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Fascinating Facts About Birmingham

Despite its' current size, Birmingham grew late in relation to other British cities and was a market town right up until the Industrial Revolution. At this time, luminaries such as Matthew Boulton & James Watt (inventors of the steam engine), William Murdock (inventor of gas lighting) and Joseph Priestley (who discovered oxygen) put Birmingham on the map. A massive system of canals were built to cope with the influx of traffic, so that Birmingham now has a more extensive canal network than Venice.

World War II saw heavy damage inflicted upon the city, and an equally brutal reconstruction program that earned Birmingham's inner ring road the nickname 'the concrete collar'. However, Birmingham's relationship with the car goes deeper than this; it saw the building of the first four-wheeled petrol driven car by F W Lancaster in 1895, and now acts as the UK's motor-manufacturing hub (earning it the nickname Brum).

Birmingham has since been reborn as a business and conference centre, and is busy rebuilding itself into the sub-capital it always should have been.

965,928 in city and 2,555,596 in the West Midlands

283 km? (109 mi?)



Birmingham means Home (HAM) of the people (ING) of the tribal leader BIRM or BEORMA. >more

The Domesday book of 1086 valued Birmingham at twenty shillings, one of the poorest manors in Warwickshire. By 1400 it was the fourth wealthiest place in Warwickshire.

Matthew Boulton, one of the great pioneers of the Industrial Revolution was born in Snow Hill in 1728.

James Watt worked with Boulton in Birmingham and together they perfected Watt's invention of the steam engine, which powered Britain's rise to industrial supremacy.

William Murdock, inventor of gas lighting, was also employed by Boulton.

Boulton, Watt and Murdock are all buried at St Mary's Church, Handsworth which has become a place of pilgrimage for historians, scientists and thinkers from as far a field as Japan.

James Watt's name lives on through the his name was given to the electric unit of power, the Watt.

Joseph Priestley, the world renowned Birmingham-based scientist and chemist, discovered oxygen. He was forced to leave Birmingham after a rioting mob destroyed his house in Sparkbrook.

The Baskerville typeface, used by printers world-wide, is named after its inventor John Baskerville, who lived and is buried in Birmingham.

Dr William Withering discovered (1785) the use of digitalis which was extracted from the fox glove and used in the treatment of heart disease. It is still in use today as the drug Digitoxin and Digoxin.

Bishop Francis Asbury, the founder of the American Methodist Church, lived in Newton Road, Great Barr, Birmingham until 1771 when he left for the New World and Evangelism. >More

Lloyd's Bank was founded in 1765 in Dale End by Sampson Lloyd and John Taylor. The Midland Bank also began life in Birmingham.

American consul, Elihu Burritt acclaimed Birmingham as the "pen shop of the world" in 1868 and declared Birmingham's pens were one of "the pioneers of civilisation", bringing to a large number of people the opportunity to write.

George Cadbury began making chocolate in Birmingham in 1824. At that time chocolate was considered an aphrodisiac and therefore not suitable for a lady's diet.

The Great Reform Act of 1832 which gave birth to English democracy was passed largely as a result of the campaigning of the Birmingham Political Union, led by the city banker Thomas Attwood.

Birmingham Town Hall was designed by the architect Hansom, who also designed the Hansom cab. >more

St Chad's Roman Catholic Cathedral was designed by Pugin. It was the first Catholic cathedral to be built in Britain since the Reformation.

Art and Culture

Charles Dickens was the sixteenth President of The Birmingham and Midland Institute.

Sherlock Holmes' creator Arthur Conan Doyle lived in Birmingham from 1871 to 1881.

J R R Tolkien, author of "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" grew up by Sarehole Mill. >more

Birmingham's oldest cinema is the Electric, opened on 30 July 1910.

The famous ODEON chain of cinemas was first opened in Birmingham in 1930 by Oscar Deutsch. ODEON stands for Oscar Deutch Entertains our Nation.

Famous actors and entertainers from the region include Tony Hancock, Sid Field, Julie Walters, Lenny Henry and Jasper Carrott.

The whistle used by Kate Winslett in the film "Titanic" was based on the original whistle used to save people's lives when the ship sank. The whistle was invented and made by Birmingham company, J Hudson & Co.

Mendelssohn composed his oratorio Elijah for Birmingham's Triennial Music Festival which began in the 18th century and ran until 1912, when Sibelius conducted the British premiere of his Fourth Symphony. Dvorak, Elgar and Grieg also took part in the festival.

