Part 2 out of 3
As for the unfortunate _Daily Press_, it fell into a very serious
decline, and finally expired somewhat suddenly in November, 1858. Its
successful rival remarked in a not over sympathetic paragraph that "it
went out like the snuff of a candle leaving behind it something of the
flavour of that domestic nuisance." I remember poor George Dawson, who
had lost a good deal of money through the failure of the _Birmingham
Daily Press_, thought the _Post's_ spiteful little obituary notice the
unkindest cut of all. For victors to crow over the vanquished in such
language he thought was worse than ungenerous, it was mean.
I will not now pause to say anything in detail concerning the
_Birmingham Daily Gazette_, started in 1862, the _Daily Mail_ in 1870,
the _Globe_ in 1879, the _Echo_ in 1883, the _Times_ in 1885, and the
_Argus_ in 1891. I must, however, just note that the most important new
journalistic venture in recent years was the production of the
_Birmingham Morning News_, which was started in 1871. This daily morning
paper was established on lines which should have led to a permanent
success. There was plenty of capital at its back.
Mr. George Dawson--whose name it was thought would be a tower of
strength--took an active part in its editorial work. It had an excellent
staff, and, in a journalistic sense and as a newspaper production, it
was a credit to itself and to the town.
The _Birmingham Morning News_ was carried on for some four years at a
very considerable loss, and just when it seemed to be about to turn the
corner and get into a more profitable groove, its capitalist proprietor
gave it up in disappointment and disgust. For one thing, he found it
difficult to get all the influential help he wanted in the news
department, and he was probably getting a little weary of putting money
into a basket that seemed to have no bottom to it. Yet it was believed
by those well experienced in newspaper management that another year
would have seen a favourable turn in the fortunes of the paper. The
costly ground baiting which is necessary in a newspaper establishment
had been done, and the expensive seed which has to be sown was about to
come up when the proprietor resolved to plough the paper up and so add
another to the formidable list of local newspaper failures.
In the grave of the _Birmingham Morning News_ were buried many hopes.
The proprietor hoped to make a fortune. Mr. Dawson hoped to make an
income and secure a still wider influence through its medium. Its rivals
hoped it would not succeed, and by its death and burial their hopes were
One little incident in connection with local journalism I must record
here as being something almost unique. I refer to the astounding sketch
Mr. H.J. Jennings--for many years editor of the _Birmingham Daily
Mail_--wrote of himself in 1889, and the circumstances that led to its
publication. After many years' connection with the _Daily. Mail_, Mr.
Jennings went over to another local evening paper, the _Daily Times_,
and by way of giving it a fillip he published in its columns a series of
papers on "Our Public Men."
That these sketches were not entirely flattering to the subjects of
them will be readily understood. Mr. Jennings always was a smart, spicy,
and sometimes even brilliant writer, but he could not help being more or
less cynical. He rather liked to stick the toasting fork into his
subjects, and then hold them pretty close to the bars of a decidedly hot
fire. The result was that many of them burned and smarted under the
ordeal. One of the victims went so far as to propose that this
self-appointed censor of public characters should be fought with his own
weapons, and have a taste of his own nasty physic. In a word it was
suggested that someone should draw Mr. H.J. Jennings' portrait on his
own lines after his own manner.
Mr. Jennings promptly took up the gauntlet that was thrown down and
immediately proceeded to write a sketch of himself, which appeared in
the _Birmingham Daily Times_ of May 29th, 1889, and was, perhaps, one of
the most daring and audacious feats of contemporary journalism on
record. If he had entrusted his task to his most bitter enemy it could
hardly have been more scathing than it was.
Mr. Jennings certainly did not blunt his steel when he proceeded to
operate upon himself. He did not spare himself, but dug the knife in and
turned it round. It was, indeed, a singularly curious piece of
biography, written with all the pungency and point its writer could
command, and it need hardly be said that such a sketch silenced the guns
of some of his foes and made something of a sensation in the town.
This clever and amazing article was a sort of dying swan's song so far
as Mr. Jennings and Birmingham were concerned. If I remember rightly,
soon after its appearance he severed his professional connection with
the town. He went to London and joined the staff of a financial journal.
Whether he has made his own fortune or the fortunes of others by his
London work I do not know and need not enquire. I will be content to
record the remarkable achievement I have mentioned in connection with
his Birmingham journalistic career.
One special reason why I am devoting some consideration and space to the
Birmingham press is because I wish to refer to one local publication
which had something to do, indirectly at least, with the making of
Modern Birmingham. I allude to the _Birmingham Town Crier_. This
serio-comic, satirical little paper was started in the year 1861, and
was for many years a monthly publication. On its first appearance it
created some stir by its original and, in some respects, unique
character, also by the general smartness and humour of its contents.
When it first appeared many were the guesses made as to its promoters
and contributors, and, so far as these came to my knowledge, not one
proved correct. Certain quite innocent men were credited with being
contributors to the new paper, and some of these did not deny the soft
impeachment. The general guessing, however, ranged very wide, and
included all sorts and conditions of men, from the Rev. Dr. Miller, then
rector of St. Martin's, to the bellman in the Market Hall. Considering
that the _Town Crier_ was started with a purpose, as I shall presently
show, and that it exerted some influence in its own way upon the
progress of the town, it is, I think, fitting that the story of its
early beginnings should be told, and I am in a position to tell the
As all the first contributors of the _Town Crier_ have ceased--most of
them long since ceased--to have any connection with the paper, there can
be no harm now in referring to its original staff, if only as a little
matter of local history. I may, therefore, place it on record that the
contributors to the first number of the _Town Crier_, which was
published in January, 1861, were Mr. Sam Timmins, Mr. J. Thackray Bunce,
Mr. G.J. Johnson, Dr. (then Mr.) Sebastian Evans, and the present
writer, Thomas Anderton.
Some two or three months after its first appearance the late Mr. John
Henry Chamberlain joined the staff, and a little later still Mr. William
Harris became one of the "table round." With this staff the paper was
carried on for many years, and with more or less success, according to
the point of view from which it was considered. Being of a satirical
character it, of course, often rapped certain people over the knuckles
in a way they did not appreciate. They naturally resented being chaffed
and held up to ridicule, but as there was nothing of a malicious or
private character in the sarcasms published any little soreness they
created soon died away.
One reason why the _Town Crier_ came into existence was because it was
felt that there were certain things, and perhaps certain people, who
could be best assailed and suppressed by ridicule. They could be laughed
and chaffed rather than reasoned out of existence. Certainly the paper
was not established with any idea of profit, nor for the gratification
of indulging in scurrilous personal attacks. It only dealt with public
affairs and with men in their public capacity. Indeed, I may say that
all the men connected with the _Town Crier_ at its starting were
interested in the good government and progress of the town, and they
used the influence of the paper for the purpose of removing stumbling
blocks, and putting incompetent and pretentious persons out of the way.
As so much interest has lately been created by the descriptions given of
the _Punch_ dinners and the doings of the _Punch_ staff, I may state
that the promoters of our local _Charivari_ also combined pleasant
social intercourse with their journalistic functions. The monthly
dinners of the _Town Crier_ staff remain in my memory as being among the
most delightful and genial evenings I have ever spent in my life. We met
at each other's houses, and after a nice satisfying dinner we proceeded
to pipes and paths of pleasantness, and to planning the contents for the
next number of our paper.
Large and hearty was the hilarity at these monthly meetings, and I
think I may say that the talk was interesting and smart. Mr. J.H.
Chamberlain was often positively brilliant in his little sallies of
speech, whilst Mr. J.T. Bunce would put in dry, sententious words of wit
and wisdom. Mr. G.J. Johnson laid down the law with pungent perspicuity,
and Mr. William Harris was amusingly epigrammatic. Mr. Sam Timmins on
these occasions was ever ready with an apt remark, very often containing
an apt quotation, and Mr. Sebastian Evans smoked and laughed much, made
incisive little observations, and drew sketches on blotting paper.
As we were all more or less interested in or concerned with the most
important matters that were then going on in the town, there was much to
be said that was worth saying and hearing. Even in the wheels that were
within wheels some of the _Town Crier_ men had spokes. A bank could not
break without some of us being concerned in the smash, and I remember
to my sorrow that when the Birmingham Banking Company came to grief I
was an unfortunate shareholder.
I do not think it necessary to say much more concerning the early days
of the publication in question. Its first promoters became busy, and, in
some cases, important men as time went on, and gradually they had to
give up their connection with a periodical whose pages for some years
they had done so much to enliven and adorn. The _Town Crier_, I think it
will be admitted, did good work in its own peculiar way, and those who
remain of its early promoters (and the small number has been thinned by
the death of Mr. J.H. Chamberlain and Mr. J.T. Bunce) need not be
ashamed to speak with the enemy at the gate--I mean, to own their former
connection with a publication which was not regarded as being
discreditable to its contributors, or to the town.
One matter in connection with the publication of the _Town Crier_ may be
mentioned as being curious, and perhaps a little surprising. It is
this: that during the many years that the paper was conducted by its
original promoters it steered clear of libel actions. In only one case
was an action even threatened, and this was disposed of by an accepted
little explanation and apology. We often used to hear rumours that
Alderman, Councillor, or Mr. Somebody intended wreaking vengeance upon
writers who had belaboured or ridiculed him; but these threats ended in
nothing, and the first proprietors of the _Town Crier_ never had to pay
even a farthing damages as the result of law proceedings. This is
something to record, because papers of a satirical character necessarily
sail pretty close to the wind in the way of provoking touchy people to
fly to law to soothe their wounded feelings and pay out their supposed
I confess I often used to shiver slightly in my shoes when I considered
the possible consequences of what I myself and others had written in the
_Town Crier_. The law of libel is a wide-spreading net, anything that
brings a man into ridicule or contempt or damages him in his trade or
profession being libellous. To criticize adversely a painter, actor, or
singer is necessarily damaging, and is really a libel, but to sustain an
action real damage must be proved, or it must be shown that malice and
ill-will have prompted the objectionable adverse opinions. But, as we
know, there are certain pettifogging men of law who are ever ready to
encourage people to bring actions for libel for the mere sake of getting
damages. I believe I have thus stated the case correctly, but I am not a
"limb of the law," not even an amputated limb, or a law student. I speak
from what I have seen in the Libel Acts and in the judgments I have
read. Having been one of the Press gang for many years, I have never
thought my liberties quite safe, and have often felt that any day I
might be brought up to the bar for judgment. But I escaped, even when I
was writing for the _Town Crier_, and have escaped since. But let me not
boast. Before these lines are read my ordinary clothes may be required
On the shelves of my small library are some bound volumes of the early
numbers of the _Birmingham Town Crier_, in which are some pencil marks.
