2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Geography of Great Britain

The city from above Centenary Square.
The city from above Centenary Square.
City of Birmingham
Shown within the West Midlands
Status Metropolitan borough, City (1889)
Region West Midlands
Ceremonial county West Midlands
Historic county Warwickshire
(some suburbs from Staffordshire and Worcestershire)
- Total
Ranked 169th
267.77 km²
Admin HQ Birmingham
ISO 3166-2 GB-BIR
ONS code 00CN
OS grid reference SP066868
Coordinates 52°29N 1°54W
Total (2005 est.)
Ranked 1st
3,739 / km²
( 2001 census)
70.4% Whites
2.9% Mixed
19.5% S.Asian
6.1% Black
0.5% Chinese
0.6% Other
The Arms of Birmingham City Council
Birmingham City Council
Leadership Leader & Cabinet
Control Conservative / Liberal Democrats

Birmingham (pron. IPA: [ˈbɜ:mɪŋˌəm]/Burr-ming-um) is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands, England. Birmingham is the largest of England's core cities, and is generally considered to be the UK's second city. The city's reputation was forged as a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, a fact which led to Birmingham being known as "the workshop of the world" or the "city of a thousand trades".

The City of Birmingham has a population of 1,001,200 (2005 estimate) . It forms part of the larger West Midlands conurbation, which has a population of 2,284,093 (2001 census) and includes several neighbouring towns and cities, such as Solihull, Wolverhampton and the towns of the Black Country.

The people of Birmingham are known as 'Brummies', a term derived from the city's nickname of Brum. This comes in turn from the city's dialect name, Brummagem, which is derived from an earlier name of the city, 'Bromwicham'. There is a distinctive Brummie dialect and accent.


Birmingham has a recorded history going back 1,000 years. In this time, it has grown from a tiny Anglo-Saxon farming village into a major industrial and commercial city.

The Birmingham area was occupied in Roman times, with several military roads and a large fort. Birmingham started life as a small Anglo-Saxon hamlet in the Early Middle Ages. It was first recorded in written documents by the Domesday Book of 1086 as a small village, worth only 20 shillings.

In the 12th century, Birmingham was granted a charter to hold a market, which in time became known as the Bull Ring. As a convenient location for trade, Birmingham soon developed into a small but thriving market town.

By the 16th century, Birmingham's access to supplies of iron ore and coal meant that metalworking industries became established. In the 17th century Birmingham became 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. Arms manufacture in Birmingham became a staple trade and was concentrated in the area known as the Gun Quarter.

During the Industrial Revolution (from the mid 18th century onwards), Birmingham grew rapidly into a major industrial centre. Unlike many other English industrial cities such as Manchester, industry in Birmingham was based upon small workshops rather than large factories or mills.

Historical population of Birmingham
Year Population figure
1538 1,300
1650 5,472
1700 15,032
1731 23,286
1778 42,250
1785 52,250
1801 73,670
1811 85,753
1821 106,722
1831 146,986
1841 182,922
1851 232,638
1861 296,076
1871 343,787
1881 400,774
1891 478,113
1901 522,204
1911 840,202
1912-1967 Records destroyed
1968 900,000
The Birmingham Canal Navigations between the International Convention Centre (left) and Brindleyplace (right) in central Birmingham.
The Birmingham Canal Navigations between the International Convention Centre (left) and Brindleyplace (right) in central Birmingham.

From the 1760s onwards, a large network of canals were built across Birmingham and the Black Country, to transport raw materials and finished goods. By the 1820s an extensive canal system had been constructed; Birmingham is often described as having more miles of canals than Venice.

Railways arrived in Birmingham in 1837, with the opening of the Grand Junction Railway and later the London and Birmingham Railway the railways soon linked Birmingham to every corner of Britain. New Street Station was opened as a joint station in 1854. And this was soon followed by the Great Western Railway's Snow Hill station.

During the Victorian era, the population of Birmingham grew rapidly to well over half a million and Birmingham became the second largest population centre in England and the third in Britain after Glasgow and then London. Birmingham's importance led to it being granted city status in 1889 by Queen Victoria.

The city built its own university in 1900, The University of Birmingham, which became the first of Britain's Redbrick universities.

Birmingham was originally part of Warwickshire, however the city expanded in the late 19th and early 20th century, absorbing parts of Worcestershire to the south and Staffordshire to the west. The city absorbed Sutton Coldfield in 1974, and at the same time became part of the new West Midlands county.

Birmingham suffered heavy bomb damage during World War II during the Birmingham Blitz, 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".

