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984
BIRMINGHAM

designed specially for meetings and concerts, with an orchestra containing a fine organ. The hall seats upwards of 2000 persons, but when cleared of benches, as is the case at great political meetings, over 5000 may find standing room. The Midland Institute, adjacent to the town hall on the west, has a fine lecture theatre. To the south lie the post office, the inland revenue office and Queen’s College. To the north is the Gothic building of Mason College, an institution merged in the university. The Central free library, adjoining the Midland Institute, was rebuilt in 1879, after a fire which destroyed the fine Shakespeare library, the Cervantes collection, and a large series of books on, and antiquities of, Warwickshire, known as the Staunton collection. The Shakespeare series was as far as possible replaced, and the whole forms one of the largest reference and lending libraries in England. Edmund Street and Colmore Row are fine thoroughfares running parallel in a north-easterly direction from either side of the council house; in the first the principal building is the school of art, in the second are several noteworthy private buildings. Both terminate at Snow Hill station, that of the Great Western railway. New Street station, that of the London & North Western and Midland railways, lies close to the street of that name, fronted by the Queen’s hotel. The station is nearly a quarter of a mile in length. The roof of the older portion consists of a vast arch of glass and iron, carried on pillars on each side, and measuring 1100 ft. in length, 80 ft. in height, and 212 ft. in width in a single span. The building of the Royal Society of Artists fronts New Street itself with a fine classic portico; here are also the exchange (Gothic) and the grammar school of King Edward VI., a Perpendicular building dating from 1840, designed by Sir Charles Barry. Corporation Street was the outcome of a great “Improvement scheme” initiated in 1875, with the object of clearing away a mass of insanitary property from the centre of the town and of constructing a main thoroughfare from the centre to the north-eastern outlet, starting from New Street, near the railway station to Bull Street, and thence continuing to the Aston Road. The scheme received parliamentary sanction in 1876, and was finished in 1882 at a cost of £1,520,657. This led to an almost total extinction of the residential quarter in the centre of the town. The finest building in this handsome street is the Victoria assize courts. The foundation stone was laid by Queen Victoria in 1887, after Birmingham had been created an assize district; the building was completed in 1891. There is a handsome entrance, and within is a great hall, 80 ft. by 40, with a series of stained-glass windows. The exterior is red, and highly ornamented in the style of the Renaissance.

Among other noteworthy buildings are the county court, education offices and military drill hall. Among a fine series of statues and monuments may be mentioned the statue of Nelson by Richard Westmacott, in the Bull Ring; those of Joseph Sturge, at the Five Ways, and of Thomas Attwood, the founder of the Political Union, in Stephenson Place, both by J. E. Thomas; James Watt, a singularly beautiful work, in Ratcliff Place, by Alexander Munro; Sir Robert Peel, in New Street, by Peter Hollins; Albert, prince consort, in the council house, by J. H. Foley; and Queen Victoria, by Thomas Woolner; Sir Rowland Hill, in the hall of the post office, by Matthew Noble; and Dr Priestley, in New Street, by F. J. Williamson. There is also a fountain behind the town hall, commemorative of the mayoralty of Mr Joseph Chamberlain, and flanked by statues of Sir Josiah Mason, and George Dawson, who took active part in the municipal reform movement previous to Mr Chamberlain’s years of office. Sir Francis Chantrey’s famous statue of James Watt is in a special chapel at Handsworth church.

Suburbs.—The principal streets radiating from central Birmingham to the suburbs are served by electric tramways worked by the corporation, and also by motor omnibuses. The principal suburbs are as follows. Edgbaston and Harborne lie south-west of the centre of the city, being approached by Broad Street. These form a residential district principally inhabited by the richer classes, and owing to the enforcement of strict rules by the ground landlord, retain a remarkable semi-rural character, almost every house having a garden. Here, moreover, are Calthorpe Park, the botanical gardens, and the large private grounds attached to Edgbaston Hall, also the Warwickshire county cricket ground. To the south of Edgbaston, however, are the growing manufacturing districts of Selly Oak and Bourneville, and south of these, Northfield and King’s Norton, in Worcestershire. The districts to the east of central Birmingham are Balsall Heath, Sparkbrook, Small Heath and Saltley. On the south-east is the residential suburb of Moseley, and on the east that of Yardley. Between Moseley and King’s Heath to the south, is Highbury, the seat of Mr Joseph Chamberlain, whose active interest in the affairs of the town, both during his mayoralty (1873-1876) and at other times, was a principal factor in such works as the municipalization of the gas and water supply, the Corporation Street improvement, and the foundation of Birmingham University. On the east side the transition from town to country is clearly marked. This, however, is not the case on the west side, where the borough of Smethwick adjoins Birmingham, and the roads through West Bromwich and towards Oldbury and Dudley have the character of continuous streets. On this side are Soho and Handsworth, which gives name to a parliamentary division of Staffordshire. To the north lies Aston Manor, a municipal borough of itself, with Perry Bar beyond. To the north-east a populous district extends towards the town of Sutton Coldfield. Aston Hall is a fine Jacobean mansion standing in an extensive park. Aston Lower Grounds is an adjacent pleasure-ground. Besides these and the Edgbaston grounds the chief parks are Summersfield Park, towards Smethwick; Soho Park; Victoria Park, Handsworth; Adderley Park, towards Saltley; and Victoria Park, Small Heath. There is a race-course at Castle Bromwich, 3 m. east of the town.

Churches and Religion.—Birmingham is not rich in ecclesiastical architecture. It became a bishopric under the Bishoprics of Southwark and Birmingham Act 1904, including the archdeaconry of Birmingham and the rural deanery of Handsworth, previously in the diocese of Worcester. Before 1821 it was in the diocese of Lichfield. There were formerly a religious house, the priory of St Thomas the Apostle, and a Gild of the Holy Cross, an association partly religious and partly charitable, having a chantry in the parish church. The possessions of the priory went to the crown at the dissolution, and the building was destroyed before the close of the 16th century. The lands of the Gild of the Holy Cross were granted by Edward VI. to trustees for the support of the free grammar school. Until 1715 there was but one parish church, St Martin’s, a rectory, having the tithes of the entire parish of Birmingham. St Martin’s was erected about the middle of the 13th century, but in the course of ages was so disfigured, internally and externally, as to present no traces, except in the tower and spire, of its former character. In 1853 the tower was found to be in a dangerous condition, and together with the spire was rebuilt. In 1873 the remaining part of the old church was removed without disturbing the monuments, and a larger edifice was erected in its place. St. Philip’s, a stately Italian structure, designed by Archer, a pupil of Wren, was the next church erected. It was consecrated in 1715, enlarged in 1884, and became the pro-cathedral on the foundation of the diocese. It contains a rich series of stained-glass windows by Burne-Jones. Then followed St Bartholomew’s in 1749, St Mary’s in 1774, St Paul’s in 1779, St James’s, Ashted, in 1791, and others. St Alban’s is a good example of J. L. Pearson’s work, and Edgbaston church is a picturesque Perpendicular structure.

Under the Commonwealth Birmingham was a stronghold of Puritanism. Clarendon speaks of it and the neighbourhood as “the most eminently corrupted of any in England.” Baxter, on the other hand, commending the garrison of Coventry, says it contained “the most religious men of the parts round about, especially from Birmingham.” The traditional reputation for Nonconformity is maintained by the town, all varieties of dissenters being numerous and influential. The Unitarians, the