Economic and Social History: Social History before 1815

A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7, the City of Birmingham. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1964.

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'Economic and Social History: Social History before 1815', A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7, the City of Birmingham, (London, 1964), pp. 209-222. British History Online [accessed 15 June 2024].

. "Economic and Social History: Social History before 1815", in A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7, the City of Birmingham, (London, 1964) 209-222. British History Online, accessed June 15, 2024,

. "Economic and Social History: Social History before 1815", A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7, the City of Birmingham, (London, 1964). 209-222. British History Online. Web. 15 June 2024,


Little can be said about social and intellectual life in Birmingham before the 18th century. At that time the town had virtually only middle- and working-class inhabitants, (fn. 2) since, as a contemporary observed, it was 'not a place a gentleman would choose to make his residence. Its continual noise and smoke prevent it from being desirable in that respect'. (fn. 3) The middle class was, however, growing with the noise and smoke in both numbers and influence. A directory of 1770 lists 68 merchants and factors; by 1802 another directory contained the names of 140 such men. (fn. 4) Hutton reckoned that of perhaps 209 inhabitants possessing £5,000 and upwards in 1783 about 138 began life with little or nothing. The remaining 71, who started with money, had often added to it. Only three of the 209 had £100,000 and over, however, and only ten £50,000 or more. (fn. 5) In 1780 about 50 had country houses and 36 kept private carriages, (fn. 6) an expensive luxury. In 1790 Hutton, who had ridden for the first time in a chaise at 6d. a mile in 1762, paid 635 guineas for a coach-house, carriage, and horses. (fn. 7)

Prosperity increased. Ten people who claimed compensation for losses during the riots of 1791 were said to have possessed between them nearly £1,000,000. (fn. 8) An analysis in 1828 of the supposed wealth of Birmingham, commended in Hutton's History of Birmingham as being 'as near to reality as supposition can supply', reckoned that by that time, out of a total adult male population of about 25,000, the number with £5,000 of property and over had increased to 301. Of these fifteen had £100,000 or more and 26 had upwards of £50,000. (fn. 9)

Hutton noted of Birmingham society that 'civility and humanity are ever companions of trade' (fn. 10) and although in 1783 his daughter ridiculed the town as 'a place celebrated neither for fashion nor taste', (fn. 11) she and her father were themselves two of the growing number of middle-class townsfolk with evident intellectual and cultural interests. At the turn of the 18th century it could be claimed, though perhaps with some exaggeration, that 'there are very many families both in the town and its vicinity, of great taste, education, and refinement'. (fn. 12)

A reading public had existed in Birmingham in the 17th century for there was a bookseller and publisher in business there in 1652 and another in 1673. (fn. 13) Before 1733 there were at least seven established booksellers. (fn. 14) Samuel Johnson's edition of Lobo's Voyage to Abyssinia was printed in Birmingham in 1733 by Thomas Warren, and by the early 18th century books began to be published as well as printed in the town. It was not, however, until John Baskerville, (fn. 15) who had published his first volume in 1757, was appointed printer to Cambridge University in 1758 that Birmingham printing and publishing became of more than local significance. From his press came not only the Cambridge Bible of 1763, but, among others, the works of Milton, Congreve, and Addison. (fn. 16) In 1770 there were nine and in 1777 eight printers in the town. (fn. 17)

There was sufficient demand, too, in the 18th century for the publication of many local newspapers. The Birmingham Journal, published by Thomas Warren, was first issued in 1732, one of its contributors being Samuel Johnson. It had ceased to exist by 1741, but in that year two other newspapers were started in Birmingham. Richard Walker, who had been printing and publishing the Warwick and Staffordshire Gazette in London since 1737, moved to Birmingham in 1741 and began to issue the paper there. Thomas Aris in the same year began to publish the Birmingham Gazette. By 1743 Aris's paper, then known as Aris's Birmingham Gazette or Aris's Gazette, had absorbed Walker's paper and remained the town's only newspaper for some years. (fn. 18)

In 1757 appeared the Coventry Gazette and Birmingham Chronicle, published both in Coventry and Birmingham and still in existence in 1761. (fn. 19) In 1769 Aris began to publish the Warwickshire Weekly Journal, (fn. 20) which was continued by various promoters and under various names (the most lasting of which was Swinney's Birmingham Chronicle) until at least 1821. (fn. 21) In 1769, too, a different Birmingham Chronicle appeared, (fn. 22) and also the Birmingham and Wolverhampton Chronicle. (fn. 23) Another Birmingham paper, the Commercial Herald, was issued from 1804 until at least 1820, (fn. 24) and copies of the Midland Chronicle, printed in Birmingham, exist from its beginning in 1811 until 1814. (fn. 25)

Aris's Gazette, though mainly significant for its advertisements, and later maligned by its rivals as 'a register of sales or a broker's guide', was the most important of all these local papers, ranking with the Liverpool Mercury and the Edinburgh Courant, (fn. 26) and providing a focus for, among other things, the cultural and intellectual activity of the town. The first recorded attempt at a local literary magazine, Jones's Coventry, Warwick and Birmingham Magazine, printed in Coventry, had a short life, beginning and ending in 1764. In the same year appeared the fortnightly Birmingham Register or Entertaining Museum, published on the lines of the Gentleman's Magazine but containing little of local interest. (fn. 27) Other magazines soon followed, among them the Birmingham Magazine, and the Repository, both in 1770, and in 1771 the British Museum or Universal Register. (fn. 28)

Aris's Gazette contained advertisements for extra-local newspapers, (fn. 29) and during the 18th century numerous book clubs and libraries of various sorts were to be found in Birmingham. That many of these were business ventures indicates the genuine existence of a demand for books. Thomas Warren hired out volumes as early as 1729 and subscription libraries were started by William Hutton, the bookseller and local historian, in Bull Street in 1751, Joseph Crompton of Colmore Row before 1754 (fn. 30) (later Evans' Library), John Lowe in Market Place in about 1776 (later in High Street and then Cherry Street), M. and S. Olds in Suffolk Street in 1787, Thomas Chapman in Bull Street in 1795, and, about the end of the century, by Richard Peart in Temple Street (later in Spiceal Street and then Bull Street). In 1816 James Belcher and Sons kept an 'Artisans' Library' in Edgbaston Street, Deritend, the Bull Ring, and High Street. (fn. 31) Doubtless there were others, too, which have left no record. Subscriptions varied between 12s. and one and a half guineas a year, and in the case of Lowe's library non-subscribers could borrow volumes for a small payment.

