Archive for the ‘birmingham’ Category

The book I read to research this post was A Regional History Of The Railways Of Great Britain Volume 7 The West Midlands by Rex Christiansen which is a very good book that I bought from a car boot sale. This book was published in 1991 and is part of a 15 volume series covering the different regions of Great Britain. This book is around 300 pages so is a fairly decent length. Even before the railways were built linking the West Midlands, Birmingham was Britain’s second city. It was called the city of a thousand trades. The Industrial Revolution when a way was found to make coke which subsequently to the development of blast furnaces and steel making started at Coalbrookdale which is near the present day town of Telford and not that far from Birmingham. For years probably the most important railway station in Birmingham was Curzon Street although even when it was opened it was way too small for the traffic it handled. It was later closed and New Street replaced it. There was also key stations at Snow Hill and Moor Street which especially with the later looked for a while they were going to close completely. Luckily in more recent years New Street hasn’t been able to handle all its traffic so some has had to be redirected to these stations and they are now modern and busy. Wolverhampton nearby has always occupied an important junction for roads and later canals. The first railway tried to bypass Wolverhampton with a railway station on the outskirts which is stupid. Of course there was a public outcry and things did get sorted out.  They underestimated its importance. Wolverhampton was well known as one of the biggest towns in Britain prior to achieving city status in 2000. I did quite enjoy this book and do recommend it although I think it’s not the kind of book you are likely to see on sale.


The book I read to research this post was An History Of Birmingham 1783 by William Hutton which is a very good book that I downloaded for free from kindle. Clearly this book is out of copyright and I think is of particular interest to anyone who lives in the West Midlands. We know Birmingham is a very old settlement indeed even predating the Romans. Nobody knows how old exactly but we know it’s original name was Bromych and there still is a nearby town called West Bromich. The preffix Brom comes from broom or gorse which grows particularly well in this soil. The Wych part means descent and probably refers to the gentle sloping land at Digbeth nearby. Originally Birmingham covered 3,000 acres and Aston which is now a suburb covered 4 times the area and King’s Norton 8 times. Of course a lot of Birmingham’s growth has been that as it has got bigger it has swallowed up places that have then become suburbs. In 1778 there were 49,000 roughly in this market town which didn’t become a city until the beginning of the 20th Century. In Britain they declare places after a due process cities at the beginning of each century. In the 21st Century it was Inverness, Brighton and Wolverhampton. Anyway at this time Birmingham was a part of the Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry. It was an extremity of Warwickshire with many places like Handsworth which for example was in Staffordshire but would become a suburb in time. Of course Birmingham was a key player in industrialization and the industrial revolution. The first factories were built here and James Watt who invented a working steam engine lived here. Even in 1783 there was an iron smelting works at Aston. This book is around 320 pages so is a decent length. I very much enjoyed reading it and highly recommend it.

The book I read to research this post was An Account Of 150 Years Of Policing Birmingham by John Reilly which is a very good book that I bought from a car boot sale. Actually this book was published in 1989 so 150 years is a bit misleading. It was written by a Chief Inspector in the police force. The police force in Birmingham along the lines we know it started in 1819 and was part of the Warwickshire Constabulary. Prior to that there was a constable and his assistant to keep law and order and they used a people’s militia as and when needed. The constable was also responsible for fighting fires along with the fire brigade and any time the law was broken they could be called out even if off duty to uphold the law. In the 19th Century Birmingham faced huge expansion only becoming a city in 1900 and had a population of 187,000 in 1841 and nowadays has over a million inhabitants. Patrol cars with 2 way radios didn’t happen until 1942 and during World War 2 several police stations were hit by bombs and several police men were killed. In World War 1 Germany bombed Britain with airships which because there was no air defences at that time could roam freely. The airships were useless when air defences were built as they were huge, slow and filled by hydrogen which was apt to explode. I did really enjoy this book although it a little short at around 220 pages. It’s interesting nonetheless.

The book I read to research this post was Rail Centres: Crewe by Rex Christiansen which is an excellent book which I bought from Amazon. Crewe is the equivalent of a victorian new town & was just greenbelt land prior to that. In 1974 it merged with nearby Nantwich to form a bigger. It would have probably not existed had it not been an important junction between Holyhead, Liverpool, the Midlands, London & the North West. The route to Holyhead was delayed for 6 years mostly due to problems building the Menai Straits Tubular Bridge. Trains tend to stop at Crewe & passengers change trains but rarely go into the town. The night train to Holyhead The Irish Mail is the oldest named train in the world & has always stopped at Crewe. There is a non stop train to Swansea which is the longest non stop train from Crewe & is only 2 miles nearer than London Euston. Crewe is named after a nearby stately home called Crewe Hall. Trains were manufactured here and the railway company provided decent accommodation for their workers. More recently it has become a major freight centre. The railway station was also rebuilt in the 1980’s.

The book I read to research this post was Rail Centres: Wolverhampton by Paul Collins which is an excellent book which I bought from a local secondhand bookstore. These books are a series of the most important railway stations in Britain. Wolverhampton was recently made a city but was one of the biggest towns in England with a population of around 260,000. It has dwindled slightly in importance as a railway station because quite a few lines going out of the city have been closed like a lot of other places. It was one of the most northerly places on the GWR line and they faced severe competition from the LMNR company. Indeed there were 2 stations in Wolverhampton each run by one of these companies & each with a completely different network. Wolverhampton had the longest serving MP in parliament who served 63 years. Also when Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone the second telephone ever placed was to the Mayor of Wolverhampton who was a close friend. Several large companies had railway lines laid to their factories including Courtaulds in Bilston which manufactured rayon. There was a Stour Valley line to Stourport via Stourbridge. Part of this line has since closed. In the battle of the stations the High Level station won although it was rebuilt completely in 1960. The other station was called the Low Level station. A major line which is still used is that which links Shrewsbury & Wales to Birmingham.

The book I read to research this post was The New Circlemakers by Andrew Collins which is an excellent book which I bought from Kindle. This book is primarily about crop circles although there is quite a bit on Loch Ness & other phenomenon. In this post I am going off topic quite a bit & obviously not all of this is in the book but from different sources. The parents of a friend of mine have a farm not that far from Wolverhampton, which is surrounded by quite a lot of countryside despite being a city. Anyway they have some sheep & apparently from time to time a large cat probably a puma attacks their sheep. Anyway according to their vet it’s hushed up that there are pumas in Britain & they do see a fair few attacks on various animals. Also in the local newspaper, I live in Birmingham incidently, it’s quite a long time ago but they ran a story that a policeman had seen a puma near a village called Enville. They argued that being a policeman although it was dark & he saw it in the headlights of his car, that he is a reliable witness. You might wonder why no one has captured one but they are notoriously elusive. For example they won’t follow the same route twice.  I did see a programme called the Richard Hammond Show which said that quite a lot of animals have escaped  from places like zoos & they are not all recaptured & some do survive in the wild in Britain. There have been reports of a big cat in the Loch Ness area according to the book. The Loch is situated on a fault line & this book argues that maybe due to the huge geothermal stresses there is a time portal. The author interviewed a number of people who had seen land reptiles & some were brightly coloured. Also a couple on a horse & trap disappeared after travelling near the Loch in the 19th Century & at first people thought they had been killed & thrown in the Loch but no trace of them or the horse & trap was ever found.