BIRMINGHAM, a celebrated manufacturing town and a borough, locally in the Birmingham division of the hundred of Hemlingford, N. division of the county of Warwick, 18 miles (N. W. by W.) from Coventry, 20 (N. W.) from Warwick, and 109 (N. W.) from London; containing in the parish 138, 215, and, with the parish of Edgbaston, and the hamlets of Bordesley, Deritend, and Duddeston with Nechels (which, though in the parish of Aston, form parts of the town, and are included within the borough), 182, 922 inhabitants. The name of this town has been traced by its local antiquary, the late Mr. Hamper, through no less than 140 variations, and its etymology is involved in great uncertainty. Dugdale, from its Saxon termination, deduces it from the first Saxon lord; while others assign to it an origin of much higher antiquity, inferring that, with more probability, the first Saxon proprietor took his name from that of the town, which they suppose to have been originally "Bromwych," from the quantity of broom formerly growing in the neighbourhood; from which circumstance also are derived the names of two villages in the immediate vicinity, called respectively Castle Bromwich and West Bromwich. In proof of the high antiquity of the place, and also of its having been distinguished for the manufacture of arms and warlike instruments prior to the Roman invasion, may be adduced the great number of exhausted coal-mines on a common of large extent, called Wednesbury Old Field, within a short distance of the town, and the prodigious accumulation of scoria produced by the smelting of iron, at Aston furnace, on the border of the parish. Both of these it is concluded must have been the work of many centuries; as in the latter, though continually receiving additions, no perceptible increase has been observed within the memory of the oldest inhabitant. From its situation near the Ikeneld-street, the town is supposed to have been the Bremenium of the Romans. During the time of the Saxons, it appears to have been governed by two constables, and to have obtained the grant of a weekly market on Thursday.
In the Conqueror's survey the place is noticed under the name "Bermengeham;" and from the reign of Henry I. till that of Henry VIII., the manor and lordship were held by a distinguished family from whom, according to Camden, "the noble and warlike family of the Bremichams, earls of Louth, in Ireland," who were instrumental in assisting Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, in the conquest of that country, "had both their original and name." Of this family were William de Bermingham, who attended Edward I. into Gascony, where he was made prisoner at the siege of Bellegarde in 1297, and his descendant William, who was summoned to parliament by the title of William, Lord Birmingham, in the 1st of Edward III. The lordship continued in the possession of that family till the 37th of Henry VIII., when by the artifices of John Dudley, afterwards Duke of Northumberland, who at that time held the castle of Dudley, and was ambitious of adding to it the manor of Birmingham, which he had no hope of purchasing, it was wrested from Edward de Birmingham, whom that unprincipled nobleman had by a fictitious charge of felony, supported by perjured hirelings, reduced to the necessity of ransoming his life by the sacrifice of his estate. On the attainder and execution of the duke, in the reign of Mary, the manor escheated to the crown; and, in 1643, a descendant of the Bermingham family through the female line, named Humble Ward, was raised to the peerage as Baron Ward of Birmingham, which title was subsequently absorbed in the superior dignities of Viscount Dudley and Ward, and Earl of Dudley. Of the ancient manor-house, a memorial is preserved in the name of the site, at present occupied by the Smithfield market, and which for many years has retained the appellation of "the Moat," from the intrenchment by which the mansion was surrounded. In St. Martin's church are the recumbent effigies of a crusader and an ecclesiastic, both members of the Bermingham family.
Few events of importance occur in the history of the place prior to the commencement of the civil war of the 17th century, when the inhabitants, with those of Coventry and Warwick, embraced the cause of the parliament, and in 1642, after the king had passed through the town on his route from Shrewsbury, immediately before the battle of Edge-Hill, seized the royal carriages and plate, which they sent to Warwick Castle. In the following year, Prince Rupert, whom the king had despatched with a detachment of 2000 of the royal army, to open a communication between Oxford and York, was, on his arrival at Birmingham, intercepted in his progress by a company of foot belonging to the parliamentarians. This company, reinforced by a troop of horse from Lichfield, and assisted by the inhabitants, having thrown up some works on the summit of Bordesley, since called Camp-hill, on the line of approach from the Oxford road, and having blocked up all the smaller avenues, fired upon the prince's army, and obstinately opposed its entrance into the town. A sharp conflict ensued, which was of longer duration than could have been expected from the great disparity of the numbers; the parliamentarians were driven from their station, and the prince, after much difficulty, obtained an entrance by another avenue. A second attempt to obstruct his progress was made by the inhabitants, who were animated in their resistance by a clergyman who acted as governor, and who, being taken prisoner during the action, and refusing to accept quarter, was, after the battle, put to death at the Red Lion inn. At length, exasperated by the determined resistance of the inhabitants and the death of the Earl of Denbigh, who had been shot by an officer in the service of the parliament, the prince set fire to the town; which, however, after several houses had been burnt, was saved from further devastation by the payment of a heavy fine. In 1791 occurred the memorable riots, which originated in the meeting of about eighty persons on Thursday, the 14th of July, to celebrate the anniversary of the French revolution by a dinner, at the Royal Hotel; and on the 15th of July, 1839, another riot took place, occasioned by the Chartists, who committed numerous and serious outrages.