If I should sooner or later have to retire to live _en pension_ at
Winson Green, or at the Bromsgrove or other Union, I hope to be able to
take these cherished books with me to look at from time to time, and to
keep green my memory of past pleasant days.
ITS VARIED AND ODD TRADES.
If some outside people were asked to name in three lines the three chief
trades of Birmingham they would probably answer by saying "Guns,"
"Hardware," and then, perhaps rather puzzled, might add "more guns."
This, however, would be a very bald and incomplete reply, and would
denote a somewhat benighted idea of the productive resources of
Birmingham. Gun and pistol making form a very important industry in the
city, and one ward--St. Mary's--is the happy hunting ground of small
firearm makers. All the same, gunmaking is not the be-all and end-all
of our manufacturing activity, and is, indeed, only one of the many and
increasing trades that thrive and progress in the midland hardware
It is, indeed, a distinct advantage for Birmingham that it has many
different trades, and if some are depressed and slack others may be
active and prosperous. Hence, there is generally business doing
somewhere. It is the misfortune of some towns and districts to be
devoted entirely to one or two industries. For instance, take
Manchester. If the cotton trade becomes depressed or paralysed
Cottonopolis soon becomes a starved-out city. Then there are textile
towns, boot and shoe boroughs, pottery districts, &c., &c. Birmingham,
however, is pretty smart at taking up new ideas, and does not let new
manufacturing industries go begging for a home. A certain number of
trades languish and die out owing to change of fashion and to certain
articles becoming obsolete. Snuffers and powder flasks, for instance,
are not in large demand in the present day. A limited number are still
made for travellers and for remote countries that have not cartridges,
the electric light, or even incandescent gas, within their reach.
Brass and pearl button making used to be important industries, and tons
of such wares used to be made in Birmingham in the course of a month.
Comparatively few are made now. Yet we are not exactly "buttonless
black-guards," as Cobbett--at least, I think it was Cobbett--once
disrespectfully called the Quakers, and buttons of various kinds other
than pearl and brass are turned out in barrow loads. I remember some
years ago going over the button factory of Messrs. Dain, Watts, and
Manton, an old-established business now carried on by Mr. J.S. Manton,
and was then shown a curious composition or kind of paste that could be
made into buttons useful for all sorts of purposes. On my asking what
the "button dough" was made of, Mr. Manton, I remember, gave me the
comprehensive reply, "anything."
All sorts of stuff having any substance in it was indeed thrown into a
kind of mortar, ground up, mixed with something that gave the mass
cohesion and plasticity, then moulded into buttons as clay is moulded by
the potter, and burned, dried, and hardened. Therefore, if brass and
pearl buttons are in limited demand, there are other materials from
which a new useful and cheap article can be made--the "very button" for
the time--and this is produced in much larger quantities than the more
costly articles of a few generations ago.
In spite, then, of changes in fashion, Birmingham is still--I will not
say a button hole, but a city where billions of buttons are made.
Witness, for instance, the turn-out of such a manufactory as that of
Thomas Carlyle, Limited. Here is a great and extended concern grafted
upon an old-established business, and which at the present time gives
employment, regularly, to over 1,000 hands. Buttons are made to go to
all people, save the rude and nude races, and a few odd millions
produced for home use. And speaking of all this reminds me how in the
days of my boyhood I sometimes saw a queer character known as "Billy
Button." He was a sight to behold, for he was decorated with buttons,
mostly brass, from top to toe, and presented a sight that was enough to
make a thoroughbred quaker swoon.
Birmingham, as I have remarked, is sufficiently enterprising not to let
opportunities slip through its fingers. Its trades are still increasing,
and increasing in number and variety, and though there is a tendency in
some of the big industries that do a large foreign trade to get nearer
to the sea-board, there are those who are sanguine enough to believe
that the number of our works and our workpeople will increase and
multiply till the large supplies of water that are to be conducted to us
from Mid-Wales will be none too copious for the great unwashed and other
inhabitants of our city a few years hence.
Referring again to outsiders and their ideas of Birmingham trades, when
visitors--distinguished or otherwise--come to see our factories there
are two that they generally begin and often end with--namely, Mr. Joseph
Gillott's pen manufactory and the electro-plate works of Messrs.
Elkington. Of late years the Birmingham Small Arms establishment at
Small Heath has gained attention and made a good third to our show
Visitors to Messrs. Elkington's are, of course, largely attracted by the
artistic contents and triumphs of the famous Newhall Street show rooms.
The name of the Elkington firm has a world-wide fame, and their splendid
artistic achievements may almost be said to be epoch-making in the way
of combining utility with beautiful design to the highest degree. Those,
however, who fancy that Messrs. Elkington's great and extending
manufactory is kept going by designing and producing splendid vases,
shields, cups, and sumptuous gold and silver services, are, of course,
hugely mistaken. The ordinary spoons, forks, &c., that are to be seen--I
won't say on every table, but on the tables of millions of people, are
the staple productions of such firms as that of which I speak. Indeed,
if I could probe into the secret chambers of Messrs. Elkington's back
safe, I should probably find that the production of those exquisite
artistic articles of theirs has not been the department of their
business that has brought the greatest grist to the mill and made a
commercial success of their trade.
Those visitors to Elkington's who penetrate beyond the show rooms will
find much to interest, and in some cases to mystify them.
Electro-plating is indeed almost a magical sort of craft. How it is that
dirty looking metal spoons can be put into a dirty looking bath and come
out white and silvered must amaze and bewilder many strange eyes.
Impassive as Asiatics can be, I should much like for once just to watch
the eyes of an eastern conjuror and magician when he saw the electro
bath trick, and especially when done in the way and on the scale that
may be witnessed at the Birmingham Newhall Street works.
With regard to Mr. Joseph Gillott's pen manufactory it is a very
interesting show place, but is practical and prosaic compared with the
art electro-plate establishment I have just now referred to. Those,
however, who like to see processes, and something going on quickly from
stage to stage, find Mr. Gillott's factory a place of almost fascinating
interest. They can, indeed, observe the steel pen emerge from its native
metal, see it pressed and stamped, and again pressed and stamped,
slitted, annealed, coloured, and finally boxed and packed. They can also
see the penholders produced and inhale the sweet and pungent fragrance
of cedar wood, and they can look on the production of the pen boxes
which are made in so many attractively coloured varieties.
All this is to be seen in the course of a little march through Mr.
Gillott's factory, which is, indeed, a pattern of order and
cleanliness, and so well conducted as to be almost like a real adult
school of industry. Female labour is largely employed--as is customary
in the pen trade--the nimble fingers and deft hands of many girls
finding useful employment, without fatiguing labour, in the various
processes of the pen-making business.
Pen-making is, of course, a great industry, but there are pens and pens,
and for some of the lower qualities the trade price is of incredible
cheapness. I sometimes think that if an enterprising merchant were to
try and place an order for a million gross of steel pens at 1d. per
gross, and 75 per cent. discount for cash, he would succeed in doing it.
The quantity it is that pays.
The pleasure and interest of going over Mr. Gillott's establishment is
enhanced by the fact that visitors see the popular pens of commerce and
the aristocratic pens of what Jeames calls the "upper suckles" made, so
to speak, side by side. The Graham Street works could not be kept going
by merely making dainty gold pens, fine long barrelled goose quills, and
other such superior productions. The everyday person muse be considered
and supplied with everyday pens, and the everyday person, although he
buys cheap pens, is a more profitable customer than he looks.
A well-known mustard maker has been known to say that he makes his
profit out of what people leave on their plates. In other words, the
everyday waste of people vastly increases mustard consumption. In the
same way the everyday pen is so cheap that it is not used with care and
economy. It is lightly thrown aside often before it is half worn, and is
often objurgated and wasted because it is dipped into bad ink. But what
does it matter when you can get a gross of pens for just a few pence.
One more little remark about the Graham Street works and I have done. I
take leave to doubt if Mr. Joseph Gillott turns out any of the very
cheapest and commonest pens, but I feel pretty certain that he makes the
best and most costly productions of their kind. There are still very
many people at home and abroad--especially Americans--who do not like to
put a little common, "vulgar" pen on their writing tables. They prefer
to see something more superior in style and finish. On such pens as
these will generally be seen the name of Mr. Joseph Gillott. There are,
of course, other makers of good steel pens in Birmingham, but their
places are not so much visited or their productions so widely known as
the pens of Graham Street works.
A few years ago Birmingham penmakers, as well as others, were disposed
to be rather terrified at the advent of the typewriter, and fancied in
their sable moments that the steel pen would sooner or later be
superseded. They are not now so dismayed as they were, and I hardly
think they need be. The electric light has not put out gas; in spite of
railway engines I still see a few horses about sometimes; and even motor
cars and the like will not at present run locomotive engines off the
line. I, therefore, think that makers of fine points, broad points,
medium points, &c., may rest securely in their pens, notwithstanding a
Yost of typewriters, Remington, or what not.
Few people outside our own borders quite realise, perhaps, what a large
and important industry the jewellery trade is in Birmingham. Yet one
quarter of the city--the Hockley district--is chiefly devoted to what
cynical people call the production of baubles. If anyone doubts the
extent to which the jewellery trade is carried on, and the number of
hands engaged in it, let him station himself somewhere Hockley way at
the hour of one o'clock in the day, and he will see for himself.
