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This article is about the city in England. See also other places called Birmingham.
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The city from above Centenary Square. (Alternative View)
City of Birmingham
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Shown within the West Midlands
Status:Metropolitan borough,
city (1889)
Region:West Midlands
Ceremonial county:West Midlands
- Total
Ranked 169th
267.77 km²
Grid ref.: Template:Gbmappingsmall
ONS code:00CN
- Total (2003 est.)
- Density
Ranked 1st
3,705 / km²
(2001 census)
70.4% White
2.9% Mixed
19.5% Asian
6.1% Black
1.1% Chinese or Other
Birmingham City Council
Leadership:Leader & cabinet
Executive:Conservative & Lib Dem

Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the English Midlands It is the second largest city of the United Kingdom and is regarded by many as England's "second city".

Birmingham has a population of 991,900 (2003 estimate). The city is at the centre of a large metropolitan area, defined by the governemnt as the West Midlands county (with a population of nearly 2.6 million), but in practice including parts of Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire.

The city is commonly known by its nickname Brum (from the local name Brummagem), and its people as Brummies. Birmingham is home to the distinctive Brummie accent and dialect.

Birmingham is an ethnically and culturally diverse city. Around 30% of Birmingham's population is of non-white ethnicity: at the time of the 2001 census, 70.4% of the population was White (including 3.2% Irish), 19.5% Asian or Asian British, 6.1% Black or Black British, 0.5% Chinese, and 3.5% of mixed or other ethnic heritage.



Main articles: History of Birmingham and Birmingham military history

The Birmingham area was occupied in Roman times, with several military roads and a large fort. Modern Birmingham started life as a small Anglo-Saxon hamlet in the dark ages. It was first recorded in written documents by the Domesday Book of 1086 as a small village.

From the 12th century onwards Birmingham developed into a market centre, and by the 17th century it had become an important manufacturing town with a reputation for producing small arms. Birmingham manufacturers supplied Oliver Cromwell's forces with much of their weaponry during the English Civil War. Gun manufacture in the city pre-dates 1689, and from the development of the flintlock pistol to arms supply for the Napoleonic Wars and American Civil War Birmingham became the foremost arms producer in the world by some one million items over its nearest rival, London, and was employing a few thousand people who in the main worked within a definite area, known as the Gun Quarter.

During the Industrial Revolution from the mid 18th century onwards, because of abundant nearby sources of coal and iron ore and a skilled workforce, Birmingham grew into a major industrial centre. Birmingham became a centre of the British canal and later railway networks in the early 19th century.

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Canals in central Birmingham

In Victorian times, the population of the city grew rapidly to well over half a million and Birmingham became the second largest population centre in Britain, it became known as the "City of a thousand trades" due to the wide variety of manufacturing industries located there. Birmingham gained city status in 1889.

Birmingham suffered heavy bomb damage during World War II, and partly as a result of this the city-centre was extensively re-developed during the 1950s and 1960s with many concrete office buildings, ring-roads, and now much-derided pedestrian subways. As a result, Birmingham gained a reputation for ugliness and was frequently described as a "concrete jungle".

However, in recent years the city centre has been extensively renovated and restored with the construction of new squares, the restoration of old streets, buildings and canals, the removal of much-derided pedestrian subways, and the demolition and subsequent redevelopment of the Bull Ring shopping centre, which now includes the architecturally unique Selfridges building.


New Street in central Birmingham
New Street in central Birmingham

Main articles: Economy of Birmingham, Birmingham transport history

Birmingham is an important manufacturing and engineering centre, employing over 100,000 people in industry and contributing billions of pounds to the national economy. Over 25% of UK exports originate in the greater Birmingham area.

Birmingham's industrial heritage predates the Industrial Revolution, and up until the 20th Century the city maintained a tradition of individual craftsmen, sometimes working independently in their own back yards or on piecework rates in rented workshops, alongside larger factories. During the Industrial Revolution many factories, foundries and businesses prospered in the city, including the areas known as the Gun Quarter and the Jewellery Quarter. The Jewellery Quarter is still the largest concentration of dedicated jewellers in Europe, and one third of the jewellery manufactured in the UK is made within one mile of Birmingham city centre. Until 2003, coins for circulation were manufactured in the Jewellery Quarter at the Birmingham Mint, the oldest independent mint in the world, which continues to produce commemorative coins and medals.

