Political and Administrative History: Local Government and Public Services

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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, 'Political and Administrative History: Local Government and Public Services', in A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7, the City of Birmingham, (London, 1964) pp. 318-353. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/warks/vol7/pp318-353 [accessed 29 May 2024].

. "Political and Administrative History: Local Government and Public Services", in A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7, the City of Birmingham, (London, 1964) 318-353. British History Online, accessed May 29, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/warks/vol7/pp318-353.

. "Political and Administrative History: Local Government and Public Services", A History of the County of Warwick: Volume 7, the City of Birmingham, (London, 1964). 318-353. British History Online. Web. 29 May 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/warks/vol7/pp318-353.

In this section


Manorial and Parochial Government, p. 318. Administration of Poor-relief, p. 321. The Street Commissioners, p. 324. Incorporation of Birmingham, p. 327. Development of the Corporation, 1838-1960, p. 329. Parishes added in the 19th and 20th centuries, p. 334. Courts, Police, and Gaols, p. 336. Public Health, p. 339. Other Public Services, p. 350.


Despite a few medieval references to burgages in Birmingham, there was no burgage tenure there in the full sense and no form of local government characteristic of a medieval borough. As in most villages and small market towns, local government in the Middle Ages was the function of the manorial court and its officers. (fn. 2) In the 13th century the bailiffs of Birmingham arrested felons and confined them in a local lock-up. (fn. 3) In 1392 the mortmain licence for the foundation of the Guild of the Holy Cross was granted to the bailiffs and commonalty of Birmingham. (fn. 4) There was said in 1529 to be a court baron every fortnight, separate courts leet twice yearly for the 'borough' and the 'foreign', and one 'great court' each year, apparently for the whole manor. (fn. 5) For the 'borough', in 1553, there was a bailiff, an under-bailiff, and two sergeants (apparently constables), and for the 'foreign' a separate bailiff. (fn. 6)

The records of the manorial courts do not survive from before 1779; by that time there was a twice-yearly court leet for the whole manor (fn. 7) (including Deritend), (fn. 8) and the town had outgrown any form of government that the court leet could have provided. It is unlikely that the activities of the Birmingham manorial courts had been different in kind from those of most others, and in the course of the 18th century they were curtailed. Presentments for encroaching on the lord's waste had, in 1780, 'long been neglected'. (fn. 9) The parish pound, at Hockley, had apparently gone out of use some time before 1805. (fn. 10) The establishment of the Birmingham Street Commissioners in 1769 (fn. 11) in effect removed nuisances from the view of the manorial court, (fn. 12) and whether or not actions for the recovery of small debts could be brought in a manorial court in 1752 (when a court of requests was established) (fn. 13) it is evident that no such actions were brought there by 1780. (fn. 14) The main justification for the continued existence of the court leet was its indirect control over the conduct of retail trade through the election of manorial officers and the amercement of offenders, but this function was becoming overshadowed, at the end of the 18th century, by the convivial character of the meetings of the leet. (fn. 15) The manorial officers, however, continued to perform functions important enough to make control of the leet jury, which elected the officers, worthy of a struggle between rival factions in the town. The high bailiff, whose executive function was to supervise the markets in general and the weights and measures in particular, (fn. 16) and who presided at town meetings, (fn. 17) was in theory the chief officer of the manorial court, and by the early 18th century it appears to have become a general rule that the office should go to a Churchman, while the office of low bailiff went to a dissenter. (fn. 18) The low bailiff was in practice the more influential because he nominated the members of the jury. (fn. 19) In 1722 and again in 1792 the Church party attempted to gain control of all the offices by packing the jury, but without lasting success. (fn. 20) Apart from the two bailiffs, there were eight manorial officers concerned with the regulation of retail trade and the running of the markets, and when the markets passed into the control of the street commissioners in the early 19th century (fn. 21) those officers lost most of their usefulness. Previously, two high tasters supervised the sale of beer and two low tasters supervised the sale of meat. Two affeerors fixed the rate of amercements imposed in the court leet, almost exclusively for offences connected with trade and the markets. The two leather-sealers had lost their importance earlier, when the leather trade in Birmingham declined. (fn. 22)

The court leet also elected two constables for the parish, and a headborough. The constables were not officers of the court, and their expenses were met by the vestry out of the rates. The headborough acted as an assistant to the constables, mainly when one of them was absent. This inadequate force of three men was supplemented in the 18th century by a night watch, but was not augmented by day until the 19th century. (fn. 23) The headborough was still functioning in 1845, when it was the practice to put into his hands warrants of distress for non-payment of poor-rates, 'and he exercises his own discretion in getting the money'. The then headborough was W. Redfern, (fn. 24) who had been town clerk 1838-40. (fn. 25)

The court leet was held before c. 1530 at the manor house, and subsequently at the Leather Hall at the bottom of New Street. The upper chamber of the market cross built in 1702 (the Old Cross) was designed as a meeting place for the court leet, (fn. 26) and the court met there until the Old Cross was removed in 1784. (fn. 27) After 1854 the court no longer met. (fn. 28)

Alongside the manorial organization, and in ways overlapping it, the parish acted as a separate local government authority. The fact that the two main civil functions of the parish, originating from Tudor legislation, were the relief of the poor and the maintenance of roads has resulted in an attempt by historians of Birmingham to see in the Guild of the Holy Cross an early form of democratic parochial government there. (fn. 29) It is true that the guild performed public works (the repair of roads and bridges and the maintenance of a chiming clock) and works of charity, and it has been emphasized that the guild hall was alternatively known as the town hall. The guild hall, however, together with a proportion of the guild's income, seems to have existed primarily for the sociable use of the guild members. Over two-thirds of the guild's income went on purely ecclesiastical purposes. How far the guild was exclusive is not known, but surviving documents suggest that membership was by no means open to all inhabitants, and that even the recipients of alms may have had qualifications other than need. (fn. 30) The guild appears to have been no more an organ of local government than Lench's Trust, which was founded with, and has continued to serve, the same charitable objects - the repair of roads and bridges and the distribution of alms. (fn. 31)

Of the various functions performed by the parish officers (fn. 32) the most expensive by far and the last surviving was the relief of the poor: in the early 18th century the overseers' expenses amounted to over two-thirds of the total expenditure out of the rates. (fn. 33) For these reasons poor-relief in Birmingham is separately treated below. Apart from poor-relief, the two main civil functions of the parish were the keeping of the peace and the repair of roads, and in these spheres there was, presumably, considerable contact between the court leet and the parochial officers. There is no evidence of conflict between the two, although it was the duty of the parish to meet the expenses of constables elected by the leet jury, and to repair roads on which nuisances and obstructions were presentable by the leet jury. The absence of conflict may have been the result of the leet jury's members being active members of the vestry also, but it is likely that it was partly the result of the jury's lack of interest in the two functions of the vestry over which it had some control. (fn. 34) Certainly the vestry did not lay out large sums on the repair of roads or the expenses of the constables. The four surveyors of highways employed four scavengers, and their annual account in the early 18th century was only about £200 a year, or one-ninth of the vestry's annual expenditure. (fn. 35) Although the Birmingham Street Commissioners took over the task of scavenging and removing obstacles from the roads within the urban area in 1769 the vestry remained responsible for the repair of existing roads until 1812. (fn. 36) The constables' annual expenditure in the early 18th century was only about half that of the surveyors: this sum was expected to cover their outlay on the maintenance of the gaol and fire-engine house and the occasional repair of wells. (fn. 37) The churchwardens themselves had minor functions not connected with the church or the general expenditure from the rates: they owned the public weighing-machine (fn. 38) and, apparently, the fire-engine, for which they appointed a keeper in 1695. (fn. 39)

There seems to have been at Birmingham a distinction between vestry meetings and town meetings, though both were essentially the same. The vestry meetings held in the church sanctioned rates and conducted all normal business, but occasionally, and in particular when there was need of capital expenditure, a town meeting was held in the chamber over the Old Cross. Such town meetings were usually attended by about 25 people. (fn. 40) The demolition of the Old Cross in 1784 deprived the town of its traditional meeting-place, and in 1807 the overseers of the poor (representing the vestry) co-operated with the street commissioners in the building of the new Public Office. (fn. 41) By this time the parish was shortly to lose most of its secular functions. In the repair of roads and streets it was replaced by the street commissioners, in firefighting by the organizations of the insurance companies, and in the maintenance of the peace by the police force. (fn. 42) The parish retained until 1911, however, the most important of its secular functions, the relief of the poor.


The increasing expense and administrative work undertaken for the relief of poverty in the late 17th and 18th centuries reflected both the town's growing population and its prosperity. The cost of poor-relief was nearly doubled between 1676, when it was £329, and 1700, and again between 1700 and 1750. Thereafter expenditure rose even more rapidly, from £1,168 in 1750 to £22,000 in 1810, (fn. 43) although at the end of the 18th century the rise was caused as much by economic depression as by the expansion of Birmingham. At the beginning of the 18th century Birmingham had four overseers of the poor; the number was raised to five in 1720 and to six in 1729. (fn. 44) The building of the workhouse in 1733 was followed by the appointment of a workhouse master as the first salaried poor-relief official in Birmingham, but it was not until 1780, when two 'collectors' or 'assistants to the overseers' were appointed, that there were any salaried officials for poor-relief outside the workhouse. (fn. 45)

Poor-relief remained under the control of the vestry (through the overseers and the 21 elected governors of the workhouse) until 1783, when an Act was obtained to enable the ratepayers to elect a body of 108 guardians of the poor. Under this Act the guardians were given the same powers as overseers except in the levying and collecting of rates. They were empowered to borrow money, to offer the 'workhouse test' to applicants for relief, to put out children as apprentices, and to appoint up to twelve assistant overseers. The board of guardians also replaced the governors of the workhouse. The churchwardens and overseers were to be guardians ex officio. (fn. 46)

A major difficulty of the overseers in the late 18th century and early 19th was the large number of houses not rated for poor-relief. Despite the restrictions imposed by far-seeing landowners in granting building leases, (fn. 47) the shortage of building land and the demand for cheap labour resulted in the building of many houses assessed at less than £10 a year. (fn. 48) At the end of the 18th century three-quarters of the houses were so assessed, (fn. 49) and seven-twelfths in 1832. (fn. 50) Against bitter opposition from the landlords, (fn. 51) the overseers sought powers to rate small houses; these powers were partly given by the Poor Relief Act of 1819, (fn. 52) and extended by a local Act of 1831. (fn. 53)

The work of the board of guardians was done (in 1841) mainly through five committees: a relieving committee, a house (i.e. workhouse) committee, an asylum committee, an estate and law committee, and an auditing committee. (fn. 54) By 1832 the number of overseers had been raised to twelve, and there were twelve salaried assistant overseers. (fn. 55) Apart from these, a treasurer, an accountant clerk, a vestry clerk, and two levy clerks each received a salary, (fn. 56) and there were other officials whose functions were confined either to the workhouse and 'asylum' or to the provision of outdoor relief.

The workhouse was built in 1733 at a cost of £1,173 to accommodate 600 people. An infirmary wing was added in 1766 and a wing to contain workshops in 1779. (fn. 57) Although the Act of 1783 empowered the guardians to build a new workhouse (fn. 58) the old one remained in use until 1850, and the new workhouse (later to become Western House and the Dudley Road Hospital) was completed in 1852 in the angle between the Dudley road and Western Road. (fn. 59) The old workhouse, an imposing three-story building, fronted on Lichfield Street, approximately on the site of the Victoria Law Courts. (fn. 60) The number of poor in the workhouse was naturally subject to rapid fluctuation. In 1782 there were 630 inmates: (fn. 61) the number rose steadily to over a thousand in the summer of 1801, but had been halved by the end of that year. (fn. 62) The number increased again to over a thousand in 1818, and again was halved in the following three years. (fn. 63) The workhouse was in the charge of a master (later called the governor), who was assisted by a matron, a porter, and a workhouse clerk. In the mid-19th century there was also a chaplain, a resident surgeon with six assistant surgeons, and an apothecary. Within the workhouse the poor were segregated into half a dozen different groups, but it is doubtful whether the groups were kept distinct in times of overcrowding. (fn. 64)

The general desire to find profitable employment for the poor in the workhouse and so reduce the burden on the rates was never, in Birmingham, more than partially fulfilled. In 1789 two rival schemes for contracting the able-bodied in the workhouse to work for local manufacturers came to nothing, (fn. 65) and during the next three decades attempts to train them to textile trades seem to have had little success. In 1832 corn was ground in the workhouse for consumption there; some inmates, after training in the workhouse, repaired shoes; and some boys and girls went out to work in factories. (fn. 66)

In an attempt to remove children between four and ten years old from the discouraging atmosphere of the workhouse the guardians had, towards the end of the 18th century, tried the experiment of boarding them out. After this had proved to be unsatisfactory, an 'asylum' for 300 children was opened in Summer Lane in 1797. The asylum contained 295 children in 1801 (fn. 67) and 286 in 1832. There the children were taught and employed in heading pins and working lace. (fn. 68) They were under the care of a master and a matron, with (in 1841) a resident schoolmaster and schoolmistress. (fn. 69) In 1845 the matron was the master's wife and the schoolmistress was his daughter; at that time there was apparently no schoolmaster. (fn. 70) Not all of the children in the asylum went there from the workhouse: the maintenance of a poor man's child in the asylum was regarded as one way of providing him with outdoor relief. (fn. 71)

The only other way in which the able-bodied could obtain relief without going into the workhouse was by 'parish work' - stone-breaking and carrying sand - when it was available. (fn. 72) Most of those receiving outdoor relief were not so much unemployed as unemployable: the aged, the chronically sick, widows with children, who were in effect parish pensioners. It is not clear on precisely what principles it was decided whether or not to send people into the workhouse. In 1838 about two-thirds of those receiving outdoor relief had been receiving it regularly and had almost established a right to do so. (fn. 73) Parish visitors examined the needs and living conditions of the applicants, and four relieving officers distributed relief in the form of vouchers or tokens which could be cashed at the workhouse. Six medical officers attended the outdoor poor, and an apothecary dispensed their prescriptions at the workhouse. (fn. 74) The number of cases of outdoor relief was 466 a week in 1766 and rose to between two and three thousand during the nineties. In the first half of the 19th century it did not fall below two thousand a week, and was over three thousand in the winter of 1837. In 1832 it was reckoned that each case represented on average 2½ persons. (fn. 75)

Having secured its own Act in 1783 Birmingham formed in effect a separate union, and remained a single-parish union throughout the 19th century. (fn. 76) In 1910 the Birmingham Union was amalgamated with those of Aston, King's Norton and Northfield, and part of Solihull. (fn. 77) Thereafter the county borough council appointed the overseers, who became almost identical with the members of the finance committee. (fn. 78) Under the Local Government Act of 1929 (fn. 79) the administration of the poor laws was wholly transferred to the county borough.

The poor-laws seem to have been administered in Birmingham with comparative benevolence. In 1805 it was said that 'Birmingham regards not the narrow policy of our laws of settlement, nor does she anxiously trouble herself with who are or who are not likely to become chargeable'. (fn. 80) In 1832 it was reported that Irish and Scottish poor presented a problem and that all who became chargeable were promptly removed, but it does not seem that this attitude extended to English immigrants. (fn. 81) The high cost of poor-relief was a constant anxiety to the guardians, and some emphasis was placed on the fact that Birmingham spent, per head of population, over three times as much as neighbouring Aston. (fn. 82) It is to be remembered, however, that Aston retained large and undeveloped rural areas far longer than Birmingham, that Birmingham was more generous in giving relief than Aston, (fn. 83) and that the cost of Birmingham's poor per head of population was only slightly higher (in 1856) than the average for the fifty most populous unions in the country. (fn. 84) Two episodes in the eighties suggest a possible hardening in the guardians' attitude to their work: first the short-lived experiment of an 'able-bodied test labour house' in Birmingham, opened in 1880, where able-bodied poor were subjected to a very severe discipline, as in the similar institutions at Poplar and Kensington; and secondly the guardians' refusal in 1885 to co-operate in Chamberlain's plan for providing work for the unemployed. (fn. 85) On the other hand, 1880 was also the year in which were opened the Marston Green Cottage Homes, the first of such homes for orphan and pauper children. (fn. 86)


Since manorial and parochial institutions were, by the mid-18th century, inadequate for the government of the town, it came to be recognized that some new localgovernment body was needed. The most generally acceptable proposal, first made in 1765, was to obtain an Act of Parliament appointing commissioners to carry out specified improvements. Opposition to the scheme seems to have been either eccentric or self-interested, (fn. 87) and the Bill was passed in 1769. (fn. 88)

The promoters were evidently predominantly interested in making possible the more efficient working of the markets and the protection at night for persons and property by the provision of lighting. The new lamps were the most immediate and obvious results of the Act, and thus the measure became known locally as the Lamp Act. The powers of the commissioners under the Act were precisely defined, but the potential advantages of the new body were soon appreciated. (fn. 89) The original Act of 1769 was followed by a series of further Acts conferring additional powers, as they came to be regarded as necessary, and imposing further regulations for the administration of the town. The Act of 1769 was amended and enlarged by another in 1773 (fn. 90) and again in 1801. (fn. 91) When further powers were required in 1812, the earlier Acts were repealed and their provisions incorporated in a new local Act, (fn. 92) and the process was repeated in 1828. (fn. 93) The last of the legislative measures relating to the street commissioners was the Birmingham Improvement Act of 1851, (fn. 94) which transferred the powers and commitments of the commissioners to the corporation.