The most prominent and interesting features in the history of Birmingham are, the extraordinary increase of the town, the progressive improvements of its manufactures, and the wide extension of its trade and commerce. For these advantages it is indebted to the rich mines of ironstone and coal with which the northern and western districts of the neighbourhood abound, and to the numerous canals and railways by which it is connected with all parts of England; carrying on through these channels not only an immense trade with every town of importance in the kingdom, but also exporting its manufactures and its merchandise to every quarter of the civilized world, and receiving, in return, the produce of every country. In the reign of Henry VIII., Leland describes Birmingham as inhabited "by smithes that use to make knives and all manner of cutting tooles, and lorimers that make bittes, and a great many nailours." In the reign of Elizabeth, it is described by Camden as "swarming with inhabitants, and echoing with the noise of anvils; but the upper part rising with abundance of handsome buildings;" and his continuator, Bishop Gibson, in the reign of Anne, mentions "its artificers in iron and steel, whose performances in that way are greatly admired both at home and abroad." Prior to the restoration of Charles II., the town had for centuries consisted merely of one long street, extending from the hamlet of Deritend to the present Bull-street; and its population, till that period, probably did not amount to 5000. In 1711, its public edifices were only the parish church of St. Martin, the chapel of St. John in Deritend, the Old and New meeting-houses, and the free grammar school of King Edward VI. In 1731, it had received the addition of St. Philip's church and the Blue-coat charity school, and at that time its population had increased to 8254. In Westley's Plan of Birmingham, which was published in that year, and which accurately delineates the state of the town, not a house appears northward of St. Philip's church, with the single exception of an ancient mansion called New Hall, of which a memorial is preserved in the name of New Hall street, now leading to its site. From 1731 to 1778, the chapels of St. Bartholomew and St. Mary were the sole additions to the public buildings of the town, which at the latter period contained 42,550 inhabitants. From 1778 to 1801, St. Paul's chapel, the general hospital, the dispensary, the Old and New Libraries, the barracks, and the theatre, were added to its public edifices; and, during the same interval, its population, including the hamlets, increased to 69,384. Since this period, so rapid has been the increase of the buildings in the suburbs, that upwards of 100,000 inhabitants have been added to its population.
The town is advantageously situated on an eminence at the north-western extremity of the county, bordering closely on the counties of Stafford and Worcester, from the former of which it is separated only by a small brook. On every side, except the north-west, it is approached by an ascent; and the streets, which are in general spacious, are well paved and flagged, lighted with gas, and, being commonly on a declivity, always clean. The houses, most of which are modern and well built, and of which several of more recent erection are large and handsome, are chiefly of brick; but, since the introduction of Roman cement, many have been newfronted, and nearly throughout the town and its environs (the latter of which are thickly studded with the pleasant villas and private houses of merchants, manufacturers, and tradesmen) are presented specimens of elegance in almost every style of architecture. The inhabitants are amply supplied with water from pumps attached to their houses, and with soft water of excellent quality from two fine wells at Digbeth, in the lower part of the town. On entering from London, either through Coventry or through Oxford, the road, by a stone bridge over the river Rea at Deritend, leads up an ascent into an area called the Bull-ring, formerly used as the market-place, in the centre of which is a statue in bronze of Admiral Viscount Nelson, finely executed by Westmacott, at an expense of £3000, raised by subscription.