The Steam Engine was developed to a great extent by James Watt in the city, and historically the largest manufacturers in the city have been associated with the Steam, Electric and Petrol transport and power industries. The city's workmen designed and constructed railway carriages, steam engines, bicycles, automobiles and even – unusually for somewhere so far from the sea – ships, which were made as pre-fabricated sections, then assembled at the coast. Birmingham was home to two major car factories: MG Rover in Longbridge and Jaguar in Castle Bromwich. However, the future for manufacturing at Longbridge looks bleak, as MG Rover went into administration in 2005, resulting in the plant being mothballed and the loss of 6,000 jobs at the site, plus more in the supply chain.

The city's present day products include motor vehicles, vehicle components and accessories, weapons, electrical equipment, plastics, machine tools, chemicals, food, jewellery and glass. Scientific research (including research into nanotechnology at the University of Birmingham) is expanding in the city. Other famous brands from the "city of a thousand trades" include Bakelite, Bird's Custard, Brylcreem, BSA, Cadbury's chocolate, Chad Valley toys, Halfords, HP Sauce, Typhoo Tea and Valor.

Over 500 law firms exist in the city, and Birmingham is Europe's second largest insurance market. The city attracts over 40% of the UK's total conference trade. Two of Britain's "big four" banks were founded in Birmingham. Lloyds Bank (now Lloyds TSB) began in Birmingham in 1765 and the Midland Bank (now part of HSBC) opened in Union Street in August 1836.

In recent years Birmingham's economy has diversified into service industries, retailing, tourism and conference hosting, which are now the main employers in the city. Millions of people visit Birmingham every year, and in 2004 the city was named the second best place to shop in England after the West End of London [1] (,2763,1160740,00.html). Attractions for visitors include Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Millennium Point, Bull Ring, Selfridges Building, Cadbury World, Tolkien Trail [2] (, Birmingham Royal Ballet, and the National Sea Life Centre.

See also: More details about the Birmingham economy (


Main article: Architecture of Birmingham

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City of Birmingham Council House, with Dhruva Mistry's 'The River' in the foreground (commonly known as 'the floozie in the jacuzzi')

Although Birmingham has existed as a settlement for over a thousand years, today's city is overwhelmingly a product of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries as the real growth of the city began with the Industrial Revolution. Consequently relatively few buildings survive from its earlier history.

Traces of medieval Birmingham can be seen in the city's oldest churches, notably Birmingham's original parish church, St Martin's in the Bullring. A church has stood on the site since at least the 12th century. The current building (begun around 1290) was extensively re-built in the 1870s retaining some original walls and foundations. A few other buildings from the medieval and Tudor periods survive, among them "The Old Crown" public house in Digbeth, the 15th century "Saracen's Head" public house and Old Grammar School in Kings Norton and Blakesley Hall in Yardley.

The city began to grow rapidly in Georgian times and a number of buildings survive from this period. Among them are St Philip's Cathedral, originally built as a parish church, St Paul's Church in the largely Georgian St Paul's Square, Soho House in Handsworth, the home of Matthew Boulton, and Perrott's Folly in Ladywood (which is said to have later inspired J. R. R. Tolkien).

The Victorian era saw an extensive building programme right across the city. Major public buildings such as the Town Hall, the Law Courts, the Council House (see picture) and the Museum & Art Gallery were constructed, many under the auspices of Joseph Chamberlain's reforming mayoralty. The characteristic materials of Victorian Birmingham are red brick and terracotta, and many fine Victorian buildings have been retained on New Street and Corporation Street in the city centre. Across the wider city, the need to house the industrial workers who flocked here gave rise to miles of redbrick streets and terraces, many of back-to-back houses, some of which were later to become inner-city slums.

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The new Selfridges building

Continued population growth in the interwar period, saw vast estates of semi-detached houses being built on greenfield land in outlying parts of the city such as Kingstanding and Weoley Castle, but the coming of World War II and the Blitz claimed many lives and many beautiful buildings too. However, the destruction that took place in post-war Birmingham was also extensive: dozens of fine Victorian buildings like the intricate glass-roofed Birmingham New Street Station, and the old Central Library, were razed in the 1950s and 1960s and replaced with modernist concrete buildings. In inner-city areas too, much Victorian housing was redeveloped and existing communities were relocated to tower block estates like Castle Vale.

