Sunday, 29 May 2011

MY Historical Hero...Birmingham

At the back of every BBC History magazine, a celebrity or historian is invited to share who their favourite person from history is and why they have chosen them. I thought about who I would choose and there are quite a few, including slavery abolitionist campaigner William Wilberforce, Queen Victoria Empress of India and Grandmother of Europe or even Marilyn Monroe, silver screen icon who reportedly had an affair with America President John F. Kennedy.
But I've decided that the historical hero who means most to me is in fact a place: My home town of Birmingham.

There has been evidence of a settlement in the Birmingham area thanks to some artefacts found which date back about 10,400 years. In the 7th century Birmingham was a small farming hamlet and is mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book. Listed as a small village it was valued at just 20 shillings.

Today the Bullring is the name of the modern shopping centre which lies at the heart of the retail centre. But the Bull Ring dates back to the 1160s when the Lord of the Manor, Peter de Birmingham was granted a royal charter to hold a market in his castle grounds, thus Birmingham became a market town.

Over the following centuries Birmingham continued to grow, it had access to abundant amounts of iron and coal which meant the metalwork industry flourished. To fuel this growing need that Birmingham was supplying, the population had to grow, so in the late 17th Century the population stood at around 15,000 but a century later it had grown to 70,000 plus.
By this point Birmingham was literally at the centre of the Industrial Revolution and thanks to all the trades and workshops that had sprung up, the city became known as the 'Workshop of the World'.

During the Victorian era, the population of Birmingham grew to well over half
a million, making it the UK's most populous city outside London. Although Birmingham wasn't officially a city until Queen Victoria granted it City Status in 1889.

In recent years, as most of the old industries have died away, Birmingham has been redeveloped to make it a world class city. With the Bullring shopping centre, which is home to the innovative Future System's Selfridges building, and the many squares such as Centenary Square and Millennium Place and there are plans to completely renovate New Street Station, which is the busiest rail station outside London.

I could prattle on about all the things I think make Birmingham great, but here's a list of 10 things that prove it...

1) The poet and author W.H. Auden grew up in the area I live in, Harborne. Auden's most famous poem "Funeral Blues" (Stop All the Clocks) was notably featured in the film 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' when the poem was read recited at the films one funeral.

2) I love that Birmingham is such a diverse city with all walks of life living here. This is because historically immigration from the Commonwealth nations was very high following World War II.

3) The city is often thought as an industrial concrete jungle but in fact Birmingham has over 8000 acres of parklands, including the largest urban nature reserve in Europe, Sutton Park. Also worth a mention is The Botanical Gardens, Winterbourne Gardens, Woodgate Valley Country Park and Chamberlain and Victoria Squares.

4). Birmingham was ranked as a 'world class shopping centre' in 2004, coming in behind London's West End and Glasgow.

5) Two words: Cadbury's chocolate. And also Cadbury World.

6) Birmingham has produc
ed some world famous musical artists: Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, 2 members of Led Zeppelin, Electric Light Orchestra, UB40, Ocean Colour Scene, The Streets, The Twang and Toyah Wilcox.

7) Famous entertainers who were born/lived in Birmingham include, Julie Walters, Tony Hancock, Jasper Carrott, Trevor Eve and Martin Shaw.

8) The author J. R. R. Tolkien was raised in the city and many parts of the city, including Sarehole Mill, Moseley Bog and the Lickey Hills inspired his writings for Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit and the Silmarillion.

9) Birmingham is home to 3 universities: The University of Birmingham, Aston University and Birmingham City University. As well as 2 University Colleges: Newman College and University College Birmingham.

10) Many advances in Science have taken place in Birmingham. Inventions and scientific breakthroughs such as gas lighting, custard powder, Brylcreem and the first ever Hole-In-Heart operation in the UK at Birmingham Children's Hospital.

There are many more great things about my home town. Or my historical hero, Birmingham. It's the city I've grown up in, and it may get a lot of stick, but I love it.

For more information about 'Brum', check out these websites:

No comments:

Post a Comment