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13 November 2014

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You are in: Birmingham > History > Local History > Birmingham - stuff you should know!

Lewis in Birmingham

Lewis in Birmingham

Birmingham - stuff you should know!

Birmingham is an amazing city, and there are probably a few interesting and quirky facts here that you never knew about.


Birmingham means home (ham) of the people (ing) of the tribal leader Birm or Beorma.

Birmingham's first canal was opened in 1769 and linked Birmingham to Wednesbury. There are many locks on the canals including the famous Guillotine Lock in Kings Norton, which was used to control the flow of water between canals owned by different companies.

Birmingham is home to Cadbury's Chocolate. George and his brother Richard Cadbury moved their successful chocolate manufacturing business from Bull Street, Birmingham to Bournville in 1879.

Built as part of The ICC in 1991, Symphony Hall is the home of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.


'Floozie in the Jacuzzi'

Victoria Square hosts one of the largest fountains in Europe, with a flow of 3,000 gallons per minute, it is known as "The River" but has been nicknamed "The Floozie in the Jacuzzi".

Bingley Hall, the world's first exhibition hall, opened in 1850 on the site now occupied by The ICC.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, spent his childhood in Sarehole, Birmingham. The tiny village of Sarehole is said to have been the model for the Shire, home of Bilbo in the book The Hobbit.

Phil Coker giving a reading

Home to JRR Tolkien

Alec Issigonis was one of the most colourful car designers of modern times. He went on to design the world famous, Birmingham- made 'Mini', which started production in 1959 at Longbridge, Birmingham and is still in production today.

Birmingham is home to the historic Bull Ring - site of a market for more than 800 years. Within the complex are five retail markets attracting around 20 million customers a year.

The Mini in 1967

The Mini in 1967

Two miles from Birmingham city centre is one of the biggest motorway junctions in Europe:Gravelly Hill Interchange, known as 'Spaghetti Junction' to millions of motorists.
Soho House is the elegant home of industrial pioneer Matthew Boulton, who lived their from 1766 to 1809. Boulton in partnership with James Watt developed and patented the steam engine at the nearby but now demolished Soho Factory.

William Murdock, who worked for Boulton and Watt at Soho, Handsworth, invented gas lighting. His cottage at Soho Foundary was the first domestic building to be lit by gas (1798).

James Watt, who lived in Birmingham 1775-1819, developed the steam engine. Through it, the firm Boulton and Watt sold the industrial revolution to the world. Watt also invented the letter copying machine, forerunner of the photocopier. His name stays in our vocabulary through the lightbulb measurement- 60 Watts, 40 Watts, etc.


The first x-ray was taken in Birmingham

X-Ray photography for medical purposes was pioneered by Major John Hall Edwards; he took the first x-ray in Birmingham in 1896.

Curzon Street Station, Digbeth, was the terminus of the London and Birmingham railway, with a station built by Philip Hardwick in 1838, who designed the original Euston Station too.

Birmingham's international Partner Cities include Chicago (USA), Frankfurt (Germany), Johannesburg (South Africa), Leipzig (Germany), Lyon (France) and Milan (Italy).
Birmingham's basketball team are the "Bullets" and there are three professional soccer teams; the "Blues", the "Villains" and the "Baggies".

Birmingham's Centenary Square is made up of more than half a million individual bricks - all hand laid!

Other big cities are green with envy when you mention Brum's 6 million trees, more parks than any other European city, a record-breaking 14 consecutive gold medals form the Chelsea Flower Show and our National Britain in Bloom awards.

Birmingham's Central Library is the city's busiest building, Europe's largest public library and lends 8 million books each year.

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

There are 3 universities and over 450 schools in the City.

Ozzy Osbourne

Black Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne

Birmingham is home to many past and present rock bands including Ocean Colour Scene, Duran Duran, ELO, Dodgy, UB40 and Black Sabbath.

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

The history of the founding de Birmingham family is difficult to follow as there were seven Williams in a row.

Celluloid was invented in 1862, by Alexander Parkes; the first plastic was known as Parkensine.

Lunar Eclipse in 2004

Birmingham is also on the moon

The first of the famous Odeon chain of cinemas first opened in Perry Barr, Birmingham in 1930.

Place names in Birmingham include California, Hollywood and Broadway!

Nigel Mansell, Indy and Formula One Champion was born, lived and worked in Birmingham.

John Wyatt invented a machine for spinning wool - the spinning jenny.

Henry Clay invented a new form of papier mache using sheets of paper (1772).
Joseph Sampson Gamgee (1828-80), a Birmingham doctor, invented the surgical dressing known as cotton wool.

Joseph Priestley, a Birmingham minister (1780-91), discovered oxygen.

Villa and Blues

Villa and Blues

Electro-plating was invented in Birmingham by John Wright in 1840.

Two of Britain's big four banks were founded in Birmingham - Lloyds (1765) and Midland (1836).

The pneumatic tyre was invented in Birmingham by John Dunlop in 1888.

Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914) is recognised as the founder of municipal government.

State education was pioneered in Birmingham in the 1850s.

Three British Prime Ministers attended Mason College, forerunner of the University of Birmingham.

Antonin Dvorak, Czech composer (1841-1904) said of Birmingham: "I'm here in this immense industrial city where they make excellent knives, scissors, springs, files and goodness knows what else, and, besides these, music too. And how well! It's terrifying how much the people here manage to achieve."

Council street cleaners regularly sweep 1,300 miles of road and empty 4,000 litter bins - helping to make Birmingham officially the UK's cleanest large city.

Image of Lewis in Birmingham *2002 Ming de Nasty and Ravi Deepres, commissioned by Capitalising on Culture, an independent project funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

last updated: 08/09/2008 at 08:07
created: 15/04/2008

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