The planning decisions of the post-war years were to have a profound effect on the image of Birmingham in subsequent decades, with the mix of ring roads, shopping malls and tower blocks often referred to as a 'concrete jungle'. In more recent years, Birmingham has learnt from what many see as the mistakes of the 1960s and instituted the largest tower block demolition and renovation programmes anywhere in Europe. There has been a lot of new building in the city centre in recent years, including the award-winning Future Systems' Selfridges building, an irregularly-shaped structure covered in thousands of reflective discs (see picture), the Brindleyplace development and the Millennium Point science and technology centre.


Main article Government of Birmingham

Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in the UK with, following a reorganisation of boundaries in June 2004, 120 councillors representing just under one million people, in 40 wards.

After the election of 10 June 2004, there is no overall control, with the 120 seats being divided between the Labour, (53 councillors), Conservative (39) and Liberal Democrat ("Lib-Dem", 28) parties.

There is a Conservative/ Lib-Dem coalition, with Conservative group leader Mike Whitby as Leader of the council and Lib-Dem group leader Paul Tilsley as Deputy Leader.

Birmingham's eleven constituencies are represented in the House of Commons by one Conservative, one Liberal Democrat, and 9 Labour MPs.

Birmingham is also the seat of the Government Office for the West Midlands region.

Places of interest

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Famous residents

Neville Chamberlain, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Ozzy Osbourne are amongst the many famous names associated with Birmingham.

See also the list of famous residents of Birmingham, England.


See main article: Transport in Birmingham

Due in part to its location in central England, Birmingham is a major transport hub, of both road rail and air travel.

Birmingham is served by a number of major roads, including the M6 motorway, the M40, the M5, the M42 motorway and the M6 Toll.

The City's number 11A and 11C outer circle bus routes are the longest urban bus routes in Europe.

Birmingham is at the centre of the national rail network. The city's main station is Birmingham New Street, and there is also Birmingham Snow Hill and Birmingham Moor Street. Trams on the Midland Metro light railway system run between Birmingham and Wolverhampton.

Birmingham is served by Birmingham International Airport, which has flights to all over Europe and to New York. The airport is served by the railway network at Birmingham International railway station.

Birmingham has 35 miles (60 km) of canals within the city boundaries, of which most are navigable; the canals were once the lifeblood of the city's industries during the Industrial Revolution but are now used mainly for pleasure. It is often quoted that Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice. This is in fact true (Venice has 26 miles) although Birmingham is much larger than Venice [3] (


Main article: Education in Birmingham

King Edward's School is located in Edgbaston. Birmingham also has three universities: The University of Birmingham, Aston University and The University of Central England (UCE, formerly Birmingham Polytechnic). The UCE has asked Aston to consider a merger. The Birmingham Conservatoire, now part of the UCE, was established over 100 years ago and is recognised as one of the major national colleges of music which focuses on performance and composition.

Birmingham School of Acting offers two fully funded higher education courses and also offers a range of part time, summer schools and short courses for adults and children.

Elmhurst School for Dance is the oldest vocational dance Schools in the UK. After recently relocating from London to Edgbaston the school has teamed up with Birmingham Royal Ballet.

The city also hosts many 'Urban Workshops' for modern music including street level DJ mixing tuition and dance hosted by many experienced musicians from ground roots enteprises like for instance Punch Records in New Town.

Mansfield College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford, was founded (under the name of Spring Hill College) in Birmingham but later moved to Oxford with the relaxation of non-conformists in 1886.


Main article: Sport in Birmingham

A cricket club was in existence in Birmingham as early as 1745, and today the city is home to Warwickshire County Cricket Club whose ground at Edgbaston is also a venue for international test matches. International athletics meetings take place at the open-air Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr, which is also the base of the Birchfield Harriers athletic club, which numbers many Olympic medallists among its past and present members. The National Indoor Arena (NIA) meanwhile is a major indoor athletics stadium and in 2003 hosted the 9th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics. The NIA also hosts events in many other sports, such as the World Indoor Badminton Championships.