These commercial enterprises, whose aim was, in Hutton's words, 'to catch the productions of the press as they rise', (fn. 32) appear to have been popular. Crompton increased his stock from 800 volumes in 1763 to 3,000 in 1767, and Lowe his from 6,000 in 1791 to 10,000 in 1796. Lowe's included a large number of French works, while the library of M. and S. Olds consisted of a variety of books on history and voyages, as well as novels, romances, adventures, poetry, and plays. (fn. 33) Orton and Hawkes Smith's Dilettanti Library offered its members not only books but the loan of prints and drawings. (fn. 34)

Apart from these libraries there were also book clubs like the book society or library advertised by the bookseller Swinney in 1772, and the one that met in Bell Street at the Leicester Arms which belonged to John Freeth, the local poet. This was perhaps in existence as early as 1750, and certainly in 1758. (fn. 35) The first news room, providing newspapers and magazines, was opened by Messrs. Thomson and Wrightson in New Street in 1808, and had an annual subscription of one guinea. (fn. 36)

The earliest public library in Birmingham was that founded in 1733 by the Revd. W. Higgs, first Rector of St. Philip's, who left 550 volumes and £200 for a parochial library. The books, housed in the rectory, could be borrowed free by local Anglican clergy and other privileged persons. (fn. 37) The most important library, however, was the Birmingham Library founded in 1779 by nineteen subscribers, all but one of whom were dissenters. From 1780 it had the enthusiastic support of Joseph Priestley who, with experience of similar work at Warrington and Leeds, (fn. 38) guided the subscribers in their adoption of suitable administrative rules and procedure. The entrance fee was one guinea, and the annual subscription from 1781 was 8s. (fn. 39) In 1794 there were 437 subscribers and in 1812 560. (fn. 40) The committee elected to choose books was entrusted with the ambitious task of enlarging the library 'till it contains all the most valuable publications in the English language', (fn. 41) and did succeed in increasing the number of volumes from about 900 in 1784 to some 7,000 in 1799 and 16,000 in 1818. (fn. 42) This rapid growth is another indication of middle-class demand for reading material at this time. More accommodation was thus needed, and after several temporary resting places the library obtained in 1798 a permanent building near Union Street, where it remained until 1899. (fn. 43)

Despite the hope expressed by Aris's Gazette in 1781 that the library 'may be expected to promote a spirit of liberality and friendship among all classes of men without distinction', (fn. 44) the committee was in fact divided from 1785 by a wrangle between Anglican and nonconformist members over the introduction of books on controversial theology. This resulted in Priestley leaving the committee, (fn. 45) and after further quarrels the dissatisfied elements broke away, founding the Birmingham New Library in 1794. The original institution became known as the Birmingham Old Library. The new library was run on similar lines to the parent body and was originally in Cannon Street and later in Temple Row West. It reunited with the Birmingham Old Library in 1860. (fn. 46)

It was boasted in the latter part of the 18th century that there were 100,000 publications perused in a month in Birmingham (fn. 47) and it was observed in 1835 that 'reading now forms the amusement of many'. (fn. 48) The growth of a public 'with a voracious appetite for reading', as a visitor in 1803 put it, (fn. 49) promoted the desire for other types of intellectual activity which was catered for in Birmingham by jubilee lectures and the beginnings of local learned societies. Not all the peripatetic professional lecturers who visited the town during the 18th and early 19th centuries can have had the fortunate experience of one Walker whose audiences allegedly 'doubled each evening' when he talked in 1810 on astronomy, (fn. 50) but it is clear that if the net were cast wide enough and emphasis placed on science and mechanics, public support could be expected. As early as 1742 a lecture on the fire engine, given in Coventry, was advertised in Birmingham. (fn. 51) Lectures given in Birmingham itself, of which the first on record was in 1747, ranged from single lectures to courses of twenty, and from pure chemistry and physics to physical geography, optics, and astronomy, most courses providing a variety of topics. (fn. 52) George Birkbeck gave a course of subscription lectures in chemistry in Birmingham about 1804. (fn. 53) More unusual was the course of anatomical lectures advertised in Aris's Gazette in 1762, to be delivered by Dr. Erasmus Darwin at his house in Lichfield, using the corpse of an executed criminal, to 'continue . . . every day as long as the body can be preserved'. (fn. 54) Darwin was a member of the Lunar Society (fn. 55) and the course does suggest that the enormous interest in science in Birmingham at that time was stimulated in part by the existence there of Dr. Priestley and his circle. So too does the prominence given in other courses to 'different kinds of air', to experiments, and to 'latest discoveries'. (fn. 56) 'Even some ladies talk with facility about oxygen . . . hydrogen and the carbonic acid', it was reported in 1803. (fn. 57)

The Lunar Society met monthly on the nearest Monday to the full moon, in the homes of members. (fn. 58) The date of its formal foundation is uncertain, but seems more likely to have been about 1775 than earlier. (fn. 59) Since it left no official records, and indeed may not have kept any, details of its activities are scanty. Even the names of its members are often conjectural. (fn. 60) The only full record of an actual meeting is contained in an elderly woman's childhood reminiscences, and is of doubtful accuracy. (fn. 61)

But if little is known definitely of the society itself, something is known of the circle in which it existed and of whose interests it was an expression. Whether all those, who, in the last 30 years or so of the 18th century, shared closely the intellectual pursuits of such eminent men as Boulton, Priestley, Wedgwood, and Erasmus Darwin, were members of the Lunar Society is less important than the fact that Birmingham was at that time a focus of more than local significance for scientific experiment and discussion. Most of the members and their friends lived in Birmingham and its neighbourhood and saw each other frequently. The actual meetings of the society were important socially but information was exchanged between members and others outside meetings as freely as and more often than inside them. Those outside Birmingham were corresponded with regularly, usually receiving on an average at least one letter a week from someone in the town. (fn. 62) Interest revolved particularly around steam and the steam engine, metallurgy, geology, (fn. 63) and scientific instruments. (fn. 64)

Priestley entered into contact with the intellectual life of Birmingham about 1767 when he referred to Darwin's work in his History and Present State of Electricity (1767), although he was not a member of the society until 1780 or 1781. (fn. 65) His experiments and theories were avidly discussed in Birmingham, and in the years 1780-5 the society seems to have been interested in the problem of the constitution of water, (fn. 66) and the members granted Priestley £100 a year to enable him to continue his scientific work. (fn. 67)

At this period the society was sufficiently well known to attract as visitors wellknown engineers and scientists like Smeaton and R. E. Raspe. (fn. 68) It was in close contact with industrialists and their practical problems (fn. 69) and was used by scientists as a channel for the announcement of discoveries. Kirwan, the Irish scientist, for example, corresponded with the society, and his discovery of phosphine was discussed at a meeting in 1785. (fn. 70)

Included in the Birmingham circle were not only those already mentioned, but also such men as William Small, credited as founder of the group from which the organized society sprang, Thomas Day, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, James Keir, James Watt, John Whitehurst, William Withering, Samuel Galton, the younger, Jonathan Stoke, and Robert Augustus Johnson, all certainly or probably members of the society. Others like John Baskerville, William Murdock, Samuel Galton, the elder, Sir Joseph Banks, Sir William Herschell, Daniel C. Solander, Joseph Berington, John Roebuck, Samuel Garbett, and Adam Afzelius may have been members or visitors but were certainly connected with the intellectual life of which the society was the nucleus.

Through this circle Birmingham was connected with the intellectual life of the country generally. Of the fourteen definitely known to be members of the Lunar Society nine had direct dealings with the Society of Arts, some as members; (fn. 71) moreover, eleven of the fourteen were, at one time or other, Fellows of the Royal Society, five of them, including Boulton and Watt, being elected within a month of each other in 1785. Several of those named above as possible members of the Lunar Society or visitors were also Fellows of the Royal Society. (fn. 72) Indeed these links with national bodies probably helped the Lunar Society to fulfil its function as a provincial clearing house for scientific information.