No sooner has the welcome sound of the tocsin been heard--almost indeed
before it has time to sound--hundreds, aye thousands of men emerge from
their workshops, and for a time quite throng streets that just before
the magic hour of one p.m. were comparatively quiet and empty.
Curiously enough these working jewellers seem to come from hidden and
obscure regions, and appear in the open from their industrial cells
through many small doors and entries, rather than through large gateways
which are opened at certain regulation hours.
The jewellery trade is not carried out in large factories with tall,
towering stacks, powerful steam engines, &c. Machinery may be used in
certain branches of the trade for all I know, but, speaking generally,
working jewellers sit at their bench, play their blow-pipe, and with
delicate appliances and deft hands put together the precious articles of
fancy they make.
Handsome lockets are not turned in a lathe. Diamond and ruby rings are
not productions that are run through a machine and sold by the gross,
"subject." Nor are jewelled pendants made in presses, nor beautiful
bracelets banged into shape by the mechanical thump of a stamping
machine. The consequence is that jewellery work of the finest fashion
is made in small establishments, but as I have said there are so many of
these that the "turn-out" in the way of "hands" is a formidable element
in our local population.
It is, we know, an ancient saw that tells us that two of a trade cannot
agree, but it has always struck me that jewellers belie this generally
accepted maxim. I came to this conclusion from knowing and visiting a
colony of goldfinches--I mean master jewellers, who are quite civil to
each other, will sit at meat and drink together, go to the same place of
worship, and generally behave as friends, neighbours, and Christians.
How it was that these employer blow-pipers could maintain and assume
such a benign and almost brotherly attitude towards each other was a
little puzzling to me till I thought the matter out. Jewellers they
might all be, but they did not all jewel alike. They rowed in the same
boat, but not with the same sculls--to use Jerrold's old joke, They
blowed the same pipe, but played different tunes. In a word they
produced different varieties of jewellery, and consequently did not cut
each other's throats in competition. One would chiefly make chains,
another lockets and pendants, a third studs and sleeve links, a fourth
rings, a fifth bracelets and brooches, and another miscellaneous
high-class productions, including mayoral chains, &c., &c. Under these
circumstances the two or three of a trade to whom I have referred have
been able to agree, and will be able to maintain good fellowship till
such times as some largely enterprising bold blow-piper forms himself
into a large syndicate, resolves to make everything himself, and crush
down all competition. But that time is not yet.
In speaking of the jewellery trade in Birmingham, I think I am safe in
saying that at any rate until recently the town, now a city, has not
enjoyed full credit for the high-class work it produces. For a long time
it was regarded as the workshop of cheap "sham" jewellery, and that if
you wanted really good things you must go to London and buy in the
marts of New Bond Street.
If any such heathen now exist, and I suspect they do, they would be
rather surprised if they knew how much London sold jewellery is made in
Birmingham. Purchasers have the pleasure of buying in Bond Street, and
of having bracelets, bangles, rings and lockets put in cases with a
well-known West-end firm's name on it, and that is something of which
they are proud, and for which they are willing to pay. And they do have
to pay. In proof of which I will tell a true story. Some years ago I
knew a Birmingham manufacturing jeweller whose line was gold and silver
pencil cases. I was looking over his show cases one day when he picked
up a small good pencil case suitable to put on a lady's chain. My friend
told me chat his trade price for this article was 3s. 6d., and he had
seen it marked--his own make--18s. in Regent Street shops. I have known
of others in the fancy trades tell a similar story.
For instance, a manufacturer once told me that he had made gold ware
for the Royal table, but not directly. His order came from a West-end
house and his name was to be altogether suppressed.
In some preceding remarks I referred to cheap sham jewellery. There is a
very considerable amount of it made in Birmingham, and "gilt jewellery"
is the name by which it is known. Respecting this trade and its
productions I can, perhaps, tell a few of my readers something that may
rather surprise them. Not many years ago I wished to see and purchase
some of this gilt jewellery in order to make gay and glorious a
Christmas tree--Heaven forbid, of course, that my friends or myself
should adorn ourselves with such baubles.
I went to a manufacturer of these wares to make my purchases, and hoped
to buy cheaply. And I did; at a price indeed that rather astonished me.
For instance, I was shown some brilliant looking brooches of good design
and finish, and sparkling with diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies,
of rich lustre--or, I should say, imitations of these precious stones. I
looked at these handsome productions and thought a good price would be
asked for them. I was, as I have hinted however, rather more than
astonished to find that I could make a very good selection at from 15s.
to 18s. per dozen.
Just fancy, these brilliant brooches adorned with gems of purest ray
serene--that is, to the naked, unexpert eye--well-fashioned in the
matter of workmanship, and looking of, at least, eighteen carat gold,
and yet they could be purchased at the rate of from fifteen to eighteen
pence each. What, however, staggered me still more was to find that
there was a lower deep still in the matter of price. On my venturing to
remark to the warehouse-man who showed me the articles mentioned, that I
supposed they were the very cheapest things in the trade, he remarked,
"Oh dear no, we don't do anything in the cheap stuff line. If you want
that you must go to Messrs. So-and-So, in Blank Street."
I went to the cheap firm he named in Blank Street, and there sure
enough found cheap stuff and no mistake. Brooches and lockets at 12s. a
dozen and even less, and handsome watch chains at the rate of about 10d.
each. I must add, however, that the makers would not dispose of less
than a dozen of each article shewn. Perhaps they could hardly be
expected to sell retail at such prices as I have named.
Having obtained the "Open Sesame" to the jewelled caves or warehouses of
the gilt jewellers I came away loaded with gems, and my purse but very
little lighter. So well indeed did some of my purchases look when I got
them home that I could not see much difference between them and the real
articles. Consequently, when I now see fair ladies gaily bedecked with a
superfluity of handsome lustrous trinkets I think of the gilt jewellery
trade, and brooches at 15s. per dozen, less a discount doubtless to the
Leaving, now, the gold and gilt jewellery trades, which, as I have said,
form a large industry in our midst, let me just briefly refer to some
of the odd trades that are carried on in Birmingham. Among these I will
first of all mention the manufacture of ship Logs, because it seems
somewhat curious that an insular place like Birmingham, whose only
suggestion of maritime operations is the canal, should produce
Logs--that is, cunningly devised instruments for ascertaining the speed
of ships. Yet if I go to north country ports, such as Leith, and if I go
south to Dover, or west to Cardiff, I see the "Cherub," the "Harpoon,"
and other Logs made by the firm of T. Walker and Sons, Oxford Street,
Birmingham. As I have said, it seems a little strange, if not funny,
that Birmingham should produce ship appliances. Nevertheless, the
present Mr. T.F. Walker, and his father before him, have been making and
improving ship Logs till their trade name is known and their productions
seen in every port of significance here in Britain and abroad as well.
A city, however, that produces Artificial Human Eyes may see its way to
make anything; consequently, all sorts of diverse things are produced in
Birmingham, from coffin furniture to custard powder, vices to vinegar,
candles to cocoa, blue bricks to bird cages, handcuffs to horse collars,
anvils to hat bands, soap to sardine openers, &c., &c., &c.
There are also in Birmingham certain trades that without being large
industries have taken fixed root in the locality. For instance, there is
the glass trade, which employs a good few men, and, perhaps, it used to
employ more. On this point I am not certain, but I do know that one
large glass manufactory that existed in my younger days--namely, that of
Rice Harris, which stood near where now stands the Children's Hospital,
Broad Street--was disestablished many years ago.
If I remember rightly Rice Harris's glass works had one of those large
old-fashioned brick domes that I fancy are not constructed nowadays. One
or two, however, still remain, and I for one feel glad that Messrs.
Walsh and Co., of Soho, allow their dome to stand where it did, just as
a landmark and to remind me of pleasant bygone days.
I confess, too, that I like to go into one of these big glass hives, or
rather glass-making hives, and see the workmen at their "chairs" blowing
and moulding the hot ductile glass into its appointed form and patterns;
and I like also to see the curling wreaths of smoke ascend and disappear
through the orifice at the top of the dome. And when I look at this I
wonder how that huge chimney is cleaned, and where the Titanic sweep is
that could undertake such a gigantic job. Well, I can hardly say I
wonder, because I think I have been told that the way the soot is
cleaned from these well-smoked domes is by firing shot at the roof,
which brings down the dirt.
When in the winter season I see skates prominently exposed for sale in
our shop windows I am reminded of another of the odd or rather side
industries of Birmingham. I refer to the steel toy trade. The word toy
seems appropriate enough when applied to skates and quoits, but seems a
curious word to designate such articles of distinct utility as hammers,
pincers, turnscrews, pliers, saws, and chisels, yet these articles and
many others of a similar kind are included in the words "steel toys."
This steel toy trade, if not a great industry in Birmingham, is an
old-established one, and has been carried on for years by good
well-known local names, such as Richard Timmins and Sons, Messrs. Wynn
and Co., and others.
NEW AND OLD STYLE TRADING.
In an earlier part of these chapters I referred to the new style of
shopkeeping that has developed in Birmingham with the growing size and
importance of the town and city. I now return to the subject again for
the purpose of showing that although Birmingham seems to be much to the
fore in the matter of up-to-time shopkeeping, there are still a limited
number of traders and shopkeepers who keep pretty much to the old lines,
and evidently desire to carry on their businesses in the way that their
fathers did before them.
And in touching this question it is worth while considering for a
moment how differently two men or two firms in the same trade will carry
on their businesses, and yet both succeed. To put it more plainly, one
firm will bombard the public with "fetching" advertisements, and get
business, so to speak, at the bayonet's point. Another firm in the same
line of trade lays siege to its customers in a quiet, systematic way,
does its best to prevent any sorties in the direction of rival camps,
and is content to keep its connection well guarded and do business in a
quiet, undemonstrative way.
