Brummagems: Birmingham's MPs

Brummagems: Birmingham History Buff Keith Bracey' s fantastic historical facts about Brum

William Attwood MP laid the groundwork for the First Reform Act of 1832 and was responsible for the setting up of the first Trade Unions at the time of The Tolpuddle Martyrs who were transported for Trade Union activity with his '#Birmingham Political Union. Attwood held a political meeting of the Birmingham Union on Newhall Hill overlooking Birmingham in 1832 which was attended by over 30000 people. The Government of the day feared that 'Revolution was in the air' and decided to allow limited reform and the abolition of 'Rotton Boroughs' thanks to the words and political action of Birmingham MP William Attwood whose statue once reclined next to the Chamberlain Memorial in Chamberlain Square.

John Bright MP who was instrumental in both the Abolition of Slavery and the 1867 Reform Act which gave the working man the vote......his statue is at the top of the stairs on the first floor of #Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Bright's bust was once on display in The White House of President Bill Clinton as Hillary Clinton found a dusty old statue in a store cupboard. Bright had written to his friend and fellow Abolitionist President Abraham Lincoln when Lincoln was wavering about continuing the American Civil War against slavery. This letter was found in the pocket of Lincoln when he was assassinated in 1865 it had meant that much to him to have the support of his friend. The Clinton's researched the bust and found its great importance to a previous President. Imagine a Birmingham MP in The White House.

Joseph Chamberlain: The 'Modern Municipal Father of Birmingham' The first of the Chamberlain family to become an MP. Former Colonial Secretary and the man behind the University of Birmingham when Mason College was transformed to create the first of the 'Redbrick' Universities. The Clock Tower, the tallest free-standing campanile in the world at 350 metres is named after Chamberlain and called 'Old Joe'. At his funeral in 1913 over 30000 Brummies lined the streets to pay tribute to 'The Father of Birmingham'.

Sir Austen Chamberlain MP Birmingham's first Nobel Peace Prize Laureate for his work on the 1920's Locarno Pact and Joseph Chamberlain's son and Neville's brother. He held the post of Foreign Secretary. His brother Neville Chamberlain MP held the post of Chancellor of The Exchequer and helped set up the Birmingham Municipal Bank, whose headquarters stands at 301 Broad Street. He is probably better remembered for returning from Berlin with his ' little piece of paper' after meeting Herr Hitler and proclaiming 'Peace in our time'. The result was the Second World War.

Denis Howell MP, the 'Minister for Drought' in 1976 & the first proper Sports Minister as a former FA Cup Final referee. Howell was MP for Small Heath and a Minister in Harold Wilson's 1974 government. In the summer of 1976 there was a long drought after one of the best summers of the twentieth century. Denis Howell was brought into the Cabinet as 'Minister for Drought' and advocated the sharing of baths to save water.....soon after he was appointed the summer broke and it started to rain.......and Denis was credited with the change in the weather by the Wilson government. Who says 'spin' is new...? Denis Howell's real impact was as the first proper Sports Minister as befits a former FA Cup Final referee. He also led Birmingham's Olympic bid for the 1988 Olympics which were eventually held in Barcelona.

Part of Brummagems…..Birmingham History Buff Keith Bracey’s fantastic historical facts about Brum……

Find out more on his blog or tweet on @1truclaretnblu

Am I a Brummie Born?

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Sandra Peachey is a writer, coach and part time Brummie.  Here she ponders her mixed up Birmingham heritage, and the ensuing identity crisis of being 'a bit' Brummie...

Since this is my first feature for Birmingham Favourites, let’s begin at the beginning… I am a brummie born, if not raised, so I’m having identity issues… 

Here’s the story: my mother moved from Scotland to Birmingham, with her parents, aged 18, and married my father 10 years later (in a church in Sparkbrook).  My dad was from Cambridgeshire.  He took his bride to Coventry, where they lived out the rest of their lives.  So why would I label myself as a confused Brummie then?!

Well, I was born in a Brummie hospital - Marston Green Maternity.  That’s where mum’s Doctor was, so that is who she went back to and trusted to bring me into, or is that out into the world?

Someone told me years later, that this same gynaecologist - Dr Steve Lester, delivered 10% of Birmingham’s population at that same hospital.  He must have been a busy man! 