The Old Library, in Union-street, originally established in 1779, is a stone building, comprising a spacious depository for the books, of which there are more than 30,000 volumes: the New Library, instituted in 1796, and for which the present building in Temple-row West was erected about twenty years since, though upon a smaller scale than the Old library, is similarly conducted. The News-room, on Bennet's-hill, erected in 1825, is a neat edifice: the interior comprises one large reading-room, opening through folding-doors at one end into two smaller apartments, and there is also a suite of rooms, in which copies of the public records and books of reference are deposited. The press of this town attained considerable eminence when Baskerville printed that series of works which in typographical beauty have never since been equalled. After his decease in 1775, his exquisite types could obtain no purchaser in Britain, and were therefore sold to a literary society at Paris, and subsequently taken to Kehl by Beaumarchais, to print his edition of the works of Voltaire. The Philosophical Society, in Cannon-street, was formed in 1800, and in 1810 the members extended their plan, and added to their rooms a commodious theatre for the delivery of lectures. A Mechanics' Institute was founded in 1825, and there are several other literary and scientific institutions. One of these, an institution called the Polytechnic, for the instruction of the working classes and others at a cheap rate, and advancing their moral and intellectual character, was established in 1843; in connexion with it are a news-room, library, and baths. The Botanical and Horticultural Society was instituted in 1828, when a spacious plot of ground in a delightful situation at Edgbaston, granted on lease by Lord Calthorpe, was converted into gardens, in which have been erected a conservatory and other requisite buildings. The Society of Arts, in New-street, was formed in 1821; the building is a chaste and elegant specimen of the Corinthian order, comprising an exhibition-room (a circle 52 feet in diameter, lighted from the roof), and several smaller apartments for casts from the antique sculptures, and other departments of the art, with a well-assorted library. The Institution for Promoting the Fine Arts was established in 1828, for the encouragement of artists resident within 30 miles of Birmingham: it is now incorporated with the Society of Arts; and a handsome building of the Grecian-Doric order, with fluted columns supporting a rich entablature and cornice, which had been erected for its use on the south side of St. Philip's churchyard, is now used for various literary and scientific purposes.
The Theatre, in New-street, is a spacious and well-arranged building, consisting of a pit, two tiers of boxes, and a gallery, together capable of accommodating 2500 persons. It was originally built in 1774: the interior was destroyed by fire in 1792, and again, with the exception of the present front, in January, 1820; but it was rebuilt during the same year, at an expense of £14,000, subscribed in shares. Assemblies are held periodically during the winter, at the Royal Hotel; the room, which is spacious and elegantly embellished, is also appropriated to the subscription concerts, which are supported by more than 300 members, and conducted on a scale combining the first-rate talent of the metropolis with the professional skill of the town. The triennial musical festivals, for which Birmingham has become so pre-eminently distinguished, originated in aid of the funds of the General hospital, for which purpose the committee, on its being opened in 1779, had recourse to a performance of sacred music under the direction of a London professor: the receipts are now very large. The Town-hall, intended for the transaction of public business and the holding of large meetings, and more especially with a view to the efficient performance of the music at the triennial festivals, was erected under the provisions of the Street Commissioners' act obtained in 1828, and was opened in 1834, at an expense of £18,000, defrayed by a rate on the inhabitants. It is a stately and magnificent structure of colossal dimensions, substantially built of brick, and cased with Anglesey marble presented to the town by Sir R. Bulkeley, Bart., proprietor of the Penmon quarries: the design was modelled by Mr. Harris from the temple of Jupiter Stator at Rome, and the edifice was built by Messrs. Hanson and Welsh, architects, of Liverpool. The interior of the hall is 140 feet in length, 65 feet in breadth, and 65 feet in height from the floor to the ceiling; and the result of the performances proves it to be the finest room in Britain for musical effect. The organ was built by Hill of London, at an expense of £6000, and in its dimensions is unequalled even by those of Haarlem and Rotterdam.
It is not easy to trace with accuracy the origin of the numerous branches of trade and manufacture which, in addition to those described by Leland, have been introduced into the town, and which, from their taste and variety, as well as for the high degree of perfection to which they have attained, procured for the place, from Mr. Burke, the designation of the "Toy-shop of Europe." The toy trade appears to have been adopted in the reign of Charles II., brass-founding in that of William III., and the buckle trade about the same period; the last, after exercising the ingenuity of the manufacturer in every variety of form, pattern, and material, declined about the year 1812, and is now nearly extinct. The leather trade, which was carried on at a remote period, has also experienced a very great diminution. It is uncertain at what time the button trade was first introduced, but it has continued to flourish from a distant period, and, though much lessened, is still a source of employment to thousands. The manufacture of firearms was commenced towards the close of the seventeenth century, and during the last war the government contracts for muskets alone averaged 30,000 per month. In 1813, the gun-makers of the town obtained an act of parliament for the erection of a proof-house, in which, under a heavy penalty, all barrels of fire-arms are subjected to a severe test; and though the manufacture of fire-arms has necessarily diminished since the peace, it is still carried on to a very great extent, and since the erection of the proof-house the manufacture of fowlingpieces and pistols has increased. Among the almost innumerable branches of trade are, light and heavy steel goods (here called toys), brass and iron founding, saddlery, military accoutrements, fire-arms, swords, and cutlery of various kinds; jewellery; gold, silver, plated, and japanned goods; buttons; medals; gilt, silver, ivory, bone, and other toys; glass; wood-turnery; metalrolling; tools and implements of all kinds; mills; machinery of all sorts; and steam-engines on every known principle. Casting, modelling, die-sinking, engraving, and other processes connected with the various manufactures, have likewise been brought to the greatest perfection; also the cutting of glass, of which there are brilliant specimens in the show-rooms of the town.