The interests and professions of these men embraced the physical and biological sciences, medicine, mechanical and civil engineering, literature, and religion. (fn. 73) Priestley later stated that 'the members had nothing to do with the religious or political principles of each other; we were united by a common love of science, which we thought sufficient to bring together persons of all distinctions - Christians, Jews, Mahometans and Heathens, Monarchists and Republicans'. (fn. 74) Despite this assertion there was evident nevertheless a tendency to the left in the views of the members, and the society did not recover from the effects of the riots of 1791 when the cry 'No Philosophers' indicated the popular estimate of their political outlook. Priestley then left Birmingham, (fn. 75) but although he continued to communicate his scientific observations to the society after his flight to America (fn. 76) and a few casual meetings are recorded as late as 1799, the society clearly declined as the older members left or died. (fn. 77) There seems to have been no provision for the introduction of younger members, for though Boulton as early as 1776 had suggested changes in the rules to prevent the decline of the society, apparently nothing was done. (fn. 78) It is true, however, that the atmosphere of scientific curiosity and free inquiry remained in Birmingham after the disappearance of the formal society. A visitor to the town in 1809 remarked on 'the remnant of the society and the fresh remembrance in others' which he found there and expressed the feeling that 'the impression which they made is not yet worn out'. (fn. 79)

Certainly the purchase by Watt and others of an air pump and other scientific apparatus resulted in the foundation in 1800 of the Philosophical Society. By 1803 its membership had increased from six to twenty, (fn. 80) and in 1812 it was prosperous enough to buy a property in Cannon Street. Here a new building was opened in 1814, equipped in a manner similar to the Royal Institution in London, with a news room, a lecture room for 200, a museum, a library, a reading room, and laboratories for the use of the members. (fn. 81) A course of lectures was given by an outside speaker each winter, followed by lectures by individual members of the institution. These lectures had an attendance described in 1825 as 'usually great' (fn. 82) and including many women. (fn. 83) Much time was also spent on scientific experiment, (fn. 84) but although the society's interests were largely scientific, they extended also to 'moral philosophy, political economy, and the subject of taste', and there were lectures on poetry, music, and architecture. (fn. 85) One lecture, on the problems of the deaf and dumb, resulted in the establishment of the General Institution for the Instruction of Deaf and Dumb Children, opened in 1814. (fn. 86) The Philosophical Society was not dissolved until 1852 (fn. 87) when it was succeeded by the Midland Institute. (fn. 88)

Lectures on non-scientific subjects were less common in Birmingham at this time. The 'new satirical lecture upon hearts' given in 1767 (fn. 89) was probably more in the nature of entertainment than instruction. A course of six lectures in 1775 on 'English pronunciation and the beauties of Shakespeare' (fn. 90) may well have been elementary in nature since it was delivered by the same person who appeared frequently in Birmingham for over 30 years as a lecturer in scientific subjects. (fn. 91) Apart from lectures, private tuition in French was available, (fn. 92) and at King Edward's School there were evening classes in modern languages and accounting for young people. (fn. 93)

Although agitation for a local art academy is recorded as early as 1754, (fn. 94) not until the early 19th century is there any evidence of any such activity in Birmingham. In 1807 Samuel Lines set up a drawing academy in Temple Row West, and about the same time Joseph Barber and his son J. Vincent Barber opened another at the corner of Edmund Street and Newhall Street. In 1812 some local artists combined to form an Academy of Arts to study the living model and in 1814 instituted an exhibition intended to become annual. Catherine Hutton derided the genius of these artists as 'more calculated to paint tea boards than pictures' and although the exhibition attracted a large number of visitors, the society in fact died out quickly, as she predicted. (fn. 95) Its proposal that an art gallery should be built came to nothing. (fn. 96) From the same group, however, came the formation in 1821 of the more successful Birmingham Society of Arts. (fn. 97)

Most intellectual activities in Birmingham were almost entirely middle-class, for the subscription and admission fees were generally too high for artisans. Elementary evening classes, however, were offered by some private schools, (fn. 98) and the Sunday schools were active in providing general working-class education towards the end of the 18th century. (fn. 99) The most outstanding example of Sunday-school activity in education in Birmingham was the Birmingham Sunday Society. This was founded in 1789 by some teachers in dissenting Sunday schools, particularly those of the Old and New Meetings. Their object was to instruct youths after they had left the Sunday schools in writing, arithmetic, geography, book-keeping, drawing, and morals. (fn. 100) Most of its active members, including its founders and leaders, were themselves engaged in 'mechanical employments'. Their activities always had a strong moral emphasis, and those who habitually neglected public worship were excluded from membership. (fn. 101)

Within the society there was also a small mutual improvement class which studied mechanics, hydrostatics, electricity, pneumatics, optics, and astronomy. The members constructed their own apparatus and formed a small library of books on scientific subjects. (fn. 102) Some of the leading members of the Sunday Society gave free lectures on philosophy, morals, history, and science, particularly mechanics, to working-class members, including workmen from the Eagle foundry and other factories who earned the nickname of the 'cast-iron philosophers'. (fn. 103) Some at least of these lectures were reputedly well attended by members of both sexes and of different denominations. (fn. 104) Another activity was a debating club which met once a week and was open to the general public on payment of 6d. Some of the earliest debates were on subjects connected with education. (fn. 105)

Some time after 1791 a group of the best pupils was selected to qualify as teachers and then to give their services gratuitously to others. In 1796 these, with the managers of the school, were formed into a new society known as the Brotherly Society (fn. 106) which laid down its 'objects of improvement' as 'reading, writing, arithmetic, drawing, geography, natural and civil history, and morals, or in short, whatever may be generally useful to a manufacturer, or as furnishing principles for active benevolence and integrity'. (fn. 107) In 1817 it had 45 members. (fn. 108)

Connected with the Brotherly Society was a sick or benefit club, originally sponsored by James Luckock, a leading member. It was formally named the Brotherly Benefit Society in 1798, (fn. 109) and was confined to boys and teachers of the school. (fn. 110)

The Birmingham Brotherly Society was later described as 'the first Mechanics' Institute in Britain', (fn. 111) although it preceded the Mechanics' Institute movement by some 35 years. Birkbeck denied that he obtained his idea from the Brotherly Society, (fn. 112) but certainly the society's aims and methods, its system of lectures, classes, and debates, its emphasis on mechanics, and its scientific library, all made it in some ways similar to the later institutions. It was still in existence in 1851. (fn. 113)

In 1797 (fn. 114) a library for the benefit of the working classes was founded by two Sunday-school teachers, William and Samuel Carpenter. At first it was open only to members of the school and had 20 subscribers paying 1d. a week each. It was soon made public and assumed the name first of the Bristol Street Society, and then in 1799, on removal to Paradise Street, of the Artisans' Library. After several further removals it settled in 1811 in Edmund Street. In 1825 it had subscribers and 1,500 volumes covering history, biography, voyages, travel, arts and science, poetry, drama, and novels, although the last were not particularly encouraged. (fn. 115) Many of the books were reported 'out of condition from being so well thumbed by hard working operatives'. (fn. 116)