The Lamp Act of 1769 appointed 50 commissioners, and the number was raised to 79 in 1773. (fn. 95) William Hutton described the commissioners as 'irresolute', (fn. 96) but 'indifferent' might be a fairer epithet. Despite the increase in their number, too few of them (though only seven were needed for a quorum) were sufficiently enthusiastic to attend regularly enough for the efficient despatch of business. (fn. 97) The conscientiousness of the commissioners' officers was responsible for the successful working of the Acts to an extent that leaves little credit to the commissioners themselves. (fn. 98) Their number had to be increased still further, 42 additional commissioners being appointed in 1801, 99 in 1812, and 88 in 1828 to whom were added all Justices of the Peace living within seven miles of Birmingham and twelve co-opted commissioners. (fn. 99) They were a self-perpetuating body, choosing replacements themselves when members died or resigned. They met in the early years in whatever room was available: the first meeting was to be held at the sign of the Castle. (fn. 100) The Act of 1773 empowered them to hire a room for an office and store-house, and under the Act of 1801 they co-operated with the overseers in building the Public Office in Moor Street, completed in 1807, which they shared with the magistrates. The Public Office was enlarged under the Act of 1828. (fn. 101)

The commissioners did not employ a large staff. In 1812 a clerk, a treasurer, an assessor of rates, and a collector of rates did the administrative and financial work. There were also scavengers, who supervised the collection of refuse, one or more inspector of nuisances, and a surveyor. (fn. 102) Sometimes several offices were held by one man. Richard Dester, for example, after 1807 was inspector of nuisances, collector of rates and of market tolls, and superintendent of the watch, and he was also in charge of both street-cleaning and street-lighting. (fn. 103) Much of the work was put out to contract, including demolition and road work, scavenging after 1797, and street-lighting before 1797 and after 1818, when gas-lamps were first used.

The Act of 1769 authorized the commissioners to levy a rate on a sliding scale, depending on the value of the rated property. The scale was changed in 1773 and 1812: in 1769 it ranged from 2d. to 8d. in the pound, and in 1812 from 9d. to 1s. 6d. in the pound. The commissioners were first authorized to borrow money in 1773, when a limit was set at £1,000. The limit allowed was successively raised, to £5,000 in 1801, £24,000 in 1812, and £100,000 in 1828. (fn. 104) The usual method of borrowing was the granting of annuities: in 1804 the payment of annuities accounted for a sum over twelve times as large as the payment of interest. The annual income from the commissioners' rate rose from £2,700 in 1803 to over £50,000 in 1850. (fn. 105)

To enable them to widen the streets and so provide easier access to the central markets the commissioners were given powers in 1769 to acquire and demolish specified buildings at the town's centre. These buildings comprised nine tenements standing across the end of New Street at its junction with the High Street, which left only a narrow passage between the two streets; the Upper Roundabout House, one of several buildings (the Roundabout houses) which stood in the High Street immediately north of the Bull Ring; and a house standing east of St. Martin's church which fronted on and restricted the area of the corn market. (fn. 106) In 1773 the commissioners were authorized to buy and remove further houses in Moor Street, New Street, Bull Lane, Temple Row, and Smallbrook Street, and to acquire land to widen New Street, Temple Row, and Mount Pleasant (later Ann Street). The Act of 1801 authorized the removal of the Welsh Cross, and of houses and shops in Bull Street, Swan Alley, Worcester Street, Moor Street, and all around St. Martin's church and the Bull Ring. Finally, the Act of 1828 empowered the commissioners to remove some 300 houses in 34 streets, apart from those which were to be taken for the enlargement of the Public Office. (fn. 107) The work of clearing the Bull Ring area proceeded slowly at first. After some difficulties the Upper Roundabout House was removed between 1778 and 1781. (fn. 108) The Old Cross was removed in 1784. (fn. 109) From then on, and particularly after the Act of 1801, the work was done more quickly, and by 1810 the whole area around St. Martin's church and the Bull Ring appears to have been cleared. (fn. 110)

As mentioned above, the commissioners directly provided street-lighting only for a short period of their existence. They abandoned putting the work out to contract in 1797 because the contractors proved to be either too expensive (although the lamps were used for fewer than half the nights in the year) or inefficient. (fn. 111) In 1818, however, with the introduction of gas-lighting, the work was again put out to contract. (fn. 112) In clearing the streets, the commissioners were, in general, responsible only for the removal of refuse. The Acts of 1769 enjoined on householders the traditional, and usually neglected, duty of cleaning the streets in front of their houses, and gave the commissioners powers to enforce this duty. The commissioners' scavengers supervised the removal of refuse which had already, in theory, been swept into neat heaps. (fn. 113) The successive Acts also made regulations for the emptying of privies and the disposal of industrial waste. From these regulations, combined with the commissioners' function as a drainage authority, there began the more comprehensive administration of public health in Birmingham, as is described below. (fn. 114)

Also connected with the provision of easy access to the markets were the powers given to the commissioners to control nuisances and traffic. The nuisances mentioned in the Acts include projecting sign-boards and stalls, gutters spewing water upon the streets, wandering cattle, carts, building materials, and merchandise left in the streets, and doors and gates opening outwards. In addition the Acts sought to reduce confusion in central Birmingham by prohibiting bull-baiting, the lighting of bonfires and fireworks, and the emission of industrial smoke. The restrictions on traffic were at first confined to carters, who were to lead (not drive) their horses through the town and whose carts were to have wheels not less than six inches broad. Later the commissioners were empowered to regulate the carters' charges, and their places of loading and unloading, and in 1801 they were also empowered to license and regulate hackney carriages and sedan chairs. (fn. 115)

The removal of buildings and obstructions, scavenging, and the regulation of traffic were all closely connected with keeping the roads and streets in good condition. The commissioners, however, did not become responsible for repairing the surfaces until 1812. One of the extensions of their powers under the Act of 1801 had been that they were authorized to fix the level of new streets, and they could enforce that provision of the Act which obliged the owners of houses along a new street to pave the roadway. (fn. 116) The Act of 1812 vested the roads of the town in the commissioners, (fn. 117) and the Act of 1828 transferred to the commissioners the duties of the parish surveyors of the highways. This extended the geographical range of the commissioners' activities, for their other functions were confined to the town of Birmingham, the limits of which were periodically defined by the commissioners themselves. The commissioners were authorized to levy a special highway rate, but the new task was a heavy financial burden; for although the clause vesting the roads in the commissioners excepted the turnpike roads, it was interpreted as meaning that the commissioners had to repair the turnpike roads while the trusts continued to exact tolls. (fn. 118) The commissioners' power to fix the level of new streets (fn. 119) made them a sort of planning authority, and this aspect of their work was enhanced by their power to put up name-boards for streets and to number the houses. (fn. 120)

It has been mentioned already that the original motives for the Acts under which the commissioners functioned included the efficient working of the markets, and almost all the powers conferred on them were connected directly or indirectly with this end. The regulation of the markets constantly attracted the commissioners' attention, and the successive Acts widened their powers to determine the sites of particular markets and to treat with the lord of the manor for the acquisition of the markets. The commissioners' achievements in this respect are outlined elsewhere. (fn. 121) Less successful were their attempts to provide for the better policing of the town. Only after a long delay were they able to provide an official night watch, and by day the only police-force (until 1812) was the parish constables. (fn. 122)

Among the achievements of the street commissioners was the building of the Birmingham Town Hall. From 1825 to 1828 the commissioners were taking steps to secure a new Act giving them further powers, and when in 1827 the demand for a new public building, mainly as a home for the music festivals, became a practical possibility the commissioners accepted the responsibility for building the town hall. (fn. 123) The commissioners were authorized to build the town hall and to raise a special rate for the purpose. (fn. 124) In 1834 the building was near enough to completion for the music festivals to be held there. (fn. 125)

The incorporation of Birmingham and the election of a borough council did not immediately affect the work of the street commissioners. The council, whose powers were at first extremely limited, naturally aspired to take over the responsibilities of the commissioners, (fn. 126) and in 1844 brought a Bill before Parliament to this end. The Bill failed, (fn. 127) but any hopes that the commissioners may have had of continuing to extend the sphere of their own activities, as they had done at intervals throughout their existence, were diminished in the same year when a town meeting rejected an Improvement Bill that they had proposed. (fn. 128) The way for the transfer to the council of the commissioners' responsibilities was prepared by the Public Health Act of 1848 and the negotiations that preceded it. At first both the council and the commissioners opposed any such legislation, the council because they feared too much control by the central Board of Health, and the commissioners both for that reason and because the Act would transfer a large part of their powers to the council. The modifications made to the Bill, however, reassured the council, and by the time the Bill was passed the commissioners had come to realize, first, that the general climate of opinion was inimical to the survival of a non-representative body such as itself, and, secondly, that, however unpromising the past record of the council, it would be for the benefit of the community if its government was carried out by a single body. A spirit of reconciliation and common interest, therefore, attended the last few years of the street commissioners' existence. (fn. 129) The transfer of responsibilities took place under the Birmingham Improvement Act of 1851, which gave to the council all the powers formerly exercised by the commissioners (together with their property and debts) and took effect from the beginning of 1852. (fn. 130)


The 18th-century boast that Birmingham was a town without shackle (fn. 131) referred to its lack of a municipal corporation. The powers of the street commissioners seemed adequate to supply the needs that were outside the scope of manorial or parochial government, and it was not until after the passing of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 (fn. 132) that there was any marked enthusiasm in Birmingham for the incorporation of the town, (fn. 133) although there had been a petition for a charter as early as 1715. (fn. 134) Lord Brougham's Bill of 1833 for the incorporation of Birmingham and other large towns does not seem to have roused any excitement in Birmingham, and nor does the visit in the same year by two Home Office commissioners who had been sent to report on a wider scheme with the same purpose. (fn. 135) The Birmingham Political Union welcomed the Act of 1835, and had indeed organized a protest against the attempt to upset the Bill in the House of Lords. Even so, the advocates of incorporation for Birmingham evidently relied on further action by the government, and it was only in 1837, after a deputation had been told by the Home Secretary that the process of incorporation must be initiated by the 'inhabitant householders', that a petition was submitted. The petition provoked a counter-petition from the Conservatives of Birmingham; in February 1838 Home Office commissioners were sent to Birmingham to examine the merits of the two petitions; and in October, after a period of doubt and delay, a charter was granted. (fn. 136) The municipal borough was to have the same boundaries as the parliamentary borough, that is, it was to include Edgbaston, Bordesley and Deritend, and Duddeston and Nechells. (fn. 137) Municipal elections were held in December, and before the end of the year the first council had met and chosen a mayor, William Scholefield. Although the Conservatives had opposed the granting of the charter and were later to challenge its validity, they chose candidates to contest the elections. The result was a triumph for the Liberals and Radicals: all their candidates were elected. (fn. 138)

This success was shortly to prove an unrewarding one. Incorporation was followed by the establishment of a coroner's court, Quarter Sessions, and a Commission of the Peace, (fn. 139) but the very fact that the Liberals were in complete control made the opposition from the Conservatives all the more bitter. (fn. 140) They were able to challenge the validity of the new institutions, and in Parliament the hostility of the Conservatives to the Liberal corporation combined with the apparent indifference and even distaste of the Whigs to make all the achievements ineffective. The functions of the corporation under the charter and the Municipal Corporations Act were limited. The councillors hoped in time to assume the authority of the street commissioners but meanwhile the council's only important tasks were to provide a police force and the money necessary for the new local courts. The opponents of the charter were therefore able to argue that the council was a superfluous body which would only result in unnecessary expense. Their legal argument was based on a certain vagueness in the Municipal Corporations Act and the careless drafting of the charter: the Act did not define precisely the circumstances in which a town might be granted a charter, (fn. 141) and the charter departed in some particulars from the terms of the Act. (fn. 142) It could be argued that the charter failed to make Birmingham a borough under the Act. (fn. 143)

The first sign of the corporation's troubles was that the overseers, in 1839, having taken legal advice, refused to levy a borough rate. Meanwhile a court action was brought to test the validity of Manchester's charter, and although the action was decided in favour of the charter an appeal from the judgement was made. Until the appeal was heard the validity of Birmingham's charter was also in doubt. To finance the borough courts the Treasury made a loan, but in 1840 it was decided that no more advances could be made; the borough justices could hear no cases at all, and the recorder only those for which the expenses were privately paid. To provide for a police force the government introduced a Bill to enable the council to raise a special rate; but Sir Robert Peel suggested an alternative measure which would place the police under a commissioner responsible to and appointed by the Home Office. The recent Chartist riot emphasized the need for a strong and independent force, the borough council was openly partisan in politics, they were suspected of having dealt too leniently with the Chartists, and some of them had once been active supporters of the movement. (fn. 144) These circumstances, combined with the weakness of the government and Peel's authority, persuaded the government to draft a new Bill on the lines proposed by Peel. Under the Act for Improving the Police of Birmingham (fn. 145) the corporation was for more than two years to finance a police force over which it had no effective control.

Thus by 1840 the charter had become little more than a dead letter. The members of the council were demoralized, (fn. 146) it had no control over its one financial undertaking, the borough courts were not fully functioning, and no decision had been reached on the appeal from the judgement on the Manchester charter. All that the council could do was to pass formal resolutions, discuss its plans, and watch for future developments. When, however, the council decided, at the end of 1840, to make a renewed effort and resolved to raise a borough rate, the overseers, having again taken legal advice, did not refuse to levy it. (fn. 147) There was still almost no scope for administrative work, but with fresh vigour a number of committees were appointed. (fn. 148) During 1841 legislative proposals which would have enhanced the importance of the corporations of Birmingham, Manchester, and Bolton came to nothing and the Liberal government fell. The advent of a Conservative government seemed to offer little hope for the council, but by August 1842, despite obstructive efforts from the Conservatives of Birmingham, (fn. 149) the troubles of the preceding years were ended by the enactment of two Bills, one confirming the charter, (fn. 150) and the other enabling the easy transfer of the police to the corporation. (fn. 151)


By the charter of incorporation of 1838 the borough was divided into thirteen wards, governed by a council of a mayor, sixteen aldermen, and 48 councillors. Ten of the wards (All Saints', Edgbaston, Hampton, Ladywood, Market Hall, St. George's, St. Martin's, St. Mary's, St. Paul's, and St. Thomas's) elected three councillors each; the remaining three wards (Deritend and Bordesley, Duddeston and Nechells, and St. Peter's) elected six each. (fn. 152) This arrangement survived until 1873, when the number of wards was raised to sixteen, each electing three councillors. Deritend and Bordesley, and Duddeston and Nechells, were each divided into two separate wards, and the boundaries of all the others were changed: Hampton and St. Peter's wards were dissolved and three new ones (Rotton Park, St. Bartholomew's, and St. Stephen's) were constituted. (fn. 153) This change restored an electoral balance which had been upset by changing population densities and the extension of municipal suffrage; (fn. 154) it did not affect the size of the council.