The first ever game of lawn tennis was played in Edgbaston in 1859 by Major Thomas Henry Gem and Batista Pereira, both residents of the city, and international tennis is still played at Edgbaston's Priory Club.

The city is home to two of the UK's oldest professional football teams: Aston Villa (1874) and Birmingham City (1875), both of whom currently play in the Premier League. The world's first professional football league was founded at a meeting in Aston on March 22 1885 under the auspices of William McGregor, a director of Aston Villa.

Rugby union, basketball, boxing, hockey, and greyhound racing are all played professionally in the city.

Birmingham has been awarded the title National City of Sport by the Sports Council.

Food & drink

Main article: Food & drink in Birmingham

Birmingham based Breweries included Ansells, Davenports and Mitchells & Butlers. Aston Manor Brewery is currently the only brewery of any significant size.

Many fine Victorian pubs and bars can still be found across the city. The oldest inn in Birmingham is the Old Crown in Digbeth (circa 1450). The Anchor Inn (1797), is also in Digbeth.

Famous food brands from Birmingham include Typhoo tea, Birds custard, Blue Bird Toffee, Bournville cocoa, Cadbury chocolate, and HP Sauce.

The Wing Yip food empire first began in the city and now has its headquarters in the Chinese Quarter.

In 1945 Abdul Aziz opened a cafe shop selling curry and rice in Steelhouse Lane. This later became The Darjeeling, the first Indian restaurant in Birmingham. The Balti was invented in the city and has since received much gastronomic acclaim for the 'Balti Belt' of restaurants in the Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath and Ladywood areas.

The city boasts two Michelin starred restaurants: Simpson's and Jessica's, both in Edgbaston.

The BBC Good Food Show takes place at The National Exhibition Centre and is Britain's biggest food event.

Culture and arts

Main article: Arts in Birmingham

Popular music

Although its music scene is not as famous as those of Liverpool or Manchester, Birmingham has had a vibrant and varied musical history over the last half-century.

In the 1960s the "Brum Beat" era featured blues and early progressive rock bands such as the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, The Move and The Moody Blues.

The city is often cited as the birthplace of heavy metal music, with Judas Priest and Black Sabbath coming from Birmingham.

In the 1970s members of the Move and the Moody Blues formed the Electric Light Orchestra and Wizzard. The 1970s also saw the rise of reggae in the city, with Steel Pulse and later on UB40 and Musical Youth. Singer-songwriter Joan Armatrading had many hits during this decade.

The 1980s brought Duran Duran, possibly the most successful new romantic group, and Dexy's Midnight Runners, and the 1990s the Charlatans. Recent years have also seen a successful club culture, and chart success for Mike Skinner (a.k.a. The Streets).

Jazz is popular in the city, and the annual Birmingham International Jazz Festival is the largest of its kind in the UK.

Party in the Park, a popular chart music event, is Birmingham's largest music festival.

Classical music

The internationally-renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's home venue is Symphony Hall, where it gives frequent performances. The equally world-renowned Birmingham Royal Ballet also resides in the city as does the world's oldest vocational dance school, Elmhurst School for Dance.

The Birmingham Triennial Music Festival took place from 1784 - 1912 and was considered the grandest of its kind throughout Britain. Music was written for the festival by Mendelssohn, Gounod, Sullivan, Dvorak, Bantock and most notably Elgar, who wrote four of his most famous choral pieces for Birmingham.

Albert William Ketlbey was born in Alma Street, Aston on 9 August 1875, the son of a teacher at the Vittoria School of Art, Ketlbey attended the Trinity College of Music, where he beat the runner-up, Gustav Holst, for a musical scholarship.

Birmingham's other city- centre music venues include The National Indoor Arena (NIA), CBSO Centre, Adrian Boult Hall (ABH) at Birmingham Conservatoire and the Birmingham Town Hall,currently closed for refurbishment, which played host to many classical and popular music performances from the late 1800s.


Theatre critic Ken Tynan was born and educated in Birmingham.

There are many theatres in Birmingham. The four largest professional theatres are the Alexandra Theatre ("the Alex"), Birmingham Repertory Theatre ("The Rep"), the Birmingham Hippodrome and the Old Rep. The Mac and Drum arts centres also host many professional plays.