In recent years however, Birmingham has been transformed, 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 the pedestrian subways, and the demolition and subsequent redevelopment of the Bull Ring shopping centre, which now includes the architecturally unique Selfridges building.

In the decades following World War II, the face of Birmingham changed dramatically, with large scale immigration from the Commonwealth of Nations and beyond.

Birmingham's transition from an industrial centre to a tourism and services economy is best illustrated by the hosting of the first official summit of the G8 at the International Convention Centre ( May 15 to May 17, 1998).


Birmingham is situated just to the west of the geographical centre of England on the Birmingham Plateau - an area of relatively high ground, ranging around 150-200 metres above sea level and crossed by Britain's main north-south watershed between the basins of the Rivers Severn and Trent.

To the south and west of the city lie the Lickey Hills, Clent Hills and Walton Hill, which reach 315 metres (1,033 ft) and have good views over the city.

Geologically Birmingham is dominated by the Birmingham Fault which runs diagonally through the city from the Lickey Hills in the south west, passing through Edgbaston, the Bull Ring and Erdington, to Sutton Coldfield in the north east. To the south and east of the fault the ground is largely softer Keuper Marl, interspersed with beds of Bunter pebbles and crossed by the valleys of the Rivers Tame, Rea and Cole and their tributaries. To the north and west of the fault, varying from 45-180 metres (150-600 ft) higher than the surrounding area and underlying much of the city centre, lies a long ridge of harder Keuper Sandstone.

Much of the area now occupied by the city was originally a northern reach of the ancient Forest of Arden, whose former presence can still be felt in the city's dense oak tree-cover and in the large number of districts (eg Moseley, Saltley, Hockley) with names ending in "-ley", an Anglo-Saxon word meaning "woodland clearing".


These are the average and record temperatures as provided by BBC Weather.

Average Record
Month Min Max Min Max
January 2 5 -12 13
February 2 6 -9 16
March 3 9 -7 21
April 5 12 -2 24
May 7 16 -1 29
June 10 19 3 31
July 12 20 6 32
August 12 20 6 33
September 10 17 3 27
October 7 13 -2 25
November 5 9 -4 19
December 3 6 -6 14

The weather in Birmingham is quite temperate with average maximum temperatures in summer (July) being around 20C (68F); and in winter (January) is around 4.5C (40F). The weather is hardly extreme but there have been a few tornadoes in the area- the most recent being in July 2005 in the South of the city tearing homes and businesses in the area..

Occasional summer heatwaves, such as the one experienced in July 2006 have become more common in recent years, and winters have become milder since the 1990's with snow becoming much less frequent.


New Street in central Birmingham
New Street in central Birmingham

Although Birmingham grew to prominence as a manufacturing and engineering centre, its economy today is dominated by the service sector, which in 2003 accounted for 78% of the city's economic output and 97% of its economic growth.

Birmingham is a major financial and administrative centre. The city's central business district has the largest concentration of administrative and private sector office-based employment in England outside Central London. Two of Britain's " big four" banks were founded in Birmingham - Lloyds Bank (now Lloyds TSB) in 1765 and the Midland Bank (now HSBC Bank plc) in 1836 - and today the city employs 108,000 in banking, finance and insurance - exceeded in the UK only by Westminster and the City of London. Birmingham has particular strengths in accountancy and commercial law, with the Birmingham Law Society having over 300 member firms.

Tourism is also an increasingly important part of the local economy. With major facilities such as the International Convention Centre and National Exhibition Centre the Birmingham area accounts for 42% of the UK conference and exhibition trade. The city's sporting and cultural venues attract large numbers of visitors, as does the nightlife district around Broad Street. In total the West Midlands County attracts 1.1 million international visitors and 4.2 million domestic overnight visitors per year, making it the UK's third most-visited county after Greater London and Devon.

With an annual turnover of £2.2bn, Birmingham City Centre is the UK's second largest retail centre, with the country's busiest shopping centre - the Bull Ring with 36m visitors per year, and its third largest department store - House of Fraser (formerly Rackhams) on Corporation Street. Other major shopping areas include New Street, High Street, the Pavilions and Pallasades shopping centres and the upmarket Mailbox.

Birmingham's industrial heritage pre-dates 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 Jewellery Quarter. Pen manufacture in Birmingham helped revolutionise writing across the world with many companies based in and around 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.