There was a mixture of classes in the various Birmingham debating societies but little evidence of their activities survives. The Sunday Society's debating society has already been noted above, and it is probable that the book club to which John Freeth belonged (fn. 117) was also a political debating or discussion group, (fn. 118) for it was known as a 'reading society'. (fn. 119) It is known that there were two other debating societies in Birmingham in 1774. One, called the Free Debating Society, or the Robin Hood Free Debating Society, met at a tavern, the Red Lion; the other, the Amicable Debating Society, held its early meetings at a coffee-house. Women were admitted to the debates of both and were allowed to speak in those of the Robin Hood Society. Both societies debated chiefly moral and philosophical questions, such as 'What constitutes happiness?', and 'Is a drunkard the greater enemy to himself or to society?'. Both also discussed political questions, and the Robin Hood Society had definite political leanings. (fn. 120) The Amicable Debating Society complained of 'illiberal attempts that have been made to suppress this society' (fn. 121) and apart from political objections some citizens were clearly offended that working men should presume to debate with their betters. One correspondent to Aris's Gazette complained that members were too ill-educated to discuss important matters and parodying Milton, derided them thus:

'Dull on their unshaved chins and dirty brows,
Stupidity resides and vacant thought;
Their looks caused laughter, while contempt and shame,
Loud is when ignorance made deadly drunk,
While e'er they speak'. (fn. 122)

The later history, if any, of these societies is not known. A Society for Free Debate formed in 1789 discussed social, moral, and political questions, and was still in existence in 1792, when the magistrates interfered on the grounds that the recent riots should discourage public discussion of dangerous subjects. (fn. 123) No doubt other more 'respectable' societies continued to exist. (fn. 124)

The Anacreontic Society, named after the Greek writer of convivial verses, may have been a combination of social club and informal discussion group. It began in 1793 at the house of Joseph Warden in Colmore Street, and its members were largely local tradesmen, although it also had members in other parts of the British Isles and at least three from abroad. Some London actors joined the society when they were visiting Birmingham. The society was still in existence in the earlier 19th century when it gave musical entertainments at the Eagle and Ball in Colmore Street. Entries of new members in its records ceased in 1814 with a total of 1,505. (fn. 125)

Between 1720 and 1760 there were several musical clubs in the town. They often met in taverns and consequently were mainly given over to a conviviality (fn. 126) typified in the preamble to the printed rules of the most important of them, the Birmingham Musical and Amicable Society (founded 1762), which included the lines:

'May the catch and the glass go about and about And another succeed to the bottle that's out'. (fn. 127)

This association was, however, remarkable in being also a friendly society and engaging in charitable works. (fn. 128) Its founder, James Kempson, was associated with Michael Broome who set up a music-publishing business in Lichfield Street in 1734. (fn. 129) The growth of musical appreciation in Birmingham since the middle of the century was noted by Hutton in 1781, (fn. 130) and by 1821 it could be claimed that 'music is ardently and highly cultivated at Birmingham'. (fn. 131)

A great advance was made in the late 1760s. In 1767 it had been asked:
'In other towns whilst oratorios please,
Shall we in gloomy silence spend our days?' (fn. 132)
This plea resulted in 1768 in a series of concerts to aid the General Hospital, followed in 1778 by another series. The year 1796 marked the beginning of a regular Triennial Musical Festival, (fn. 133) and in 1811 an Oratorio Choral Society (later known as the Festival Choral Society) was formed. (fn. 134) In all these concerts vocal and choral music, particularly the works of Handel and Haydn, predominated, for until the building of the town hall in the 1830s there was no suitable hall for orchestral performances. (fn. 135) As it was, the festivals took place in the assembly room of the Royal Hotel, (fn. 136) where other concerts too were held, as, for example, by the Dilettanti Musical Society in 1780. (fn. 137) Apart from these, there were from time to time other concerts at the theatre and at various public gardens, and there is evidence of a series of private subscription concerts probably dating from 1798. (fn. 138)

Hutton remarked in 1781 that there was a great variety of public gardens suited to different classes of people. (fn. 139) Some were mere pleasure grounds providing walks, bowling greens, and firework displays, but others also provided good music. One of these in the middle of the 18th century was Bridgeman's Apollo Gardens at Aston. (fn. 140) The most popular among the 'genteeler sort of people' from at least the 1750s were the grounds of Duddeston Hall, renamed Vauxhall Gardens in imitation of those in London. These provided, as well as a bowling green and a billiard table, summer seasons of fortnightly concerts, again largely vocal in nature. (fn. 141)

Many of the musical entertainments of the better sort were combined with balls, held in conjunction with the Hospital concerts at Vauxhall Gardens, and at assemblies where conversation and card playing were an added attraction. In 1750 there were two assembly rooms, one in Bull Street, the other in the Square. The latter was the more fashionable but it never recovered from the remark of the Duke of York on attending a ball there in 1765, that Birmingham 'deserved a superior accommodation; that the room was mean and the entrance still meaner'. The result was the erection in 1772 of the Royal Hotel with an assembly room 'which would not disgrace the royal presence of the Duke's brother'. (fn. 142) Here eight assemblies were held each season, from October to March, including concerts and balls. (fn. 143) Aris's Gazette and other local papers contained from time to time advertisements from dancing teachers (fn. 144) and two are named in a directory for 1777, (fn. 145) but on the whole the assemblies for dancing were not as well attended as the musical concerts despite efforts to keep them 'genteel'. (fn. 146)

It was in the theatre that different classes and tastes came nearer together. When a traveller visited Birmingham in 1760 he remarked of the local theatre that although the actors were not 'a picked set' they were from London and the theatre was 'very neat' and 'greatly encouraged'. (fn. 147) It is true that great advances had been made since the beginnings of the century. The earliest performances in Birmingham had been given by strolling players, acting in booths. (fn. 148) About 1730 there was a rough building in Castle Street 'something like a stable', but the first permanent theatre was the New Theatre built in Moor Street in 1740. (fn. 149) Between 1740 and 1751 there were, in addition, two other theatres, one in New Street and one in Smallbrook Street, but by 1751 these had disappeared. (fn. 150) Perhaps stimulated by the success of a London company in 1751, a larger theatre was opened in King Street in 1752. This eclipsed the New Theatre in Moor Street and at the same time the existence of two theatres aroused religious opposition to such an extent that Moor Street was closed, and, ironically, converted into a Methodist chapel. (fn. 151) Wesley, who preached in this chapel in 1764, expressed current dissenting opinion in his remark, 'Happy would it be, if all playhouses in the kingdom were converted to so good an use'. These, however, were not the feelings of the Birmingham mob who stoned the congregation when they left. (fn. 152)

In 1774 another theatre was erected in New Street, one of its proprietors being Matthew Boulton. (fn. 153) Consequently the King Street theatre was enlarged in the same year. (fn. 154) The New Street theatre soon became the leading Birmingham theatre, and when a new façade by Samuel Wyatt was added in 1780 it was claimed to be 'the most elegant, and certainly is the best theatre for summer performances of any in this kingdom'. (fn. 155) After damage by fire in 1792 the auditorium was rebuilt to the designs of George Saunders even more sumptuously than before, (fn. 156) only to be similarly damaged, and rebuilt again in 1820. (fn. 157)