The Fierce Festival teams with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre annually to present an series of quirky performances from local and national companies.


Literary figures associated with Birmingham include J. R. R. Tolkien, Arthur Conan Doyle, Washington Irving, David Lodge, W. H. Auden and Benjamin Zephaniah.

Visual art

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The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Birmingham has one one of the largest collections of Pre-Raphaelite art in the world at The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Edward Burne-Jones was born in Birmingham, spent his first twenty years in the city, and later became the president of the Birmingham Society of Artists. The Barber Institute of Fine Arts was declared 'Gallery of the Year' by the 2004 Good Britain Guide. For a fuller list of art galleries in Birmingham, see Arts in Birmingham.

Other famous Birmingham artists include David Cox, David Bomberg, and various Afro-Caribbean artists including Pogus Caesar, Keith Piper and Donald Rodney.

Graffiti (or "spraycan art") culture appeared in the early 1980s, and graffiti art competitions are still regularly held.

Festivals and shows

Birmingham is home to many national, religious and spiritual festivals including a St. George's Day party. The Birmingham Tattoo is a military show that has taken place in the city for several years. The currently biennial Caribbean- style Birmingham International Carnival was originally the Handsworth Carnival, held in Handsworth Park from 1984, but now takes place in Perry Barr Park. Birmingham Pride takes place in Birmingham's gay village and attracts up to 100,000 visitors each year.

The city's largest single-day event is its St. Patrick's Day parade (Europe's second largest, after Dublin's).

Film and media

Birmingham is unusual in supporting two local newspapers - the Birmingham Post and the Evening Mail - as well as the Sunday Mercury.

The Electric Cinema on Station street is the oldest working cinema in the UK, and Oscar Deutsch opened his first Odeon cinema in Perry Barr during the 1920s. The Birmingham Film Festival takes place annually, and the Birmingham School of Acting recently won a Royal Television Society award for their short film 'Soul Boy'.

The BBC has a regional headquarters in the Convention Quarter, and many T.V. and radio programes are produced in the city including the long running radio soap The Archers.

Local radio stations include BRMB, Galaxy, BBC WM and Heart FM, and Kerrang, Birmingham's first dedicated rock station. P.C.R.L. is a pirate radio station, playing mainly reggae.

Science and invention

Main article: Science and invention in Birmingham

The city's long history of industrial innovation has led to a wealth of invention and discovery, mainly in the areas of engineering and applied science. Local inventions and notable firsts include: gas lighting, roller skate wheels, the Baskerville Font, questionnaires, Custard powder, foam rubber, the Heat-Indicator and Fire Alarm, the first British patent for windscreen wipers, Brylcreem, the magnetron (the core component in the development of radar), the UK electroplating industry, the first ever use of radiography in an operation, and the first ever hole-in-the heart operation in England (performed at Birmingham Children's Hospital).

Some of the city's more groundbreaking scientists and inventors are:

Partner cities

(Partner cities are akin to twin towns)

See also

External links


Districts of England - West Midlands Flag of England

Birmingham | Bridgnorth | Bromsgrove | Cannock Chase | Coventry | Dudley | East Staffordshire | Herefordshire | Lichfield | Malvern Hills | Newcastle-under-Lyme | North Shropshire | North Warwickshire | Nuneaton and Bedworth | Oswestry | Redditch | Rugby | Sandwell | Shrewsbury and Atcham | Solihull | South Shropshire | South Staffordshire | Stafford | Staffordshire Moorlands | Stoke-on-Trent | Stratford-on-Avon | Tamworth | Telford and Wrekin | Walsall | Warwick | Wolverhampton | Worcester | Wychavon | Wyre Forest

Administrative Counties with multiple districts: Shropshire, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands, Worcestershire

Formal Districts in Birmingham:
Edgbaston | Erdington | Hall Green | Hodge Hill | Ladywood | Northfield | Perry Barr | Selly Oak | Sparkbrook | Sutton Coldfield | Yardley

da:Birmingham de:Birmingham es:Birmingham eo:Birmingham fr:Birmingham nl:Birmingham (Engeland) ja:バーミンガム no:Birmingham pl:Birmingham pt:Birmingham ro:Birmingham fi:Birmingham sv:Birmingham uk:Бірмінгем zh:伯明翰


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