James Watt improved the steam engine while working 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 workers designed and constructed railway carriages, steam engines, motorcycles, 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. The MG Rover car works 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. Things are looking more positive in 2006 with the Nanjing Automobile Group (MG Rover's main purchasers) hoping to restart production of MG cars at Longbridge by 2007. Another small sports car manufacturer has set up business in the Longbridge premises.

The city's 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 include Ariel Motorcycles, Bakelite, Bird's Custard, Brylcreem, BSA, Cadbury's chocolate, Chad Valley toys, Halfords, HP Sauce (but soon to be closed down by its American owners Heinz), Norton Motorcycles, Triumph Motorcycles, Typhoo Tea, Velocette Motorcycles and Valor, the list is extensive.

Although Birmingham has seen strong economic growth overall in recent years, with per capita GDP rising from 2% above the UK average in 1995 to 7% above in 2003, the benefits have not been felt evenly throughout the city. Many of the higher skilled jobs generated have gone to commuters from the surrounding area, and the two parliamentary consituencies with the highest unemployment rates in the UK - Ladywood and Sparkbrook and Small Heath - are both in inner-city Birmingham. Growth has also placed significant strain on the city's transport infrastructure, with many major roads and the central New Street railway station operating considerably over capacity during peak periods.


City of Birmingham Council House, with Dhruva Mistry's sculpture, 'The River', in the foreground (commonly known as 'the floozie in the jacuzzi').
City of Birmingham Council House, with Dhruva Mistry's sculpture, '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 oldest churches, notably the original parish church, St Martin in the Bull Ring, where a church has stood since at least the 12th century. The current church (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 Lad In The Lane public house in Erdington,also 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 grew rapidly from 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, Perrott's Folly in Ladywood (which is said to have later inspired J. R. R. Tolkien), and the Town Hall.

The Victorian era saw extensive building across the city. Major public buildings such as 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. Saint Chad's Cathedral, built in 1839 by Augustus Pugin, was the first Roman Catholic Cathedral to be built in the UK since the Reformation. 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 city, the need to house the industrial workers 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.

The new Selfridges building
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 and Bromford.

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.

Highrise development has slowed since the 1970s and mainly in recent years due to enforcements on the heights of buildings as they could affect aircraft from the International Airport. Beetham Tower, standing on Holloway Circus was originally going to be about 190 metres tall however, the CAA forced the Beetham organisation to reduce the height of the tower to 122 metres. Another tower that has been forced to be reduced in height is Arena Central Tower which is yet to be constructed. The tower was originally going to be 245 metres in height however after the attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York City, it was shortened to 180 metres. However, these rules are now being scrapped as it has been recognised that interest in highrise architecture for the city has been reduced. One of the latest towers that has been allowed to be increased in height is the Broad Street Tower which is set to be 134 metres and will most likely be approved due to the airport removing all objections to it.

Some fine architects hail from the city such as Glenn Howells and Ken Shuttleworth.


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

After the election of 4 May 2006, there is no overall control, with the 120 seats being divided between the Labour, (44 councillors), Conservative (41) and Liberal Democrat ("Lib Dem", 33) parties, with 2 Others.

In the 2006 elections, when a third of the council was up for re-election, Labour lost a net total of two seats, the Conservatives made a net gain of one, the Liberal Democrats had no change, and Respect won a seat. It initially appeared that the British National Party had also gained a seat, but it soon transpired their candidate's election had been caused by a counting error and was subsequently overturned in favour of the previously third-placed Labour party candidate following an election petition.

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 parliamentary constituencies are represented in the House of Commons by one Conservative, one Liberal Democrat, and 9 Labour MPs.

Law enforcement in Birmingham is carried out by the West Midlands Police and fire and rescue by the West Midlands Fire Service.

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


Birmingham is an ethnically and culturally diverse city. Birmingham has the smallest white population by percentage of many of the major cities. 29.6% of its population is non-white, where as London, commonly seen as the most diverse of British cities is 29.0% non-white. This is compared to Liverpool which is only 5.1% non-white.

At the time of the 2001 census, 70.4% of the population was White (including 3.2% Irish & 1.5% Other White), 19.5% British Asian 6.1% Black or Black British, 0.5% Chinese, and 3.5% of mixed race or other ethnic heritage.

The population density is 3,649 people per square km. 23.4% of people were aged under 16, 57.7% were aged between 16 and 59, while 18.9% were aged over 60. The average age was 36, compared with 38.6 years for England.

Places of interest

Museums and galleries

Chamberlain Square
Chamberlain Square

Birmingham has a rich industrial history which is now preserved in many museums located all over Birmingham city centre and outside the city centre boundaries. Many museums are preserved buildings which are restored to the time period in which they were most significant.