When the city was enlarged in 1891, most of the existing wards remained unchanged. Of the areas newly added to the city Balsall Heath became a separate ward, Harborne was included in Edgbaston ward (which lost part of its eastern end), and Saltley and Little Bromwich (together with part of Bordesley) became a separate ward. Thus the number of wards rose to eighteen and the membership of the council from 64 to 72. (fn. 155) In 1909, on its incorporation in the city, Quinton was added to Edgbaston and Harborne ward. (fn. 156) The far larger extension of the city in 1911 caused a major rearrangement. The enlarged city was divided into 30 wards, 16 for the old city and 14 for the five added areas. Among the old wards four pairs were amalgamated (Duddeston and Nechells, St. Martin's and Deritend, St. Mary's and St. Stephen's, St. Paul's and St. George's), St. Thomas's was divided between Ladywood and Market Hall, and three new wards were created: Harborne and Washwood Heath became separate wards, and Bordesley was divided into Smallheath and Sparkbrook wards. The added wards were: (in King's Norton and Northfield) Moseley and King's Heath, King's Norton, Northfield, and Selly Oak; (in Yardley) Acock's Green, Sparkhill, and Yardley; (in Aston Manor) Aston, and Lozells; (in Erdington) Erdington North, and Erdington South; (in Handsworth) Handsworth, Sandwell, and Soho. The membership of the council rose to 120, three councillors and one alderman for each ward. (fn. 157) Perry Barr, from its inclusion in the city in 1928 until it became a ward in 1933, was represented on the council by one member. (fn. 158) The extension of the city in 1931 did not necessitate any increase in the number of wards: the newly added areas were divided between the contiguous wards. (fn. 159) In 1934, however, the ward boundaries were extensively revised and three new wards were created, making the total 34 and raising the membership of the council to 136. (fn. 160) In 1948 the number of wards was again increased to 38, all the boundaries except those of Washwood Heath being changed, and the membership of the council rose to 152. (fn. 161)

As mentioned above, the corporation acquired control of the police force in 1842, (fn. 162) and, under the Birmingham Improvement Act of 1851, took over the functions of the Birmingham Street Commissioners. (fn. 163) The same Act also transferred to the corporation the functions of the street commissioners for Deritend and Bordesley and for Duddeston and Nechells, and of the parish officers of Edgbaston, and empowered the corporation to raise money and carry out certain works of improvement. (fn. 164) A vociferous group in the council, however, favoured strict economy, and apart from the purchase of land in Edmund Street, to be used for public buildings, there was no further expansion of the council's activities until the sixties, when the first libraries were opened and the corporation began to acquire parks. (fn. 165) Another Improvement Act in 1861 enlarged the powers conferred in 1851. (fn. 166) In the seventies the council's activities extended more strikingly, and this period of municipal growth is particularly associated with the mayoralty of Joseph Chamberlain (1873-6). The council took over the supply of gas and water, established a fire brigade, and inaugurated a new improvement scheme. (fn. 167) The corporation's powers were consolidated by an Act of 1883, (fn. 168) and in 1888 the council began to plan the territorial expansion of the town. (fn. 169) The area of the city was enlarged in 1891, 1909, 1911, 1928, and 1931. (fn. 170) Birmingham became a county borough under the Act of 1888, (fn. 171) and in the following year was ordained a city. The mayor was raised to the dignity of lord mayor in 1896. (fn. 172) The first municipal houses were built in 1889, and in 1892 the council approved an ambitious scheme for supplying water. (fn. 173) In 1899 the council began to supply electricity, and in 1903 took over responsibility for education from the Birmingham School Board and began to acquire the local tramways. (fn. 174) The year 1912 saw the first town planning scheme for Birmingham, (fn. 175) and 1916 the beginning of a municipal bank. (fn. 176) In 1930 the corporation became directly responsible for the administration of the poor law, (fn. 177) and the following decade was one of achievement in the sphere of municipal housing. (fn. 178) After the Second World War the range of activities of the council contracted slightly: gas, electricity, and hospitals (fn. 179) were transferred from the council to nationalized boards, and the corporation's responsibility under the poor law was curtailed. (fn. 180)

As early as 1851 the council delegated particular functions to committees in the way that later became general among municipal corporations. In 1869 there were thirteen committees of the council. (fn. 181) As the council increased the scope of its activities, new committees were constituted to relieve existing committees of some of their work; and the assumption by the council of entirely new powers necessitated new committees to carry them out. The creation of the tramways committee in 1900 lightened the burden of the public works committee, and similarly the housing committee was formed in 1901 to take on part of the health committee's work. (fn. 182) New committees were formed to supervise the gas, water, and electricity undertakings. These and other changes had brought the number of committees to sixteen by 1884 and to twenty by 1911. (fn. 183) The extension of the city and the enlargement of the council in that year called for a more formal arrangement for the composition of committees. Whereas before there had been no particular principle in the appointment of council members to committees, it was agreed in 1911 that each member should sit on at least two committees, excluding the general purposes committee which was to consist as before of one member from each of the other committees. At the same time the total number of committees was raised by three. (fn. 184) By 1911, also, the practice of some committees (notably the education committee) containing co-opted members who were not members of the council - a practice which round the turn of the century had often been the subject of dispute - had won general acceptance. (fn. 185) The number of com mittees continued to increase, both as the result of national legislation (the assessments committee, for example, was constituted in 1926 under the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925) (fn. 186) and, like the airport committee (1934), to deal with new enterprises of the council. In 1935 there were 30 standing committees of the council, (fn. 187) and in 1950 36. (fn. 188)

The political leanings of the council in its first 50 years were overwhelmingly Liberal and Radical. After the Liberals and Radicals had won every seat at the first municipal elections, (fn. 189) the Conservatives were not able to gain more than a few places on the council until after the Liberal Party split of 1886. (fn. 190) In the fifties and early sixties the main division in the council was between the 'economists' whose main concern was to keep the rates to a minimum and those who advocated an increase in municipal spending. (fn. 191) The defeat of the 'economists' and the developments of the sixties and seventies coincided with a period of low rates of interest, so that the extent of those developments are not a precise measure of the changed attitude of the city council. Similarly, the subsequent rise in rates of interest was partly responsible for a more cautious approach to capital expenditure which, superficially, seems less progressive. (fn. 192)

When Chamberlain resigned from Gladstone's government in 1886 he succeeded in carrying the Birmingham Liberal Association with him into the Unionist camp. (fn. 193) The result was that the Conservatives became one (though the smallest) of three roughly equal groups represented on the council: in 1891 the Liberal Unionists had 29 seats, the (Gladstonian) Liberals 24, and the Conservatives 19. The Conservatives and Liberal Unionists had by then already established a joint committee, and as they drew closer together the politics of the council became more predominantly Unionist and protectionist. After the amalgamation of the Birmingham Liberal Unionist Association and the Birmingham Conservative Association in 1919, an overwhelming majority on the council was labelled simply 'Unionist', with an increasingly Conservative flavour. The main opposition came not from the Liberals but from the Labour Party, which in 1926 held 30 out of 120 places on the council. Labour's representation declined in the early thirties, (fn. 194) rose again to 32 (out of 136) in 1935, (fn. 195) and dropped slightly to 27 in 1938. (fn. 196) A strong attempt by Labour to gain control of the council in 1945 just failed, but after the municipal elections of 1946 the representation was: Labour 60; Conservative 40; Independent 1. (fn. 197) Since then Labour has held a majority in the council.

The Birmingham Improvement Act of 1851 transferred to the corporation the £112,350 debt of the Birmingham Street Commissioners and the £7,800 debt of the Duddeston and Nechells Street Commissioners. (fn. 198) To meet these debts, and to continue the work of the authorities whose functions it was assuming, the corporation was empowered to levy an improvement rate of up to 2s. in the pound and a street improvement rate of up to 6d. in the pound. The borough rate was levied by precept served on the overseers. (fn. 199) Thus until the consolidating Act of 1882 the rates raised for the corporation's use were assessed in two different ways and collected by different authorities. After 1882 the corporation delegated the assessment and collection of the improvement rates to the overseers, so that within any parish all the rates were levied on one assessment and collected by a single authority. (fn. 200) In 1911 the council got complete control over levying and collecting rates, since the overseers were from that time elected by the council from its own finance committee. (fn. 201)

The assessment for the borough rate was nearly £600,000 in 1852, and rose to £1 million in 1867 and to £2½ million in 1901. (fn. 202) The successive enlargements of the administrative area naturally caused significant increases in the amount. The rateable value was nearly £7 million in 1928, nearly £8 million in 1940, and £15 million in 1958. (fn. 203) The income from rates, which until 1903 (fn. 204) provided over two-thirds of the corporation's total income, rose from £100,000 in 1856 to £500,000 in 1896, to £1 million in 1911, and to £6 million in 1949. (fn. 205) In 1921 the council approved a scheme to stabilize the rates, whereby instead of levying a rate to meet the requirements of the various committees it would decide on a certain rate in the pound and divide the proceeds among the committees. (fn. 206)

To help meet capital expenditure, which by 1884 had reached a total of over £8 million, the corporation, from 1880, issued debenture stock. (fn. 207) Between 1903 and 1920 capital was raised by means of short-term corporation bills, but in 1920 the council reverted to the policy of issuing stock. (fn. 208) The total capital expenditure by the corporation had reached £20 million by 1911, £80 million by 1935, and £117 million by 1948. (fn. 209)

The principal officers of the corporation appointed in 1838 were not employed full time. The borough treasurer, indeed, resigned within a year because he had no work to do, and the town clerk, William Redfern, resigned in 1840 to give more time to his private practice. The first town clerk not to have a private practice was appointed in 1868, at the same salary as his predecessor - £1,000. The salary was raised in 1874 and 1881. Between 1852 and 1868 the town clerk received a sum for the payment of clerks; after that period they were paid direct by the council. A deputy town clerk was first appointed in 1881. The borough treasurer's office was salaried from 1858, at £500 a year. The salary was raised three times during the seventies. When the council took over the functions of the street commissioners in 1852 they appointed J. Pigott Smith, the commissioners' surveyor since 1838, as borough surveyor. Pigott Smith quarrelled with the council, which at that time was pursuing a policy of economy, and he was dismissed in 1857. His former assistant was appointed in his place, at half the old salary. The salary, like that of the other officers, was raised in the seventies. A medical officer of health was not appointed until 1872, although the man appointed in that year, Dr. Alfred Hill, had been public analyst since 1861. His appointment became full-time in 1875, and he continued to serve the council until 1903. (fn. 210)

The council first met in the committee room of the town hall, (fn. 211) but soon after moved to a room, known as the council chamber, at the Public Office in Moor Street, which also housed the borough surveyor's department. (fn. 212) They continued to meet there until the Council House was completed, though in the fifties some business seems to have been done at the Woodman Tavern. (fn. 213) The town clerk had an office, and the mayor a room, in Temple Street. (fn. 214) The site for the Council House, bounded by Colmore Row, Congreve Street, and Edmund Street, was bought in 1853, but it was not until 1870 that competitive designs were invited. The foundation stone was laid in 1874; (fn. 215) the first meeting of the council in the new council chamber was held in 1878; and council departments occupied their new offices in 1879. (fn. 216) In 1899 adjoining land (bounded by Edmund Street, Congreve Street, Great Charles Street, and Margaret Street) was acquired, and an extension to the Council House, begun in 1908, was completed in 1912. A further extension, on the Great Charles Street front, was begun in 1914 and finished in 1919. (fn. 217) In 1919 the council approved the development of the area west of the Council House as a civic centre, and began to acquire land for the purpose. Much of the proposed buildings was to be used as municipal offices. Various schemes were considered between 1926 and 1935, and in 1938 work was begun on a new block of administrative offices between Broad Street and Cambridge Street. (fn. 218) This was completed in 1939 and in 1960 housed the city architect's, parks, public works, and salvage departments of the corporation, and certain sections of the city treasurer's and public health departments. (fn. 219)


The changes in area and nature of the local authorities that were amalgamated with the borough or city of Birmingham in the 19th and 20th centuries have been outlined above. (fn. 220) Local government in the ancient parishes that have become part of Birmingham presents few unusual features (with the possible exception of Aston), and is treated below only briefly.

Records of manorial courts survive from the 13th century for King's Norton, (fn. 221) from the early 14th century for Erdington. (fn. 222) No earlier records of the other manorial courts have been found. (fn. 223) Bordesley manor court evidently served as a centre for a wider area than Bordesley itself. (fn. 224) The court records of Northfield provide a good illustration of manorial government at the end of the Middle Ages. (fn. 225)

In Aston parish, Deritend held an unusual place because manorially it was part of Birmingham. The inhabitants of Deritend owed suit to the court leet of Birmingham, whose jury chose a separate constable for Deritend. (fn. 226) The other hamlets in Aston parish were to some extent independent, their boundaries being clearly defined on a tenurial basis. (fn. 227) For poor-law purposes the whole of Aston parish was divided in the mid-17th century into two 'hides', Aston hide (apparently comprising the townships of Aston, Witton, Erdington, and perhaps Castle Bromwich and Water Orton) and Duddeston or Nechells hide. (fn. 228) Aston was much the largest of the ancient parishes now wholly or partly in Birmingham, but Handsworth and King's Norton were also unusually large parishes. In Handsworth parish the River Tame divided the townships of Handsworth and Perry Barr, which had each their own churchwardens. (fn. 229) King's Norton was divided into four 'yields', but these divisions were apparently never separately administered. Their names, and probably their boundaries, were not immutably fixed in the early 19th century. (fn. 230)

At the end of the 18th century all the districts subsequently added to Birmingham remained almost entirely rural and agricultural. The problem of poor-relief was not then greatly aggravated by the presence of urban poor: in 1776 Aston, which may have had to support urban paupers from Deritend, spent nearly £1,450 on the poor, while none of the other seven parishes spent as much as half that figure. In the next ten years the figure for King's Norton rose to over £1,000, but this large figure is probably to be explained by the size of the parish. It is perhaps significant that only Aston and Northfield spent more on setting the poor to work than on entertainments. By 1776 Aston had a workhouse for 90 persons, and King's Norton, Northfield, and Harborne had workhouses by 1785. (fn. 231) Yardley had built one for 24 persons by 1832, at which date the parish was employing an assistant overseer although there was no select vestry. Edgbaston had a select vestry, and in King's Norton the churchwardens and the four overseers chosen by the justices had the power to set a rate without the concurrence of the inhabitants, either in vestry or otherwise. (fn. 232)

The Aston Poor Law Union, which was a single-parish union, achieved a measure of notoriety for the economy with which it was run. In 1873 the chairman of the board of guardians boasted that the scale of their expenditure on the poor was 'lower than in any other union in the kingdom'. There were nearly 300 people in the workhouse, and 160 children in the workhouse schools. For outside relief there was a relieving officer with one assistant. It is clear that while guided by benevolent intentions - manifested in the relieving of vagrants and the disregard of the laws of settlement - the Aston guardians were tough, independent, and determined opponents of generous expenditure. (fn. 233)

Of the three areas added to Birmingham on the incorporation of the borough in 1838, two already had separate authorities for street improvement. The Deritend and Bordesley Street Commissioners were established under an Act of 1791, (fn. 234) the Duddeston and Nechells Street Commissioners under an Act of 1829. (fn. 235) Neither body was particularly active or ambitious. The annual expenditure of the Deritend and Bordesley Commissioners in 1838 was £674, that of the Duddeston and Nechells Commissioners £912. (fn. 236) In 1851, when the powers and obligations of both were transferred to Birmingham Corporation, the Deritend and Bordesley Commissioners had no outstanding debt. (fn. 237) The third area was Edgbaston, governed by a select vestry, which in 1838 was spending £1,500 a year on the poor and £600 on roads. (fn. 238)

The local boards that were set up in the 19th century and the urban and rural districts that succeeded them were restricted in their activity not only by statutory limitations and lack of finance but also by the influence of Birmingham itself. Three reasons may be adduced for this: first, the new suburbs were, economically, dependent offshoots of Birmingham; secondly, Birmingham was able to supply some services that, in isolation, the local authorities would have had to supply for themselves; (fn. 239) thirdly, it was apparent by the fourth quarter of the 19th century that Birmingham would expand, so that in the surrounding areas any local government bodies were likely to be temporary. It was with future expansion in mind that the Birmingham Council successfully opposed the attempts by Aston Manor Urban District Council in 1876 and 1888 to become a municipal borough, and it was on the understanding that Aston Manor's improved status would not hinder the expansion of the city's boundaries that this opposition was not renewed in 1901. Aston Manor became a municipal borough in 1903. (fn. 240)

