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A Tale of One City: the New Birmingham Papers Reprinted from the "Midland Counties Herald"   By: (1836-1903)

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Papers Reprinted from the "Midland Counties Herald" ,








The present century has seen the rise and development of many towns in various parts of the country, and among them Birmingham is entitled to take a front place. If Thomas Attwood or George Frederick Muntz could now revisit the town they once represented in Parliament they would probably stare with amazement at the changes that have taken place in Birmingham, and would require a guide to show them their way about the town now a city they once knew so well. The material history of Birmingham was for a series of years a story of steady progress and prosperity, but of late years the city has in a political, social, and municipal sense advanced by leaps and bounds. It is no longer "Brummagem" or the "Hardware Village," it is now recognised as the centre of activity and influence in Mid England; it is the Mecca of surrounding populous districts, that attracts an increasing number of pilgrims who love life, pleasure, and shopping.

Birmingham, indeed, has recently been styled "the best governed city in the world" a title that is, perhaps, a trifle too full and panegyrical to find ready and general acceptance. If, however, by this very lofty and eulogistic description is meant a city that has been exceptionally prosperous, is well looked after, that has among its inhabitants many energetic, public spirited men, that has a good solid debt on its books, also that has municipal officials of high capabilities with fairly high salaries to match then Birmingham is not altogether undeserving of the high sounding appellation. Many of those who only know Birmingham from an outside point of view, and who have only lately begun to notice its external developments, doubtless attribute all the improvements to Mr. Chamberlain's great scheme, and the adoption of the Artisans' Dwellings Act in 1878. The utilisation of this Act has certainly resulted in the making of one fine street, a fine large debt, and the erection of a handful of artisans' dwellings. The changes, however, that culminated in Mr. Chamberlain's great project began years before the Artisans' Dwellings Act became law.

The construction of the London and North Western Railway station which, with the Midland Railway adjunct, now covers some thirteen acres of land cleared away a large area of slums that were scarcely fit for those who lived in them which is saying very much. A region sacred to squalor and low drinking shops, a paradise of marine store dealers, a hotbed of filthy courts tenanted by a low and degraded class, was swept away to make room for the large station now used by the London and North Western and Midland Railway Companies.

The Great Western Railway station, too, in its making also disposed of some shabby, narrow streets and dirty, pestiferous houses inhabited by people who were not creditable to the locality or the community, and by so doing contributed to the improvement of the town. Further, the erection of two large railway stations in a central district naturally tended to increase the number of visitors to the growing Midland capital, and this, of course, brought into existence a better class of shops and more extended trading. Then the suburbs of Birmingham, which for some years had been stretching out north, south, east, and west, have lately become to a considerable extent gathered into the arms of the city, and the residents in some of the outskirts, at least, may now pride themselves, if so inclined, upon being a part of the so called "best governed city in the world," sharing its honours, importance, and debts, and contributing to its not altogether inconsiderable rates.

I do not purpose in these pages to go into the ancient history of Birmingham. Other pens have told us how one Leland, in the sixteenth century, visited the place, and what he said about the "toyshop of the world... Continue reading book >>

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