The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery looks over Chamberlain Square. It contains collections of archaeological findings, ethnography, natural history and social history and also hosts exhibitions in adjacent halls.

The Birmingham Thinktank is one of the newest museums in the city which replaced the Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Science Museum. It is part of the Millennium Point complex in the Eastside area of Birmingham.

Aston Hall is a large hall in Aston built between 1618 and 1635. It is now preserved, along with gardens, with free admission.

The Birmingham Back to Backs are the last surviving court of back-to-back houses in the city. They are decorated in different time periods to give visitors an idea of what living in each house was like during different decades.

The Jewellery Quarter in Hockley is the largest concentration of dedicated jewellers in Europe and the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter shows the history of the area and the building it is situated in. The interiors are maintained to the standard to what was found when the building was first accessed after being abandoned.

Sarehole Mill
Sarehole Mill

Sarehole Mill is a water mill museum in Hall Green. J. R. R. Tolkien lived within 300 metres of the mill between the ages four and eight, and would have seen it from his house. This makes the mill a favourable destination for fans of the author.

Blakesley Hall is a Tudor style house in Yardley which has been preserved as an attraction along with the gardens and a visitor centre.

The Gun Quarter was once the foremost gun manufacturing community in the UK and now contains a wide range of Victorian style buildings.

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts is both an art gallery and concert hall. As well as housing some famous works by Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, it also has one of the worlds most detailed and largest coin collections. In 2004, the gallery received the title, Gallery of the Year.

Cadbury World is a museum showing visitors the stages and steps of chocolate production and the history of chocolate and the company which started on Bull Street in the city centre. However, the museum is located in Bournville.

Sports locations

Birmingham has two major football teams which play in their own parks; Villa Park ( Aston Villa Football Club) and St Andrews ( Birmingham City Football Club). Birmingham is also home to greyhound racing and has two tracks in Perry Barr and Hall Green, Perry Barr undergoing a major refurbishment in 2004. Major cricket competitions are often held at Warwickshire County Cricket Club in Edgbaston. Sporting events are also held at the National Indoor Arena (NIA).

Parks and squares

'The River' in Victoria Square.
'The River' in Victoria Square.

There are over 8000 acres of parkland open spaces in Birmingham. The largest of the parks is Sutton Park covering 2400 acres making it the largest urban nature reserve in Europe.

Another major park in the city is Cannon Hill Park which contains a timber-framed house, a model of the Elan Valley Reservoirs and two lakes. BRMB, the local radio station, hosts the Party in the Park in Cannon Hill Park. The mac, a non profit arts centre, is located in the park not far from the model of the Elan Valley Reservoirs.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens are a Victorian creation which still exist to this day with a conservatory and bandstand. The large area is a superb opportunity for recreation and relaxation and is not far from the city centre.

There are numerous squares in Birmingham city centre. Many contain memorials and pieces of art. Four major squares in the city centre are:

  • Centenary Square
  • Chamberlain Square featuring a BBC Big Screen
  • Victoria Square
  • St. Martins Square in the Bullring

In the Jewellery Quarter is St Paul's Square which is located around a Grade I listed church of Georgian architecture. The surrounding area is largely listed after restoration of the buildings in the 1970s.

Religious buildings

St Philip's Cathedral from the rear
St Philip's Cathedral from the rear

Birmingham was made a city in 1889. Stemming from this, the Diocese of Birmingham was created in 1905 and St Philip's was accordingly upgraded from church to cathedral status. The cathedral is surrounded by a churchyard which is a popular congregating area. The other cathedral in the city is Saint Chad's Cathedral, which is the seat of the Roman Catholic Province of Birmingham. St Martin in the Bull Ring is a Grade II listed church in the centre of St Martin's Square in the Bullring Shopping Centre.

There is also a variety of non-Christian religions in the city. In the 1960s Central Mosque was constructed for the Muslim community of the city. It is one of the largest mosques in Europe.


Two major developments have regenerated two parts of the city in recent years. Brindleyplace is a major canalside development which required the restoration of many old warehouses into restaurants and the construction of office buildings. The other development was the Birmingham Bull Ring which replaced an older shopping centre which had become disliked by the public.

Another modern shopping centre is The Mailbox which features many expensive designer stores as well as offices and apartments next to the canals.

The Convention Quarter features many broadcasting companies and radio stations in the city centre. The area is modern and was developed around the same time as Brindleyplace. The National Sealife Centre is located alongside the canals next to the main square at Brindleyplace.