The local authorities were not, however, content to wait until they were superseded by Birmingham Corporation. Erdington Urban District Council, for example, which relied most heavily on the services provided by its neighbours, (fn. 241) bought The Rookery in Kingsbury Road c. 1898 to serve as a council house. (fn. 242) In Handsworth the building known traditionally as the 'town hall', and occupied successively by two local overseers in the early 19th century, is said to have been used for many years as a temporary lock-up and workhouse, and as parish offices. (fn. 243) Later in the 19th century there were parish offices in Baker Street until in 1877 a new council house was built, including a public library, on the site of the Waggon and Horses Inn. (fn. 244) The urban district councils of Handsworth, and King's Norton and Northfield appear to have been the most vigorous, as well as the largest in area, of the local authorities subsequently taken into Birmingham. (fn. 245) Handsworth was evidently able to rely on an active interest in local affairs on the part of its inhabitants. Like Yardley in 1820, (fn. 246) Handsworth formed a society in 1829 for the detection and prosecution of felons. (fn. 247) One measure of the enterprise of the local authorities was their provision of fire brigades. Erdington possessed no fire brigade and relied on that of Aston Manor, (fn. 248) which in spite of a comparatively large establishment from the 1880s onwards (fn. 249) was found to be deficient when it was transferred to the corporation in 1911. (fn. 250) The Yardley firemen had also to act as council roadmenders. The King's Norton and Northfield brigade, with stations at Selly Oak and King's Heath, acquired a 'steamer' engine in 1906. The Handsworth brigade, which got its first manual engine only in 1886, was reorganized in 1899 and became one of the most efficient in the district. (fn. 251)


The earliest special court for Birmingham was a court of requests, established by Act of Parliament in 1752, for the recovery of debts of less than £2. The Act appointed 72 justices of the court, at least three of whom were to hear cases in the Old Cross every Friday. (fn. 252) An amending Act of 1807 appointed 40 additional justices and raised the limit of recoverable debts to £5. (fn. 253) The court of requests did not survive the establishment, under the charter of incorporation, of a mayor's court empowered to try civil actions for up to £20. (fn. 254) The establishment of county courts in 1846 precipitated a movement for the abolition of the mayor's court, in which actions were expensive, and this was achieved in 1853. (fn. 255)

In the late 18th century the county justices held petty sessions in Birmingham two or three times a week. (fn. 256) A coroner's court, a court of Quarter Sessions, and a separate bench of borough justices were provided for at the time of the incorporation of Birmingham. After the difficulties of 1840-1, described above, (fn. 257) the courts functioned fairly smoothly, apart from disputes between the council, the justices, and the Lord Chancellor about the nomination of additional justices. (fn. 258) A stipendiary magistrate was appointed in 1856. (fn. 259) After the extension of the city in 1911 branch police courts were established at Aston, King's Heath, Handsworth, and Sparkhill. (fn. 260) These were discontinued in 1955. (fn. 261)

Birmingham was constituted an assize town in 1884, (fn. 262) after negotiations begun as early as 1857, (fn. 263) and in 1894 became a county for assize purposes. (fn. 264) The Victoria Law Courts, to hold not only assizes but also other courts that had formerly been held at the Public Office, were opened in 1891. (fn. 265) In 1939 major alterations were started to the Victoria Law Courts. The coroner's court was moved to a new site across Newton Street, and a new court was built for the justices, mainly for licensing work. Encroachments upon this new court building by the assizes, Quarter Sessions, and divorce courts were so considerable that it was divided into two. The alterations were finished in 1954. (fn. 266)

For the policing of Birmingham the traditional officers were the two constables and the headborough or assistant constable. (fn. 267) The wording of a petition for incorporation of 1716 - 'Birmingham. . . is governed only by a constable' - makes it seem that there was then only one such officer, (fn. 268) but other evidence suggests that there were two constables at an earlier date. (fn. 269) In the early 19th century the headborough acted as prison-keeper and was assisted by about six 'thief-takers'. (fn. 270) To supplement the inadequate police force, a group of young men, known as the Bucks, combined in 1730 to form a sort of voluntary police or watch, (fn. 271) but it is not known to whom they were responsible or how long they survived. Under an Act of 1773 (fn. 272) the street commissioners were empowered to appoint night watchmen and night constables, but they lacked the financial means to do so and until 1801 there was no public watch. (fn. 273) A privately paid watch was established in 1783 and placed under the commissioners' authority. (fn. 274) The Act of 1812 empowered the commissioners to appoint constables for both day and night service, (fn. 275) and in 1839 on the eve of the formation of a regular police force in Birmingham the commissioners were employing about 30 day police and 180 night watchmen. (fn. 276)

The disturbances of 1839 led to the swearing-in of 2,000 special constables and the introduction of a detachment of police from London. (fn. 277) When a new police force for the town was created under the Birmingham Police Act of 1839 it was made subject not to the borough council but to a Home Office commissioner, (fn. 278) and the existing parish constables and the police force of the street commissioners were disbanded. (fn. 279) By the end of 1839 the new police force numbered over 300, with its principal station in Beardsworth's Repository and other stations in Bath Row, Deritend, Sandpits, and Staniforth Street. (fn. 280) Although an improvement on its predecessors, the new force does not seem to have been an unqualified success: in less than two years over 1,000 men passed through it though the total strength was never as much as 400, and 358 men were dismissed. (fn. 281)

The main result of the transfer of the police to the council's control in 1842 (fn. 282) was a reduction in strength. (fn. 283) The principal station was moved to New Street, and new stations were opened in 1847 at the Public Office and in Duke Street. In the fifties the large number of resignations was met by increases in pay and strength; the force was recognized as efficient by the Home Secretary in 1857. (fn. 284) In spite of further increases in strength in 1873, 1875, 1883, and 1896 the force remained far smaller in proportion to the population than in Liverpool and Manchester, and considerably smaller than the average for large towns. (fn. 285) Until 1914 the Birmingham force was badly paid compared with other forces, and the popularity of the police in Birmingham declined sharply as a result of the Lloyd George riot of 1901. In 1892 work was started on the new police station between the Victoria Law Courts and Newton Street, and in 1895 a police matron was appointed for the central lock-up. The new police station in Steelhouse Lane, to replace that in Newton Street, was opened in 1933. (fn. 286) In 1937 the total strength was 1,887, organized in five divisions and 24 subdivisions, and with 35 police-stations. (fn. 287) After the Second World War the establishment was raised to over 2,000 but recruiting difficulties, aggravated by the shortage of housing, kept the strength down to only three-quarters. (fn. 288) Recruits were easily found only for the women's police department, which had been established in 1917 with two policewomen; in 1950 there were 33. (fn. 289)

There was some sort of prison or lock-up in Birmingham as early as the 13th century. (fn. 290) Whether or not a gaol was maintained in the intervening centuries, in 1733 reference was made to a building near Pinfold Street called the Bridewell House. In that year a new building, described as a 'dungeon' was built on the same site or nearby, and the constables were responsible for its upkeep. (fn. 291) In Howard's time it housed both felons and debtors and comprised two cells below ground, two night rooms for women, a day room, a free ward for debtors, a tiny yard, and a keeper's house. Howard found it 'very offensive' and remarked that it was sometimes greatly overcrowded. (fn. 292) It was possibly this building that was replaced in 1807 by the gaol attached to the new Public Office in Moor Street. (fn. 293) Until 1849 there was also a prison for debtors in the High Street, (fn. 294) but the Moor Street gaol, though enlarged in 1830, (fn. 295) was inadequate and between 1837 and 1849 was used only for prisoners immediately before trial and immediately after conviction. Between committal and trial, and to serve their sentences, prisoners were sent to the county gaol at Warwick. This was an expensive and troublesome procedure, and in 1845 the council decided to build a borough gaol. (fn. 296)

The borough gaol at Winson Green, designed by Daniel Hill, with its front resembling a Tudor fortress, was opened in 1849, (fn. 297) and within four years had achieved notoriety. (fn. 298) The first governor, Captain Maconochie, R.N., advocated and had experimented with prison reform, and was allowed to introduce a modified version of the 'mark system', which in its entirety would have been illegal. Conflict between him and the deputy governor, Lieutenant Austin, R.N., a stern disciplinarian, and the visiting magistrates' apprehension of a lack of discipline caused his dismissal and the appointment, in a manner open to suspicion, (fn. 299) of the deputy governor in his place. Suicides and attempted suicides by several of the prisoners resulted, in 1853, in a public outcry, a half-hearted inquiry by the visiting magistrates, and the appointment of a Royal Commission on Birmingham gaol, whose findings revealed gross neglect and abuses by the staff. Illegal punishments had included excessive use of the crank, continual deprivation of diet, and confinement, purely punitive, to the strait-jacket. Almost all the prison officers were censured, only the chaplain and one warder being named in a favourable context in the commission's report. (fn. 300) The governor and the surgeon were subsequently found guilty on criminal charges, and the governor sentenced to imprisonment. (fn. 301) The borough gaol was transferred to the Home Office in 1878. (fn. 302)


No coherent account can be given of the history of public health in Birmingham before the 18th century. As a result of advances in scientific technique and medical knowledge in the 18th century, doctors and scientists became convinced of the need for concerted action to provide hospitals and to ensure some standards of sanitation. (fn. 303)

The endowment and foundation of hospitals was urged by doctors throughout the country; in 1765 the project for a General Hospital in Birmingham was launched, and in 1766 an infirmary wing was added to the workhouse. The General Hospital, which remained half built from 1769 to 1776, was completed in 1779 with the aid of the first music festival; (fn. 304) there were then 40 beds. In 1790 two new wings were built and in 1792 thirty more beds were endowed. The General Dispensary, also with the support of prominent citizens, was opened in 1792 in Temple Row, and moved to a new building in Union Street in 1808. (fn. 305) The Medical School dated from 1828 and became the Birmingham Royal School of Medicine in 1836, and the Queen's College in 1843. This and the Queen's Hospital, opened in 1841, were founded as the result of the exertions and generosity of W. Sands Cox, a surgeon. (fn. 306) In addition there were in Birmingham by 1850 orthopaedic, eye, ear, fever, and maternity hospitals, and a number of dispensaries, all largely dependent on charitable donations and voluntary subscriptions. (fn. 307)

Hutton was one of those who was aware that insanitary conditions were being created by the rapid and uncontrolled urban growth of the period. In 1781 he wrote: 'Narrow streets with modern buildings are generally dirty for want of the natural help of the light, the sun, and the air, as Digbeth, St. Martin's Lane, Swan Alley, Carrs Lane, etc. The narrower the street, the less it can be influenced by the sun and the wind, consequently the more dirt will abound; and by experimental observations upon stagnate water in the street, it is found extremely prejudicial to health', (fn. 308) and he later added 'when land is appropriated to a street the builders are under no control; every lessee proceeds according to his interest and fancy; there is no man to preserve order or to prescribe bounds; hence arise evils without a cure: such as narrowness which scarcely admits light, cleanliness, pleasure, health or use'. (fn. 309)

Several of the central streets were used as markets for live beasts, and there were many slaughter-houses in the town. Before the Improvement Act of 1769 there was no system of refuse removal or drainage.

The street commissioners set up by the 1769 Act were empowered to employ scavengers to clean the streets and remove the refuse, and to take the first steps to control the markets. There were further Improvement Acts in 1773, 1801, and 1812. The Act of 1812, giving the commissioners powers over the repair of the streets, and so of their drainage, made them in effect the first public health authority in the town. (fn. 310) As the work of street improvement progressed, under the direction after 1838 of Pigott Smith, the commissioners' enterprising surveyor, the need for a comprehensive system of sewerage and drainage became evident. The greater part, however, of the scheme prepared by the commission between 1842 and 1845 was completed after 1852 by the council.

Nevertheless, despite the activities of doctors and some prominent citizens the dangers of insanitary conditions did not become a matter for concern to the general public, in Birmingham or elsewhere, before 1850. The agitation which led to the national reports of the 1840s and to the Public Health Act of 1848 was initiated by a small group of doctors and administrators associated with the Poor Law Commission, (fn. 311) and the application of the Act to Birmingham was regarded by the council and the street commissioners as a political and administrative rather than a social and medical matter. The Improvement Act of 1851, which included many of the provisions of the Public Health Act, was the outcome of a bitter struggle between them. By it the council took over the functions of the street commissioners and local authorities of Birmingham, Deritend, Bordesley, Duddeston, Nechells and Edgbaston and became in effect though not in name the local board of health, with a staff of inspectors of nuisances.

The report of the Inspector of the General Board of Health in 1849, which had recommended the creation of such an authority, also clearly set out the task which the council had before it. Evidence was given of 'indescribable filthiness' in the courts, streets, (fn. 312) canals and rivers of the town, and of the effects of the drainage from middens, cesspools, graveyards, pigsties, and slaughter-houses into the wells which supplied nearly all the inhabitants with water. Lists were given of the streets most affected by typhus, scarlet fever, dysentery, diarrhoea, measles, and smallpox. In addition the inspector remarked upon the bad effects of a manufacturing life, factory conditions, accidents, the neglect of children, and air pollution, and on the need for parks and better forms of social life.

The principal concern of the council was with the continuation of the commissioners' drainage scheme; by 1851 eight miles of main sewers had been laid, and by 1858 the greater part of the scheme had been carried out. The outlet however was directly into the Tame at Saltley; from 1855 the council began to receive complaints of the pollution of the river, and between 1859 and 1861 the work was virtually stopped by the injunctions obtained by C. B. Adderley (later Lord Norton). These difficulties coincided with the period of 'economy' in the council, when reductions were made in expenditure on all corporation activities. The Improvement Act of 1861, which formed the basis of later sewage works and which provided that in future all new houses were to be connected to the sewers, marked the stronger influences of the progressive group in the council.

The Birmingham Waterworks Company was set up and empowered to take water from the Tame by an Act of 1826. The first reservoir was opened in 1831, and after 1849 a constant supply system, the first in the country, was provided. The company obtained further powers, including the use of other local sources in 1855, 1866, and 1870, but although the supplies were increased it is doubtful whether they even kept pace with the growth of the town. The report of 1849 described the company's supplies as insufficient and expensive, and the Improvement Act of 1851 contained powers for the purchase of the waterworks. The sewerage committee reported in 1859 that an improved water supply was required, and the corporation's sanitary census of 1874-5 showed that some 24,000 of 70,500 houses were dependent for water on corrupted wells or streams. Proposals for the purchase of the waterworks were made in 1853-4, 1869, and 1871-2, but were not adopted and the powers contained in the Improvement Act of 1851 were allowed to lapse.

In 1858 an Order under the Burials Act (1853) was made for the closing of four churchyard cemeteries described in the report of 1849 as in a disgusting and dangerous condition. At the same time the council became the local burial board with powers to provide a cemetery, and in 1859 the site at Witton was bought for the Borough Cemetery. The cemetery was opened in 1863 and by 1950 400,000 interments had been made there. In 1953 there were eight public cemeteries and two crematoria in the city. (fn. 313)

As a result of the Lunatic Asylums Act of 1845 a committee was instructed to consider the provision of an asylum for pauper lunatics. In 1847 a site was bought at Winson Green and the Winson Green Asylum was opened in 1850. The building underwent continual extension between 1851 and 1878, the number of patients rising from 246 in 1851 to 839 in 1881.

A voluntary baths association was formed in Birmingham in 1844. The association bought a site in Kent Street in 1846 and sold it to the corporation, which was empowered to provide baths by the Baths Act of that year. Kent Street Baths were opened in 1851, and two more baths in 1860 and 1862. The number of bathers was 78,000 in the first year, rising to 151,000 in 1861 and 291,000 in 1881. In 1952-3 the number of bathers in public baths was 3,150,000. (fn. 314)

Although by the standards of 1848 the council had done a great deal, it was evident by 1870 that in the sphere of sanitation as in that of water supply, the growth of the town was creating evils faster than they were being dealt with. The sewerage committee had reported in 1859 that the sanitary condition of much of the town was still bad and that much was required besides efficient sewerage. The sanitary census report of 1875 said that 'sanitary inspection in Birmingham, as now carried out, in no sense amounts to sanitary supervision, for the staff is so limited that its capacity is exhausted in dealing with nuisances which are allowed to become intolerable before they are brought to the notice of the inspectors or are discovered by them' and 'the public health of Birmingham has been gradually declining for some years'. The town had lost the reputation it had had in 1849 of being one of the healthiest of the manufacturing towns; zymotic diseases (e.g. cholera, typhus, typhoid, and dysentery), the class of diseases most avoidable because 'dependent on conditions admitting of removal or prevention' were 'laying a firm hold on the town'. The 1873 statistics show that the comparatively high death-rate in Birmingham was entirely due to the high incidence of zymotic diseases. The census report recommended a complete system of sewerage, draining, and paving, and a better system of inspection and scavenging. Public opinion, however, was now prepared not only for the completion of the existing measures, but for the undertaking by public bodies of entirely new fields of activity, a change of opinion which coincided with the victory of the Liberal Party in national and local politics, and with the mayoralty of Joseph Chamberlain.

