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987
BIRMINGHAM

abandoned before the end of the century. The great staple of Birmingham is metal-working in all its various forms. The chief variety is the brass-working trade. Iron-working, though largely carried on, is a much less important trade, works of this kind being chiefly established in the Staffordshire district. Jewelry, gold, silver and gilt come next to brass. The remarkable development of this branch of industry is demonstrated by the increase in the amount of gold and silver marked, as recorded by the Assay office—the figures of 48,123 oz. of gold and 84,323 oz. of silver in 1870 had been increased to 363,000 oz. of gold and nearly 3,000,000 oz. of silver by the end of the century. Then follow “small arms” of all kinds. Until 1906 a Royal Small Arms factory was maintained by the government at Sparkbrook, but it was then transferred to the Birmingham Small Arms Company, which had already extensive works in the district. Buttons, hooks and eyes, pins and other articles used for dress, constitute a large class of manufactures. Glass, especially table glass, is a renowned staple of the town. Screws, nails, &c., are made in enormous quantities; indeed, Birmingham has a monopoly of the English screw trade. Steel pens are also a specialty, the name best known in this connexion being that of Sir Josiah Mason. Electro-plating, first established in 1841 by the firm of Elkington, is one of the leading trades. Among other branches of manufacture are wire-drawing, bell founding, metal rolling, railway-carriage building (a large and important industry), the manufacture of cutting implements and tools of all kinds, die-sinking, papier-maché making and a variety of others. In 1897 there was a sudden development of cycle manufacturing, followed in 1899 by an almost equally sudden collapse, but this industry is maintained and accompanied by the manufacture of motor cars, tyres and accessories, for which Birmingham is one of the principal centres in Great Britain.

Birmingham may claim as her own the perfection of the steam engine, through the genius of James Watt and the courage of Matthew Boulton. The memory of the great Soho factory is one of the most precious heritages of the town, and Watt’s own private workshop continues just as he left it, with no single article disturbed, carefully preserved in the garret of his house at Heathfield. The mention of Watt and of Soho recalls the memories of distinguished inventors and others who have been connected with Birmingham. Here John Baskerville, the printer, carried on his work. An institution called the Lunar Society, which met each month about the time of full moon, brought together a brilliant company—Watt, Boulton, Joseph Priestley, Josiah Wedgwood, Erasmus Darwin, Samuel Parr, Dr William Withering, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, Sir Joseph Banks, Sir William Herschel, Dr Solander, John Roebuck, James Keir and many others. William Murdock, the inventor of gas, was a Soho man, and first used his invention to light the Soho factory at the peace of Amiens in 1802. The series of inventors is continued by the names of Gillott, Elkington, Chance, Mason and others. Thomas Rickman, the reviver and historian of Gothic architecture, practised as an architect in Birmingham. William Hutton, the antiquary and historian, carried on his bookselling business here. Many of the best engravers were Birmingham men, notably James Tibbitts Willmore and John Pye, the special translators of Turner’s marvellous creations. Attwood, Joseph Parkes, John Bright and Joseph Chamberlain speak for Birmingham in the region of politics and statesmanship.

One of the most marked features of social life in Birmingham is the fact that contrasts in the distribution of wealth are less strongly marked than in most other great cities. The distance between the poorest and the richest is bridged over by a larger number of intermediate gradations. Colossal fortunes are few; on the other hand there is a numerous class of rich men. These, however, for the greater part are actually engaged in trade or manufactures, and hold their place in local life rather on account of industry pursued than of wealth possessed. The number of the leisured class, enjoying large incomes without participating in any local industry, is relatively small, but is said to be on the increase. There are many manufacturing companies, but great private firms are also numerous. In regard to labour conditions, the system of small masters holds its own in the manufactures of Birmingham, and shows no signs of extinction. One effect of this condition is that capital and labour are not brought into enmity, and consequently strikes and disputes are infrequent. As regards the condition of the working classes it may be noted that Birmingham was the birthplace of the freehold land and building societies, by which workmen are enabled on easy terms to acquire houses of their own. The risk of an overcrowded population is consequently minimized; the houses, moreover, are generally well situated as regards light and air, and many have small gardens. Among industrial communities where peculiar attention is paid to the housing of workmen and their families, that of Bourneville, occupied by the employés of Messrs Cadbury, chocolate manufacturers, is well known.

History.—Owing to its rapid expansion, and the consequent newness of most of the public and other buildings, Birmingham is often supposed to be a modern town. It was, however, in existence as a community in the Saxon period. Proof of this was given in 1309 by William de Bermingham, then lord of the manor, who showed in a law-suit that his ancestors had a market in the place and levied tolls before the Conquest. Some authors have endeavoured to identify the town with the supposed Roman station called Bremenium, but this claim has long been abandoned as fabulous. A Roman road runs north and south across the site of the town, but no remains have been found other than a very few coins. The origin of the name is untraceable; the spelling itself has passed through about 100 different forms. Dugdale, the historian of Warwickshire, adopts Bromwycham, and regards it as of Saxon derivation. Hutton, the historian of Birmingham, has the fanciful etymology of Brom (broom), wych (a descent), and ham (a home), making together the home on the hill by the heath.

In Domesday Book Birmingham is rated at four miles of land with half a mile of woods, the whole valued at £203. Two hundred years later the family of de Bermingham, the owners of the place, come into sight, one of them, William, being killed at the battle of Evesham, in 1265, fighting with Simon de Montfort and the barons against Henry III. The son of this William afterwards took part in the French war, and was made prisoner; his father’s estates, forfeited by treason, were restored to him. Thenceforward the family engaged in various local and other offices, but seemingly abstained from politics. They held the place until 1527, when Edward de Bermingham was deprived of his property by means of John Dudley, duke of Northumberland, who trumped up a pretended charge of riot and robbery against him and procured Birmingham for himself. On the attainder of Dudley the manor passed to the crown, and was granted to Thomas Marrow, of Berkswell, from whom by marriage and descent it went to Christopher Musgrave, and finally, as regards the only valuable part—the market tolls—by purchase to the town itself. In the Wars of the Roses it does not seem that Birmingham took any part; but energy revived in the Civil War under Charles I., when the town sided actively with the Parliamentarians. In 1642, when Charles was marching from Shrewsbury to relieve Banbury, the Birmingham people seized part of his baggage, including much plate, money and wine, which they sent to the Parliamentary garrison at Warwick. Before the battle of Edgehill Charles rested for two nights at Aston Hall, near the town, as the guest of Sir Thomas Holte. The Birmingham people resented this by helping the Parliamentarians to cannonade the Hall and to levy a fine upon Sir Thomas Holte. They also supplied the Parliamentary army with 15,000 sword blades, refusing to make a single blade for the Royalists. These manifestations of hostility were avenged in April 1643 by Prince Rupert, who, with 2000 men and several pieces of artillery, attacked the town, planting his cannon on an eminence near Sparkbrook, still known as Camphill. The townspeople resisted, but were beaten, many persons being killed or wounded. Amongst the former was Lord Denbigh, one of the Royalist officers. Having captured the place, Prince Rupert allowed his troops to plunder it, to burn about eighty houses and to set their prisoners to ransom. He also levied a fine of £30,000,