With the manufactures is intimately connected the celebrated establishment at Soho, about a mile to the north of the town, and within the parish of Handsworth, under which head it is described. Collis and Co.'s manufactory, in Church-street, has a splendid suite of show-rooms attached to it, replete with costly and elaborate specimens of workmanship in gold, silver, plated-ware, or-molu, cut-glass, medals, bronzes, and the crystallized bases of metals and semi-metals: among the more massive productions is a statue in bronze of George IV.; and in a suitable room built for the purpose is a metallic vase of vast dimensions, a fac-simile in size, form, and embellishment, of the Grecian vase of Lysippus in the gardens of Warwick Castle. The showrooms of Messrs. Elkington, manufacturers of plated goods, also contain articles of exquisite design. The pin-factories are very interesting, and give employment to numbers of children; the manufactories for japannedware and papier-maché are considered the most beautiful objects for tasteful inspection in the town, and improvements are continually being introduced by Messrs. Jennens and Bettridge, Mr. Lane, Messrs. Mc-Callum and Hodgson, Mr. Farmer, and Mr. Sutcliffe, all manufacturers of papier-maché. There are several extensive brass and iron foundries; rolling and slitting mills of great power; and three manufactories of metallic hothouses and conservatories, in one of which a hot-house and conservatory were made for the Duke of Northumberland, at an expense of £50,000. The Cambridgestreet works, established in 1820 by Mr. R. W. Winfield, and at which between 300 and 400 persons are employed in the production of every variety of ornamental and rough brass-founding, gas-fittings, metallic bedsteads, and other useful articles, are justly celebrated. Beautiful bronze castings are produced by the Messrs. Messenger, and fine brass-work for lamps, &c., by the Messrs. Ratcliff. The manufacture of glass has greatly increased within the last twenty years, during which period five or six glass-houses have been erected; also numerous mills for cutting and polishing it. The Islington glass-works, erected in 1814, are capable of employing nearly 500 hands in the various departments, and are conducted by Mr. Rice Harris, whose attention has been directed for several years to the pressing or stamping of glass, and who has so far succeeded in his attempts at improvement in this respect, that it is difficult to distinguish the articles thus produced from the richest cut articles. The Park works, first erected about 1785, were then the only glass-works in the neighbourhood, and have been carried on ever since for the manufacture of flint-glass; they now belong to Messrs. Lloyd and Summerfield, and the Soho works, erected in 1803, to Mr. Samuel Shakespear. Companies have been established for supplying materials for the different works, among which are the Birmingham Copper Company, the Birmingham Mining Company, the Brass Company, and the Brades' Iron and Steel Company. There are chemical laboratories on a large scale, for the production of articles necessary in the processes of manufacture; a distillery; and several breweries, of which the Wharstone, Deritend, and New breweries are the chief.
The trade of the town is greatly promoted by numerous Canals, of which Birmingham may be regarded as the common centre; namely, the Birmingham, constructed in 1768, and for the supply of which a reservoir of 19 acres was excavated to the depth of 20 feet, near the town; the Birmingham and Fazeley, constructed in 1783; the Worcester and Birmingham, in 1791; the Warwick and Birmingham, in 1793; and the Birmingham and Liverpool Junction, in 1826. The town is also a grand centre of railway communication. A railway was opened to London Sept. 17th, 1838: the present station here, which is 250 feet above the level of the London terminus, is at the north-eastern extremity of Birmingham, adjoining the station of the Liverpool line. The Liverpool line is carried over Lawleystreet by a viaduct 1000 feet in length, supported on 28 segmental arches of 30 feet span: the principal depôt is at Duddeston, about half a mile from the terminus. These two important lines now belong to a joint company called the London and North-Western; and the Birmingham and Derby railway, opened Aug. 5th, 1839, and the Birmingham and Bristol railway, completed in 1844, both belong to the Midland company. An act was passed in 1845, giving power to the London and North-Western company to make a railway from their London line to the centre of Birmingham, nearly one mile long; and in 1847 the works were commenced: the extension runs from the present station, across the adjacent canal, by St. Bartholomew's churchyard, then through Park-street, and under High-street, to the rear of the grammar school, where a new station will be erected, upon an "end" of ground extending from Worcester-street to Navigation-street. The Midland company, also, received power in 1846 to improve their line at Birmingham, by making an extension a mile and a quarter long, and forming a new junction with the London railway. Other acts were passed in the same year, for the construction of a railway to Lichfield; a railway to the Oxford and Rugby line near Fenny-Compton; another, called the Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Dudley, joining the Oxford and Wolverhampton line after a course of 11 miles, and having a branch to Dudley 3½ miles long; and a fourth, called the Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Stour Valley, which runs to Wolverhampton, and to the Liverpool railway in Bushbury parish, with a branch of 3¼ miles to Dudley.