Of course the man who goes in for publicity--wide publicity--and
assaults the public with "loud" advertisements in all directions, drives
the roaring trade, or the trade that roars loudest. He gets larger
returns, and if his business is well managed he should secure larger
profits. Beside these trade Dives's the humble, quiet, unostentatious
Lazarus seems quite out in the cold. Not so, however. The latter picks
up some good crumbs, if not some pretty substantial crusts, which he
puts into his wallet with a gentle, unostentatious satisfaction which
quite contents him.
I could give chapter and verse for what I am now saying, and without
hesitation or difficulty could name two firms in Birmingham that are
carrying on the same trade, making the same everyday articles of
consumption; yet, while the name of one firm is in everybody's mouth and
is known to the ends of the earth, the name of the other is hardly ever
seen save upon the productions they turn out. Yet I know for a fact that
this latter firm make some nice solid profits out of their quiet
business, though nothing perhaps at all comparable with their more
enterprising rival. It is a case of thousands in one case and tens of
thousands probably in the other. But enterprise should, of course, bring
its own reward.
I fear I have indulged in a rather full-blown parenthesis, but it was
somewhat necessary before going into certain details concerning the two
utterly opposed modes of trading and their exemplifications in
Birmingham. As I have mentioned before, we have in recent years seen the
rise and development of huge establishments and trading concerns that
deal in anything and everything. Cutting and competition have gone on
till there is nothing left to cut, or no weapon left that is sharp
enough to cut finer. The results of all this has been the whittling away
of a good many old-fashioned shops and traders; but they are not all
gone, and some long--established businesses still survive and prosper in
I will just mention one or two. If the reader of these lines will walk
down the Lower Priory, which leads out of the Old Square--or what was
the Old Square--he will see at the bottom of the said Lower Priory, on
the right hand side, a sedate and solid brick building. He will see a
brass knocker on the door and a brass plate bearing the name of
Smallwood and Sons--"only this, and nothing more." This is the business
house of the oldest firm of wine merchants in Birmingham, and I believe
that these premises in the Lower Priory have been in the possession of
the Smallwood family since the days of the Commonwealth; and, further,
that the present active members of the firm are the fifth and sixth
generation of Smallwood and Sons, wine merchants. There is no big shop
window full of bottles of cheap heterogeneous wines and spirits. It
might be the house of some good old doctor, or the office and home of
some ripe old lawyer. If you step inside the office, you see few signs
of Bacchus or his bowl, but you do see some antiquated rooms, some
quaint furniture, and a nice dry, well-seasoned appearance that denotes
age. There are full and capacious cellars on the premises of
course--cellars containing a sort of well in which the books of the firm
were buried at the time of the Birmingham riots; but, so far as outward
appearance is concerned, Sir Wilfrid Lawson or the top Major-Domo of the
Band of Hope might pass by the lintels of the doorway in Lower Priory
without a sigh. With regard to Messrs. Smallwood's cellars, their
subterranean premises are honeycombed with catacombs containing the
remains of some grand old spirits and big bins of choice vintage and
various other wines.
It might be thought that such a very unbusiness-looking place would be
quietly draining away, especially in face of the flaring competition in
the wine and spirit trade. I am, however, glad to think and know that
such old-established houses as Smallwood and Sons can bear up against
the levelling down processes that characterise the more pushing branches
of the wine and spirit trade. There are still a fair number of people
who like to buy their wine from dealers who seem to have inherited
certain trade instincts and experiences, and who can be relied upon to
supply what they know to be good wines and spirits, such as can be
consumed with pleasure and taken without risk. We do not all yet care
for Chancellor claret, Hamburg sherry, petroleum champagne, and Dudley
port, sometimes called "Bilston pit drink."
Bottled red ink and cider champagne does not suit the taste of those
who have a taste worth owning. They prefer to pay a fair price to have a
good article, and they consequently go to old firms who are experts in
The most serious form of competition that knocks the legitimate liquor
trader on the head is the grocer wine and spirit selling. It may be very
convenient to the public to be able to buy a bottle of wine or whisky
when they are buying their groceries, but this convenience has been
purchased, I fear, at a cost that is not pleasant to consider. I fear it
would not be difficult to prove that female home-drinking has been
fostered by the grocers' wine and spirit licences. This is a serious
matter to contemplate, and if I were a zealous temperance advocate I
should strive to get those grocers' licences wiped out.
Besides offering facilities that are calculated to encourage secret
home-drinking the grocers' licences operate in another way that is not
exactly conducive to morality or integrity. I will explain what I mean.
At Cambridge I knew an undergraduate who had a somewhat parsimonious
pater. The latter limited his son's allowance, and scrutinized his bills
pretty closely. But my Verdant Green circumvented the supervision of his
male parent by the opportunities offered by the grocers' shops. Although
my undergraduate friend was, I knew, kept pretty "short" in the matter
of cash supplies, I noticed that he never seemed short of strong drink.
He let the cat out of the bag--or let me say the cork out of the
bottle--when one day he innocently remarked to me, "I get all my liquor
from the grocer's; the governor never looks much at the grocer's
Leaving the question of wines and spirits, I can illustrate my
preference for dealing with men who "know you know" what they are
selling, and are, indeed, experts in their trades. Although I am not a
good or bad Templar, nor yet a small brass Band of Hope, I confess to a
large weakness for tea--good, nice, well-flavoured tea. I have, however,
found it somewhat difficult to obtain. Occasionally I taste it at the
houses of friends who buy their tea in chests at a time; but as for
getting such tea at the usual grocers' shops I have found it difficult,
if not impossible. Yet I have been willing to pay up to get some real
prime Souchong, Assam, Orange Pekoe, or what not. I do not expect to get
a one and twopenny tea with a fine two and ninepenny flavour. Bather
recently I have paid 3s. 6d. a pound to get my little luxury; moreover,
I tried many and various shops, but all more or less in vain. At last,
however, I found salvation by going to a house--a retail shop
indeed--that dealt in scarcely anything else but tea. And I now get tea
full of delicious fragrance and flavour. It breathes such a splendid
aroma before it is tasted that it almost seems a sin to drink it. When,
however, I do taste a well-made cup of this infusion I am so happy and
benign that (to paraphrase some words of the late Bishop of Oxford) my
own wife might play with me.
I fear, however, I am getting rather rhapsodical on this question of
tea. There are other--what I will call specialist old-style--traders
besides those in the teetotal and unteetotal line to which I wish to
refer. But these must be reserved for another chapter.
Considering the pace at which Birmingham moved forward during the latter
half of the nineteenth century, it is not, perhaps, surprising that few
shops and houses of old date are now to be seen in the chief centre
streets of the city. A few, however, remain to remind us that Birmingham
was not built yesterday, and that it has a respectable past, and is not
a place of that mushroom growth which comes into existence in a night.
Chief among the old order of retail trading establishments still
flourishing in our midst I may particularly mention the shop of Mr.
William Pearsall, silversmith, &c. As many of my readers are aware, it
is situated in High Street, opposite the end of New Street, and is
conspicuous for its pretty--I had almost said petite--quaintness and its
genuine old-time appearance and origin. There are the small bow windows,
the little panes of glass, that are so suggestive of the architecture of
a century ago, and outside the shop everything bespeaks a past which was
not exactly of yesterday.
This great-grandfather shop, so to speak, has, indeed, been established
for more than a century, and when the present proprietor first went to
the business the trade done was chiefly in silver and silver made goods,
whereas now it is largely in electro plate, in jewellery, cutlery, &c.
The proprietor, indeed, like others in his position, has found himself
obliged to keep in step with the times or go under. He has preferred the
former course, but without abandoning what I may call the antique
department of his business.
It is, indeed, a most attractive kind of shop, especially for ladies of
a matured taste and mind who like to see pretty things, some of which
have a quaint charm which is often especially dear to the feminine soul.
I can fancy ladies going there and spending a right down happy time in
looking at the dainty specimens of antique silver, and also the modern
reproductions of old patterns in electro plate. I can, indeed, by a
stretch of the imagination picture in my mind ladies who will go and
look at many things at such a shop, admire all, and buy none.
Indeed, I do not know that I should mind indulging in this little luxury
myself, but, being of the masculine order of creation, I, perhaps,
hardly like to spend hours in a shop and leave the shopkeeper with the
cold comfort of a promise that I will "think about it." Quaint and
inviting shops, however, stocked with articles that form a little
exhibition in themselves must pay the penalty of their attractiveness,
and possibly the proprietors have no objection.
It goes, of course, without saying that a business that has been
carried on for over a century has seen great changes in regard to custom
and customers. Consequently, it is not surprising to learn that wealthy
iron-masters, the country gentry, and prosperous farmers no longer make
the purchases of silver and fancy wares they did in the days that are no
more. Black country magnates have discovered they can now do without
many solid silver services, and even fairly well-to-do rural people find
they can at a pinch put up with electro plate.
I confess I like to look at the bijou shop in High Street and think what
it must have seen and heard in its time. It must have heard the bells of
St. Martin's toll for the death of Nelson and ring out joyous peals
after Waterloo. It must have seen disorderly crowds march past its doors
at the time of the Birmingham riots; more than this, it felt something
of the lawlessness that prevailed, since the shop was looted and some of
its contents carried off by the rioters.
Yes, as I have said, it must have heard some pealing and tolling of the
St. Martin's Church bells--and what charmingly mellifluous and melodious
bells they are! I do not profess to be a campanologist or a bell hunter,
but I have a loving ear for a sweet-toned church bell, and can think of
few belfries whose contents surpass St. Martin's, Birmingham. Although I
have not heard the "Bells of Shandon" immortalised by Father Prout, I
have, however, heard Great Tom of Lincoln. I have listened to the "bonny
Christ Church bells" of Oxford, and my ears have dwelt upon the sweet
jinglings of the Carrillion at Antwerp and in other Flemish cities. I
have also heard the dulcet chimings of many village church bells in
various parts of the land, and I have listened with undelight to the
unmusical tones of Big Ben of Westminster, but so far as mellow tone is
concerned, I rarely hear any ordinary church bells that are more dulcet
and harmonious than the bells of St. Martin's, Birmingham.
