The Transformation of Birmingham


At the time Joseph Chamberlain first arrived in the West Midlands in 1854, the municipal administration in Birmingham was less than twenty years old.

The Corporation could not be said to have over-achieved during that period. Hamstrung by arguments over the validity of its charter, and initially unable even to police itself, Birmingham had, as yet, no baths, no libraries, no public parks, nor even a municipal property in which to hold council meetings. And the two elements which kept the town alive – its gas and water – were in the hands of private companies.

The transformation over the following two decades is striking. By 1876, when Chamberlain left for Westminster, the town had five public libraries, six parks and three sets of municipal baths. And in what would shortly be called Victoria Square, an immense council headquarters was close to completion.

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Chamberlain Birmingham

Two Titans, One City

Andrew Reekes

Two famous and powerful men of the late Victorian and early Edwardian era, Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914) and George Cadbury (1839-1922), towered over one of the great cities of the British Empire - Birmingham. Together, they offer a fascinating window into the rapidly changing world in which they lived and the preoccupations of their...


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