Outside of the city centre is Star City which is a major entertainment complex which houses a large cinema, casino and restaurant area.

Other areas of interest are:

  • Town Hall which is located next to Victoria Square and Chamberlain Square.
  • Birmingham University
  • National Exhibition Centre (The NEC) which is a major music and exhibition venue near the airport.

Famous residents

Joseph Chamberlain, Neville Chamberlain, J. R. R. Tolkien, Tony Hancock, Nigel Mansell and Ozzy Osbourne are a few of the many famous names associated with Birmingham.

For a larger list see List of famous residents of Birmingham

You can also browse the list of Blue Plaques erected by The Birmingham Civic Society to the city's eminent citizens.


A canal tunnel, looking towards Gas Street Basin, in Birmingham city centre
A canal tunnel, looking towards Gas Street Basin, in Birmingham city centre

Due in part to its central location in England, Birmingham is a major transport hub on the motorway, rail, and canal networks.


Birmingham is served by a number of major roads, including the M5, M6, M6 Toll, M40, and M42 motorways. Junction 6 of the M6 is also one of Birmingham's most famous landmarks, and probably the most famous motorway junction in the UK: Spaghetti Junction, officially called the Gravelly Hill Interchange. The city is also known for the numerous junctions with pedestrian tunnels within the city centre itself which have been redeveloped through demolition or reorganisation. One of the most significant of these redevelopments was Masshouse (also known as the "Concrete collar") which saw the demolition of an entire elevated junction. Other projects include Snow Hill Queensway with St Chads Circus.

Birmingham also forms a major hub in the National Express coach network, which is based in Birmingham and operates services from Digbeth Coach Station. This is due to be redeveloped by 2008 after plans to build a replacement coach station next to Snow Hill Station on Great Charles Street Queensway were abandoned due to a breakdown in discussions between National Express and the City Council. A temporary coach station is due to be made at the former Volkswagen dealership on the opposite side of the road to the coach station. Birmingham also has a Megabus service to London.

Airports and aviation

Birmingham is served by Birmingham International Airport, which has flights to Europe, North America, the Middle East and South Asia. It is the fifth busiest airport in the UK, and handles (as of 2005) nine million passengers a year. The airport has published a master plan for its development up to 2030. The first major element is an extension to the main runway, targeted for completion in time for the 2012 London Olympics. The extension will increase the runway length to 3000 metres, as well as including a starter strip to provide a maximum takeoff run of 3150 metres.

Local transport

Local public transport is by bus, local train and tram (the Midland Metro light railway system between the city centre and Wolverhampton).

The Midland Metro tram system is due for expansion which will see it on major streets in the city centre such as Broad Street which has been partially funded by the developers of Arena Central at a cost of £5 million.

The bus services in the city are run by Travel West Midlands (TWM) with the routes also adopted by smaller bus companies in different buses. Travel West Midlands are constantly introducing newer, more modern buses to replace older buses which have been frowned upon due to the pollution they create. Routes are sometimes reorganised with the most recent being the bus routes from Sutton Coldfield to the city centre.

The number 11A and 11C outer circle bus routes are the longest urban bus routes in Europe. In recent years, the council has tried to move bus stops out of the city centre (especially off Corporation Street) to ease congestion and move them to the boundaries of the city centre. In a notable attempt to move buses away from the city centre, the bus mall, a large area for buses to stop, was constructed next to the Bull Ring Shopping Centre however due to the complicated layout, the amount of buses travelling through was reduced as it caused a several accidents.

Curzon Street railway station from the front.
Curzon Street railway station from the front.

The city's main station, Birmingham New Street, is at the centre of the national rail network, whilst Birmingham International railway station serves Birmingham International Airport. Two other major stations are located in the city centre: Birmingham Snow Hill Station and Birmingham Moor Street railway station. The first railway station in the city centre was Curzon Street railway station which opened in 1838, however, its location on the edge of the city centre made it unsuccessful and it closed in 1966.

In 2005, the City Council launched a strategy to encourage cycling. The council developed the city-wide cycle route network by identifying and tackling hazardous locations for cyclists and creating better cycling facilities. They also took cyclists' needs into account in all road maintenance and construction. In 1995, they set a target to increase cycle use in Birmingham from 1.5% to 5% by the year 2005.


