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15 Important Facts about Birmingham, England

Updated on April 8, 2014

Birmingham, the second largest city in Britain, is situated about 113 miles (182 km) northwest of London in West Midlands metropolitan county. The city lies nearly in the geographic center of England on a plateau bordered by the Rivers Trent, Severn, and Avon. It is an administrative, business, and industrial center, as well as a crossroads for highway, railway, and (formerly) canal systems.

And here are 15 facts about Birmingham:

1. After heavy bombing during World War II, the city was extensively rebuilt during the 1950s and 1960s. Large high-rise housing estates were constructed, and the central commercial district known as the Bull Ring was transformed by the construction of a new shopping center. This was replaced by a new structure at the beginning of the 21st century, when massive redevelopment again changed the face of the city.

Birmingham Blitz
Birmingham Blitz | Source

2. To the south and southwest, Birmingham's suburbs meet Worcestershire, while those on the north extend to Staffordshire. A group of small industrial towns on the northwest is called the Black Country from the effects of coal-fire pollution on the land and buildings.

3. Several old buildings survived the bombing of World War II. On Victoria Square, with its statue of Queen Victoria, may be seen the classical Town Hall (1834), Birmingham's best-known building, and the Renaissance-style Council House (1874–1881). Nearby are the early-20th-century Hall of Memory (commemorating the dead of World War I) and the City Museum and Art Gallery. Among the older monuments are Aston Hall (1618) and St. Philip's Cathedral (1715). St. Chad's, the Roman Catholic cathedral, dates from 1841. Birmingham Central Mosque, built in 1969, is near the city center. The suburb of Bournville (1895) was a pioneer in the garden-city movement.

Birmingham Council House
Birmingham Council House | Source

4. Notable modern structures include the International Convention Centre (1991), which contains Symphony Hall, the home of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; Millennium Point (2001), a museum and learning center; and the distinctive Selfridges department store building (2003) at the Bull Ring.

5. Birmingham has a number of schools and colleges. Mason's College (1880) was incorporated as the University of Birmingham in 1900, and the College of Advanced Technology became the University of Aston in Birmingham in 1965.

6. Birmingham Polytechnic, which was formed from a merger of various arts, technical, and vocational colleges in 1971, became the University of Central England in Birmingham in 1992. King Edward's School (1552), in Edgbaston, is a well-known "public" (independent) school.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra | Source

7. Most of Birmingham's important cultural institutions date from the period of rapid population growth in the 19th century -notably the Birmingham Society of Artists (1809), the Birmingham and Midland Institute (1853), and the Central Public Library (1860).

8. Important Birmingham's collections are housed in the City Museum and Art Gallery, Thinktank (located at Millennium Point and replacing the former Museum of Science and Industry), and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts.

9. The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is world renowned. Birmingham also has several playhouses, among them the nationally famous Repertory Theatre (1913). The Midlands Art Centre (1960) mounts theatrical, musical, dance, and literary events as well as art exhibitions for children.

10. Birmingham's prosperity was founded on the diversity of its industries, dating from the 18th century, and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution.

11. Although manufacturing has declined significantly since the 1970s, the city still produces machine tools, motor vehicles, chemicals, plastics, electrical equipment, food, jewelry, and glass.

12. Financial services are a major component of Birmingham’s economy, and services generally contribute by far the greatest value. Tourism is important because the city is a retail and conference center.

13. With the reorganization of England's counties in 1974, Birmingham, formerly a county borough within Warwickshire, became part of the new metropolitan county of West Midlands. As a county borough, the city had enjoyed relative autonomy. As a district of West Midlands, it lost much of that.

14. In 1986, however, the West Midlands County Council was abolished, and the Birmingham City Council resumed most of its former powers, now constituting in effect a unitary authority. The city council has 120 members. Birmingham returns 10 members to the House of Commons.

15. Birmingham remained a small village until the later Middle Ages, but after the grant of a market charter in 1166 it started to develop as a trading center. Tanning, textile, and, later, metal industries also flourished.


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