Sewage disposal was a problem which required technical rather than political innovations. Although the first filtration and sedimentation tank had been installed at the outlet on the Tame in 1859, the litigation with Lord Norton had continued. In 1871 the report of a committee set up to consider a scheme for the disposal of sewage by irrigation surveyed the whole of the sewage problem. Some 4,000 houses holding 20,000 people were drained directly into the sewers, while 70,000 houses with 325,000 people were served by 20,000 privies, ashpits and middens, calculated to cover an area of 13½ acres, 14,000 of which drained ultimately into the sewers. The solution then proposed was that no more privies should be connected with the sewers and so with the Tame, but that privies should be provided with pans which could be emptied weekly by the corporation scavengers. It was also recommended that a joint drainage commission should be set up for the area draining into the Tame and that land be acquired to create farms irrigated from the sewerage outlet.

In 1873 a sewage committee was set up to introduce the pan system, its duties being transferred to the health committee in 1876. In 1874 6,000 loads were removed under the system and in 1884 106,000 loads. The difficulty of disposing of the refuse collected at the wharves was solved after 1876 by the introduction of drying machinery which reduced it to an innocuous powder. Powers for the formation of joint drainage boards were given by the Public Health Act of 1875, and after a meeting of the local authorities the Birmingham, Tame and Rea Drainage Board was set up in 1877. The existing sewage works and farms (but not the sewers) were taken over by the board and were extended from 240 acres in 1877 to some 2,000 acres in 1900.

In 1874 the proposal to acquire the waterworks was again raised, this time successfully, by Chamberlain, and under an Act obtained in 1875 the works were transferred to the corporation. Despite great extensions of the local sources, however, the demand continually threatened to exceed the supply, and it was necessary in 1892 to obtain an Act for the construction of the Elan valley scheme and the supply of water from Wales. While the new works were under construction the supply was maintained only with great difficulty, but the Elan Valley Dam was opened in 1904 and by 1905 the whole city was being served with Welsh water. Some of the old unsatisfactory works were abandoned, and between 1876 and 1884 some 3,000 private wells supplying polluted water to 60,000 people were closed by the sanitary inspectors, about the same number of people being supplied with piped water.

Under the Public Health Act of 1872 the council became an urban sanitary authority, the health committee came into existence and the first full-time medical officer of health for the borough was appointed. A determined attempt was begun to remedy the evils described in the sanitary census. More inspectors were appointed and fuller statistics compiled, and members of committees undertook personal investigations into sanitary conditions. From 1878 to 1884 between 10,000 and 30,000 'nuisances' were dealt with each year.

The report of 1859 had said that the poorer districts of the town required not only sewerage but water, proper road-surfaces, pavements, open spaces, air, ventilation, and less overcrowding. Chamberlain's improvement scheme of 1875-6, made possible by the Artisans' Dwellings Act of 1875, was from the point of view of public health an experiment in slum clearance, replanning, and rehousing. In St. Mary's and Market Hall wards, 93 acres (later extended) of the worst district in the town were acquired, buildings unsuitable for habitation removed, a new street, Corporation Street, laid, and cleared plots leased for rebuilding. (fn. 315) Evidence was given during the consideration of the scheme of the direct connexion between the insanitary conditions of the district and smallpox and fever, and between damp, cold houses and bronchitis. Not only was the death-rate in the area double that of Edgbaston and the healthier parts of the town, but there was everywhere in the streets and houses evidence of sickness and disease. (fn. 316) It was calculated that 18,000 people there were sick for at least six weeks in each year, and that this caused a loss in terms of wages and medical attention of £54,000 a year. The estimated net cost of the scheme was £12,000 a year. As a result of the scheme the death-rate of nine streets in the area fell from 53.2 per thousand in 1873-5 to 21.3 in 1879-81.

Land was set aside in the improvement scheme for the building of working-class houses, and it was the intention of supporters of the scheme that displaced tenants should be rehoused in municipal houses. In 1884, however, an artisans' dwellings enquiry committee reported that there was no deficiency of cheap rented houses in the town, that there was no overcrowding and that the sanitary conditions of such houses was fairly satisfactory. As a result in 1885 a scheme for accommodation for 100 families, drawn up after an examination of municipal housing schemes in Liverpool, London, and elsewhere, was rejected. It nevertheless became clear that private builders could not provide houses at rents which the poorest families could afford to pay and that these people would either have to be provided with houses subsidized by the corporation or continue to live in overcrowded and insanitary conditions. Between 1889 and 1891 a few houses were built by the corporation as part of the Ryder Street and Lawrence Street schemes. The first representations of the M.O.H. under the Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890 were made in 1894. A scheme for Milk Street was accepted, but it was decided in 1895 that the corporation should undertake building on the other sites only if all other possibilities had been exhausted. By 1897 no offers for the development of the sites had been received, and a scheme was prepared which was accepted in a revised form in 1898. It was said that 'a duty had devolved upon the council to carry out the intention of the Acts of Parliament to provide some accommodation for the class of persons displaced in the interests of public health'. The loss on the houses was to be regarded as payment by the city for the sanitary improvements effected. (fn. 317)

The improvement of the streets and rivers of the town begun by the street commissioners was vigorously carried on. The bed and banks of the Hockley Brook, the Spark Brook, and the Rea were largely rebuilt and the last straightened in many places. In addition to the laying of the Cole Valley Sewer, the old sewers of Harborne, Edgbaston, and the Rea valley were completely reconstructed. There was also a steady increase in the number of public parks maintained by the corporation. By 1953 the area of public parks in the city was 1,473 acres. (fn. 318)

Improvements in one sphere, however, again served only to draw attention to the need for action in another. Epidemics of infectious diseases such as scarlet fever and smallpox not directly connected with insanitary conditions continued unchecked; there were smallpox epidemics in 1871-2, 1874, and 1883, and scarlet fever epidemics in 1878 and 1882-3. During the 1871-2 epidemic temporary isolation wards were provided in the grounds of Birmingham Workhouse at Winson Green, and the obvious need for a permanent hospital led to the acquisition of a building near the workhouse in 1874. This was enlarged in 1878 and 1879, and in 1880 had 170 beds. During the 1882-3 epidemic special scarlet fever and smallpox wards had to be built to take from the infirmary patients with infectious diseases. A resident medical superintendent was appointed and in 1884 a large programme of extensions was begun. Of the reported cases of these infectious diseases 14 per cent. entered hospital in 1882-5, 70 per cent. in 1886-9, and 83 per cent. in 1890-3. The controversies about vaccination at this period did not affect the policy of the public health authorities of Birmingham, who were wholly in favour of it. Of the 15,377 children born in Birmingham, Aston, and Edgbaston in 1882, 13,259 were vaccinated. The value of the isolation wards was demonstrated during 1890 when the death rate from scarlet fever was 6-4 per cent. among patients in hospital and 9.7 per cent. among those at home. During the smallpox epidemic of 1893-4 a separate isolation hospital for smallpox was opened in Yardley Road (now Yardley Green Road), Little Bromwich, and continuing public concern led to the opening in 1901 of a third hospital, which became the hospital for diphtheria and enteric fever. When in 1911 five isolation hospitals built by other local authorities were added to the city, the opportunity was taken to reorganize all the isolation hospitals to make separate provision for the various diseases.

A site for a second mental hospital was acquired at Rubery Hill in 1876. The new hospital was opened in 1881 and the improvements at Winson Green required by the lunacy commissioners were obtained by the transfer of chronic cases to it. The average number of patients at Rubery Hill was 330 in 1882; after 1893 the hospital was extended to accommodate an increasing number of patients. Greater accuracy of registration and diagnosis, rather than drunkenness (as many contemporaries imagined), may have been the cause of the increase in pauper lunacy of 44 per cent. in these years (see below).

As a result of higher standards of living, national legislation, and municipal activity, health had greatly improved in the late 19th century, (fn. 319) and in Birmingham the deathrate, particularly that from zymotic diseases, had fallen. Towards the end of the century, however, the national death-rate stopped falling, and the Birmingham death-rate remained above the average for large towns. Housing standards were still low. The better-off working men were moving out of Birmingham into the suburbs, leaving the crowded central areas exclusively occupied by the poorer classes. In 1897 there was a sudden increase in diarrhoea and enteritis in these areas and additional cleansing measures had to be undertaken by the corporation. Of the 105,000 houses in the worst three wards of the city, 40,000 were then without through ventilation. The most disturbing feature was the fact that while adult mortality had improved, infant mortality had remained at a high level. The difficult nature of the work in this sphere was demonstrated in a report to the health committee in 1893 which showed that 41 per cent. of the deaths due to diseases of digestive organs in children were the result of improper feeding. The committee then concluded that these were personal matters with which it could not deal directly. Within a few years, however, maternal and infant care had become one of the most important of the council's activities.

In 1899 four female health visitors were appointed to work in the worst parts of the town, the first full-time municipal health visitors in the country. After the Midwifery Act of 1902 midwifery began to improve, and in 1906 a charitable maternity hospital was founded in Birmingham as a training school for midwives. By the Notification of Births Act of 1907 local authorities might make provision for giving advice to mothers, and in Birmingham the number of health visitors was increased both by the council and by voluntary societies. Special maternity visitors were appointed for the worst districts and the first centre opened in 1908. By 1914 six more centres had been opened. After 1911 treatment might be given in hospitals to mothers suffering from fever and to infants suffering from eye disease. As a result of these measures the infant mortality in the pre-1911 area of the city fell from 180 per thousand in 1886-91 to 158 per thousand in 1900-14.

The changing emphasis of public health legislation is evident in two important national measures of this period, the beginning of the school medical service in 1908 (fn. 320) and the National Health Insurance Act of 1911. (fn. 321) A series of social measures, including the Shop Hours and Shop Acts of 1904-13 and the Factory and Workshop Acts of 1901 and 1907, and the application of national legislation in by-laws, doubled the work of the inspectors employed by the corporation departments in these years.

Municipal action also became necessary in the treatment of tuberculosis. Birmingham introduced tuberculosis visitors and a scheme of voluntary notification in 1904, and notification became compulsory as a result of measures of 1908 and 1911. In a report to the corporation on the provision of sanatoria in 1907 it was said that there were then over a thousand deaths from the disease in Birmingham every year. In consequence of the report, Salterley Grange was acquired and converted to a sanatorium with 40 beds, the first municipal sanatorium in the country. In 1911 Yardley Road and West Heath isolation hospitals were adapted as tuberculosis hospitals, and a tuberculosis centre was opened. Salterley Grange and Yardley Road Hospitals were both later enlarged; in addition to the municipal hospitals Romsley Hall Sanatorium was maintained by the Hospital Saturday Fund.

Because of the increase in lunacy in this period, Sandwell Hall was opened as a temporary mental hospital in 1897. Hollymoor Hospital was completed in 1905 and Sandwell Hall closed in the following year. By 1911 there was again a shortage of accommodation and two additional homes were opened. In 1914 there were over 2,000 patients in the city's mental hospitals and 500 Birmingham patients in the hospitals of other authorities. The Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 gave the corporation increased responsibility for the care of the mentally defective and in the following year arrangements were made with the board of guardians for the care of such persons at Monyhull Colony, King's Heath.

During this period the problem of sewage disposal was finally solved. Between 1896 and 1903 it was found necessary to make large extensions of the area used for sewage farms, and the drainage board's works stretching for six miles down the Tame became the largest in England and the third largest in Europe. It was estimated that in order to provide for the growth of the city an additional 1½ a. would have to be used each week. Experiments were begun by the board in the use of bacterial filters. The problem was a national one and a royal commission was appointed, which reported in 1901 that treatment of sewage in this way was practicable. By 1912 the drainage board had installed 54 a. of bacteria beds and the land of the sewage farms was gradually disposed of. As a result it became possible gradually to replace the offensive system of pan closets by water closets connected to the sewers.

It has been noticed that low housing standards were one reason for the lack of success in controlling some diseases in the late 19th century. Housing became the most controversial local issue in the 20th century and the council proceeded with great caution despite public agitation. The Milk Street scheme was not considered a financial success, and although a scheme for some 600 dwellings at Bordesley Green was accepted in 1900, schemes for the Potter Street area were twice rejected. The housing committee, set up in 1901, tried to improve housing standards without recourse to municipal building. The construction of the Bordesley estate was undertaken by the Ideal Benefit Society; other estates were built by the Bournville Village Trust and by Harborne Tenants Limited. (fn. 322) Slum areas, like that of Oxygen Street, were to be dealt with not by improvement schemes but by house to house inspection. By this means the committee obtained in ten years the repair of 2,700 and the destruction of 1,800 dwellings. The national and local concern, however, continued and local authorities were given new powers by the Housing and Town Planning Act of 1909. Between 1909 and 1914 four planning schemes were prepared, a town planning committee with Neville Chamberlain as chairman being set up in 1911. One of these plans, that for Quinton, became a model for other local authorities. The Finance Act of 1910 led to a decline in private building and to an increase in rents, and the shortage of housing became more acute. In 1913, however, the housing enquiry committee again resolved not to follow Liverpool's example of extensive municipal housing, though a town plan was to be drawn up and there was to be more expenditure on sanitation.

The First World War aggravated the already serious housing problem and when it ended the attitude of the council to municipal housing had radically changed. The housing and town planning committees were combined in 1917, and, under the guidance of a series of Acts of which the first was the Housing and Town Planning Act of 1919, an ambitious programme of building was undertaken. Between 1919 and 1939 nearly 50,000 houses were built by the council, and 65,000 houses by private builders. The scale of the problem is suggested by the fact that when in 1936 more than 73,000 municipal and private houses had been completed there were still over 38,000 back-to-back houses, 13,000 houses without a separate water supply and 51,000 without separate water closets. (fn. 323) Planning schemes, five of which were approved by 1937, were prepared for the whole city, and as part of the programme of slum clearance a new improvement area was declared around Summer Street. It was hoped in 1935 that 10,000 slum houses could be dealt with in the following five years.

Between 1921 and 1935 works on streets, bridges, sewers, and rivers costing nearly £450,000 were undertaken largely as a measure of unemployment relief. Great parts of the Rea, Cole, and Erdington main sewers were reconstructed and a new main sewer was laid for the Perry Barr district. The scheme for the reconstruction of the bed and banks of the Hockley Brook, completed in 1929, was one of the largest of its kind in the country. Work on the River Rea and on the Cole Valley sewers was continued after the Second World War. (fn. 324)

The accommodation in mental hospitals was steadily increased to keep pace with the rising number of patients. The greatest expansion in this field, however, was in the provision for those termed 'mentally defective'. In 1914 the council was responsible for 21 such patients in institutions, 54 under supervision, and one in guardianship; in 1935 the numbers were 1,834, 1,992, and 54 respectively. There was accommodation in 1935 for 1,243 patients at the Monyhull Colony, and there were some smaller homes. A sub-committee of the Mental Deficiency Act committee was responsible for aftercare and for the education of mentally defective children.

The personal health services were also greatly developed in this period. Between 1916 and 1934 the number of health visitors was more than doubled and more than 20 welfare centres were opened. By the Maternity and Child Welfare Act of 1918 midwives were more carefully supervised and were enabled to call on doctors to treat difficult cases without payment (specialists might similarly be employed after 1926), and powers and funds were given to local authorities for the care of mothers and children under five. Two maternity hospitals, a babies' hospital, a home for young children, and a convalescent home for mothers were opened by the council. In 1934-5 54 per cent. of mothers in Birmingham sought advice, and 71.6 per cent. of young children attended clinics. The council employed 13 full-time and 24 part-time doctors in this work. Cheap dinners and milk were supplied where necessary; after 1920 domestic helps and after 1935 foster-mothers might be provided. Attention was being given in 1938 to the problem of malnutrition among schoolchildren from poorer families. (fn. 325) Grants were given to a number of voluntary hospitals for the treatment of various diseases specially connected with the problems of mothers and infants, and for the treatment of venereal diseases, facilities for which had been greatly improved since the report of the Royal Commission on Venereal Diseases in 1916.

The results of the development of local health services and of rising living standards in the first three decades of the 20th century were even more striking than those connected with the improvements in sanitation and the treatment of infectious diseases in the late 19th century. The general death-rate in Birmingham fell from 14.6 per thousand in 1912-15 to 11.3 in 1931-4, and Birmingham regained the reputation it had in the mid-19th century as one of the healthiest of the manufacturing towns, with a death-rate normally below the national average. In that period the death-rate in the 'central ring' area of the city fell by 34 per cent., in the 'middle ring' by 12 per cent., and in the 'outer ring' by 9 per cent. Between 1901-5 and 1931-4 the infant mortality fell by 57 per cent. One result of the decline in constitutional and infectious diseases was that space was available in the city's hospitals for the treatment of a wider variety of diseases.