Birmingham is also notable for its canal system; formerly the lifeblood of the city's industries, their use is now mainly for pleasure. There are 35 miles (60 kilometres) of canals in the city, most remaining navigable. The abundance of canals has led to the frequently made claim that "Birmingham has more canals than Venice". Although this is in some sense correct (Venice has 26 miles (41 kilometres)), Birmingham is far larger , and the types of waterway are very different. Birmingham's canals are comparatively shallow artificial channels, while those in Venice are primarily reinforced natural channels between islands of the lagoon on which the city stands.


The city council is England's largest local education authority, directly or indirectly responsible for 25 nursery schools, 328 primary schools, 77 secondary schools and 29 special schools . It also runs the library service, with 4 million visitors annually , and provides around 4000 adult education courses throughout the year .

Birmingham has three universities: the University of Birmingham, Aston University and the University of Central England (UCE). It also has two other higher education colleges ( Newman College and the Birmingham College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studies). The Birmingham Conservatoire and Birmingham School of Acting, both now part of UCE, offer higher education in the arts. The conservatoire planning to move from their current location in Adrian Boult Hall to a site in the Eastside which was first intended for a large library.

A minority of the city's children receive private education. King Edward's School is perhaps the most prestigious independent school in the city. The seven schools of The King Edward VI Foundation are known nationally for setting the very highest academic standards and all of the schools consistently achieve top positions in national league tables.

Matthew Boulton College is also located in the city. In 2005, the Eastside branch of the college was completed and opened. The University of Central England opened the New Technology Institute facility in the same area in 2006.


The NIA has hosted many national and international sporting championships.
The NIA has hosted many national and international sporting championships.

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, the home of 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 city has also hosted the IBF World Championships in 1993 and 2003 which were both held in the National Indoor Arena. The NIA has also hosted the All England Open Badminton Championships from 1994 onwards and the British Indoor Rowing Championships since 2000.

The first ever game of lawn tennis was played in Edgbaston in 1859; 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), until recently both played in the FA Premier League, however at the end of the 2005-2006 season Birmingham City were relegated to the Coca Cola Championship. 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. Aston Villa is one of only four English football clubs to have been crowned champions of Europe; they did so by winning the European Cup in 1982.

Birmingham also has a professional Rugby Union side, Moseley RFC, and there is professional basketball team called the Birmingham Bullets as well as professional boxing, hockey, skateboarding, and greyhound racing in the city.

Birmingham has a large concentration of Martial Arts Clubs and is thought by some to have the highest concentration of Martial Artists in the UK.

Birmingham is also home to the sportswear manufacturer Epsc with the founder of the company having attended The University of Birmingham.

Birmingham was the first city to be awarded the title National City of Sport by the Sports Council.

Sports Teams In Birmingham

Club Sport Founded League Venue
Birmingham Bullets Basketball 1974 British Basketball League North Solihull Sports Centre
Warwickshire County Cricket Club Cricket 1882 National Cricket League County Ground
Aston Villa Football 1874 FA Premier League Villa Park
Birmingham City Football 1875 The Championship St Andrews Stadium
Castle Vale Football Midland Football Combination Premier Division
Moseley Rugby Club Rugby union 1873 National Division One Billesley Common

Food & drink

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 Deritend (circa 1450). The Anchor Inn (1797), is also nearby in Digbeth. For a more contemporary night out the city has a plethora of nightclubs and bars. Perhaps Birmingham's most famous street for nights out is Broad Street which also has a cinema and many restaurants on it.

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

Alum Rock, Saltley contains the largest concentration of take-away businesses in Birmingham.

Ladypool Road, Sparkhill contains the largest concentration of restaurants in Birmingham and possibly the UK.

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 Sparkhill, Sparkbrook, Balsall Heath and Ladypool areas. The Balti Belt is also known as the Balti Triangle among locals.

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

Popular music

Black Sabbath, a pioneer band in heavy-metal music, was formed in Birmingham.
Black Sabbath, a pioneer band in heavy-metal music, was formed in Birmingham.

Birmingham has had a vibrant and varied musical history over the last century.

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

The city is often described as the birthplace of heavy metal music, with Judas Priest and Black Sabbath coming from Birmingham. Robert Plant and John Bonham came from nearby towns, and played in local Brum Beat bands before forming one half of Led Zeppelin.

In the 1970s members of The Move and The Idle Race formed the Electric Light Orchestra and Wizzard. The 1970s also saw the rise of reggae and ska in the city, with Steel Pulse and later on UB40, The Beat 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, Dodgy and Ocean Colour Scene. Recent chart success has come from Mike Skinner (also known as The Streets), R&B singer Jamelia, Fyfe Dangerfield (singer/songwriter) of the Guillemots (band), Mistys Big Adventure and Editors.