The Birmingham theatres were not licensed for dramatic performances so each play was provided free as an interlude between two parts of a 'concert' for which the audience paid. An attempt in 1777 to obtain a licence for the New Street theatre, giving it the title Theatre Royal and a monopoly of performances during four months of the year, was weakened by the rivalry of the supporters of the King Street theatre and thwarted by religious opposition. (fn. 158) An attempt later in 1777 to get a similar licence for King Street also failed, (fn. 159) as in 1779 did another petition by the supporters of the New Street theatre. (fn. 160) In 1786 the King Street theatre was closed. Like Moor Street before it, it fell into the hands of its chief opponents, and became a nonconformist chapel. (fn. 161) It was not until 1807 that demand for a licensed theatre in Birmingham was satisfied, and the New Street theatre became the Theatre Royal. (fn. 162) Until that time Birmingham theatres had provided only summer seasons. In 1808 the first winter season was introduced. (fn. 163)

Apart from the main theatres, dramatic and other such entertainment was sometimes provided elsewhere. In 1778 a wooden opera house or 'concert booth' was opened in Moseley Road, but was soon destroyed by a fire. (fn. 164) The various assembly rooms, and halls belonging to taverns, were also used, (fn. 165) and there was for a time towards the end of the 18th century an 'Amphitheatre' or 'Gentleman's Private Theatre' in Livery Street which was for subscribers only. (fn. 166)

There was no clear-cut division between the types of entertainment provided by the different theatres in Birmingham during this period. Most of the larger establishments provided good serious plays at times; all catered also for the mediocre, the vulgar, and the crude; some performances combined all in the same evening; mixed dramatic and musical entertainments were common. Since, until 1808, the Birmingham theatres only opened in the summer, they were able to engage London companies. (fn. 167) Thus even the sceptical Catherine Hutton was able to wax enthusiastic about 'the grand theatrical season' of 1776 when she saw Henderson in six different characters. (fn. 168) In the 1740s Garrick had played Macbeth at the New Theatre attired in a 'sort of Spanish dress - slashed trunk and breastplate, and a high crowned hat' because of the current unpopularity of the tartan: (fn. 169) in 1776 Mrs. Siddons appeared for the first time in Birmingham, where her talents were first perceived; in 1810 the younger Macready, the son of the manager of the Theatre Royal, made his first appearance on the stage under his father's direction. (fn. 170) Other famous players of the day who visited Birmingham included J. P. Kemble, Charles Kemble, Edmund Kean, G. F. Cooke, and W. H. Betty. (fn. 171)

As well as the works of such playwrights as Shakespeare, Sheridan, and Congreve, there appeared, even at the Theatre Royal, a variety of entertainment which defies categorization. It ranged from vocal and orchestral music, operas, pantomimes, imitations, comic performances, to fire-eating, wire and rope dancing, ventriloquism, 'philosophical fireworks', equestrian exhibitions, (fn. 172) and the remarkable performance of one Sieur Sanches who walked 'against the ceiling with his head downward', imitated birds and musical instruments and concluded with his 'unparalleled performance on the slack rope'. (fn. 173) When Kemble appeared in Othello in 1799, the play was followed by 'a new pantomime dance, in which Mr. Quantrill will leap through a hogshead of fire', (fn. 174) and in 1814 J. Dobbs, an actor at the Theatre Royal who had invented a reaping machine, demonstrated it in character, in a play, on an artificial field of wheat on the stage. (fn. 175)

Without thus catering for a variety of tastes the Birmingham theatres could not have survived at this time. Attempts were made to keep the boxes 'genteel', and Aris's Gazette in 1775 admonished male patrons who had appeared at the King Street theatre not dressed 'as gentlemen should who appear in boxes'; (fn. 176) but the management could not be too discriminating. In 1777 the manager of the New Street theatre publicly apologized for not putting on a play because of the 'extraordinary thinness of the House', (fn. 177) and in 1810 the Theatre Royal was described as comparatively 'neglected and deserted', a successful performance not bringing in enough to pay half the expenses. (fn. 178) Prices were kept low to attract custom, gallery seats being procurable for 1s. and sometimes for 6d. (fn. 179) The result was that unruly elements from time to time disrupted the performances. In 1787 there was nearly a riot in the New Street theatre; (fn. 180) in 1788 a reward was offered for the discovery of the 'ruffians who have thrown . . . bottles, plates, apples etc.' at the actors, but both the stage and the pit were similarly pelted in 1790. (fn. 181) Perhaps as a consequence, and also for religious reasons, the theatre in Birmingham lacked the full-hearted support of the middle classes. (fn. 182) A visitor in 1812 commented on the excellence of Macready's performance but also on the theatre being 'very ill attended' (fn. 183) and in 1830 a local writer could complain that compared with music 'the drama is much neglected'. (fn. 184)

Amusements other than the theatre and music were various. At best they were similar to the least uplifting entertainment provided in the theatres: conjurors, acrobats, horse-riders, performers on musical glasses, dwarfs, giants, stone- and fireeaters vied with exhibitions of figures of marble and wax (including Madame Tussaud's). One of these represented 'the late Queen Caroline . . . dressed in a suit of her own clothes', and there was a learned dog who 'reads, writes, and casts accounts', and clockwork figures of great ingenuity. (fn. 185) There were travelling menageries and circuses, (fn. 186) and in 1793 a model of the guillotine which executed life-size figures was offered for general enlightenment. (fn. 187) Such amusements appealed primarily to the mass of the working class, but the middle classes were to a certain degree attracted by these wonders. Usually 'ladies and gentlemen' were expected to pay more than 'working people and servants' and some exhibitors offered private showings on previous notice being given.

Bowling greens, of which there were several in Birmingham during this period, (fn. 188) were recognized as respectable and Hutton and his friends played tennis. (fn. 189) The middle classes, however, increasingly frowned on the cruder amusements of the lower orders. These Hutton in 1781 summed up as 'fives, quoits, skittles, and ale'. (fn. 190) He should also have included marble alleys, cock- and dog-fighting, bull-baiting and other cruel sports. It is true that there was a cock-pit at the fashionable Vauxhall Gardens, (fn. 191) but the taverns were often the centre of this pastime. Letters to Aris's Gazette protesting against both cock-fighting and bull-baiting as a 'disgrace of real Christianity' appeared as early as 1764, (fn. 192) but seem to have had little effect. Threats by the magistrates not to renew the licences of publicans who kept 'skittle-alleys, billiard tables, roly-poly tables', or encouraged cock-fighting were made in 1776 and 1777, and again in 1799. (fn. 193) Aris's Gazette, however, provides plenty of evidence that cock-fighting continued in Birmingham well into the 19th century. Bull-baiting, made illegal in Birmingham in 1773, (fn. 194) had become less common by the later 18th century and was easier to suppress. In 1786 the Birmingham Association, a body of local militia formed by the trading classes, forcibly dispersed a bull-baiting at Snow Hill. After that bull-baiting was carried on at Handsworth where the powers of the association could not be exercised. (fn. 195)

The 1835 edition of Hutton's History of Birmingham added to his original list of working-class relaxations, 'cards, dominoes, bagatelle, ball, marbles, and cricket'. (fn. 196) In 1760 a Society of Cricket Players of Birmingham had challenged other teams within 30 miles for a prize of 20 guineas, (fn. 197) and a Birmingham Cricket Society existed in 1803. (fn. 198) It would be wrong, however, to assume that lower-class tastes altered appreciably during the 18th and early 19th centuries. A contemporary remarked that although a few spent their leisure hours in 'sober repose', or in the cultivation of their little allotment gardens, the bulk 'are wasted in indolence, sloth, or pernicious activity'. (fn. 199) Indeed, Hutton's History in 1835 also noted 'pugilism, cock battles, dog fights, duckhunting, bear, and badger or bull-baiting'. (fn. 200)

The taverns were frequented, and there were no fewer than 291 publicans in the town in 1770. (fn. 201) The public houses did, however, provide the headquarters for the various working-class clubs to which most Birmingham workmen belonged in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These ranged from friendly societies and sick clubs to clothes and breeches clubs, gift, funeral, and clock and watch clubs. Though their membership was sometimes associated with feasting and imprudent drinking, yet the clubs were a boon in times of stress. (fn. 202)

The typical Birmingham worker was in those days a skilled or semi-skilled artisan, (fn. 203) but although wages tended to be high for the time, (fn. 204) the working classes in the town did not enjoy uniform prosperity. In 1781 Hutton estimated that 3,000 out of the town's 8,000 households were too poor to be assessed for poor rates. This represented perhaps 30,000 of the 50,000 inhabitants without taking into account some thousands in receipt of poor-relief and others in the workhouse. (fn. 205) The crude tastes of the working classes in Birmingham possibly reflected both their intermittent prosperity and their insecurity.