The principal market is on Thursday, for corn, horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs. There are also markets on Monday and Saturday for provisions, and on Tuesday for hay and straw; and two fairs, for three days each, are annually held, one commencing on the Thursday in Whitsun-week, and the other on the last Thursday in September, which is also a great fair for onions. The market was for many years held in the open air, in the wide area fronting St. Martin's church, till the year 1834, when the present market-place was erected by act of parliament, at an expense of £20,000, on a more commodious site obtained by taking down the houses on one side of the area: it is a handsome building, fronted with Bath stone, and forms a conspicuous object on ascending the hill from Digbeth. The market for cattle and horses, and also that for hay and straw, are held in Smithfield, a spacious area. Birmingham is supplied with bread, at, perhaps, a cheaper rate than any other town in England. From the great scarcity of wheat in 1795, and the difficulty to the small capitalist of obtaining a foreign supply, bread became so dear as to induce a number of gentlemen to form a flour and bread company, which soon became very flourishing. Their example was followed by the millers, who became bakers also, and the competition was so great that the ordinary bakers could not sell at the same price as the mills; which have continued since that time to possess nearly the whole of the trade, the bakers existing principally by making fancy bread. It is customary, also, for many of the inhabitants to buy the flour, to make it up at their own homes, and have it baked by hire.
The town was formerly governed by a high and a deputy constable, but has been incorporated by charter under the 5th and 6th of William IV., cap. 76. The borough comprises the parishes of Birmingham and Edgbaston, and the hamlets of Deritend with Bordesley, and Duddeston cum Nechels; and is divided into thirteen wards, viz., Lady-wood, containing 8787 inhabitants; All Saints, 13,719; Hampton, 11,037; St. George's, 19,648; St. Mary's, 14,685; St. Paul's, 8973; Market-hall, 13,014; St. Peter's, 16,773; St. Martin's, 13,325; St. Thomas's, 18,254; Edgbaston, 6609, Deritend and Bordesley, 18,019; and Duddeston cum Nechels, 20,079. Each ward returns three members to the town-council, with the exception of Duddeston cum Nechels, Deritend and Bordesley, and St. Peter's, each of which sends six councillors. Thus, the total number of councillors is forty-eight; and there are sixteen aldermen, out of whom, or the councillors, a mayor is chosen. The manorial officers consist of a high bailiff (who is also clerk of the market), a low bailiff, two constables for Birmingham, a constable for Deritend, a headborough, two ale-conners, two flesh-conners, two affeirers, and two leather-sealers; who are chosen annually at the court leet of the lord of the manor, at Michaelmas. By the act of the 2nd of William IV., cap. 45, Birmingham was constituted a parliamentary borough, with the privilege of sending two members; the mayor is the returning officer. The powers of the county debt-court of Birmingham, established in 1847, extend over the registration-districts of Aston and Birmingham, and part of those of King's Norton, Meriden, and West Bromwich. The court of bankruptcy, established in 1842, and held daily in Waterloo-street, embraces several counties. The public office, in Moor-street, is a commodious building with a handsome stone front, and comprises a well-arranged court-room, in which the magistrates hold their sittings, with apartments for the street commissioners and other officers for the internal regulation of the town: behind is a prison for the confinement of offenders previously to their committal to the county gaol at Warwick. A new borough gaol was commenced in 1846. The superintendence of the police is entrusted to the council; the paving and lighting of the streets, and the general improvement of the town, are under the direction of 100 commissioners, and the management of the poor is vested in overseers and guardians. Large baths for the working classes were established in 1846; and in the same year an act was passed for a public cemetery.