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.

In 1998, Birmingham was the host city for the Eurovision Song Contest, which took place in the National Indoor Arena in the City Centre.

Birmingham has also been synonymous in the development of the British electronic music scene. Digbeth, near the city centre, features some of the country's top dance clubs, including Air, host to the eminent Godskitchen. The nearby National Exhibition Centre has played host to the biggest indoor dance events in the country.

Classical music

The internationally-renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra's home venue is Symphony Hall, where it gives frequent performances.

Birmingham is one of the few remaining cities in the UK to still have the position of City Organist. Since 1834 only 7 men have held this position, the current holder, Thomas Trotter has been in post since 1983. Weekly recitals have been given since the organ in Birmingham Town Hall was opened. The recitals are temporarily being held in St. Philip's Cathedral, until the Town Hall organ opens again after restoration in 2006.

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

Albert William Ketèlbey was born at 41 Alma Street, Aston in 1875.

Andrew Glover composer, was born in Birmingham, 1962

Birmingham's other city-centre music venues include The National Indoor Arena (NIA), the CBSO Centre, Adrian Boult Hall at Birmingham Conservatoire and Birmingham Town Hall (currently closed for refurbishment).


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 Centre also host many professional plays.

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


Literary figures associated with Birmingham include Samuel Johnson , J. R. R. Tolkien, Arthur Conan Doyle, Louis MacNeice, Washington Irving, David Lodge, W. H. Auden, Roi Kwabena and Benjamin Zephaniah. J. R. R. Tolkien is said to have been inspired by areas and buildings in the city such as Perrott's Folly and Moseley Bog for scenes in The Lord of the Rings.


The main library for the city is Central Library. The library has been redeveloped over a period of 150 years with the first Central Library opening in 1865. However, this library was destroyed in 1879. A replacement was built and in 1974, it was demolished with the new library and current library standing next to it. One of the collections was housed in the Shakespeare Memorial Room which houses collections of William Shakespeare's literary pieces.

A replacement library was planned for the Eastside area however, it was deemed unnecessary and did not go further than the planning stage. It is now expected to be divided into two sites, one housing the special collections and the other as a reference library.

There are 41 libraries in Birmingham overall and a regular mobile library service serves the city too.

Visual art

The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
The Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Birmingham has 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, found in Edgbaston, was declared 'Gallery of the Year' by the 2004 Good Britain Guide. The Ikon Gallery off Broad Street hosts displays of modern and installation art with a more contemporary feel. 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.

The construction of the Bull Ring Shopping Centre allowed local and international artists to display their work. These included three light wands which were erected at the main entrance, a huge mural on a glass facade located at the entrance facing New Street station and three fountains in St Martin's square in the shape of cubes, which are illuminated at night in different colours.

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 the August of odd- numbered years, parading through the streets of Handsworth to Perry Barr Park. Birmingham Pride takes place in the 'gay village' and attracts up to 100,000 visitors each year. The city also hosts an annual arts festival ArtsFest during September, where people can enjoy many of the regions' arts, free. It is the largest free arts festival in the UK.

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


Birmingham has two local daily newspapers - the Birmingham Post and the Birmingham Mail - as well as the Sunday Mercury, all owned by the Trinity Mirror, who also produce The Birmingham News, a weekly freesheet distributed to homes in the leafy suburbs along with Forward (formerly Birmingham Voice), the Birmingham City Council's free newspaper distributed to homes and via community centres and public buildings.

Birmingham is also the hub for various national ethnic media, including The Voice, The Sikh Times, Desi Xpress, The Asian Today and Raj TV (based in the Mailbox).


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 won a Royal Television Society award for their short film 'Soul Boy'. Star City is said to be Europe's largest leisure and cinema complex and is not far from the Britain's only permanent drive-in cinema maintained by T-Mobile; both are in Nechells.


The BBC has two bases in the city. BBC Birmingham, located in The Mailbox, is the headquarters of the BBC in the English Regions and has extensive news and production facilities. It is the home of programmes such as Midlands Today and the world's longest running radio soap opera, The Archers. The BBC Drama Village, based in Selly Oak, is a production facility specialising in television drama and is the home of nationally networked programmes such as Dalziel & Pascoe and Doctors. Before 2004 the BBC's Birmingham home was at the famous Pebble Mill Studios.

