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

Chamberlain clocks: Welcome home 'Little Joe'!

Birmingham has a number of Chamberlain Clocks and possibly the most famous and prominent of these is in the Jewellery Quarter at its junction of Vyse Street and Warstone Lane signposting the way into Birmingham's famous Jewellery Quarter where approximately 40% of the UK's jewellery is still made.

There is another of these Chamberlain Clocks at Five Ways at the junction of Calthorpe Road and Harborne Road in Edgbaston.

Chamberlain was a prominent local Birmingham business man who made his money from the great Birmingham screw and bolt maker Guest Keen and Nettlefold in Heath Street in Smethwick which still exists today as the giant engineering business GKN whose headquarters is still in the West Midlands in Redditch. Chamberlain’s business success led him to pursue a political career and he reached high political office without quite making it to Prime Minister, which his son Neville did achieve.

These clocks were built to commemorate the contribution to the city of Birmingham of one of its greatest sons and a man dubbed 'The Father of Birmingham' Joseph Chamberlain MP who created the modern Municipal Birmingham with the Elan Valley Scheme to pipe fresh water from Mid-Wales to Birmingham and the creation of the first of the 'Redbrick' Universities the University of Birmingham He also built Highbury Hall in Moseley as the result of his success.

One of these Chamberlain Clocks stood in Bearwood for many years until being moved to High Street in Birmingham, about 30 years ago and standing outside Marks & Spencer's for a number of years.

On Saturday 24th October, this particular Chamberlain Clock is returning to its original home in Bearwood and will stand at the junction of Bearwood Road and Adkins Lane, near to the soon to be refurbished Lightwoods House, built by local Smethwick Soap magnate William Adkins after whom Adkins Lane where Lightwoods House (1793) stands is named.

There will be an opening ceremony at 10am at the Adkins Lane site to welcome one of the remaining Chamberlain Clocks home to Bearwood after being renovated by Smiths in Derby.

Welcome home 'Little Joe'!

NB The original 'Old Joe' is the Clock Tower at the University of Birmingham....so it is nice for 'Little Joe' to be returning home, not too far from the University!

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

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

Neighbourhood Watch : Jewellery Quarter

Still the largest jewellery quarter in Europe where 40% of the UK’s jewellery is made, the area is one of the city’s proud heritage neighbourhoods. Situated just a few minutes’ walk from the city centre, in fact you can pick up the pavement trail down Newhall Street from the Great Charles Queensway (take a look at Milan’s on route, still serving an Indian lunch buffet for £4.95!), the JQ is awash with restaurants and cafes among the traditional and modern jewellers.

Starting right at the edge with St. Paul's, Birmingham's last Georgian square, there's the Jam House and just around the corner, the Actress & Bishop for your live music mix. The JQ residents are lucky to have a choice of restaurants including the long-standing Pasta Di Piazza  and Henry’s Cantonese.also the award winning Lasan or you can enjoy the private booths of the Vaults. Further into the heart of the quarter, Big Nanny’s give you a warm Caribbean welcome and the Blue Nile is worth eating at just for the stunning Ethiopian coffee ceremony.

There are a couple of traditional watering holes in St Paul’s Square or at the other end of the quarter, there is the smart casual Drop Forge, great for private parties. Around the corner on the Hockley side, The Lord Clifden, with its garden, seemingly larger than the pub itself and with focus on music and food. A few steps down The Church Inn opened in 2013.

At the heel of the clock outside the Big Peg which marks the centre of the area, there’s a diner menu available from Rose Villa Tavern,  the 100 year old pub to restored to some of its former glory in 2011, complete with an array of global beers, real ales and cocktails. Beyond the RVT the traditional Red Lion not to be confused with the recently re-opened Brown Lion.

For a long time, Saints Caffe was the lone warrior of independent coffee shops in the city centre. That itself has recently changed hands to end a superb era but in recent years It has been joined by version two of Urban Coffee Co, Brewsmiths, the fantastic old school café just by the back entrance of Snow Hill, and Pomegranate, the gift shop/tea shop. Coffee can also be partaken in Fredericks which turns into a sleek bar in the evening.

The Quarter has more heritage than I can fit in a cluster ring but highlights are the RBSA which displays and sells affordable local crafts and jewellery and St Paul’s Gallery which is famous for its album cover and pop artwork. There is JQ’s own theatre, the Blue Orange, the Newman Brothers Coffin Works is currently being restored plus the must-see Pen Museum run brilliantly by volunteers. Finally if you’re going to the Jewellery Quarter Museum pop into the delightful Vee’s Deli.

Oh, and there are over 100 jewellery shops and makers that get very busy on a Saturday as visitors come from all around the Midlands to buy quality jewellery at a good price.

All of this is just touching the solid shiny surface of this nugget in Birmingham’s history. You can find out more here or by booking on a tour with the wonderful IABTours. Or pop along to the residents social every third Tuesday of the month in the Drop Forge run by @MyJQ or Likemind on the third Friday of the month, which is open to all at the aforementioned Brewsmiths, who serve bottomless coffee. Get it while it’s hot!

By JQ dweller, Rickie, founder of Birmingham Favourites, who can be reached on @BrumFaves or @RickieWrites or add your comments below.

Bringing History to Life!

By Deborah Broomfield

The Ladypool Road Trail uniquely takes participants back in time and tells the story of this area through role play bringing history live!

The historical guided tour is performed by The Birmingham History Theatre Company and The Balsall Heath Historical Society.

I was fortunate to be on this tour as a Still Walking volunteer and I’m amused and enthralled by the commitment and knowledge of those acting, especially as this was a particularly warm day!

Travelling through time from the 1800s through to 2005, I met Anthony Pratt, the inventor of Cluedo and Mrs Charley whose husband William Charley built the Brighton hotel in c1900. Motorcycle champion, Howard Davies was born on the Ladypool Road in 1925 and I was entertained with his exploits too! We also were brought back to the First World War and introduced to the landlord of the Clifton Pub in 1914. Coming up to date, the current significance of the Ladypool Road as the Balti Triangle is also recognised.

Anyone interested in local history would love to be on this tour with a difference.  There is a rumour that they may be taking this to the stage. I can’t wait!

More info about The Balsall Heath Historical Society can be found here or on Facebook.

Photos and words by Deborah Broomfield who can be contact via Twitter