Prior to the year 1715, Birmingham comprised only one parish, and for all civil purposes it is still so considered; but in its ecclesiastical arrangements it at present comprises the five parishes of St. Martin, St. Philip, St. George, St. Thomas, and All Saints. The living of St. Martin's is a rectory, valued in the king's books at £19. 3. 6½., and in the gift of Trustees; net income, £1048. The parochial church is an ancient structure in the decorated English style, with a square tower having pinnacles at the angles, and surmounted by a lofty and finely-proportioned spire, with the exception of which the whole building, originally of stone, was cased with red brick in 1690; the interior contains several monumental effigies, of some of which the details are finely executed. St. Mary's church, in the parish of St. Martin, erected by subscription in 1774, on a site given by Miss Weaman, is an octagonal brick building with a small steeple of stone: the living is a perpetual curacy, in the gift of Trustees, with a net income of £350. St. Paul's church, in the same parish, built by subscription in 1779, on a site given by C. Colmore, Esq., is a handsome edifice in the Grecian style, with a steeple, which was added to it in 1820, and is much admired for the beauty and lightness of its character; the interior is elegantly arranged, and the altar-piece ornamented with a painting, in glass, of the Conversion of St. Paul. The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £170; patron, E. Latimer, Esq. St. Bartholomew's, built in the year 1749, is a plain brick edifice with a cupola, and has been recently enlarged; the interior is a good specimen of the Tuscan order, and the altar-piece is richly carved. The living of St. Philip's is a rectory not in charge; patron, the Bishop of Worcester. The church, erected in 1725, unfortunately of a perishable kind of stone, is a handsome building combining the Corinthian and Doric orders, with a tower supporting a dome surmounted by a cupola; the churchyard, which is very spacious, is surrounded with elegant buildings of modern date. Christ-church, in the parish of St. Philip, erected by subscription at a cost of about £26,000, and usually called the "Free church," was consecrated July 6, 1813, and is a neat structure of stone, with a portico of the Tuscan order and a spire: the living is a perpetual curacy, with a net income of £200; patron, the Bishop. St. Peter's, Dale-end, also in the parish of St. Philip, erected by grant of the Parliamentary Commissioners, at a cost, including the site, of about £19,000, and consecrated Aug. 10th, 1827, is a building of stone, with a handsome portico of the Doric order, and a small lantern tower surmounted by a dome. It was partially destroyed by fire in 1830, but in 1837 was re-opened for divine service, having been restored by subscription, at the cost of nearly £5000. The building will accommodate 2170 persons, and is much admired for its chaste simplicity, beautifully decorated roof, noble organ, and handsome stained-glass window at the east end, representing the Ascension. The living is in the gift of the Rector of St. Philip's. The living of St. George's is a rectory not in charge, in the patronage of Trustees; net income, £550. The church, erected in 1822, by grant of the commissioners and subscription of the inhabitants, at an expense of £12,735, is a fine specimen of the early and decorated English styles, with a square embattled tower. The living of St. Thomas' is a rectory not in charge, in the patronage of Trustees; net income, £150. The church, erected in 1829, by subscription, aided by the commissioners, is a chaste and elegant structure of the Ionic order, with a tower and cupola surmounted by a double cross, and having the tower connected, in the lower stages, with the sides of the building by elegant Ionic quadrants; the interior is neatly arranged, with galleries supported on plain Doric columns. The expense of its erection was £14,222. The living of All Saints' is a rectory not in charge, in the patronage of Trustees: the church, built in 1833, at a cost of £3817, by subscription, aided by the commissioners, is a neat brick edifice of later English architecture, with facings of stone.