Few people heed their beauties I am afraid; indeed, some singularly
insensible residents and traders in the neighbourhood have been known to
protest against the charming chimings of the bells of St. Martin's.
Those, however, who want to hear the true musical quality and tone of
these bells must select a quiet time, as the Bull Ring is not a
particularly peaceful spot in the busy hours of day. Midnight is the
witching hour that should be chosen to listen to the music of St.
Martin's belfry. It may be a late and inconvenient hour for the
experiment, but it is worth it--if the bells still chime at that
I am afraid I have indulged in a somewhat extensive parenthesis, but my
pen has run away with me, and now it must come back to the old-fashioned
High Street shop where I lingered a few paragraphs back. The adjoining
premises to Mr. Pearsall's, on the east side, are also old and well in
years. They have been altered and provided with a modern "dickey"--I
should say, front--which rather hides their antiquity. There is,
however, still conspicuous a quaint and curious spout-head which bears
the date 1687, showing that these premises have more than passed their
The only little old-date shop in the heart of Birmingham that, till
recently, rivalled the "silver-smithy" I have described in High Street,
was a saddler's at the top of New Street, which nestled under the shadow
of Christ Church. It had the old-style small bow windows, the low roof,
and the circumscribed area of old-fashioned shops. The ancient saddler
who formerly tenanted it had not enough space to crack a whip, let alone
swing a cat in. In past days, however, business was carried on under
"limited" principles, but chiefly limited as to extent and space.
When walking about Birmingham, archaeological observers should look up
if they wish to see and note any traces of age and antiquity. The lower
portions of old premises have often been so enlarged and modernized that
they give no sign of the real date of the buildings. In Bull Street,
for instance, there are narrow old style windows that are very
suggestive of a bygone day. But these are becoming few and far between,
and will doubtless soon be seen no more.
Old-fashioned shops naturally suggest new and old-style shopkeeping. In
a recent chapter I alluded to some long-established trading houses in
Birmingham that within certain limits carry on their trade in a manner
that differs from the very modern and obtrusively pressing fashion which
is so much the custom of the day. Something of the same kind may be said
of shops, as I generally remarked in my earlier observations. But to
descend more into detail, there are still among its at any rate a
limited number of shopkeepers who like to do their business on good,
safe, and steady lines, and keep together a nice respectable connection
by upholding the dependable quality of their wares. Some of these
shopkeepers do not make much of an outward show, but I have reason to
know that many of them in a quiet undemonstrative manner do a snug and
prosperous trade without fuss or display.
I will just briefly particularize. Opposite King Edward's School in New
Street is a quiet, unostentatious-looking tobacconist's shop. The window
plate bears the name of Evans, and in the window is a modest show of
smoking wares and materials. If you step inside the shop, it is
comparatively calm and quiet. You do not see young men sitting about
smoking, chatting, and joking with girls across the counter. There is no
constant succession of customers coming in and out and buying their
ounces and half ounces of "Returns," "Bird's Eye," "Shag," and "Old
Virginia." Yet an evident perfume of tobacco and prosperity seems to
pervade the shop, but no sign of the Tom, Dick, and Henry sort of trade
that is done by more ostentatious modern traders. It is, I believe, a
case of half a century's trading in good tobacco stuffs having
established a connection among those who like good tobacco, will pay a
proper price for it, and deal where they can get it.
These remarks apply more or less to a jewellery, watch and clock shop
next door, kept for many years by Mr. L.N. Hobday. Here again there is a
look of quality rather than mere quantity. There is no ticketed crowded
display of wares, but the look of the shop inspires a feeling of
confidence and an assurance that the quality of what you purchase may be
relied upon. I am not in the secrets of the proprietor of this
establishment, and have no interest in it beyond being an occasional
small customer, yet I should not wonder if he does not do a nice,
steady, quiet trade among those who have found out the advantages of
dealing with a trader who personally understands his business, and will
give them good value for their money.
There are, as I have hinted, other shops that prefer adhering to
well-established lines of business, rather than up-to-dating their
trade past all recognition. There are a few drapers still left, who,
like Turner, Son, and Nephew, do not go in for a general all
round-my-hat sort of business, but who restrict themselves within
certain limited lines and on them keep up a well-established connection.
There are, however, others who prefer a more pushing, store-competing,
Whiteley-emulating style of trade. They follow their bent and probably
make it pay. It is, of course, well that we should have traders of all
kinds to minister to the requirements of a large and varied community.
For myself, however, I am glad that there are still some shopkeeper
specialists left who limit themselves to dealing in such things as they
understand, and know what they buy, and sell that they know.
SOME PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS.
Though reminiscences and recollections are rather overdone in these
days, I may, perhaps, be permitted a few personal reflections in
bringing my chapters to a close. And I shall not write a long, tedious
tale, and why? Because, like the needy knife-grinder, I have no story to
tell. Happy, we are told, is the country that has no history, and, if
this is so, happy should be the man who is not burdened with too many
Still, there are just a few memories that I should like to jot down,
which may, or may not, be of interest to my readers. Authors, I fancy,
often write as much to gratify themselves as to please other people. I
cannot boast that I have been personally intimate with many
distinguished people. I have never been to Court, and, consequently, I
am, according to Shakspeare's clown, emphatically "damned." I have known
some few titled people, and have even sat at meat with a Duke in his
palatial home, and did not fail to notice that his Grace was very easy
and human in his tastes and manners, and was not above taking a glass of
port wine with his cheese. I have just occasionally shaken hands with a
lord of high degree, and even with a belted earl, but I am not of the
Upper Ten, and am quite outside the gilded gate that encloses the noble
of the land. I have seen few people that were particularly worth seeing,
that is, for book-writing purposes, but I will take leave to reconnoitre
in my memory those I have beheld in Birmingham during the course of my
I may, perhaps, preface my observations with the paradoxical remark
that the first great celebrity I ever saw I just missed seeing. This was
Louis Kossuth. I was only a small boy when the great Hungarian patriot
visited Birmingham in the year 1851. Hearing so much talk about Kossuth
I naturally burned with a desire to see him. When the eventful day of
his visit came I secured a very good position at the top of Paradise
Street, and fancied I was going to have a fine view of the distinguished
Hungarian and the procession that accompanied him. I waited patiently
for some hours, then I heard the sound of music in the distance, and
then the roar and cheers of many voices. They grew louder and louder;
then came the surging wave of a great crowd of people. For a brief time
I was quite submerged, and when I recovered my position the procession
and the patriot were past and gone.
I remember the visit to Birmingham of the Prince Consort in 1855 to lay
the foundation stone of the Birmingham and Midland Institute.
I saw his Royal Highness well and truly lay the said stone, and I
afterwards saw him in the Town Hall, where he was entertained at
luncheon. I have a very distinct recollection of the occasion even now,
and I call to mind in particular that the Prince wore a pair of light
grey trousers and a swallow-tail, that is, a dress-coat. We should think
this a strange costume for a gentleman at a morning function in these
days, but times have changed, and the dress coat is now never seen in
the morning, and not so much at night as it used to be.
Of course I remember the Queen's visit to Birmingham in 1858, for the
purpose of opening Aston Park, the "People's Park," as it was proudly
called. There was a deal of effervescent talk about this noble project.
The People, with a capital P, were going to buy the park for the People,
with the money of the People. The scheme succeeded save in the matter of
getting the funds. The People approved of the project, the People
shouted themselves hoarse when her Majesty came to put the finishing
touch to the noble undertaking, but, unfortunately, the great People
failed to find the money necessary to carry out the grand undertaking,
and the Municipality had to pay up to complete the purchase.
It is still going back a long time, but I distinctly recall the visit of
Lord Brougham to Birmingham in 1857, when as president he delivered the
inaugural address at the opening meeting of the newly-born Association
for the Promotion of Social Science. I remember the Town Hall was
completely filled, and much interest was felt in the appearance of Lord
Brougham on the occasion. When he took his place on the platform there
was some little disturbance and confusion among the audience. This
promptly brought to his feet Lord Brougham, who said in very emphatic
tones, "Allow me to say--and I have had some experience of public
meetings--that if any persons attempt to disturb the proceedings of this
meeting, measures shall be taken to expel them."
I am quoting from memory, but I believe my words are pretty correct.
When Lord Brougham had delivered this emphatic utterance, he proceeded
with his address, which was a dull affair and did not inspire the least
enthusiasm. It was, indeed, a somewhat somnolent discourse, and his
audience hardly seemed to wake up till he reached his peroration, which
closed with a telling quotation from Oliver Goldsmith.
If I recollect rightly there were many notabilities present on this
occasion. I remember the interest I felt in seeing Lord John Russell for
the first and only time in my life. There was not much of him to look
at, but what there was looked pleasant. I saw, indeed, a small man, with
a big head, and a large smile. There was, of course, a good deal of
eloquence on the evening to which I refer, and at this distance of time
I remember that one distinguished visitor made a rather amusing bull.
Speaking of some obvious fact and carried away by the enthusiasm of the
moment, he said, "Gentlemen, the matter is as clear as the rising sun at
I remember seeing Thackeray in Birmingham, and heard him deliver his
lecture on George III. at the Music Hall, Broad Street, now the Prince
of Wales Theatre. I was, of course, interested to see the great
novelist, but I thought his lecture a prosaic performance. In a literary
sense the address was characteristic and interesting--as can be seen in
its printed form--but it gained nothing by its author's delivery. It was
a well-composed piece of work, and it had a composing effect upon those
who heard it. At least I know I found it dull, and half dozed during its
monotonous delivery. Indeed, it was not till Thackeray reached his
concluding words--which, by the way, were Shakspeare's, being an
effective quotation from "King Lear"--that I was roused from my dreamy
I recollect seeing Charles Kingsley when he was President of the
Birmingham and Midland Institute, and noticed that though in speaking
he stammered perceptibly, when he delivered his presidential address he
adopted a sort of sing-song tone which more or less concealed his
impediment of speech. In fact he half intoned his discourse. I remember,
too, meeting Professor Tyndall at Mr. Chamberlain's table, and was
struck by the simple modesty of the eminent savant. I sat next to Mrs.
