PLACE KNOWLEDGE – 2a(iii) Second City

Birmingham is an exciting city, and as the second largest city in England you should know some interesting facts about it.

Birmingham means home (ham) of the people (ing) of the tribal leader Birm or Beorma.

As you may already know, Birmingham is home to Cadbury’s chocolate. Brothers George and Richard Cadbury moved their successful chocolate manufacturing business from Bull Street, Birmingham to Bournville in 1879.

Did you know that John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, spent his childhood in Sarehole, Birmingham? The tiny village of Sarehole is said to have been the model for the Shire, home of Bilbo in Tolkien’s famous book “The Hobbit”.

Two miles from Birmingham city centre is one of the biggest motorway junctions in Europe: the Gravelly Hill Interchange. Though it is better known by its nickname, “Spaghetti Junction” to the millions of motorists who use it every year.

There are thirty other Birminghams around the world and even a crater on the moon called Birmingham!

James Watt, who lived in Birmingham from 1775-1819, was a figure in the development of the steam engine. Through his work, the firm Boulton and Watt sold the industrial revolution to the world. Watt also invented the letter copying machine, which was the forerunner of the modern photocopier. His name stays in our vocabulary through the unit we use to measure power, the “watt”.

Learn more about plans for the future development of Birmingham from the video below.

Birmingham – City of the Future?

Birmingham was known as the ‘workshop of the world’ and the ‘city of a thousand trades’ during the Industrial Revolution, as it was one of the leading centres of manufacturing in Britain. Due to its position in the middle of the country, it was perfectly placed for England’s growing network of canals. From 1769, heavy raw materials were shipped in on barges from the nearby Black Country, especially coal to power factory furnaces. Guns, jewellery and pens were among the many trades that prospered and gave their name to specialised areas of the city, such as the Gun Quarter and the Jewellery Quarter.

The engineers James Watt (who invented the steam engine), Matthew Boulton and William Murdock (both pioneers in steam engine development), the chemist Joseph Priestley, and the printer John Baskerville all lived in the city, greatly contributing to the technological progress of Birmingham, as well as the country as a whole. Boulton’s Soho Manufactory, which developed the steam engine for industrial use, became famous throughout Europe.

During World War II the city was bombed heavily and after the war finished the city began to get rid of the slums and bombed-out areas in the central districts, replacing them with tall blocks of apartments and office buildings. A new inner ring road system, a rebuilt central train station, as well as new shopping and commercial complexes were all part of the city’s transformation after the war.

Follow these hyperlinks to learn more:-

  1. Encyclopedia Britannica – Birmingham
  2. British Library – The Industrial Revolution
  3. History of Birmingham

Geography Home Page

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