Town Guide

History of Birmingham

Smooth Hound Logo, 5K The city of Birmingham dates back to Saxon times, when a small community settled in the area. The name comes from the Saxon meaning "home of the tribe of Beorma".

Birmingham's commercial roots date back almost as long, for the town was first granted a market charter in 1156.

The town has been a well known centre of commerce ever since, its success being due to a combination of its strategic geographical position in the centre of England, combined with its rich resources of coal and timber.

However the sprawling city that you see today didn't begin to take shape until the 19th century. This is because modern-day Birmingham is essentially the product of industrialisation.

Indeed, the city was at the very heart of the Industrial Revolution and many of the 19th century's most significant discoveries and inventions took place here - for example the invention of gas lighting and the development of steam engines for use in the mining industry.

In addition the city was home to some of the 19th century's most influential men, including James Watt, Matthew Boulton and Charles Darwin, who together were responsible for throwing Britain, and the world, into a new industrial age.

And with industrialisation Birmingham boomed. The population exploded and within a few decades the city was home to so many different industries that it was nicknamed the "city of 1001 trades".

To this day industrialisation has left its mark on Birmingham, for the landscape is still one of factories, manufacturing plants and depots.

However, much of the architecture of Birmingham dates not from the 19th century, but from the 20th century. This is because during the Second World War Birmingham suffered heavy bombing and much of the city centre was flattened.

The post war years saw a huge re-building programme, the intention being to build a modern city to replace the cramped 19th century one.

However the result was, like many of Britain's post-war re-building projects, not quite as intended. The old character of the city was replaced by tower blocks, ring roads and ugly housing estates.

Whilst native "brummies" have always been intensely loyal to their city, to outsiders Birmingham quickly gained a reputation for being a cultural wasteland with little going for it.

However, recent years have seen a dramatic transformation. Large areas of the city have been redeveloped and so the blight of Birmingham's post-war architecture has been softened.

But more importantly, Birmingham has re-invented itself as a cultural oasis, even starting to rival more familiar cities such as London and Edinburgh.

For example Birmingham now has an excellent symphony orchestra and its own Ballet company, both of which regularly receive excellent reviews. And there are museums and art galleries a-plenty.

Birmingham is also now Britain's foremost venue for conventions and exhibitions, playing host to an estimated 80% of Britain's trade shows.

And as you would expect from such a large city, Birmingham has a lively night-life with numerous top-class restaurants, bars and clubs.

Birmingham's other rather surprising claim to fame is its canal system, which is actually more extensive than that of Venice!

But one of the best aspects of modern-day Birmingham is the very fact that it hasn't tried to hide or disguise its industrial heritage. Some of the best museums in the city are dedicated to industrialisation, and the city remains proud of its past.

The end result of which is that Birmingham is no longer a city to avoid, but a city waiting to be discovered.

Birmingham A-Z

| A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | L | M | N | O | R | S | T | U | V | W |

Birmingham Town Guide

Travel Advice | Accommodation in Birmingham | Other Town Guides

Copyright © 1995 to 2016 Smooth Hound Systems

Smooth Hound Systems accepts no liability with regards to the accuracy of the information on this site.
Users are advised to double check information such as dates, times, prices etc.