Tyndall, who was very unaffected, pleasant, and conversational. I have
often thought of this occasion, and did so especially when the sad and
tragic mistake occurred which ended in Professor Tyndall's premature
death. Mrs. Tyndall, it may be remembered, gave her husband a wrong dose
of medicine, which brought his illness to a sudden and fatal
termination. What an awful mistake. To live after this was pathetic.
Of course I remember a good deal about the late Mr. John Bright and his
visits to Birmingham. So do other people, and as many of these others
are scribes and quasi-historians who have published their records, there
is really not much for me to tell. I may say that I heard nearly every
speech our distinguished member delivered in Birmingham, for I hardly
ever missed a meeting at which Mr. Bright was a spokesman. Even now I
distinctly recall the first occasion on which he spoke after he became
M.P. for Birmingham. The Town Hall was more than crowded, it was packed;
indeed, I might almost say that herrings in a tub have elbow room
compared with the very compressed gathering that welcomed Mr. Bright on
In order to make more space the benches were removed from nearly all
parts of the Town Hall, and the curious sight of the sea of faces when
Mr. Bright appeared lingers in my memory still. One curious thing I
observed at this gathering was that so long as our member was speaking
the vast assembly was held spellbound. But when he paused for a moment
to turn over his notes or take a sip of water, the tightly squeezed
audience swayed for a little bodily relief and expansion, and this
resulted in big surging waves of humanity, which rolled from one end of
the body of the hall to the other, and often lasted for some little
At this moment I can recollect almost word for word the stirring and
eloquent peroration with which Mr. Bright closed his first address to
his Birmingham constituents. It roused his hearers to a pitch of
demonstrative enthusiasm such as I have never seen equalled.
I could quote from memory many striking passages from the principal
speeches I heard our distinguished member deliver. But why? Are they not
recorded in a hundred books, or at least in many books and hundreds of
newspapers? I will, therefore, now content myself with just one or two
personal reminiscences connected with our great Parliamentary
One little story I have to tell is connected with Mr. Bright's speech on
the occasion of unveiling the statue of Mr. Joseph Sturge, erected at
the Five Ways, Birmingham. There was an immense gathering on that
occasion, and of course I was there. I secured a good position for
hearing, but, unfortunately, there was a woman near me with a crying
baby in her arms. This prevented me hearing much that the speaker said,
and at last I got quite out of patience, and turning to the woman I
remarked, "Why don't you take that noisy child home?" "Oh," said the
woman in reply, "her's just as bad at home." I felt I had my answer, and
that there was no more to be said.
On another occasion I remember Mr. Bright walking down New Street, just
after delivering one of his grandest speeches, when a working-man, one
of the real "horny-handed," stepped up to him and patted him on the back
in the most familiar and approving manner. I will also just note one
other little incident in connection with Mr. Bright and Birmingham and
then I have done. I have to give this second-hand, but I believe what I
say may be accepted.
When Mr. Bright was offered a seat in Mr. Gladstone's administration in
the year 1868 it caused him some severe searching of heart. He did not
like giving up his freedom in the House of Commons. When this question
was before him he was staying with Mr.----now Sir John Jaffray, Bart.,
and in discussing the matter with his host he walked up and down the
room talking and talking till the hours flew by and it became late. Mr.
Jaffray--who was rather an early man--became weary before Mr. Bright had
finished his talk. The latter probably perceived this, for with a fine
touch of humour he made for the chandelier, and said, "I see, Jaffray,
that you will never go to bed till I turn off the gas."
In searching the files of memory it is rather surprising to find how one
thought leads to another, and the long-hidden past reveals itself with
almost as much clearness as the events of yesterday. When I began to
write down these personal recollections I thought I should find little
or nothing to tell. As I proceed, however, occurrences of past years
crop up and crowd upon memory, and that to such an extent that it
becomes a question of what I shall not write rather than what I shall.
Lest, however, I become tiresome and tedious I will for the most part
"let the dead past bury its dead," and content myself with a little
chapter of history which is especially interesting to me, and may not be
without some amount of interest to others, especially those concerned in
our educational and industrial progress.
One important change that has recently taken place in what I will call
business Birmingham has brought back to my mind a throng of mixed
memories. I allude to the vicissitudes that have taken place in local
trading concerns, and I may especially mention the disestablishment or
dismemberment of the manufactory of R.W. Winfield and Co., Cambridge
Street. To see the break-up of this once large, important, and
successful concern has been a matter of some sorrow to me. And why?
Because it was at this establishment that I began my working career.
Yes, at an early age I was a junior clerk at Cambridge Street Works,
when it was the private business of the late Mr. R.W. Winfield.
At that time the manufactory was one of the largest if not _the_ largest
in Birmingham. It employed about 1,000 hands, and its operations were
carried on in several separate departments. These were the tube and
metal, the gas-fitting, the metallic bedstead, the stamped brassfoundry,
the general brassfoundry, and other departments and divisions. To my
youthful eyes it seemed to be a huge place, and, indeed, it was a big
manufactory, and had a very extensive home and foreign trade.
I do not propose now to go into details concerning the manufacturing
work done at Cambridge Street at the period of which I speak. This would
be a matter of small interest to general readers. The once large
establishment has had its day and has now ceased to be, though why it
should have fallen to pieces so completely is not readily to be
There are, however, matters concerning the earlier days of Cambridge
Street Works that well deserve to be recognised and recorded. I think,
indeed, I may say that Mr. R.W. Winfield was the local pioneer of
compulsory education. There were, of course, a large number of boys
employed at the works, and Mr. Winfield not only provided an evening
school for these young hands but compelled them to attend and be
educated whether they liked it or not.
At the time mentioned, I remember, Mr. James Atkins--then a manager of
one of the departments--had a large hand in the educational operations
carried on in connection with the Cambridge Street manufactory. He had
the happy knack of attracting boys to him, and could interest those he
taught and teach those he interested. Mr. Atkins, as is well known,
afterwards became the principal of the firm, but more of this anon.
In the work of these evening schools, Mr. John Fawkener Winfield, son of
Mr. R.W. Winfield, took a very active interest. He used to give some
excellent lectures, and constantly taught in the classes. Much money was
spent upon these schools; indeed, a large room was specially built, at
very considerable cost, in order that the educational work might have
elbow room and be carried on effectually.
Mr. Winfield was a stiff, unbending man in some matters--especially in
politics--but he was in many respects broad-minded and large-hearted. He
was thoughtful for those in his employ, especially the young people, and
his son was like unto him.
When I was engaged at Cambridge Street Works Mr. R.W. Winfield lived at
the Hawthorns, Ladywood Lane. The house seemed by comparison to be a
large and important mansion, and was quite in the country then. Yes, I
remember now, at this distance of time, how often our employer used to
give us treats at his house, and what pleasant jinks we had in playing
and rollicking about the fields and grounds surrounding his residence.
In many respects Mr. R.W. Winfield was one of the real old school. He
was not a high or broad so much as a good, thick, consistent churchman
of the Evangelical school. He "wore his beaver stiffly up," his neck-tie
was a starched white cravat, his clothes were black broadcloth, with the
dress coat worn by gentlemen in the early and middle years of last
century. All the same, he had some modern ideas, especially, as I have
said, in the matter of education. If it came to be totalled up how much
he spent on the education of the boys in his employ, the aggregate sum
would run to large figures.
Time, we know, smooths the surface or rounds off the corners of past
events that seemed rather arbitrary at the time of their occurrence.
But, after making allowance for all this, my experience of Mr.
Winfield's evening schools is occasionally wafted back to me with many
pleasant memories and associations. Compulsory education was the iron
hand that directed the young ideas how to shoot, though it was enveloped
in a soft velvet glove. Mr. Winfield did good far-reaching work by the
establishment and maintenance of his evening schools, and his
thoughtfulness and generosity in this direction should be counted unto
him for righteousness.
Why Cambridge Street Works, which once employed so many hands, should
have so completely collapsed is, as I have hinted, a bit of a mystery. I
can only guess, and as tracking conundrums is not my purpose in these
chapters, I will leave others to unravel the riddle if they can. It is,
however, a matter of local business history that some thirty years or
more ago the Cambridge Street concern shewed signs of tottering to its
fall, and when Mr. Atkins went into the business as a proprietor, he had
to make some sweeping reforms that naturally created some resentment and
criticism. Possibly the business was "eating its head off," and the
process of deglutition had to be rigorously curtailed. This having been
done, the business thrived and prospered once more, and continued to do
so for some years. I will not follow its fortunes to its ultimate fall.
It became a public company, and now it is no more.
Winfields' is not the only important local business that has gone under
during the past fifty years, yet it is satisfactory to find that many of
our old-established manufactories and businesses have survived, and
still exist in some form or other. Elkington's, Gillott's, and Hardman's
still flourish, and among the brassfounders Pemberton and Son's, Tonks
and Son's, Cartland's, and others, go on their way rejoicing, casting,
stamping, lacquering, and polishing, and pushing brassfoundry into more
ornamental and utilitarian use.
Some of our old-established merchants and factors are still with us. The
trade of Messrs. Keep and Hinckley, whose place of business was for
years near St. Mary's Square, is now carried on by Keep Bros., in Broad
Street. The establishment of Rabone Bros., merchants, also in Broad
Street, still stands where it did. The businesses of Rock and Blakemore,
Moilett and Gem, and others, are still carried on by survivors of the
As for the new industries, the new firms and companies that have been
created in our midst during the past half-century, their enumeration and
description would be a big story, and would require a large volume to
tell it. That volume I do not propose to begin. I desire to close my
present little chapter, and perhaps I shall not be the only one who will
be glad to come to the end of it.