  • 1. This article is confined mainly to the history of cultural and intellectual activity, and amusements. For details of living conditions in this period see pp. 51 sqq., 339-40, of working conditions and wages see pp. 109-12, 285-6, 322-3, of political activity and trade unions see section on political history to 1832 (pp. 270-97), especially pp. 277-8, 285-6, 295-6, of poor law see pp. 321-4.
  • 2. J. Jaffray, Hints for a Hist. of Birm. (cuttings from Birm. Jnl. B.R.L. 352519).
  • 3. Brief Hist. Birm. (publ. Grafton and Reddell, 1797), 4.
  • 4. R. B. Rose, 'The Priestley Riots of 1791', Past and Present, xviii. 70.
  • 5. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1809), 136; cf. p. 90.
  • 6. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1819), 212.
  • 7. W. Hutton, Life of William Hutton (1816), 104, 149.
  • 8. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1835), 431.
  • 9. Ibid. 208-9.
  • 10. Ibid. (1781), 61-2.
  • 11. Dent, Making of Birm. 149.
  • 12. Harvest Home, ed. S. J. Pratt, i. 309.
  • 13. W. Powell, 'Libraries in Birm.' Handbk. for Birm. (Brit. Assoc. 1913), 249; Birm. Public Libraries, Cat. Birm. Coll. (1918), 792.
  • 14. Dent, Making of Birm. 49; J. Hill, Book Makers of Old Birm. (Birm. 1907), 1-2, et passim.
  • 15. See p. 95.
  • 16. Gill, Hist. Birm. 77, 84, 101-2, 139; Hill, Book Makers, 39-42, 60 sqq.; S. Timmins, 'Old Birm. Books', T.B.A.S. (1882-3), 60 sqq.; W. Downing, Birm. and Literature (Birm. 1887), 1.
  • 17. The Streets and inhabitants of Birm. in 1770 (1886) [reprint of Sketchley and Adams, Universal Dir. Birm. Wolverhampton, Walsall, Dudley (1770)], p. x; Birm. 120 Years Ago (1896) [reprint of Pearson and Rollason, Birm. Dir. (1777)], 121.
  • 18. Hill, Book Makers, v, 41-2, 51-3; S. Timmins, 'Newspapers', Handbk. of Birm. (Brit. Assoc. 1886), 361; A. Briggs, Press and Public Opinion in Early 19th-century Birm. (Dugd. Soc. Occasional Papers, no. 8), 7; Dent, Making of Birm. 87.
  • 19. Only vol. traced is for 17 Sept. 1761, which was vol. v, no. 234 (B.R.L.).
  • 20. Hill, Book Makers, 71.
  • 21. B.R.L. T/S catalogue of local collection. Hill, Book Makers, 75-6, discusses the intricacies of the history of this paper.
  • 22. Birm. Chron. 24 Mar. 1769. This paper is not to be confused with Swinney's Birm. Chron. and was probably not the same as the Birm. and Wolverhampton Chron.
  • 23. Hill, Book Makers, 73; Birm. and Wolverhampton Chron. copies for 1769, 1770 (B.R.L.).
  • 24. Hill, Book Makers, 102. The latest copy in B.R.L. is for 1 Apr. 1820 and gives no indication that it might be a final issue; see p. 287.
  • 25. In B.R.L.
  • 26. Briggs, Press and Public Opinion, 7.
  • 27. Hill, Book Makers, 67-70; Jaffray, Hints for Hist. Birm.
  • 28. Hill, Book Makers, 74, 77.
  • 29. e.g. Aris's Gazette, 2 June 1777.
  • 30. Eliz. Crompton is named as a library keeper in 1777: Birm. 120 Years Ago (1896).
  • 31. Not the same as the Artisan's Library connected with the Sunday-school movement; see p. 216.
  • 32. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 138.
  • 33. J. D. Mullins, 'Libraries Past and Present', Handbk. of Birm. (1886), 65-6; Handbk. for Birm. (1913), 249-51; Langford, Birm. Life, i. 131-2.
  • 34. Midland Chron. 23 May 1812.
  • 35. W. Calcott, Thoughts Moral and Divine (Birm. 1758), p. xli; Brief Sketch of Birm. Book Club [1864] (B.R.L. 123505), and typed letter filed with this; Langford, Birm. Life, i. 57-8, 238; see p. 277.
  • 36. Langford, Birm. Life, ii. 247; cf. Midland Chron. 23 May 1812.
  • 37. Handbk. of Birm. (1886), 65; Handbk. for Birm. (1913), 252; see p. 378.
  • 38. R. E. Schofield, 'The Scientific Background of Joseph Priestley', Annals of Science, xiii. 152 sqq.
  • 39. Handbk. of Birm. (1886), 66-7.
  • 40. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1806), 170; Pictorial Guide to Birm. (1849), 138.
  • 41. Dent, Making of Birm. 183.
  • 42. Handbk. for Birm. (1913), 256; Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1806), 471; Pictorial Guide to Birm. 138; The Beauties of England and Wales, xv, pt. ii (1814), 290 gives about 20,000 for the number of books then.
  • 43. Handbk. of Birm. (1886), 67; Handbk. for Birm. (1913), 255; Kelly's Dir. Birm. (1908), 12; Gill, Hist. Birm. 139.
  • 44. Dent, Making of Birm. 183.
  • 45. W. Matthews, Principal Means employed to ameliorate the conditions of the working classes at Birm. (London, 1830), 19-20; Dent, Making of Birm. 185; Langford, Birm. Life, i. 288 sqq.; Gill, Hist. Birm. 140.
  • 46. Dent, Making of Birm. 186; Handbk. of Birm. (1886), 67.
  • 47. Jaffray, Hints for a Hist. of Birm.
  • 48. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1835), 290.
  • 49. Harvest Home, ed. Pratt, i. 315.
  • 50. Langford, Birm. Life, ii. 250.
  • 51. Gill, Hist. Birm. 85.
  • 52. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 33, 136, 246, 252, 376, 378, 380.
  • 53. Matthews, Principal Means employed . . . at Birm. 24; T. Kelly, George Birkbeck, 37-40.
  • 54. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 148.
  • 55. See below.
  • 56. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 376.
  • 57. Harvest Home, ed. Pratt, i. 315-16.
  • 58. Dent, Making of Birm. 155; H.C. Bolton, 'The Lunar Society', T.B.A.S. (1888-9), 79; R. E. Schofield, 'Membership of the Lunar Society of Birm.' Annals of Science, xii. 123-4.
  • 59. Annals of Science, xii. 122, 124n; S. Smiles, Lives of Boultor and Watt (1865), 368.
  • 60. Annals of Science, xii. 118 sqq.; T.B.A.S. (1888-9), 80-1; E. Robinson, 'R. E. Raspe, Franklin's "Club of Thirteen", and the Lunar Society', Annals of Science, xi. 142.