The area was one of the first to receive programming from the new ITV network in 1955. The networks' original representatives were Associated TeleVision (ATV) who served the area during the week and ABC Weekend TV who broadcast at the weekends. In 1968 ATV won the contract to serve the area seven days a week and built new studios off Broad Street at the heart of the city featuring the landmark Alpha Tower. In 1982 ATV was reorganised and became Central Independent Television, which was rebranded as Carlton Central in 1999 and again as ITV Central in 2004. ITV's Birmingham studios are famous for many shows, including Tiswas, Crossroads and Bullseye.


Local radio stations include BRMB, Galaxy, Heart FM, Kerrang! 105.2, New Style Radio 98.7FM, Saga 105.7FM, and BBC WM. There is also one hospital radio station, which covers 10 of the city's hospitals, called BHBN (Birmingham Hospital Broadcasting Network) Hospital Radio, which has been broadcasting since 1952.


There is a large number of clubs and bars in the city centre, mainly along Broad Street and into Brindleyplace which has now become the city's centre for nighttime entertainment.

Preclub bars are common in varying themes and music tastes as well as clubs of varying themes which are located in the area including a sports cafe, comedy club and lapdancing club. The smaller of the clubs are located in older buildings such as the former Second Church of Christ the Scientist which now is home of the 1970s themed Flares. Larger premises resulted in a large club called The Works being set up which sometimes performs a light display.

There are many stylish clubs and bars outside the Broad Street area. The Medicine Bar in the Custard Factory, The Sanctuary, Rainbow Pub and Air in Digbeth are very popular. Many bars and club nights exist in areas such as the Arcadian and Hurst Street by China Town, Summer Row, The Mailbox, and St Philips/Colmore Row and Jewellery Quarter. There are number of late night pubs in the Irish Quarter.

Gay and lesbian

Birmingham features its own annual festival known as Birmingham Pride. The three day event is located on Hurst Street which is generally considered the centre of the gay scene of Birmingham. A parade is also featured in the festival. The organisers say that the festival is the largest free gay and lesbian event in the United Kingdom.

Birmingham's first civil partnership was held on December 21, 2005 at the Birmingham Register Office.

Birmingham City Council designated February 2006, LBGT History Month which celebrated the history of LGBT. The success of the event prompted the planning of another event in February 2007. Birmingham Central Library then called for sources which aided a new collection of LGBT resources including books and video.

Science and invention

Local inventions and notable firsts include: gas lighting, roller skate wheels, the Baskerville Font, questionnaires, Custard powder, foam rubber, the magnetron (the core component in the development of radar and microwave ovens), the UK electroplating industry, the first ever use of radiography in an operation, and the UK's first ever hole-in-the-heart operation, at Birmingham Children's Hospital.

Among the city's notable scientists and inventors are:

  • Matthew Boulton, proprietor of the Soho engineering works.
  • Sir Francis Galton, originator of eugenics and important techniques in statistics.
  • Alexander Parkes, inventor of celluloid, the first synthetic plastic.
  • Joseph Priestley, chemist and radical.
  • James Watt, engineer and inventor; associated with the steam engine.
  • John Wright, inventor of a type of electroplating.

Town twinning

Birmingham's town twins are:

Birmingham, Alabama is named after the city and shares an industrial kinship.

Suburbs of the city

Acock's Green, Alum Rock, Aston, Balsall Heath, Bartley Green, Birchfield, Bordesley Green, Bournville, Bromford, Castle Vale, Cotteridge, Digbeth, Edgbaston, Erdington, Garretts Green, Great Barr, Greet, Hall Green, Handsworth, Handsworth Wood, Harborne, Hollywood, King's Heath, Kings Norton, Kingstanding, Kitt's Green, Ladywood, Longbridge, Lozells, Minworth, Moseley, New Oscott, Northfield, Perry Barr, Rednal, Rubery, Saltley, Selly Oak, Selly Park, Sheldon, Small Heath, Sparkbrook, Sparkhill, Stechford, Stirchley, Sutton Coldfield, Tyseley, Ward End, Washwood Heath, Weoley Castle, Witton, Woodgate, Yardley, Yardley Wood.

Nearby places

  • Cities: Coventry, Leicester, Lichfield, Wolverhampton, Worcester
  • Towns: Bedworth, Cannock, Droitwich, Dudley, Halesowen, Kenilworth, Kidderminster, Nuneaton, Redditch, Royal Leamington Spa, Rugby, Solihull, Stafford, Stourbridge, Stratford-upon-Avon, Tamworth, Warwick, Walsall, West Bromwich
  • Villages: Aldridge, Little Aston, Streetly
  • See also the Black Country

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