THE MUSICAL FESTIVALS.
Though it can hardly be said that the Birmingham Musical Festivals have
had any direct bearing upon the progress and development of town and
city, the world-renowned musical gatherings associated with the name of
Birmingham have had something to do with the fame and fortunes of the
Midland capital. Established more than a century and a quarter ago, they
attained a pitch of musical excellence and importance that attracted the
attention of the civilised world. Birmingham, indeed, was for a time,
and is still to some extent, the Mecca of musicians, and the Birmingham
Musical Festival is generally regarded as the premier musical meeting of
One specially fortuitous event has stamped the Birmingham "music
meeting" with a glory and prestige all its own. I refer to the
production of Mendelssohn's "Elijah" in 1846. This was, indeed, a piece
of great good fortune, for Mendelssohn's oratorio aroused an interest
and enthusiasm throughout the musical world that has not yet died down.
The occasion certainly gave the Birmingham Festivals a new lease of
life, and attracted more musical pilgrims to our town than ever.
I am not old enough myself to recollect the first performance of the
"Elijah," and as I only propose to write down now what I have myself
seen and heard, I refer those who desire to learn the history of the
Festivals to the records written by other more or less accurate writers.
The first Festival at which I was present was that of 1852, and I have
been at every Festival and at nearly every performance since that date.
In the year mentioned I sang as a boy in the chorus, and experienced a
great and novel joy that I have never known since. I revelled in the
rehearsals, and when the week's performances came I seemed to be up in
the clouds amid cherubim and seraphim. Indeed, when at the last
performance the National Anthem was sung and the meeting came to an end
I could have sat down and wept.
Of course I recollect the stir made by the production of Costa's "Eli"
in 1855, and especially do I seem to remember Mr. Sims Beeves--then in
his primest prime--and his thrilling declamation of the "War Song." At
the end of this stirring solo I recall how the voice of the great tenor
rang out above the combined power of the full band and chorus.
In this connection I may mention that it was at the Festival of 1855
that I heard Mario for the first time. I had of course heard much of the
great Italian tenor, but till the year mentioned had never heard the
sound of his voice. Curiously enough, too, I heard him sing in
juxtaposition with Mr. Sims Reeves. It was, indeed, a little bit of a
contest between the two great tenors, and I am bound to say the English
singer did not come off second best.
The fact is Mario was then past his prime, whilst Mr. Sims Reeves was in
his fullest strength. The opportunities for comparison on the occasion
referred to were irresistible, since the two tenors sang together in a
trio in which they both had to sing the same notes. The result was as I
have hinted, but I wondered, however, that comparisons should have been
challenged in such a direct way, and I marvelled much that Mario should
have submitted to such a trial.
It was at the Festival of 1858 that I heard the _great_ Lablache for the
first and only time. His appearance excited as much interest, perhaps
more, than his singing--he was so very large. His ruddy countenance, his
white hair, and his great girth, combined to make him something to see
as well as hear. When he sang his notes were as the tones emitted from a
sort of human tun.
Then, how I remember hearing Adelina Patti at the Festival of 1861. Oh!
how the sweet girl singer charmed, indeed fascinated, her audience with
her delightfully fresh voice, and by her attractive appearance and
winning manner. How fatherly, and even tenderly, Costa seemed to watch
over the little maiden, and his usual autocratic manner--for he was an
autocrat at the conductor's desk--seemed to soften when he came in
contact with the pretty young Italian vocalist. Even the stern unbending
general of the orchestra was once so touched with her delightful
rendering of an air in one of his oratorios, that he was actually seen
to imprint a paternal kiss upon her cheek.
It was also at the Festival of 1861 that I remember hearing
Giuglini--the "golden-throated Giuglini," as he was called. Was there
ever such sweet, luscious tenor voice, or a more charming and graceful
style of vocalization? He literally sang like a bird. He opened his
mouth and the notes were warbled forth with exquisite volubility and
ease. Giuglini's voice had not the power and breadth which Sims Reeves
could command, nor was his style so impassioned and fervent as Mario's,
but his tones and vocalization were something to hear once and remember
But I am pausing too long over details. Let me hurry on. I remember the
disappointment with which Sullivan's cantata "Kenilworth" was received
at the Festival of 1867. The then young composer had made such a very
"palpable hit" by his "Tempest" music that great things were expected
from the new cantata he composed for Birmingham. But "Kenilworth" fell
very flat, and nothing afterwards happened to stir it up into a success.
Indeed, the work may almost be said to have died "still-born."
I fancy Sullivan himself had some premonition as to the fate of his new
composition. At least I know that I saw him in the Society of Artists'
Rooms on the day when his work was to be performed in the evening, and
on my asking him how he was he smiled "a kind of sickly smile," and told
me he felt very squeamish.
How different was the fate of Mr. J.F. Barnett's "Ancient Mariner."
Though the composer was a well-known musician no great things were
expected from his new cantata, but it took the musical world by storm.
It achieved instant success, and although it was regarded by many as
being nice innocent "bread and butter" music it is still alive and
popular, and will be while there is an ear left for spontaneous flowing
Of course I recollect Sullivan's second venture at the Birmingham
Musical Festival of 1873, when he produced his oratorio "The Light of
the World." Contrary to what should have been, the work was at best only
a _succes d'estime._ Yet it contains some of the best music its composer
has written. Parts of it are magnificent and masterly, whilst others are
strikingly impressive inspirations. That the oratorio is unequal may be
admitted, and it is decidedly heavy in places; moreover, it is too long.
Still, looking at its merits as a whole, it deserved better fortune. It
is enough to dishearten a composer when he finds his best work
comparatively unappreciated, and it is hardly surprising if it was in
consequence of disgust and disappointment that Sullivan turned his
thoughts to lighter things. By doing so he has filled his purse, he has
delighted a large public that cannot appreciate serious music, and he
has raised comic opera to a level far above the thin and trivial
emanations of foreign "opera bouffists."
When some of us recall past Birmingham Musical Festivals, and scan the
schemes of bygone years, we cannot fail to be struck by the change that
has taken place in musical taste and fashion. Especially do we note this
in looking at the programmes of the festival evening concerts. In these
programmes quantity as well as quality was an element not forgotten in
the consideration and arrangement of the miscellaneous selections.
Twenty or thirty years ago we used to have--in addition to some one or
more important works--a long string of scraps and snatches, chiefly from
well-known operas, which protracted the concerts to a late hour. The
liberal introduction of these excerpts was attractive to a large section
of the public who did not care for fine works of musical art or "too
much fiddling." Moreover, it was in accordance with the taste and
proclivities of the conductor, who gave, perhaps, an inkling of his real
mind in a jocular remark made under the following circumstances.
It used to be the custom, after the morning performances, to ask the
band and principal singers to stay and run through some of the operatic
selections, &c., to be given in the evening. On one of these occasions,
after a morning performance of "The Messiah," Costa quietly and
cynically remarked, "Now, ladies and gentlemen, let us have a little
To come now to speak of more personal associations with the Birmingham
Musical Festivals, it was in the year 1873 that I experienced the novel
sensation of standing at the conductor's desk. A trio of my
composition--a setting of Tennyson's "Break, break,"--was included in
the programme of one of the evening concerts, and I had to conduct its
performance. I tell you, my reader, it was a trying ordeal, and I hardly
know how I got through it, but I did in some sort of fashion. Costa, I
may explain, made it a rigid rule never to conduct a living composer's
music; consequently, he would have nothing to do with the performance
even of my small trio. I found, however, a good friend in M. Sainton,
the leader of the band. He took a kindly pity on me in my trying
situation, and he did more to make my trio go well with his violin than
I did with the conductor's baton.
But it certainly was a sensation to face that immense orchestra, and I
had something to do to make my sinews bear me stiffly up. My trio,
however, was splendidly sung by Mdlle. Titieus, Madame Trebelli, and Mr.
Vernon Rigby--_pace_ Mr. Sims Reeves, indisposed--and if it did not
make a sensation, and was not received with deafening plaudits, I fancy
it went smoothly and satisfactorily, and I retired from the field--I
mean from the conductor's desk--not exactly with glory, but I think I
may say without a stain upon my character as a local musical composer.
At the Musical Festival of 1876 Madame Patey sang a song of mine, "The
Felling of the Trees," and I repeated my little experience as a
conductor; but in 1885, when my cantata "Yule Tide" was included in the
festival scheme, Mr. W.C. Stockley kindly undertook the task of
directing the work. I was determined it should not be a personally
conducted cantata; consequently, I was spared what would have severely
taxed my capacity and nerve.
With regard to my work it will not become me to say much. I frankly own
that it did not set the Thames ablaze; it passed muster, and perhaps
that is as much as I could expect at a Birmingham Musical Festival. It
was somewhat unfortunate that in 1885 there were too many new works. No
less than seven original compositions were included in the scheme, and
they killed each other. The musical public will not swallow and cannot
digest too much new music, consequently they would not make a good, fair
musical meal off any of the new dishes so liberally provided, with the
result that most of them went into the larder after just; being tasted
and no more. Some of them--even mine--are at times brought out, smelt,
turned over, and looked at, but as I have hinted, none, not even those
by Gounod, Dvorak, and Cowen, have become standing dishes in constant
request at musical feasts.
Speaking generally, many splendid compositions seem to have missed fire
through sheer bad luck. To go no further than Sir Arthur Sullivan, some
of his finest and most important works have had an ill-starred
existence, and even several of his best songs, though introduced to the
public under the most favourable auspices, have not "taken on."