  • 61. Life of Mary Anne Schimmelpenninck, ed. C. C. Hankin, i. 36 sqq.; cf. Annals of Science, xii. 120-1.
  • 62. R. E. Schofield, 'The Industrial Orientation of Science in the Lunar Society of Birm.' Isis, xlviii. 410-11.
  • 63. Ibid. 411-12.
  • 64. E. Robinson, 'The Lunar Society and the Improvement of Scientific Instruments', Annals of Science, xii. 296 sqq.; xiii. 1-8; see p. 121.
  • 65. Isis, xlviii. 411.
  • 66. T.B.A.S. (1888-9), 87.
  • 67. A. E. Ballard, 'The "Lunatics" at Barr', Staffordshire Life, vii, no. 2, p. 22.
  • 68. S. Smiles, Lives of Boulton and Watt, 375-6; A. E. Musson and E. Robinson, 'Science and Industry in the late 18th cent.' Ec.H.R. 2nd series, xiii. 239.
  • 69. Annals of Science, xiii. 1-8; Ec.H.R. 2nd series, xiii. 222, 238-40.
  • 70. T.B.A.S. (1888-9), 82-3, 87-8.
  • 71. R. E. Schofield, 'The Society of Arts and the Lunar Society of Birm.' Jnl. Royal Soc. of Arts, cvii. 513.
  • 72. The Record of the Royal Society of London (1940), Apps. v, vi.
  • 73. Annals of Science, xii. 125 sqq.; T.B.A.S. (1888-9), 80-1; Dent, Making of Birm. 155-6.
  • 74. T.B.A.S. (1888-9), 79.
  • 75. Ibid. 90-1; E. Robinson, 'The English "Philosophers" and the French Revolution', History Today, vi, no. 2, pp. 116-19; H. Pearson, Doctor Darwin, 124-5; W. H. Chaloner, 'Dr. Joseph Priestley, John Wilkinson and the French Revolution, 1789-1802', Trans. R.H.S. 5th ser. viii. 21 sqq.; see pp. 280-1.
  • 76. T. E. Pemberton, James Watt (Birm. 1905), 229.
  • 77. Annals of Science, xii. 124; T.B.A.S. (1888-9), 91 sqq.
  • 78. G. J. Stoker, 'The Lunar Society', Central Literary Magazine, xiii.
  • 79. Smiles, Lives of Boulton and Watt, 385.
  • 80. Matthews, Principal Means employed . . . at Birm. 23; cf. Dent, Making of Birm. 323-4.
  • 81. Langford, Birm. Life, ii. 369; Dent, Making of Birm. 324; Harvest Home, ed. Pratt, 471 sqq.
  • 82. J. Drake, Picture of Birm. (1825), 36; J. N. Brewer, Topog. and Hist. Description of County of Warwick (1818), 290.
  • 83. Hist. and Descriptive Sketch of Birm. (attributed to G. Yates) (Birm. 1830), 185-6.
  • 84. Langford, Birm. Life, ii. 369.
  • 85. Ibid. 371; Matthews, Principal means employed . . . at Birm. 23.
  • 86. [Charles Pye], Strangers Guide to Mod. Birm. (Birm. 1835), 38.
  • 87. Dent, Making of Birm. 324.
  • 88. See pp. 230 sqq.
  • 89. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 137.
  • 90. Ibid. 245.
  • 91. But see Ec.H.R. 2nd series, xiii. 230 sqq.
  • 92. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 129.
  • 93. Gill, Hist. Birm. 135.
  • 94. R. C. Smith, 'Birm. Municipal School of Art', Birm. Instits. ed. Muirhead, 274.
  • 95. R. K. Dent, The Society of Arts and the Royal Birm. Society of Artists, 1-3; Dent, Making of Birm. 325.
  • 96. Langford, Birm. Life, ii. 367.
  • 97. Gill, Hist. Birm. 141; see p. 233.
  • 98. e.g. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 32-3.
  • 99. cf. p. 486.
  • 100. J. W. Hudson, History of Adult Education (1851), 29; Matthews, Principal means employed . . . at Birm. 6-7.
  • 101. M. Tylecote, The Mechanics' Institutes of Lancashire and Yorkshire before 1851, 4.
  • 102. Matthews, Principal means employed . . . at Birm. 8-9.
  • 103. C. Baker, 'Mechanics' Institutions and Libraries', Central Soc. of Educ. First Publication (1837), 217; Hudson, Hist. Adult Educ. 29-30; Matthews, Principal means employed . . . at Birm. 7n, 8.
  • 104. Matthews, Principal means Birm. 14-15.
  • 105. Ibid. 8-9, 15; J. Luckock, Moral Culture (London, 1817), 267.
  • 106. Matthews, Principal means employed . . . at Birm. 13- 14; [T. Clarke], Biographical Tribute to James Luckock (Birm. 1835), 10-11. Its name was the Birm. Brotherly Society (1796-1808), the Old and New Meeting Brotherly Society (1809-30), the Birm. Brotherly Society (1831-5), the Birm. Unitarian Brotherly Society (1836-82).
  • 107. Hudson, Hist. Adult Educ. 30; Matthews, Principal means employed . . . at Birm. 14.
  • 108. Luckock, Moral Culture, 268.
  • 109. J. H. Dance, Birm. Unitarian Brotherly Benefit Soc. Extracts from the Minutes (Birm. 1890), 3; Remarks upon the Character of James Luckock (Birm. [1835]), 3.
  • 110. Luckock, Moral Culture, 269.
  • 111. Hudson, Hist. Adult Educ. 40. But see T. Kelly, 'The Origin of Mechanics' Institutes', Brit. Jnl. of Educ. Studies, i. 21.
  • 112. Kelly, Birkbeck, 67-8; cf. Tylecote, Mechanics' Institutes of Lancs. and Yorks. 5n.
  • 113. Hudson, Hist. Adult Educ. 31; see p. 227.
  • 114. Hudson, Hist. Adult Educ. 30 gives 1795.
  • 115. Matthews, Principal means employed . . . at Birm. 15- 17.
  • 116. Hudson, Hist. Adult Educ. 30; cf. Harvest Home, ed. Pratt, 315.
  • 117. See p. 211.
  • 118. Brief Sketch of the Birm. Bean Club (B.R.L. 326710, vol. of MSS., ff. 59-81). See p. 277.
  • 119. W. Calcott, Thoughts Moral and Divine (1758), p. xli.
  • 120. See p. 277.
  • 121. Langford Cent. Birm. Life, i. 239-43.
  • 122. Ibid. 244; cf. Harvest Home, ed. Pratt, i. 417.
  • 123. Handbk. of Birm. (1886), 78; Langford, Birm. Life, i. 386-7; see p. 277.
  • 124. Matthews, Principal means employed ... at Birm. 8n.
  • 125. B. Walker, 'The Anacreontic Society', T.B.A.S. lxiii. 76-80; Dent, Making of Birm. 418; list of rules and members, 1793-1814 (B.R.L. 514093); notes by B. Walker (B.R.L. 567111); newspaper cuttings (B.R.L. 310040), ii. 523.
  • 126. A. Deakin, Hist. Birm. Festival Choral Soc. (Birm. n.d.), 5-6.
  • 127. E. Edwards, Some Account of the Origin of the Birm. Musical Festivals and of James Kempson (Birm. n.d.), 5.
  • 128. Ibid.; Rules and Orders of the Musical and Amicable Soc. (Birm. 1818).
  • 129. J. Stone, 'Music in Birm.' Hinricksen's Musical Year Bk. 1945-6, 101-2.
