor, Dr. Warneford. In Summer Lane is the General Hospital a noble institution, founded in 1769, by Dr. Ash. The celebrated musical festivals already mentioned are held for the benefit of this establishment. The Queen’s Hospital, in Bath Row, the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, the Blind Asylum, Lying-in-Hospital, Infirmary, Magdalen Asylum, Ragged and Industrial Schools, and a Reformatory, have all more or less handsome and suitable buildings. The Blue Coat School is an excellent institution, with an extensive stone building, where are maintained and educated 200 boys and girls; it is situated in St Philip’s churchyard, and is entirely supported by voluntary contributions. Bingley Hall is an immense shed, covering nearly two acres of ground, where the Midland Cattle and Poultry Shows are held in December of every year, and which have now become the most extensive and successful in the country. The Gaol, Lunatic Asylum, and the Workhouse. The Birmingham and Midland Institute, in course of erection, adjoining the Town Hall, will be a noble pile of building; the foundation stone was laid by H.R.H. Prince Albert, in November, 1855. Opposite the Town Hall is a colossal statue in bronze, of the late Sir Robert Peel, by Peter Hollins; and opposite the Market Hall, another of Nelson, by Westmacott. Edgbaston, the “West End” of Birmingham, where the wealthy manufacturers live, is a beautifully arranged collection of villa residences.

The parish church is St. Martin’s, in the Bull Ring, originally built in the thirteenth century, and having tombs of the De Berminghams, who founded a castle here in 1155. Some of the oldest houses are in this quarter; in front is Westmacott’s statue of Nelson, on a column. St. George’s Church is a Gothic structure, built in 1822 by Packman. St. Paul’s is marked by a good spire. St. Philip’s, in the upper part of the town, has a large churchyard. Christ Church, St Mary’s, St. Bartholomew’s, Trinity, St. Thomas’s, St James’s, St. Peter’s, All Saints’ and about twelve more of recent erection. There is a Roman Catholic cathedral, in brick, by Pugin. The Jews have a splendid Synagogue, lately erected at Singers’ Hill.

The principal Establishments worth visiting in Birmingham are:—

Electro-Plate and Silver.—The establishment of Messrs. Elkington and Co., in Newhall Street, perhaps without an equal in the world, taking into consideration its range of beautiful show rooms, in connection with its workshops, where may be seen the manufacturing of silver goods, electro-plated wares, and bronzes, in every possible stage.

Steel Pen Manufacturer.—We should think the reputation of Messrs. Gillott and Son, Graham-street, has reached all parts of the world.— See
advertisement
.

From Birmingham many interesting excursions may be made within a circle of about 20 miles. Among these are — Kenilworth and Warwick Castles; Stratford-on-Avon, the birth-place of Shakspeare near Charlecote, the Lucy’s seat; Tamworth Castle, near Drayton Manor, the seat of Sir R. Peel; Lichfield Cathedral and town, where Dr. Johnson was born; the iron and coal fields to the north, round Wednesbury, Walsall, Bilston, and other seats of the hardware trade, all honeycombed below, intersected by canals and railways above; Sandwell Park, Earl Dartmouth’s seat, and Oscott Roman Catholic College; Dudley Castle and caves; Leasowes (which was Shenstone’s seat), and Hagley Park, near Hales Owen; the fine country round Kidderminster and Stourport, on the Severn.

The Central Station.—The progressive extension of the railway system led to the erection of several buildings for its general purposes; and these structures are entitled to rank amongst the most stupendous architectural works of the age. It was built for the accommodation of the immense traffic of the London and North Western and that, of the Midland, Stour Valley, and South Staffordshire lines.

Situated in New Street, Birmingham, the entrance is at the bottom of Stephenson Place, through an arcade, to the booking offices for the respective railways; passing through these we emerge on a magnificent corridor or gallery, guarded by a light railing, and open to the station (but enclosed by the immense glass and iron roof), from whence broad stone staircases, with bronze rails, afford access to the departure platform. We then stand on a level with a long series of offices, appropriated to the officials of the company, and a superb refreshment room, divided into three portions by rows of massive pillars, annexed to which is an hotel (the Queen’s).

The interior of this station deserves attention from its magnitude. The semicircular roof is 1,100 feet long, 205 feet wide, and 80 feet high, composed of iron and glass, without the slightest support except that afforded by the pillars on either side. If the reader notice the turmoil and bustle created by the excitement of the arrival and departure of trains, the trampling of crowds of passengers, the transport of luggage, the ringing of bells, and the noise of two or three hundred porters and workmen, he will retain a recollection of the extraordinary scene witnessed daily at the Birmingham Central Railway Station.

Spotted a mistake? Suggest a correction on GitHub.