Sullivan's splendid ditty "Love laid his sleepless head," though sung by
Mr. Edward Lloyd all over the country, did not make a hit, whilst the
more trivial ballad "Sweet-hearts" became a boom and a property. At
least, I remember being told that after Sullivan had been receiving good
royalties from this song for years, the publishers offered him L1,000
for his rights.
I am afraid I have been guilty of a digression, but I will recall my
wandering steps. I have mentioned the Birmingham Festival of 1885, which
marked a new order--I might almost say a new epoch--in the history of
the Birmingham Musical Festivals. For the first time for very many years
Costa was no longer seen at the conductor's desk, and his place was
taken by Richter. Costa conducted the Birmingham triennial performances
for about half a century, and although it was sad to miss his face in
1885, he had done his work.
In 1882--the last Festival in which he took part--it was painful to
witness his efforts to conduct the performances. He was partly
paralysed, and his baton, I believe, had to be fastened to his hand
because he could not grasp it. Further, he was becoming deaf, and the
result was that the loud brass instruments were allowed to become too
blatant and obtrusive. Costa was a good man in his day, and he did good
work. He was very autocratic, even despotic, but he introduced two good
things into the orchestra--order and punctuality. With all his ability,
tact, and nerve, it must, however, be admitted that his style of
conducting was rough and ready compared with the art, care, and skill
that mark musical conductorship of the present day.
With Richter's appearance as conductor, some important changes and
reforms were effected in the orchestral arrangements of the Festival.
For one thing, the band was cut down in number. This, it was said, was
in consequence of Richter's opinion that the balance of power was
disturbed by too great a preponderance of string tone, but it is just
possible that economy was considered when the change was made. Anyway,
in 1885 there were over twenty stringed instruments less than in
Costa's last year, 1882.
This alteration was a notable one, and regrettable in some ways. The
extra large string band that Costa would have made the Birmingham
Festival orchestra something very special, and the result was some
striking effects not heard elsewhere. Nowhere now do we hear that _tour
de force_ which was almost electrical in the rush of violins at the end
of the chorus "Thanks be to God" in the "Elijah," in Beethoven's
"Leonora" overture, and in the last movement of the overture to "William
Tell." The effect of the violins--between fifty and sixty in number--was
something magical in the works just named. To put the matter in brief
detail, under Costa's conductorship the string band numbered 108
players, when Richter took the orchestra in hand, it was reduced to
eighty-six. I will not discuss the expediency of the change. Suffice it
to say that the Festival band is now as good, perhaps better, than it
ever was, save in the matter of numbers.
To sum up very briefly the Festivals since 1885--the year that Richter
succeeded Costa--the meeting of 1888 was remarkable for nothing that
made any permanent notch in the record of the Festivals. Parry's
oratorio "Judith" was the chief novelty, but, in spite of its masterly
merit as a work of musical art, it was hardly received with the favour
The Festival of 1891 saw the production of two important new works,
namely, Stanford's dramatic oratorio "Eden" and Dvorak's "Requiem Mass."
With respect to these compositions, they have scarcely been heard, I
think, since their initial performances. Stanford's "Eden" contains some
fine writing, but there was, perhaps, too much of it. Dvorak's "Requiem"
was something of a disappointment, and its first rendering anything but
satisfactory; indeed, some of the numbers, I remember, narrowly escaped
coming to utter grief.
In 1894 three new productions were heard. These were Parry's "King
Saul"--a very recondite, musicianly composition--but too long; "The
Swan and the Skylark," a fanciful little cantata by Goring Thomas; and a
"Stabat Mater" by G. Henschel.
Nothing at the Festival of 1897 made any mark. There was a new "Requiem"
by Stanford, but like many other Requiems, it rather celebrated its own
death. A new work by Arthur Somervell was heard, and, though favourably
received at first, like some other Festival compositions it seems now to
have vanished into the _ewigkeit_.
With regard to the Festival of 1900--just closed as these lines are
being written--I will say little. It has been financially successful,
and perhaps that is the best that can be said of it. The programme,
speaking generally, was a somewhat heavy and dull one, and the special
new work, namely, Elgar's "Dream of Gerontius," was disappointing, in
spite of its skilful construction, its splendid orchestration, and its
conspicuous touches of character and originality. Mr. Coleridge Taylor's
"Song of Hiawatha" was the hit of the Festival, and its performance at
Birmingham has hall--marked the young composer's fresh, picturesque, and
I might write a great deal more about the Birmingham Musical Festivals,
but time and space forbid. I could, for instance, point out that it is
becoming more and more difficult to maintain the prestige of our
Festivals as time goes on. There is more competition now-a-days; there
are more provincial musical gatherings; and there are now more
high-class concerts than formerly. I think I could also show that some
mistakes, of more or less importance, have been made, and are still
perhaps being made in the management, Nevertheless, those who have most
to do with the arrangements are not lacking in energy and enterprise,
and in earnest endeavour to uphold the character and reputation of the
Birmingham Musical Festivals.
There is now little or nothing further for me to say, save to put a tag
to my small story, and make my little bow to my readers. Birmingham,
like other modern enterprising centres, goes moving on "down the ringing
grooves of change." The city means to forge ahead, and will not permit
anything to impede its progress. Scaffolding seems more conspicuous than
ever, and before the ink is dry upon my page, more old buildings will be
down and more new buildings will be up. Since I began these chapters
(which have appeared in _The Midland Counties Herald_ during the past
months) some important, notable changes have taken place. For instance,
the Birmingham Old Library in Union Street, associated with the names of
many Birmingham worthies, has disappeared, and its site is occupied by
the new City Arcades. That conspicuous landmark, Christ Church, with all
its memories and curious belongings and characteristics, is now no
longer to be seen. Old narrow streets are being widened, old buildings
are bulging out, and large new buildings are being erected in all
directions. The municipality have taken in hand some important housing
schemes which may be advantageous to the working classes, and result in
the erection of some of those new artisans' dwellings which, so far,
have not been conspicuously numerous. In the meantime local debts go on
merrily, or I should say seriously, swelling. Ratepayers have to be
squeezed to find the necessary funds for the increasing outgoings; but
best-governed cities in the world must pay a price for their advantages
and pre-eminence, and the citizens thank the gods that they have men who
will devote thought and energy to laying out public money, and fervently
hope that this may be done wisely and well.
Some of our public men who are so ardent in forwarding new schemes and
improvements can, of course, say that if these developments mean higher
rates and growing assessments, they themselves have to bear their share
of the burdens. This, of course, is so, but it must be owned that when
we have a hand in spending large sums of money with the influence and
importance that accompany the process, we pay our quota of the
financial imposts if not cheerfully, at least without the grudging
feeling of those who merely have to pay, pay, pay.
Gentle, and I trust forbearing, reader I have written my story, and have
added to my iniquity by publishing it in book form, but I indulge a
small hope that it may possibly interest a limited number of those who,
like myself, have watched with their own eyes the rapid growth and
almost amazing development of Birmingham during the last forty or fifty
years. Writing almost entirely from my own observation and memory, I may
have made some slips and mistakes, but I have tried to be careful and
accurate, and have endeavoured to verify my facts and figures from
authentic sources when possible. I therefore venture to hope that my
errors are not very many, and not of any serious moment.
Writers, we know, are often prone to say that if their readers
experience as much pleasure in reading their pages as the writers have
had in writing them, the said readers will be rewarded for their time
and pains. I am not going to repeat this pretty formula, I am rather
inclined to say that if my readers experience my feeling that I have
said enough, they will not be sorry to see these last words of my final
Artisans' Dwellings Act 3, 21
Aston Hull 5, 113
Assize Courts 120
Atkins, James 198
Attwood, Thomas 1
Barnett, J.F. 210
Big Ben of Westminster 177
Birmingham and Midland Institute 186
"B'ham Belgravia" 95
Birmingham Bishopric Scheme 75
_Birmingham Daily Gazette_ 126
_Birmingham Daily Mail_ 128
_Birmingham Morning News_ 126
_Birmingham Daily Post_ 125
_Birmingham Daily Press_ 123
Birmingham Old Library 223
Birmingham Workhouse 110
Board Schools 93
Bright, John 12, 52, 192
Brougham, Lord 188
Cambridge StreetWorks Schools 198
Chamberlain, Arthur 71
Chamberlain, Austen 65
Chamberlain, Herbert 72
Chamberlain, John Henry 49, 95
Chamberlain, Joseph 11, 32, 33
Chamberlain, Richard 70
Chamberlain, Walter 72
Christ Church, Birmingham 110
Church of the Messiah 76
Collings, Jesse 79
Costa, Sir Michael 212
Costa's "Eli" 206
Dvorak's "Requiem" 219
Eld and Chamberlain 95
Elkington and Co. 145
Gas and Water Purchase 16
Gas Profits 57
Gillott's Factory 147
Glass Making 160
Goring Thomas 220
Gothic Houses 96
Great Tom of Lincoln 177
Great Western Railway Station 4
Harcourt, Sir William 47
Hector, Edmund 110
Hobday, L.N. 182
Improvement Scheme 20
Jaffray, Sir John 195
Jewellery Trade 151
Johnson, Dr. 110
Keep Bros. 202
Kenrick, W. 73
Kingsley, Rev. Chas. 190
King Street Theatre 109
Lady Huntingdon's Chapel 108
Ladywood Lane 199
London and North-Western
Railway Station 3
Mario, Signor 206-7
Martin & Chamberlain 93
Modern Shopkeeping 29
Moilett and Gem 202
Municipal Debt 14
Municipal Reforms 8
Muntz, G.F. 1
Nettlefold & Chamberlain 66
New Meeting House 75, 77
Old Birmingham Men 104
Old Square 110
Palmerston, Lord 52
Pearsall, Wm. 174
Pemberton and Sons 202
People's Park 187
Prince Consort 186
Prosperous Manufacturers 99
Pudding Brook 113
Queen's Visit to Birmingham
in 1858 187
Rabone Bros. 202
Radicals and Royalty 61
Reeves, Sims 206
Richter, Dr. 217
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