A serious housing problem again faced the council after the Second World War. Many houses had been destroyed or damaged and only about 2,000 new houses had been built between 1940 and 1944. Although between 1945 and 1956 some 37,500 new houses were built, most of them by the council, the number of those still seeking houses rose while the amount of land available for new building fell. In 1955 it was estimated that 50,000 new houses were needed and that there was land in Birmingham for only 8,000. Proposals were considered for building new towns and providing houses for Birmingham people in existing towns, and in 1956 it was hoped that accommodation would be found for 220,000 people in 'overspill' areas during the following twenty years. In 1957 eight of the twelve towns which had agreed to such arrangements had begun building houses for Birmingham people. (fn. 326)

The situation was made more difficult by the low standard of much of the existing housing. The slum clearance plans of 1937 were postponed, and the revised plans made under the Housing Act of 1944 were confirmed in 1946. A housing survey taken in 1946 showed that there were 29,000 back-to-back houses, 6,500 houses without a separate water supply, nearly 40,000 without separate water closets, and over 142,000 without bathroom accommodation. In the Redevelopment Areas, 30,000 houses were to be acquired by the council and rebuilt or renovated. A further survey in 1954 showed that in fact over 50,000 houses, or 20 per cent. of the houses in the city, were unfit for habitation. By 1956 the council had renovated 25,000 houses in the Redevelopment Areas and proposed to acquire another 25,000. (fn. 327)

The average daily consumption of water in the city rose from over 28,000,000 gallons in 1931 to 37,000,000 gallons in 1939, and a third main pipe was laid from the Elan valley to Birmingham. The building of a new dam on the same system of rivers was proposed in 1937, but was postponed during the Second World War. Work was resumed after the war, and the Claerwen Dam, which increased the capacity of the reservoirs from 45,000,000 to 75,000,000 gallons a day, was opened in 1952. Work had begun on laying another main pipe in 1949. The average daily consumption continued to rise, from over 39,000,000 gallons in 1945 to 56,000,000 gallons in 1954-5, and it was clear that if this rate of increase continued demand would again be in danger of exceeding the capacity of the Welsh reservoirs. (fn. 328)

The growth of the city has also made necessary the constant development of the sewage works. Since 1914 the district drainage board has made continuous additions to the area of its works, and improvement to its plant. The daily dry weather flow of sewage rose from 32,000,000 gallons in 1927 to over 40,000,000 gallons (Tame works only) in 1939, and 53,000,000 gallons (Minworth works only) in 1954. Of this 45 per cent. was estimated to consist of trade effluents. The success of the board's work is evident from the fact that in 1947 it was said that the 'effluent from the Birmingham sewage works is actually purer than the Tame into which it flows'. In 1955 the Saltley, Ashold, and Tyburn works in the city were gradually being closed and the Minworth works were becoming the principal works in the Tame valley. The greater part of the land then occupied by the board was outside the city in Sutton Coldfield M.B. and Meriden R.D. (fn. 329)

The demands on the city's mental hospitals continued after the Second World War, and 600 additional beds were still needed when the post-war reorganization had been completed. Highcroft Hospital, the former Aston Union workhouse, which had taken mental defectives and cases for observation, in 1948 became a recognized mental hospital, with 1,000 beds, and Hollymoor Hospital, which had been an emergency general hospital during the war, was reopened as a mental hospital in 1949. The problem was aggravated by the fall in the death-rate and the increasing number of old people. Before 1939 5 per cent. of the patients admitted to mental hospitals were over 65, in 1955 25 per cent., many of them in a neglected state. Despite difficulties of staffing and accommodation, however, the research begun at the Birmingham mental hospitals in 1922 into the physical causes of mental illness continued, and the nursing school became associated with the Queen Elizabeth School of Nursing (see below). (fn. 330)

To the voluntary hospitals founded before 1850 there were added in the second half of the century a dental hospital, a sanatorium, and hospitals for women, convalescent children, and for skin and urinary diseases. The Hospital Sunday and Hospital Saturday Funds, begun in 1859 and 1869, supplemented the subscriptions, benefactions and organized charities by which the voluntary hospitals were largely maintained. A new building for the workhouse and infirmary was opened in the Dudley road in 1852, and in 1889 a separate infirmary building was added there which became the largest hospital in Birmingham. (fn. 331) In 1867 the Queen's Hospital and the Queen's College became separate bodies, and in 1892 the medical faculty of Queen's College became the Queen's Faculty of Mason's College and later of Birmingham University. A new building for the General Hospital, with 346 beds, was completed in 1897. (fn. 332)

After the First World War it was clear that great extensions were needed at both the General and the Queen's Hospitals, and both hospitals prepared building schemes. At the same time the idea of a new hospital building in the suburbs was put forward and was discussed by the voluntary hospitals committee and the city council. In 1925, when wards for 100 patients were already under construction at the Queen's Hospital, the hospitals council of the city resolved that no further action should be taken until the possibility of such a new building had been fully considered. A joint committee of the two hospitals recommended in 1926 that they should amalgamate and have joint control of the new hospital, and in 1927 an executive board for the building of the hospitals' centre was set up. Cadbury Brothers bought and presented the site, and an appeal for funds was made in 1930. In the first stage 520 of the total of 740 beds were to be provided. Building began in 1933 and the new hospital, named in 1939 the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, was opened in 1938. The Birmingham University Medical School and a nurses' home and school also formed part of the centre, and it was intended that new buildings for some of the hospitals dealing with particular diseases should ultimately be erected there. In 1950 the schools of nursing of six Birmingham hospitals were united as the Queen Elizabeth School of Nursing. (fn. 333)

By the Local Government Act of 1929 the functions of the boards of guardians were transferred to the local authorities and the corporation became responsible for the administration of public assistance and of sixteen institutions containing 6,000 patients. Seven of these institutions, including the Birmingham Infirmary, known as Western House, with 1,878 patients, (fn. 334) and Erdington House with 1,807 patients, were to be administered by the new public assistance committee, and six, including Dudley Road Hospital (the Infirmary Hospital) with 884 patients, and Selly Oak Hospital with 550 patients, by the public health, maternity and welfare committee, becoming general and not poor-law hospitals.

The medical, health, and welfare services of Birmingham were radically reconstructed by the National Health Service and National Insurance Acts of 1946 and the National Assistance Act of 1948. The various contributory schemes which had grown up since the beginning of the century to provide medical treatment and maintenance to sick or otherwise disabled persons were replaced by a comprehensive national scheme. Some aspects of public assistance became a national and not a local responsibility. The services provided by the local health authorities, the general practitioners and the voluntary hospitals were to be integrated and available to everyone. In Birmingham the principal voluntary hospitals became the United Birmingham Hospitals, the teaching group; the remainder, including the former poor law hospitals, the maternity hospitals, mental hospitals and sanatoria, became the responsibility of the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board and were for the purposes of administration grouped together under management committees.

The services provided under the National Health Service Acts fall into three categories. The hospital and specialist services are provided by the Regional Hospital Board and the United Birmingham Hospitals; the Birmingham Executive Council supervises the general medical, pharmaceutical, dental, and ophthalmic services, including the work of general practitioners; and the council, as the local health authority, provides a wide range of services. (fn. 335) Although the treatment of illness and the alleviation of social distress has become the responsibility of wider authorities, the environmental and personal health services undertaken by the council in the late 19th and early 20th centuries have to a large extent remained its responsibility, and the highly developed system of drainage, sewerage, refuse collection, and sanitary inspection, and the provision of baths, parks, and allotments, have become accepted features of urban life.


Some public services have already been described in this section. The provision of education (fn. 336) and of markets and fairs, (fn. 337) and Birmingham's public libraries, the museum, and the art gallery (fn. 338) are discussed elsewhere in the volume. Of the remaining public services provided by the corporation several were taken over from non-municipal bodies.

One, the fire service, was originally the responsibility of the parish officers. The fire engine mentioned in 1695 was apparently owned by, and certainly in the custody of the churchwardens. (fn. 339) Up to 1749 there was one fire engine in St. Martin's parish and one in St. Philip's; after that date there was a large one and a small one in each. (fn. 340) In 1788 the churchwardens fitted up an engine-house in Temple Street, and in 1792 the Royal Exchange Assurance Co. presented them with an engine housed in Congreve Street. At about this time the Birmingham Fire Office had an engine-house in Union Street, and the Norwich Union one in Congreve Street. (fn. 341) By the early 18th century the insurance companies' fire brigades seem to have entirely replaced the facilities provided by the churchwardens. (fn. 342) In 1866 there were five insurance brigades in the town, with twelve engines in all. The need for all brigades to turn out to each call made fire-fighting unnecessarily difficult, and in 1867, when the borough council refused an offer of all the equipment and personnel, the insurance companies amalgamated their forces in the Birmingham United Fire Brigade. The council acquired the brigade, with equipment including 5 engines, 6 hand pumps, and 13 sets of uniform in 1874, for the nominal sum of £500. In 1877 the first 'steamer' was bought, and after a disastrous fire in Digbeth in 1878 and the library fire in 1879 efforts were made to improve the brigade's efficiency. (fn. 343) In 1879 the brigade was detached from the police force, to which it had been appended in 1874, and reorganized. (fn. 344) In 1882 the old station in Little Cannon Street, transferred to the corporation in 1874, was replaced by a new one in Upper Priory, and in 1884 the first ambulance for use at fires was bought. The strength of the brigade in 1903 was 79 men, with 20 escapes, 2 manual pumps, 6 'steamers', and 4 horse-drawn carts. (fn. 345) Motor transport was introduced in 1906, (fn. 346) but it was not until 1919 that mechanically propelled engines replaced the horse-drawn engines. (fn. 347) The new central fire station in Corporation Street was opened in 1935, (fn. 348) the old one in Upper Priory being sold and demolished in 1937. In 1948, when it reverted to the corporation's control after the special war-time arrangements, the fire brigade numbered nearly 600 officers and men, and the ambulance service was attached to it. (fn. 349)

In the field of transport, there were few privately-owned omnibus services before the age of tramways, (fn. 350) in the provision of which the corporation played a dominant part even before it began to operate its own tramcar services in 1904. In 1873 the corporation built a tramway line from Monmouth Street to the borough boundary at Hockley, and leased it to a commercial company. In 1875 the line was continued through the centre of the town and out along the Bristol road. All the lines built by the corporation before 1904 were leased to operating companies, whose services extended outside the city boundaries along lines not owned by the corporation. The Aston line, opened in 1882, was the first to use steam traction, and other lines-to Moseley, Nechells, Perry Barr, Saltley (all 1884), Sparkbrook (1885), Dudley Road (1885), and Balsall Heath (1886)-were used by steam-cars sooner or later. The Hockley cars were drawn by a continuous cable running in a conduit between the tracks, but, since this method was not altogether satisfactory, it was not used on the connected line along the Bristol road. The central section of this through-route was therefore abandoned, and from 1890 the Bristol road tramcars were propelled by electricity from accumulators. This method also was unsatisfactory; and as the corporation regarded steam-traction as an unpleasant, temporary expedient and overhead electric cables as undesirable, while the operating companies hesitated to incur the expense of electric conduits between the tracks, there were bitter disputes. (fn. 351) The solution of the difficulty was for the corporation to assume responsibility for providing services, and this it was empowered to do by the Birmingham Corporation Act of 1903. As the leases to the companies expired the corporation transport department took over, and this process lasted from 1904 to 1911. After 1906 there were no steam-cars on any route. From 1914 the corporation began to run regular motor omnibus services also, and in 1930 began to convert tram-routes to omnibus-routes. By 1934 the omnibus services almost equalled the tramways in revenue and the mileage covered. On two routes tramcars were replaced by trolleys, in 1922 and 1934, but the trolleys were in turn replaced by omnibuses in 1940 and 1951. The city circle omnibus-route was opened in 1932, and all-night services were started in 1946. In 1953, when the last tramcar routes-to Erdington, Pype Hayes, and Short Heath-were replaced by omnibus-routes, the transport department had nearly 1,800 omnibuses, running 50 million miles a year, carrying 500 million passengers, and taking £6 million in receipts. (fn. 352)

Of the other trading services, gas and electricity were originally supplied by commercial companies. The Birmingham Gas Light and Coke Co. and the Birmingham and Staffs. Gas Light Co. were established under Acts of 1819 and 1825 respectively. (fn. 353) The area covered by each company was enlarged in the middle of the 19th century, (fn. 354) and both companies were taken over by the corporation in 1875. (fn. 355) The municipal profits from gas-supply rose to a peak of £84,000 in 1912-13. (fn. 356) When the gas service was nationalized in 1949 capital expenditure had amounted to £8 million. (fn. 357) Electricity was first supplied in Birmingham in 1882. (fn. 358) From 1891 it was provided by the Birmingham Electric Supply Co. Ltd. under an Act of 1883, (fn. 359) and was taken over by the corporation in 1899. (fn. 360) In 1914-15, by which time electricity was not only rivalling gas but had caused a reduction in the receipts from gas-supply, the municipal profits from supplying electricity were £25,000. (fn. 361) The capital expenditure on the electricity service amounted to £28 million by 1948 when the service was transferred to the British Electricity Authority. (fn. 362)

The acquisition of parks and recreation grounds by the corporation can be traced back to 1844, when an unsuccessful effort was made to obtain a public park. (fn. 363) Ten years later an Act for establishing parks in Birmingham (fn. 364) was passed in connexion with the corporation's intention, not fulfilled until 1864, to acquire Aston Hall and Park. (fn. 365) In 1856 Adderley Park was presented to the corporation, and by 1880 three more parks had been bought and four had been given to the corporation. (fn. 366) Smaller areas were opened as recreation grounds, but a new departure was made in 1888 when 83 acres in Rednal (outside the modern city boundary) were bought. (fn. 367) In the 20th century the emphasis has been on recreation grounds and playing-fields rather than parks. (fn. 368) In 1950 there were 36 parks comprising 1,491 acres, and 113 recreation grounds, varying greatly in size, comprising 2,235 acres. The corporation's parks committee, which was separated from the baths and parks committee in 1911, became responsible in 1919 for municipal cemeteries, which had formerly been managed by the estates committee. Apart from Witton cemetery, opened in 1863, the corporation took over Yardley (1883), Lodge Hill (1895), Brandwood End (1899), and Handsworth (1909) cemeteries when the local authorities formerly owning them were merged with the city in 1911, and opened a new cemetery at Quinton in 1923. (fn. 369)

Birmingham alone opened a municipal bank under the Act of 1916, which imposed severe limitations on the bank's activities. These were removed by a new Act in 1919, when the title of the bank was changed from the Birmingham Corporation Savings Bank to the Birmingham Municipal Bank, the permanence of the bank established, and the normal method of making deposits and withdrawals adopted. The Act of 1919 also authorized the setting up of branch banks, of which there were 66 in 1950. The bank was situated at first in a basement, and was given new quarters in the council house in 1919. A new head office was opened in Edmund Street in 1925; this was replaced by one in Broad Street in 1933. (fn. 370)

In addition to those already mentioned the council provides services through the following administrative departments: agriculture and smallholdings, allotments, central areas management (which administers property scheduled for redevelopment), civic catering, civil defence, traffic, and weights and measures. (fn. 371)

The post office was never a municipal service. The earliest recorded Birmingham postmaster was Ralph Castlon, postmaster in 1637. (fn. 372) The first post office, dating from c. 1657, was a house adjacent to the 'Crown' inn near Union Passage. (fn. 373) Expansion seems to have been rapid and in September 1677 the postmaster paid in £92, nearly twice the amount sent in by Bristol or York. (fn. 374) The Birmingham post office did, however, suffer from competition with private carriers who continued to operate in spite of the 1711 Act prohibiting private delivery. (fn. 375) There were only three post-days a week between Birmingham and London and the charges of the postal authorities were so high that private collection and delivery were profitable. In 1748, however, six-days-a-week service was established and prosecution was threatened against illegal collectors. (fn. 376) In 1767 the postmistress moved the office to the upper end of Peck Lane. (fn. 377) A local penny-post was established in 1793. Letters were received in a number of grocers' shops and sent four times a day to the post office which was by then in a small, plain two-story house in New Street. (fn. 378) The construction c. 1825 of Bennett's Hill, caused the post office to be moved to a 'more official' building in the new road. (fn. 379) The Bennett's Hill building could only accommodate four of the public at a time and in 1842 the post office moved a fifth time, to a larger building in New Street. (fn. 380) This in turn proved to be inadequate, especially as business increased in the years after the introduction nationally of the penny-post, and in 1873 the post office moved again to larger premises in Paradise Street. (fn. 381) The east building of the present head post office, situated between Hill Street and Pinfold Street, was opened in 1891. The west building was added in 1917. (fn. 382)