  • 130. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 128.
  • 131. Deakin, Hist. Birm. Festival Choral Soc. 13; cf. Hist. and Descriptive Sketch of Birm. (1830), 74.
  • 132. Dent, Making of Birm. 128.
  • 133. Ibid. 262, 265.
  • 134. Deakin, Hist. Birm. Festival Choral Soc. 12; see p. 237.
  • 135. Dent, Making of Birm. 262-3; Gill, Hist. Birm. 140-1, 197.
  • 136. W. Hawkes Smith, Picture of Birm. (1831), 82.
  • 137. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 280.
  • 138. Birm. Private Concerts, Programmes, 1812-45 (B.R.L.).
  • 139. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 130.
  • 140. Dent, Making of Birm. 86; Langford, Birm. Life, i. 103; Pye, Guide to Mod. Birm. 56.
  • 141. [R. Patching], Four Topographical Letters written in July 1755 (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1757), 56; S. Derrick, Letters Written from Leverpoole, Chester, etc. (1767), pp. i, 4; Langford, Birm. Life, i. 103, 258; Dent, Making of Birm. 129; Birm. 120 Years Ago, p. xxiv. See p. 62, and plate facing p. 222.
  • 142. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 261; Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 129, 131; Gill, Hist. Birm. 140. See also plate facing p. 222.
  • 143. Birm. 120 Years Ago, p. xxiv; Hist. Sketch Birm. (1830), 182.
  • 144. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 33, 130; e.g. Birm. and Wolverhampton Chron. 12 Apr. 1770.
  • 145. Birm. 120 Years Ago, 109.
  • 146. Drake, Picture, 59.
  • 147. Derrick, Letters from Leverpoole, pp. i, 4.
  • 148. Gill, Hist. Birm. 85.
  • 149. Ibid.; Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 125.
  • 150. Dent, Making of Birm. 84, 125.
  • 151. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 125-6; P. T. Underdown, 'Religious opposition to Licensing the Bristol and Birm. Theatres', Birm. Hist. Jnl. vi. 154; see pp. 417, 468.
  • 152. L. Tyerman, Life and Times of John Wesley (1870), ii. 500.
  • 153. Minute Book of the Theatre Proprietors (B.R.L. Lee Crowder 387).
  • 154. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 275.
  • 155. Ibid. 276; see p. 43.
  • 156. Langford, Birm. Life, ii. 128; Dent, Making of Birm. 175-6.
  • 157. See p. 237. For an illustration including the Theatre Royal see plate facing p. 12.
  • 158. cf. p. 237 for later religious opposition.
  • 159. Birm. Hist. Jnl. vi. 154-60; C.J. xxxvii. 7 b.
  • 160. C.J. xxxvii. 90 b.
  • 161. Birm. Hist. Jnl. vi. 160; see p. 417.
  • 162. 47 Geo. III sess. 2. c. 44.
  • 163. Dent, Making of Birm. 287.
  • 164. S. Timmins, 'Theatres', Handbk. of Birm. (Brit. Assoc. 1886), 364; Langford, Birm. Life, i. 258-9.
  • 165. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 381, 398-9, 400; ii. 255.
  • 166. Handbk. of Birm. (1886), 365; Dent, Making of Birm. 178; Langford, Birm. Life, ii. 123-4.
  • 167. Dent, Making of Birm. 127; collection of newspaper cuttings (B.R.L. 310040), ii. 497 sqq.
  • 168. C. Hutton, Reminiscences of a Gentlewoman, ed. C. H. Beale (Birm. 1891), 8-9.
  • 169. Dent, Making of Birm. 84.
  • 170. Ibid. 177, 288.
  • 171. Harvest Home, ed. Pratt, i. 273-8; O. Pollack, 'Theatres of Great Britain No. 1. Birm.' Playgoer, i. 28.
  • 172. Dent, Making of Birm. 84-5, 125, 177-8; Langford, Birm. Life, i. 143-4, 258, 277, 285, 398-400; ii. 255, 256-7.
  • 173. Langford, Birm. Life, ii. 375.
  • 174. Dent, Making of Birm. 177.
  • 175. Langford, Birm. Life, ii. 382-3.
  • 176. Dent, Making of Birm. 126.
  • 177. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 257.
  • 178. Dent, Making of Birm. 288.
  • 179. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 258; ii. 129; Dent, Making of Birm. 175.
  • 180. Dent, Making of Birm. 175.
  • 181. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 398, 402.
  • 182. See p. 237.
  • 183. An Englishman at Home and Abroad, 1792-1828, ed. E. Mann, 51.
  • 184. Hist. and Descriptive Sketch of Birm. (1830), 74.
  • 185. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 34, 87, 140-1, 146-7, 254, 389, 397; ii. 381; Dent, Making of Birm. 85, 127-8.
  • 186. Collection of Circus bills, etc. (B.R.L. 57520); and e.g. Midland Chron. 23 May 1812.
  • 187. Dent, Making of Birm. 180.
  • 188. Ibid. 56, 86; Langford, Birm. Life, i. 102; Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 129-30.
  • 189. Hutton, Life of Wm. Hutton, 106.
  • 190. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 130; Nemnich, 'Account of Birm.' Universal Magazine, Aug. 1802, 103; cf. G. Davies, Saint Monday (Birm. 1790).
  • 191. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 257.
  • 192. Ibid. 143, 257; iii. 135, 136, 140.
  • 193. Ibid. i. 257-8; Dent, Making of Birm. 181.
  • 194. Gill, Hist. Birm. 161.
  • 195. Dent, Making of Birm. 181-2.
  • 196. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1835), 199-200.
  • 197. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 88.
  • 198. G. B. Buckley, Fresh Light on Pre-Victorian Cricket, 42, 44.
  • 199. Harvest Home, ed. Pratt, i. 374-6; cf. Dent, Making of Birm. 158.
  • 200. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1835), 199-200; see p. 234.
  • 201. Streets and Inhabitants of Birm. in 1770, p. x.
  • 202. Mins. of Evidence before Cttee. of Commons on petitions against Orders in Counc. H.C. 210, pp. 4, 6 (1812), iii; Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 135-9; Universal Magazine, Aug. 1802, 103; Harvest Home, ed. Pratt, 323-4; Davies, Saint Monday 8; cf. p. 226.
  • 203. Rose, 'The Priestley Riots of 1791', Past and Present, xviii. 69.
  • 204. See pp. 109, 224.
  • 205. Past and Present, xviii. 69-70; see pp. 321, 323.