Pop groups as diverse as UB40, Duran Duran, Led Zeppelin,  Moody Blues, Slade, Stevie Winwood, Roy Wood, Jeff Lynne and the Electric Light Orchestra and Ocean Colour Scene. Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne born in Aston is now has a half hour show on MTV "The Osbournes"

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has one of the finest collections of 19th century paintings in the United Kingdom and has been designated as being of national importance. In it staged an exhibition of the work of Edward Burne-Jones, which will only be seen in Birmingham, New York and Paris .

Birmingham Royal Ballet, formerly Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet, was the first ballet company to relocate from London to Birmingham in 1990. It is also the first ballet company to set up a degree course for its dancers.

Meetings and Conferences

The NEC, opened in 1976, is the UK's largest and Europe's seventh largest exhibition venue.

The NEC stages more exhibitions than any other major European centre, including the UK's top trade and public events.

The UK's highest profile business event - the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) National Conference has been staged at the ICC for an unprecedented four years out of five.

Symphony Hall, within the ICC, sits on 2,000 rubber "shock absorbers" which help to prevent any external vibration reaching the hall. It is recognised as one of the most acoustically perfect venues in the world.

The foundation stone of the ICC was laid in 1986 by Jacques Delors, the then President of the European Commission. The stone still stands at the ICC's canalside entrance.


F.W Lanchester built the first four-wheeled petrol driven car in Birmingham.

One third of the jewellery manufactured in the UK is made within one mile of Birmingham city centre.

Half of all jewellery made in the UK comes from Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter

Birmingham's assay office, established in 1773, is the largest in the world.

Birmingham is Britain's most land-locked city but the assay mark for jewellery made in Birmingham is the anchor.

The Birmingham School of Jewellery is the first purpose-built jewellery school to be built in Europe for over 20 years.

The West Midlands is home to Europe's largest centre for the manufacture of ceramics, combined with a significant crystalware sector.

The West Midlands is the top-ranking automotive manufacturing area in the UK with the highest number of foreign and indigenous automotive suppliers.

All models of the internationally recognised Land Rover, produced in the UK are made in Solihull.

Way back in 1940, two scientists, Sir John Randall and Dr. H. A. Boot, invented a device called a magnetron to produce microwaves in their lab at England's Birmingham University. The magnetron became the most critical component of the microwave oven 


The game of lawn tennis was first originated and played in Edgbaston in 1865.

Edgbaston Archery is the oldest Lawn Tennis Club in the world.

There are more world and European sporting championships staged in Birmingham than any other UK city

Birmingham holds the title 'National City of Sport' awarded by the Sports Council to only three UK cities

Birmingham has three professional football teams - Aston Villa, nicknamed the Villains; Birmingham City, nicknamed the Blues; and West Bromwich Albion, nicknamed the Baggies.

William McGregor, the Aston Villa Football Club Committee man is credited with the idea leading to the creation of the Football League in 1888. Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion were founder members of the football league.

Nigel Mansell, the former  F1 Grand Prix World Champion winning 31 Grand Prix events, lived in Hall Green and worked for Lucas Aerospace.

The Ryder Cup will return to the Brabazon course at the Belfry for a record fourth time in 2002.


The population of Birmingham is nearly 1 million people; 6 million people live within 50 miles of the city.

There are 30 other Birminghams around the world and one crater on the moon called Birmingham.

Birmingham's key partner cities are Frankfurt and Leipzig (Germany); Lyon (France); Milan (Italy); Chicago (USA) and most recently Johannesburg, (South Africa).

Birmingham's civic motto is Forward.

The statue in Centenary Square takes its name from the civic motto and is also known as Forward.

Centenary Square is made up of more than half a million bricks - all hand laid.

21.5% of the population of Birmingham are classified as ethnic minorities

The people of Birmingham are known as Brummies. >more

The city puts on the third largest St Patrick's day parade in the world, next to Dublin and New York

80% of the land area in the West Midlands classed as rural.

There are suburbs in Birmingham called California, Hollywood and Broadway.

Birmingham has the UK's largest National Sealife Centre which incorporates the world's only 360 degree transparent tunnel so you can stand suspended in mid-ocean.

If all the Cadbury creme eggs made by Birmingham-based Cadbury were stacked on top of each other, they would be 900 times higher than Everest.

Birmingham is home to the Balti, a spicy, aromatic Kashmiri dish, with over 100 Balti houses attracting over 20,000 visitors per week. >more

Brindleyplace is the first mixed use canal-side city development of its type in the UK. The waterfront regeneration was awarded the 1998 British Airways Tourism For Tomorrow Award.

In 1998 Birmingham hosted three of the world's most prestigious events - the Eurovision Song Contest, the G8 Birmingham Summit of world leaders and the Lions Clubs International Convention - the largest convention of its type in the world.





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