When the news reached my Nanna (mother’s mother), she hopped on to the bus from her flat, on the Stratford Road, to Marston Green Hospital to see her new grand-daughter for the first time.  And from then on, I was taken to visit her in her dark little attic abode, on Sunday afternoons.  I remember chomping on Bournville Chocolate and trying not to knock off the anti-macassars perched on her worn out sofa.  So, I was a Brummie born, living in Coventry, taken to Birmingham to see a Scottish expatriate…  Does that make me a weekend / part-time / one part Brummie, or none of the above???

Grappling with my mongrel identity has continued throughout my life… My nanna died when I was 6, and still there were reasons to come back… The lure of the city centre on shopping trips mainly, and occasionally we would visit the scattering of Brummie based friends that my parents kept in touch with… So being a bit Brummie was always there, somehow drawing me back, weaving in and out of my consciousness...

There was the journey into Brum on the train…  The one that stopped everywhere you could possibly think of between Coventry and Birmingham centres, including Marston Green, where I was born.  I could never pass by without waving and thinking that ‘X marks the spot’.

And so life changes and my nanna passed on, then my father and mother, so my connection to Birmingham narrowed down to the hospital…

I was quietly surprised when I heard that Marston Green Hospital had been knocked down, and is now covered with a housing estate.  Where is ‘X marks the spot’ now?

Since then I’ve dated a Brummie bloke and worked in Brummie companies, so somehow it’s still part of the shifting thing that is my identity - the sense of who I am, where I came from and where I’m going…

So maybe there are distinct definitions of what a Brummie actually is, but for today, when I’m in nostalgic mode - please, just allow me to be all, part, labelled or started as one...

You can find more of Sandra's writing on her blog.  She is also author of 2 published works - Peachey Letters, Love Letters to Life (a moving and entertaining exploration of life and the lost art of writing letters) and The F-Factor, (a blueprint for entrepreneurial women who want success without stress) both in paperback and Kindle, available on Amazon and in all good book stores...!

Art in the Heart at Aston Hall

By Debra Jane Tucked away in a quiet corner of Aston, and just a stone's throw from Aston Villa Football Stadium, sits the stunning Jacobean property of Aston Hall.  Now part of Birmingham Museums Trust, it's land once covered many acres of rolling countryside and farmland.  As the city grew, what remains is now a beautiful area of parkland, with large open spaces and shaded tree lined paths.

Perhaps you've noticed it's stately towers, or the spire of the neighbouring church, whilst driving up or down the A38(M)?  Maybe, like me, you went as a child and experienced the spooky, candle flickering 'Aston Hall by Candlelight' tour, and the memory has stayed with you.


In the heat we've been having recently, Aston Hall is certainly the place to be.  Enjoy an hour or more of cool and shade as it's thick stone walls provide the perfect protection from the throbbing summer heat.  You can also enjoy the Victorian gardens, or partake of some lunch or cake from the Aston Hall Cafe in the Stables Range.  The filter coffee is rather good too!

For the moderate fee of £4.00 (£3 concessions and free entry for all on the first Sunday of each month), you can take your time browsing through it's beautiful rooms; explore the intricacy of the Jacobean ceilings upstairs, browse through the long gallery, come face to face with a huge tiger in one of the side rooms downstairs, and get to know the founding Holt family, via their portraits and family tree.

On the 13th July, I took part in a free poetry workshop as part of Art in the Heart and though I've visited the hall numerous times, it was fascinating to learn more about its previous inhabitants, and especially of the woman whose portrait has stuck in my memory since my eleventh Birthday.

Built between 1618-1635 by Sir Thomas Holt, Aston Hall remained in the family until the late 18th century when it passed out of the family due to the lack of a male heir, prior to being sold off.   Exploring the rooms, you can learn more about the Holt family and their many stories; from disinherited sons to suddenly inherited impoverished older brothers, and bickering wives and mother-in-laws.

The portrait that entranced me as a child is of Lady Barbara Holt, the extravagant and despised wife of the fourth Baronet, Sir Clobery.  We may never know the full extent of what caused Sir Clobery to hand his two sons (Sir Lister and Sir Charles) over to the care of his mother upon his death, but today, Lady Barbara's portrait remains defiant as it dominates the great staircase, her dark eyes ever watchful over her beloved Aston Hall, whilst his mother, cast in shadow, looks on.

Find out more about how to visit Aston Hall here.

Words and photos by Debra Jane. Find out more and contact here or tweet via @NotASkinnyMini