Birmingham had a telegraph office, operated by the Electric Telegraph Company, in 1847. (fn. 383) By 1870, when the post office acquired control, there were three private companies operating in Birmingham-the Electric and International Company, the British and Irish Magnetic Company, and the United Kingdom Telegraph Company. (fn. 384) A telephone service was first provided in 1879 when the Midland Telephone Company Ltd. opened an exchange in Exchange Chambers, New Street. The Provincial Telephone Company Ltd. which acquired the Midland Company, was itself absorbed by the National Telephones Company Ltd. This company's property was transferred to the post office in 1912. (fn. 385) The present telephone exchange, at Telephone House, Newhall Street, was opened in 1937. (fn. 386)


  • 1. This section was completed in 1958, with minor additions up to 1960.
  • 2. See pp. 73-75.
  • 3. J. Hill, 'Old Families of Birm.' T.B.A.S. (1884-5), 78; to say, as there, that Birm. had its own prison seems a little far-fetched.
  • 4. Cal. Pat. 1391-6, 137.
  • 5. 1553 Survey, 108n.
  • 6. Ibid. 71, 108.
  • 7. Hist. Corp. i. 4, 12. There are two court rolls for 1544 and 1545 which contain only essoins: Gill, Mid. Hist. 116.
  • 8. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 89.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. B.R.L. 276547 (deed of 1805). An earlier site may be indicated by the name Pinfold St.
  • 11. See p. 324.
  • 12. The presentment of nuisances was included in the charge to the jury printed in T. Lee, The Duty of the Respective Officers appointed by the Court Leet in the Manor of Birm. (Birm. 1791; reprinted in Hist. Corp. 5-11), but the court would have been concerned only with nuisances outside the urban area.
  • 13. An Act for the... recovery of small debts in Birm.... 25 Geo. II, c.34, which prevented the court of requests from hearing actions that lay in 'the ancient court baron' held by the lord of the manor in Birm. This is the only known reference to a court baron after the 16th cent. Perhaps the clause was to safeguard unused rights; perhaps 'court leet' was meant.
  • 14. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 83-99.
  • 15. 'The duties of office are little known, except that of taking a generous dinner, which is punctually observed': Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 89. It is clear, however, that Hutton took an unfairly cynical view.
  • 16. Hist. Corp. i. 5-7, quoting Lee, op. cit.
  • 17. Gill, Hist. Birm. 117; Harvest Home, ed. Pratt, i. 264.
  • 18. Hist. Corp. i. 15.
  • 19. Ibid. 7, quoting Lee, op. cit. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 88, says that the jury chose the officers 'generally with prudence'; it is not clear whether he is applauding their impartiality or commending their partisan selections (he was himself a dissenter), and perhaps he was being simply condescending.
  • 20. Hist. Corp. i. 15-20. On each occasion it was decided, after an interval, that the jury had been improperly constituted.
  • 21. See p. 251.
  • 22. Hist. Corp. i. 7-12, quoting Lee, who does not mention the affeerors, Bunce's source for which was probably Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 88. An idea of the type of offence coming before the court is given by Bunce's extracts from the court rolls. See also Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 80.
  • 23. See p. 337.
  • 24. Birm. parish, Report to the Guardians of the Poor, 1845, 3 (B.R.L. 73400).
  • 25. Briggs, Hist. Birm. 334.
  • 26. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 228; see p. 43.
  • 27. Gill, Hist. Birm. 171.
  • 28. Ibid. 148.
  • 29. Hist. Corp. i. 21-30; J. Toulmin Smith, English Gilds (E.E.T.S. xl), 239-40; but cf. Gill, Hist. Birm. 24.
  • 30. Toulmin Smith, English Gilds, 247-50.
  • 31. See pp. 31, and 563-4. The occurrence of the master of the guild as a witness to deeds of 1481-1512 (B.R.L. 476680, 467548, 277139, 120826) indicates no more than that he was a prominent inhabitant.
  • 32. For poor-law and highway purposes St. Martin's and St. Philip's parishes (separated ecclesiastically in 1708) remained a single parish.
  • 33. Gill, Hist. Birm. 71, where extensive use is made of the 18th cent. Town Books.
  • 34. The street commissioners, unlike the leet jury, made complaints from time to time about the parochial surveyors'neglect of their responsibilities: Gill, Hist. Birm. 167.
  • 35. Gill, Hist. Birm. 71-2.
  • 36. See p. 326.
  • 37. Gill, Hist. Birm. 71.
  • 38. Ibid. 70. In 1828 the street commissioners were empowered to purchase and remove the public weighing machine in Snow Hill, the property of the guardians and overseers: Act for better paving... the Town of Birm. 9 Geo. IV, c. 54 (local act).
  • 39. City of Birm. Official Handbk. (1950), 127. The churchwardens contributed later to the cost of a new fireengine: Gill, Hist. Birm. 70.
  • 40. Gill, Hist. Birm. 72.
  • 41. Ibid. 181; Act to authorize raising of money [for]... prison and public offices in... Birm. 49 Geo. III, c. 81 (local act). See also p. 325.
  • 42. See pp. 326, 337, 350.
  • 43. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1806), 308-10; (1819) 310-12.
  • 44. Ibid. (1781), 221.
  • 45. M. McNaulty, 'Some aspects of the administration of the poor laws in Birm. between 1730 and 1834' (M.A. thesis, Birm. Univ. 1942), 88. The author's permission to draw upon the material in this thesis is gratefully acknowledged.
  • 46. Act for providing a proper workhouse. . . 23 Geo. III, c. 54.
  • 47. e.g. B.R.L. 176958 (lease of 1708); B.R.L. 181775 (lease of 1739).
  • 48. cf. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 123.
  • 49. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1806), 99.
  • 50. 1st Rep. Com. Poor Laws, App. B.2, H.C. 44, p. 239 (1834), xxxvi.
  • 51. Gill, Hist. Birm. 151. Wm. Hutton was among the most outspoken opponents: Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1819), 316 sqq.
  • 52. 59 Geo. III, c. 12.
  • 53. Act for better regulating the poor. . . of Birm. 1 & 2 Wm. IV, c. 67 (local act).
  • 54. Rules and Regulations of the Guardians of the Poor. . . of Birm. (1841), 5-9 (B.R.L. 64250).
  • 55. 1st Rep. Com. Poor Laws, App. B. 2, H.C. 44, p. 239 f. (1834), xxxv. The number of assistant overseers had fallen to 8 by 1845: Birm. parish, Rep. to the Guardians of the Poor, 1845, pp. 3-4 (B.R.L. 73400).
  • 56. Rules and Regulations. . . (1841), 9 (B.R.L. 64250).
  • 57. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 216-17; see p. 43.
  • 58. 23 Geo. III, c. 54.
  • 59. McNaulty, 'Poor laws in Birm.' 28.
  • 60. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), pl. facing p. 215, and map, pp. 104-5.
  • 61. McNaulty, 'Poor laws in Birm.' 181.
  • 62. Harvest Home, ed. S. J. Pratt, i. 377.
  • 63. McNaulty, 'Poor laws in Birm.' 181; Gill, Hist. Birm. 152.
  • 64. Rules and Regulations. . . (1841) (B.R.L. 64250); Rep. to the Guardians of the Poor, 1845 (B.R.L. 73400).
  • 65. Langford, Birm. Life, i. 340 sqq. Earlier schemes, to bring employment into the workhouse, had failed: Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1819), 317-18. There were also attempts, apparently unsuccessful, in 1786 and 1816 to provide work on the roads: Gill, Hist. Birm. 167, 189.
  • 66. 1st Rep. Com. Poor Laws, App. B. 2, H.C. 44, p. 239 g (1834), xxxv.
  • 67. Harvest Home, ed. Pratt, i. 377, 467-8.
  • 68. 1st Rep. Com. Poor Laws, App. B. 2, H.C. 44, p. 239 g (1834), xxxv.
  • 69. Rules and Regulations. . . (1841) (B.R.L. 64250).
  • 70. Rep. to the Guardians of the Poor, 1845 (B.R.L. 73400).
  • 71. 1st Rep. Com. Poor Laws, App. B.2, H.C. 44, p. 239 h (1834), xxxvi.
  • 72. Ibid.
  • 73. [H. Knight], Observations on the relief of cases of outdoor poor in Birm. [Birm. 1838] (B.R.L. 63680).
  • 74. Rules and Regulations. . . (1841) (B.R.L. 64250); Rep. to the Guardians of the Poor, 1845 (B.R.L. 73400). Between 1841 and 1845 the number of relieving officers was increased to 5.
  • 75. McNaulty, 'Poor Laws in Birm.' 181; 1st Rep. Com. Poor Laws, App. B.2, H.C. 44, p. 239 g (1834), xxxv; B.R.L. 63680.
  • 76. St. Martin's and St. Philip's were not separated for poor-law purposes.
  • 77. L.G.B. Prov. Order (1910) Conf. Act (No. 13), 1 & 2 Geo. V, c. 36 (local act).
  • 78. Briggs, Hist. Birm. 340.
  • 79. 19 & 20 Geo. V, c. 17.
  • 80. Harvest Home, ed. Pratt, i. 265; cf. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 220.
  • 81. 1st Rep. Com. Poor Laws, App. B. 2, H.C. 44, p. 239 i (1834), xxxvi; cf. p. 90.
  • 82. e.g. Rep. on pauperism in Birm. and Aston, H.C. 128 (1856), xlix, which repeats much of a report of 1840.
  • 83. Aston Union claimed to have, per head of population, an expenditure on the poor lower than any other union: W. Fowler, The Poor Law in Aston Union (Birm. 1873), 3 (B.R.L. 210145).
  • 84. Ret. of poor relief in fifty of the principal towns, H.C. 309 (1856), xlix.
  • 85. Rep. Royal Com. Poor Laws [Cd. 4499], pp. 1069-72, 1102, H.C. (1909), xxxvii.
  • 86. Hist. Corp. v(2), 538; B.R.L. 66908 (annual reps.); Aston and King's Norton Unions were also among the first to have such homes: Poor Law Children (Cottage Homes), H.C. 145, p. 2 (1903), lix.
  • 87. Gill, Hist. Birm. 156-7. Professor Gill's work on the history of the street commissioners, based on a detailed study of their minutes, has been extensively drawn upon in the succeeding paragraphs.
  • 88. An Act for laying open and widening &c. ('The Lamp Act'), 9 Geo. III, c. 83.
  • 89. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 102.
  • 90. An Act to amend an Act for laying open, &c. 13 Geo. III, c. 36.
  • 91. An Act to alter and enlarge the powers of two Acts, &c. 41 Geo. III, c. 39 (local act).
  • 92. An Act for better paving, &c. . . . 52 Geo. III, c. 113 (local act).
  • 93. An Act for better paving, &c. 9 Geo. IV, c. 54 (local act).
  • 94. 14 & 15 Vic. c. 93 (local act).
  • 95. 9 Geo. III, c. 83; 13 Geo. III, c. 36.
  • 96. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 100.
  • 97. Gill, Hist. Birm. 171, 175.
  • 98. The officers were by no means all adequate to their tasks: Gill, Hist. Birm. 165.
  • 99. 41 Geo. III, c. 39 (local act); 52 Geo. III, c. 113 (local act); 9 Geo. IV, c. 54 (local act).
  • 100. 9 Geo. III, c. 83.
  • 101. Gill, Hist. Birm. 181-2, 197-8; see p. 43.
  • 102. 52 Geo. III, c. 113 (local act).
  • 103. Gill, Hist. Birm. 165.
  • 104. 9 Geo. III, c. 83; 13 Geo. III, c. 36; 41 Geo. III, c. 39 (local act); 52 Geo. III, c. 113 (local act); 9 Geo. IV, c. 54 (local act).
  • 105. Gill, Hist. Birm. 181-2.
  • 106. 9 Geo. III, c. 83; Hanson, Plan of Birm. (1778) (plate facing p. 7).
  • 107. 13 Geo. III, c. 36; 41 Geo. III, c. 39 (local act); 9 Geo. IV, c. 54 (local act).
  • 108. Hanson, Plan of Birm. (1778, 1781).
  • 109. Gill, Hist. Birm. 171.
  • 110. Kempson, Map of Birm. in 1810.
  • 111. Gill, Hist. Birm. 168.
  • 112. Ibid. 192.
  • 113. 9 Geo. III, c. 83.
  • 114. See pp. 340, 341 sqq.
  • 115. 9 Geo. III, c. 83; 13 Geo. III, c. 36; 41 Geo. III, c. 39 (local act).
  • 116. 41 Geo. III, c. 39 (local act).
  • 117. 52 Geo. III, c. 113 (local act).
  • 118. 9 Geo. IV, c. 54 (local act); Gill, Hist. Birm. 187n.
  • 119. 41 Geo. III, c. 39 (local act).
  • 120. 52 Geo. III, c. 113 (local act).
  • 121. See p. 251.
  • 122. See p. 337.
  • 123. Gill, Hist. Birm. 197-9.
  • 124. 9 Geo. IV, c. 54 (local act).
  • 125. D.N.B. sub Hansom; W. S. Body, Birm. and its Civic Managers (1828), 30; see p. 236. See also pp. 43-44 for the architectural history of the town hall.
  • 126. Hist. Corp. i. 108.
  • 127. C.J. xcix. 173.
  • 128. Gill, Hist. Birm. 346-7. The commissioners brought a Bill before the House of Commons, but it did not get beyond a first reading: C.J. c. 130.
  • 129. Ibid. 348-57.
  • 130. Birm. Improvement Act, 1851, 14 & 15 Vic. c. 93 (local act).
  • 131. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1795), 376.
  • 132. 5 & 6 Wm. IV, c. 76.
  • 133. Gill, Hist. Birm. 216-19.
  • 134. See pp. 273-4.
  • 135. Hist. Corp. i. 99. Neither is mentioned in Langford, Birm. Life.
  • 136. Hist. Corp. i. 102-41, where the whole story is told in detail.
  • 137. The charter is printed in Hist. Corp. i. 359-66.
  • 138. Hist. Corp. i. 153-62. Four candidates were on both the Radical and the Tory list: each headed the poll for his ward.
  • 139. Hist. Corp. i. 171-9.
  • 140. For an account of the local hostility see ibid. 286-7.
  • 141. 5 & 6 Wm. IV, c. 76, s. 151, says that the Crown might grant a charter on a petition from the 'inhabitant householders', but does not say whether unanimity on their part, or even a numerical majority, was a necessary condition.
  • 142. Gill, Hist. Birm. 256.
  • 143. Hist. Corp. i. 226, where the distinction is made between a statutory borough and a prerogative or commonlaw borough.
  • 144. Hist. Corp. i. 184-267.
  • 145. 2 & 3 Vic. c. 88.
  • 146. Hist. Corp. i. 252-3.
  • 147. Gill, Hist. Birm. 265. The advice came from the same counsel as in 1839.
  • 148. Gill, Hist. Birm. 265-6.
  • 149. Ibid. 267-8.
  • 150. Borough Charters Confirmation Act, 5 & 6 Vic. c. 111.
