When the history of Hemlingford Hundred was first planned in 1937 it was intended to
include in it the history of Birmingham. Dr. R. A. Pelham accordingly gathered information for a comparatively short article on the city but the intervention of the Second
World War and other circumstances made it impossible for him to finish it. His notes
eventually proved useful in providing material for various sections and his help is
gratefully acknowledged. In the end, in 1947, the history of the hundred was published
without Birmingham as Volume IV of the Warwickshire History, and Birmingham
was left, with Coventry and Warwick, to form a final, wholly urban, volume.
It was after this plan for a volume devoted to the three towns had already been framed
that Professors Conrad Gill and Asa Briggs published their two-volume History of
Birmingham (1951). This event suggested that it would be an advantage to replan the
Victoria History of Birmingham completely so as to avoid too close a competition with a
work that had so recently appeared. While it was plain that the Victoria History had to
cover the history of the city as comprehensively as possible it seemed best to ensure that
it would be weighted in favour of those topics on which the work of Gill and Briggs
had touched somewhat lightly. In particular it was felt that in such sections as churches,
schools, and charities, it should include much factual detail of a kind which would have
been discordant with the plan of Gill and Briggs.
Various vicissitudes made work on the replanned history of Birmingham necessarily
slow, and it was not until 1961 that expansion of the central staff of the History made
it possible to intensify it. By that time the material had grown somewhat bulky and it
was decided to devote a whole volume to Birmingham alone, leaving the histories of
Coventry and Warwick to form a later volume.
The long period which it has taken to prepare the present volume, the fact that parts
of Staffordshire and Worcestershire have now been incorporated in Birmingham, and
that some aspects of the history of the city have already been touched upon in other
volumes of the History, have created special difficulties. Accounts of the ancient
parishes of King's Norton, Northfield, and Yardley, and of the parish of Quinton (in
the ancient parish of Halesowen), now within the boundaries of the city, are contained
in Volume III of the History of Worcestershire. Similarly there are accounts in Volume
IV of the History of Warwickshire of those parts of the parishes of Castle Bromwich
and Minworth, and of the ancient parishes of Sheldon and Solihull, which are also now
in Birmingham. The church history of new ecclesiastical parishes formed in these areas,
together with fresh details of older parish churches, has, however, been included in the
present volume; as too have details of public education, and of Roman Catholic and
Protestant nonconformist places of worship. Topographical accounts have, where
appropriate, been included from the time when these districts became part of Birmingham, and in some cases the architectural history has been brought up to date. The
histories of charities contained in the earlier volumes have not been added to. Other
general sections in the present volume deal with the whole of the modern area of the
city. Certain subjects, however, which form part of the history of Birmingham have
been dealt with in principle in Volume II of the History of Warwickshire and for that
reason are not to be found in this volume. They include the Hospital of St. Thomas,
King Edward VI School, and King Edward VI High School.
Some Birmingham trades were dealt with individually in the chapter on the industries
of Warwickshire in Volume II of the History of Warwickshire. The present volume has
sought to complement what is said there by incorporating a comprehensive study of the
economic development of Birmingham up to 1960. It has not, of course, always been
possible to confine treatment of economic matters exactly to the administrative
boundaries of the city.
The volume has been written over a long period and, it has been thought disproportionately laborious to bring all its sections up to the same date. The terminal date to
which each section has been brought is indicated, where necessary, in the first footnote
of the section concerned.
The history of a city of Birmingham's standing could not easily have been written
without the kind co-operation of a great number of people, not all of whom can be
thanked personally here. They include, the officers of several of the departments of
Birmingham Corporation, especially the Education Department, the Public Works
Department, the Central Statistical Office, the City Architect's Department, the Town
Clerk's Department, and the Markets and Fairs Department. Particular mention must
be made of the unstinted assistance in many directions given by Miss M. D. Norris,
Mr. A. Andrews, and other members of the staff of the Birmingham Reference Library.
Sincere thanks are due also to the Diocesan Registrar, the Librarian of the Council for
the Care of Churches, the Secretary to the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Archivist to
the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, and to ministers of religion and members of congregations of many denominations who supplied information for the section on religious
history. Help from the Warwickshire County Record Office, the Archivist at Post Office
Headquarters, the Librarian and other officers of the Ministry of Education, Dr.
D. E. C. Eversley of Birmingham University, Mr. F. R. Barlow, Secretary of the
Bournville Village Trust, Mr. and Mrs. B. W. Harley, formerly of Soho House,
Handsworth, and the authors of various unpublished these cited in the footnotes to the
text, is gratefully acknowledged. Finally, acknowledgement must be made to the
corporations of the cities of Birmingham and Coventry and to the County Council of
Warwickshire for their generous assistance towards the cost of publication.