Bishop Ryder's church, built in commemoration of the late prelate of that name, was consecrated Dec. 18th, 1838; it contains 1574 sittings, of which 813 are free, and the expense of erection was £4300. The living is in the gift of Trustees. The want of adequate accommodation for the increasing population, lately induced an appeal to the wealthier inhabitants for the erection of ten additional churches, for which purpose a meeting was held in the town-hall, at which the Bishop of Worcester presided, when it was resolved to open a subscription, and within three months the sum of £20,000 was subscribed. Five of the churches have been consecrated: the first completed was that of St. Matthew, Duddeston, in the parish of Aston. St. Mark's church, the second, cost £4405, including an endowment of £1000, and was consecrated July 29th, 1841; it is a neat building with lancet windows, contains 1000 sittings, and has schoolrooms in connexion with it, erected at an expense of £1250. The living is in the gift of Trustees. St. Luke's church, which cost about £3700, was consecrated Sept. 28th, 1842, and is situated on the Bristol-road; it is in the Norman style, has 1100 sittings, and some schools were built in connexion with it in 1843, at a cost of £1140. The interior is well fitted up, partly by means of special gifts made by several gentlemen; there are a handsome organ, a pulpit and desk of oak, a painted window, and other fittings up of appropriate design. The living is in the gift of Trustees. St. Stephen's church, in the parish of St. George, situated in Newtown-row, cost £3200, and was consecrated July 24th, 1844: the living is in the gift of the Crown and Bishop alternately. The fifth church is that of St. Andrew, Bordesley, consecrated Sept. 30th, 1846. A church district called St. Jude's was formed out of the parishes of St. Martin and St. Philip, and a benefice endowed, in 1846, by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, under the act 6 and 7 Victoria, cap. 37: the incumbent is appointed by the Crown and the Bishop alternately; and at present, divine service is performed in the national school, Pinfold-street. In the spring of the year 1847, the foundation-stone was laid of a new church at the Church of England cemetery, Birmingham. Other churches are described in the articles on Edgbaston, Deritend, Bordesley, Duddeston, and other places adjacent. There are places of worship for Baptists, the Society of Friends, Independents, Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists, Swedenborgians, and Unitarians; a Scottish church, and two Roman Catholic chapels. Of these, Zion chapel, the Baptist and the Carr's Lane meeting-houses, Ebenezer chapel, and one or two of the Methodist meeting-houses, are spacious and handsome structures.
The Queen's College, established in 1828 by the indefatigable exertions of William Sands Cox, Esq., F.R.S., and incorporated by royal charter in 1843, and again in 1847, already takes a high rank among similar foundations in this country. It is, pre-eminently, a college of medicine and surgery, but combines a thorough course of classical education. The institution is under the direction and management of a council, and professors in surgery and medicine; and, in the classical department, of distinguished teachers in the various branches of learning, and the arts and sciences. Clinical lectures are delivered in the theatre every week; other lectures are given on regulated days, and examinations take place weekly: the lectures qualify for examinations for the medical diplomas of the University of London, the Royal College of Surgeons, and the Society of Apothecaries; and the council grant certificates also for the degrees of B.A., M.A., B.C.L., and D.C.L., to be conferred by the University of London upon the students. The interest of £1000 is applied to the purchase of two prizes, called the Warneford Gold Medals, either in equal or unequal amount; the compositions for them to be of a religious as well as scientific nature. The Jephson prize, of twenty guineas, is awarded to the student who passes the best public examination in all the branches of medicine and surgery; and besides various other prizes, and medals in gold and silver, are certificates of honour, to induce emulation in proficiency and good conduct. Four resident scholarships, also, have been founded by the Rev. Dr. Warneford, of £10 each, to be held for two years, and are conferred upon students who have resided in the college at least twelve months, and have distinguished themselves for diligence, and for regular attendance on divine worship, and the religious instruction of the warden. Dr. Warneford's gifts altogether amount to £5000. Connected with the college are a museum of human and comparative anatomy, containing upwards of 2000 preparations; and an extensive museum illustrative of zoology, geology, and other departments of natural history. The library contains upwards of 2500 volumes, and receives the quarterly, monthly, and weekly periodicals of medicine, surgery, and general science. The foundation stone of a new building for the institution was laid on the 18th August, 1843: St. James's chapel, attached to the college, was consecrated in November, 1844.
The Free Grammar School, in New-street, was founded in 1552, by Edward VI., who endowed it by charter with the revenues of the dissolved guild of the Holy Cross, which occupied the site of the present buildings; and vested the management in twenty inhabitants of the manor. The annual value of the property was then £21; but the whole of the estates being in Birmingham, the increase of houses has led to a vast increase in the income, which is now about £7000 per annum, and in a few years will be doubled. The buildings having become dilapidated, and the enhanced resources demanding enlarged usefulness, an act was passed in 1831 authorising the governors to take the school down and erect new premises, and, after fully providing for the greater efficiency of classical learning, to establish an additional school "for modern languages and the arts and sciences," and elementary schools for the poorer children of the town of both sexes. This act was amended by another, obtained in 1837, when more extensive powers were given; and an edifice has been completed, which, for magnificence and extent, is almost unequalled, and may fitly be named a college. It is a beautiful structure in the later English style, erected under the superintendence of Mr. Barry, and presents one of the finest specimens of modern collegiate architecture in the kingdom. The extremities, from north to south, consist of the houses of the head and second masters; the intermediate space is occupied with the schoolrooms, library, corridors, &c. The entrance, from New-street, leading into a corridor, has the library on the left hand, in which has been erected a chimneypiece, an interesting relic of the former school, of marble, finely sculptured, and surmounted by an exquisite bust of Edward VI.: the corresponding room, on the right is appropriated to lectures. A noble stone staircase, under a lofty pointed arch, leads into a corridor of great beauty, with stained windows, and forming a communication between the two schoolrooms. The grammar school on the south is a spacious apartment of striking appearance, eighty-six feet in length, and of proportionate width and height; the wainscot fittings are of massive oak, and the lofty roof, of stained wood, much conduces to its effect. The room for the commercial school, on the north, is of similar length and height, but narrower, and is embellished with the arms of Edward VI. and William IV., carved in stone. The establishment consists of a head master, whose salary is about £1000 per annum, independent of the privilege of taking eighteen boarders; a second master with a salary of £400, and the power of taking twelve boarders; three classical assistants, a mathematical master, a chief and two assistant masters of English literature, and masters in modern languages, drawing, writing, &c. There are ten exhibitions of £50 per annum, tenable for seven years at either University, and for which the sons of inhabitants of the town and manor have a preference; the other benefits of the school are open to boys of Birmingham and the vicinity, and to the boarders of the head and second masters. The number of boys exceeds 450. The governors have erected five elementary schools, for the instruction of the poorer classes, in different parts of the town, where about 750 children are educated, under the superintendence of the head master, the Rev. J. Prince Lee.