  • 151. Manchester &c. Police Act, 5 & 6 Vic. c. 117. This Act extended the earlier Police Act (2 & 3 Vic. c. 88), which was due to expire at the end of the session, to 1 Oct. thus enabling the corporation to prepare for the assumption of powers under the Municipal Corporations Act, 1835.
  • 152. Hist. Corp. i. 359-65.
  • 153. Lond. Gaz. 1873, pp. 3380-4.
  • 154. The number of voters in the new wards varied between 2,696 and 4,648, the boundaries being drawn to anticipate further population movements; in the old wards it had varied between 935 and 8,936: Hist. Corp. ii. 508. The number of voters increased from 7,000 in 1852 to 68,380 in 1875: Hist. Corp. ii. 519.
  • 155. Hist. Corp. iii. 2, 20.
  • 156. Ibid. iv. 28.
  • 157. Local Govt. Bd.'s Prov. Order Conf. (No. 13) Act, 1 & 2 Geo. V, c. 36 (local act).
  • 158. Hist. Corp. v. 597.
  • 159. Ibid. 60.
  • 160. Ibid. 631-41. The new wards were Bromford, Hall Green, and Stechford. The area of Erdington was divided between wards called Erdington and Gravelly Hill, instead of Erdington North and Erdington South.
  • 161. Hist. Corp. vi. 106-7. The ward names that dropped out were St. Mary's, St. Bartholomew's, and Bromford. New ward names were Stockland Green, Springfield, Brandwood, Weoley, Kingstanding, Sheldon, Fox Hollies.
  • 162. See p. 329.
  • 163. See p. 327.
  • 164. 14 & 15 Vic. c. 51 (local act).
  • 165. Gill, Hist. Birm. 453-4; see pp. 232-3, 352.
  • 166. 24 & 25 Vic. c. 206 (local act).
  • 167. Briggs, Hist. Birm. 352.
  • 168. 46 & 47 Vic. c. 120 (local act).
  • 169. Briggs, Hist. Birm. 353.
  • 170. See p. 3.
  • 171. Local Govt. Act, 51 & 52 Vic. c. 41.
  • 172. Kelly's Dir. Birm. (1908), 1.
  • 173. See pp. 342, 343.
  • 174. See pp. 351, 352, 496-7.
  • 175. Briggs, Hist. Birm. 355. See p. 346.
  • 176. See p. 352.
  • 177. See p. 323.
  • 178. See p. 346.
  • 179. See pp. 349-50, 352.
  • 180. National Assistance Act, 11 & 12 Geo. VI, c. 29.
  • 181. Briggs, Hist. Birm. 120.
  • 182. Hist. Corp. iv. 47-8.
  • 183. Ibid. ii. 12-16; iii. 13; iv. 47-8.
  • 184. Ibid. iv. 48-9.
  • 185. Briggs, Hist. Birm. 120-1.
  • 186. Hist. Corp. vi. 151.
  • 187. Hist. Corp. v. 598.
  • 188. Birm. Official Handbk. (1950), 50. Two of the cttees. then existing, the electric-supply and the gas cttees., were soon afterwards dissolved, as a result of nationalization.
  • 189. Hist. Corp. i. 153-62.
  • 190. See Briggs, Hist. Birm. 164-79.
  • 191. Gill, Hist. Birm. 409-43.
  • 192. Briggs, Hist. Birm. 130.
  • 193. J. L. Garvin, Life of Joseph Chamberlain, ii. 198-219.
  • 194. Briggs, Hist. Birm. 188, 190, 321.
  • 195. Hist. Corp. v. 597.
  • 196. Briggs, Hist. Birm. 321.
  • 197. The Times, 2 Nov. 1945, 4; 2 Nov. 1946, 2.
  • 198. Hist. Corp. ii. 20-1. Neither the Deritend and Bordesley St. Commrs. nor the Edgbaston vestry had incurred any debt.
  • 199. Hist. Corp. ii. 21.
  • 200. Ibid. 43-4.
  • 201. Ibid. iv. 3.
  • 202. Ibid. ii. 46; iv. 56.
  • 203. Ibid. v. 95; vi. 146; Municipal Year Bk. (1959), 727.
  • 204. When the education grant was first paid to the corporation instead of to the school board.
  • 205. Hist. Corp. ii. 61; iii. 54; iv. 66; vi. 128.
  • 206. Ibid. v. 86.
  • 207. Ibid. ii. 37.
  • 208. Ibid. iv. 55; v. 68.
  • 209. Ibid. iv. 51; v. 66; vi. 112. Nationalization in 1948 and 1949 transferred about £40 million of invested capital from the corporation.
  • 210. Hist. Corp. ii. 520-3; iv. 191.
  • 211. Ibid. i. 174.
  • 212. Ibid. ii. 547.
  • 213. Gill, Hist. Birm. 424, 431; Briggs, Hist. Birm. 116.
  • 214. Hist. Corp. ii. 548. The town clerk at first used his private offices; the mayor had no room provided by the corporation until 1862.
  • 215. See p. 45.
  • 216. Hist. Corp. ii. 548-50; Birm. Official Handbk. (1950), 27.
  • 217. Hist. Corp. iii. 256; iv. 382-6, 520.
  • 218. Ibid. v. 570-4; vi. 571.
  • 219. Birm. Official Handbk. (1958), 23, 69, 145, 179, 197; Kelly's Dir. Birm. (1960).
  • 220. See pp. 4, 329 sqq.
  • 221. B.R.L. 294957.
  • 222. Ibid. 347851-911.
  • 223. Other court rolls in B.R.L. are:-Aston: 277421-2; Bordesley: 277411, 277401, 277413; Erdington: 292201, 348910, 349811, 347912, 347955. There are also numerous extracts, lists of suitors, and copies of court rolls, e.g. King's Norton: 335754-5, 252286, 252261, 252277-8. See also, for Handsworth, Gill, Midland Hist. 179-84; for Perry and Little Bar, D.L. 30/111/1674-5 and 1679; Hist. MSS. Com. Middleton, 310-11
  • 224. See p. 62.
  • 225. F. S. Pearson, 'The Manor of Northfield and Weoley in the Reign of Henry VI', T.B.A.S. xx. 29, and 'The History of the Manor of Northfield and Weoley', T.B.A.S. xxii. 36.
  • 226. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 89, where Deritend is described as a hamlet of Birm.
  • 227. See map facing p. 1.
  • 228. 29th Rep. Com. Char. pt. 2, H.C. 216, p. 1006 (1835), xxi (2).
  • 229. See p. 23.
  • 230. Census, 1801-51.
  • 231. H.C. Reps. from Cttees. (reprinted 1803), ix. 458, 477-8, 489, 671, 686, 694-5.
  • 232. Rep. Com. Poor Laws, App. B.1, pts. 2-3, H.C. 44, pp. 591b, 591c (1834), xxxi-xxxii.
  • 233. W. Fowler, The Poor Law. . . in Aston Union (Birm. 1873), 3-10.
  • 234. 31 Geo. III, c. 17.
  • 235. 10 Geo. IV, c.6 (local act).
  • 236. Hist. Corp. i. 177.
  • 237. Ibid. ii. 20-1.
  • 238. Ibid. i. 177.
  • 239. e.g. water; and in dealing with serious fires the neighbouring brigades relied on help from Birm.
  • 240. Hist. Corp. iv. 27.
  • 241. Briggs, Hist. Birm. 147.
  • 242. A. H. Saxton, Bygone Erdington (Erdington, 1928), 37.
  • 243. See p. 50.
  • 244. F. W. Hackwood, Handsworth Old and New (1908), 73-5.
  • 245. See e.g. King's Norton and Northfield U.D.C. Mins. of Proceedings, 1904 (B.R.L. 236881); Handsworth U.D. Year Bk. (1906) (B.R.L. 204325).
  • 246. B.R.L. 284248.
  • 247. Hackwood, Handsworth Old and New, 74.
  • 248. Hist. Corp. iv. 357.
  • 249. B.R.L. 259184.
  • 250. Hist. Corp. iv. 357.
  • 251. H. Klopper, The Fight against Fire, 35-6.
  • 252. An Act for the more easy and speedy recovery of small debts in Birm. . . . and. . . Deritend, 25 Geo. II, c. 34.
  • 253. 47 Geo. III, c. 14.
  • 254. Hist. Corp. i. 366. The court could not try actions which concerned title to real property.
  • 255. Hist. Corp. ii. 254-5.
  • 256. An Act to authorize raising of money [for]. . . prison and Public Offices in. . . Birm. 49 Geo. III, c. 81 (local act).
  • 257. See p. 329.
  • 258. Hist. Corp. ii. 257-67.
  • 259. Ibid. 259-60.
  • 260. Ibid. v. 376.
  • 261. Ibid. vi. 420.
  • 262. Lond. Gaz. 1884, p. 2791.
  • 263. Hist. Corp. ii. 269-72.
  • 264. Ibid. iii. 211.
  • 265. Ibid. 210; see p. 45.
  • 266. Hist. Corp. vi. 422-3.
  • 267. Ibid. i. 7.
  • 268. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1835), 412.
  • 269. See p. 318.
  • 270. Birm. City Police Centenary (1939), 8. The precise function and usefulness of the 'thief-takers' is not known.
  • 271. Gill, Hist. Birm. 72.
  • 272. An Act to amend an Act for laying open certain ways &c. 13 Geo. III, c. 36.
  • 273. Gill, Hist. Birm. 449.
  • 274. Ibid. 174.
  • 275. An Act for better paving, &c. 52 Geo. III, c. 113 (local act).
  • 276. Birm. City Police Centenary (1939), 7.
  • 277. Ibid. 9.
  • 278. See p. 329.
  • 279. 2 & 3 Vic. c. 88.
  • 280. Birm. City Police Centenary (1939), 14-16.
  • 281. Ibid. 21.
  • 282. See p. 329.
  • 283. Birm. City Police Centenary (1939), 24-5.
  • 284. Hist. Corp. ii. 273-4.
  • 285. Ibid. 276; iii. 219-20.
  • 286. Ibid. iii. 220, 223; v. 360.
  • 287. Birm. City Police Centenary (1939), 29, 37.
  • 288. In 1950: Hist. Corp. vi. 409.
  • 289. Hist. Corp. v. 357; vi. 410.
  • 290. See p. 318.
  • 291. Gill, Hist. Birm. 68, 71.
  • 292. J. Howard, State of the Prisons (1780 edn.), 269.
  • 293. An Act to authorize raising of money [for]. . . prison and Public Offices in Birm. 49 Geo. III, c. 81 (local act).
  • 294. Gill, Hist. Birm. 277.
  • 295. B.R.L. 233279.
  • 296. Hist. Corp. ii. 312.
  • 297. Ibid.
  • 298. See Rep. Birm. Prison Commrs. [1809], H.C. (1854), xxxi. The facts given there are summarized in S. and B. Webb, Eng. Prisons under Local Govt. 169-76 (where they are also shown in their national context), and in Hist. Corp. ii. 313-14.
  • 299. Rep. Birm. Prison Commrs. p. v. The new governor's qualifications were slight: Rep. Birm. Prison Commrs. p. iv.
  • 300. Rep. Birm. Prison Commrs. p. xxxvi.
  • 301. S. and B. Webb, Eng. Prisons under Local Govt. 175.
  • 302. Hist. Corp. ii. 314.
  • 303. This account is based largely on Hist. Corp., Gill, Hist. Birm., and Briggs, Hist. Birm. The first of these summarizes the most important sources for the history of public health in the city, the reports of medical officers and of the various committees and departments, and the provisions of local and public Acts. Unless otherwise stated these works are the sources of facts given in the article. For discussion of workers' housing, from an architectural point of view, see pp. 51-57.
  • 304. See pp. 43, 218, and plate facing p. 327.
  • 305. See pp. 43, 44.
  • 306. G. Griffith, Hist. of Free Schools (London, 1861); W. H. Wynn, The Gen. Hospital, Birm.
  • 307. See West, Dir. Warws. (1830), and White, Dir. Warws. (1850).
  • 308. Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1781), 101.
  • 309. Ibid. (1795), 77.
  • 310. See pp. 324 sqq.
  • 311. See W. M. Frazer, Hist. of Eng. Public Health 1834- 1939, 33-49.
  • 312. See p. 53 for housing conditions.
  • 313. City of Birm. Abstract of Statistics iii. 1952-3.
  • 314. Ibid.
  • 315. See p. 10.
  • 316. cf. p. 135.
  • 317. See p. 56.
  • 318. Abstract of Statistics.
  • 319. Frazer, Hist. Eng. Pub. Health, 188-93.
  • 320. See p. 498.
  • 321. Frazer, Hist. Eng. Pub. Health, 301 sqq.
  • 322. See pp. 22, 23, 56.
  • 323. cf. pp. 53, 57.
  • 324. 'Towards a New Birm.' Municipal Jnl. 4 Dec. 1953.
  • 325. See also p. 499.
  • 326. Abstract of Statistics; B.R.L. Scrapbooks: Housing; see p. 57.
  • 327. B.R.L. Scrapbooks: Housing; Rep. by Medical Officer of Health on the Housing Survey, 1946; see also p. 14.
  • 328. B.R.L. Scrapbooks: Corporation; Abstract of Statistics; Municipal Jnl. 4 Dec. 1953; The Municipal Year Bk. (London, 1957).
  • 329. A. E. Harris, Hist. of Birm. Tame and Rea District Drainage Board; Birm. Tame and Rea District Drainage Board, Reports.
  • 330. H. A. Crick and A. H. Buffham, Mental Nursing; B.R.L. Scrapbooks: Hospitals.
  • 331. Kelly's Dir. Birm. (1890, 1908).
  • 332. Wynn, Gen. Hosp. Birm.
  • 333. S. Barnes, The Birm. Hospitals Centre; B.R.L. Scrapbooks: Hospitals. For an illustration of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital see plate facing p. 327.
  • 334. Renamed the Summerfield Hospital, 1954: B.R.L. Scrapbooks: Hospitals.
  • 335. A Ready Reference to Services of Public Health Dept. and Executive Counc. 1955.
  • 336. See pp. 486 sqq.
  • 337. See pp. 251-2.
  • 338. See pp. 232-3.
  • 339. See p. 320.
  • 340. Gill, Hist. Birm. 72.
  • 341. Hist. Corp. v. 394.
  • 342. Klopper, Fight against Fire, 8-10.
  • 343. Ibid. 20-31.
  • 344. Hist. Corp. ii. 310.
  • 345. Klopper, Fight against Fire, 34-6, 50.
  • 346. Ibid. 56.
  • 347. Hist. Corp. v. 390.
  • 348. See p. 46.
  • 349. Klopper, Fight against Fire, 74-5, 97.
  • 350. City of Birm. Transport Dept. 1904-54 (1954, jubilee brochure, unpaginated).
  • 351. Hist. Corp. ii. 90-4; iii. 88-95.
  • 352. City of Birm. Transport Dept. 1904-54.
  • 353. 59 Geo. III, c. 68 (local act); 6 Geo. IV, c. 79 (local act).
  • 354. 8 & 9 Vic. c. 66; 18 Vic. c. 48; 27 & 28 Vic. c. 239 (all local acts).
  • 355. 38 & 39 Vic. c. 178 (local act); enlarged in 1819 to include Northfield and Yardley: 42 & 43 Vic. c. 130 (local act).
  • 356. Hist. Corp. iv. 65; see p. 206.
  • 357. Hist. Corp. vi. 126.
  • 358. See p. 207; Briggs, Hist. Birm. 97-9.
  • 359. 46 & 47 Vic. c. 215 (local act).
  • 360. 62 & 63 Vic. c. 169 (local act).
  • 361. Hist. Corp. iv. 65.
  • 362. Ibid. vi. 126.
  • 363. Ibid. ii. 194.
  • 364. 17 & 18 Vic. c. 113 (local act).
  • 365. See p. 61.
  • 366. Hist. Corp. ii. 194-203.
  • 367. Ibid. iii. 158.
  • 368. Ibid. iv. 230 sqq.; v. 429 sqq.; vi. 455 sqq.
  • 369. Ibid. v. 429, 446-7.
  • 370. Ibid. v. 462-7; vi. 499-500.
  • 371. Birm. Official Handbk. (1950), passim.
  • 372. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1637, 331. The postmaster in 1652 was Robert Girdler, father of the prominent local Parliamentarian: Cal. S.P. Dom. 1651-2. See p. 272 n. 38
  • 373. J. Wilson in Birm. Weekly Mercury, Oct. 1899.
  • 374. Post Office Cash Book 1677. Information from P.O. Records has been supplied by Mr. E. C. Baker, P.O. Archivist.
  • 375. 9 Anne, c. 11.
  • 376. Dent, Making of Birm. 100. Birm was important because it lay on the route to Ireland: Rep. from Sel. Cttee. on Postage, H.C. 564, p. 142 (1843), viii. See also p. 91.
  • 377. Ex inf. P.O. Archivist.
  • 378. Dent, Old and New Birm. 297; Dent, Making of Birm. 240.
  • 379. Dent, Making of Birm. 335; Hutton, Hist. Birm. (1835), 387 and illust. facing p. 378.
  • 380. Dent, Making of Birm. 450, 564-5.
  • 381. Ibid. 564-5.
  • 382. Ex inf. P.O. Archivist.
  • 383. C. Maybury Archer, Guide to the Electric Telegraph (1852), 42-43.
  • 384. Ex inf. P.O. Archivist.
  • 385. F.G.C. Baldwin, The History of the Telephone in U.K. 108-9.
  • 386. Ex inf. P.O. Archivist.