This was a common spelling by early 15th century and Morden's map of
Warwickshire in 1695 states Brimingham alias Birmingham. It was also the case
that spellings of Birmingham vary between 'Birmingham' Bermingham' and 'Burmingham'
Because of the shifting of the vowel and the 'r', Burmingham could then become
Brummingham. Finally, we need to take account of another linguistic process -
that of the change from 'ingham' to 'agem'
This shift is indicated in 1245 when the name de Bermincham appears in a
patent roll. When this variant was shortened by dropping the 'n' then
Burminicham became apparent in 1317. With reversal or the 'r' and the 'u' this
shortened form became Brymechem in 1402. From this developed Brummagem and by
1643 this pronunciation had become accepted widely, as made plain in a pamphlet
published during the civil war which describes 'Brumagem'.
As stressed by Margaret Gelling, an authority on English place names, in
Middle English many place names had two or more forms as the concept of a single
correct name is peculiar to modern literate societies.
In the Oxford English reference Dictionary, Brummagem is given as meaning
cheap and showy or counterfeit. This definition emerged as a result of the ill
reputation gained by the forgers and false minters such as William Booth of
Great Barr. In an attempt to counter prejudice against Brummagem goods, it seems
likely that in later 18th century leading manufactures such as Matthew Boulton
encouraged the use of the name Birmingham. This led to the belief that Brummagem
was an inferior name. It is not. Its use reflects working-class loyalty to our
city and we should not abandon it. Nor should we abandon our history. Birmingham's
past belongs to all of us - whoever we are, wherever we are from originally and
whatever our class, our colour or our creed.
We must pass on our past to our children and their children
Reproduced from Brummagem magazine by kind permission of
The Department of Modern History,
The University of Birmingham,
Dr Carl Chinn MBE is a passionate Brummie born and bred. He is a
Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Birmingham. He is a Radio Presenter
with shows on weekday afternoons and Sunday Lunchtime on BBC Radio WM.
Carl also the author of many books about
Brum and has a new monthly magazine published called