The Blue-coat school was founded in 1722, upon land belonging to the rectory of St. Philip's, and conveyed, by the bishop and the trustees for erecting that church, for the purpose of maintaining children of poor members of the Church of England, and instructing them in her principles: by the accumulation of benefactions it is now possessed of property to the amount of £1000 per annum. The buildings, which were enlarged in 1794, and are well arranged, have an extensive stone front in St. Philip's churchyard. The Asylum for deaf and dumb children was founded in 1812, and a commodious building in the antique style was erected on a site of ground in Calthorpe-street, Edgbaston, granted on liberal terms by Lord Calthorpe. There are also numerous national, Lancasterian, infants', and other schools, supported by subscription. The Magdalen Asylum, of which the bishop of the diocese is patron, is a noble institution; the chapel attached to it was opened April 28th, 1839, having cost about £1400, raised by subscription. The General Hospital, first established in 1779, has since been much enlarged, and the buildings, consisting of a centre and two wings, handsomely erected of brick, now comprise 19 wards, capable of admitting 200 patients. The foundation stone of the Queen's Hospital, Edgbaston, was laid on the 18th of June, 1840: this institution is in union with Queen's College; the building occupies an elevated site, and consists of a centre and two wings called respectively the Victoria and Adelaide wards, the whole containing 150 beds. The Dispensary, in Unionstreet, was established by subscription in 1794, and affords medical relief to about 4000 patients annually; the building consists of a centre and two wings of stone, with four lofty pilasters supporting a triangular pediment, in the tympanum of which is a basso-relievo of the "Good Samaritan." The Self-supporting Dispensary, on the plan of Mr. Smith, of Southam, is maintained by small annual subscriptions of the poor, aided by those of honorary members. The Infirmary for the cure of Bodily Deformity, established under the patronage of the Earl of Dartmouth in 1817, and the Infirmary for Diseases of the Eye and Ear, established by Mr. Hodgson, surgeon, in 1823, are liberally supported. Another important institution is the Asylum for Infant Poor, forming an excellent school of industry, in which 300 children are maintained, clothed, and employed in platting straw and heading pins, and other kinds of work suited to their age. The Licensed Victuallers' Asylum, commenced in the spring of 1847, is designed in the Elizabethan style, to accommodate ten families, and is situated in the Bristol road. There are several charitable endowments, which lapse of time has greatly enhanced in value, and of which the chief is Lench's trust, bequeathed in the reign of Henry VIII., by the trustees of which many almshouses for aged females have been erected.
About a mile from the town is a chalybeate spring, which, though known to possess highly medicinal properties, is not much noticed. Three miles to the west, and within a few hundred yards of the Ikeneld-street, are the remains of a large quadrangular encampment surrounded by a triple fosse, which, from the extent of the area (more than thirty acres), is supposed to be of Danish origin: pieces of armour, broken swords, and battle-axes, have been ploughed up in the vicinity. Some inconsiderable vestiges of an ancient priory are still visible in the cellars of some houses in the square which now occupy its site; and great numbers of human bones, and skulls with teeth having the enamel perfect, have been found in the immediate neighbourhood, parts of which still bear the names of the Upper and Lower Priory. At the western extremity of the town was an hospital dedicated to St. Thomas the Apostle, the revenue of which, in the 26th of Henry VIII., was £8. 5. 3.