Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Birmingham

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BIRMINGHAM, a city of England, on the Rea river near its confluence with the Tame, in the N. W. of Warwickshire, with suburbs extending into Staffordshire and Worcestershire; 112 miles N. W. of London, and 97 S. E. of Liverpool. It is the principal seat of the hardware manufacture in Great Britain, producing metal articles of all kinds from pins to steam engines. It manufactures firearms in great quantities, swords, jewelry, buttons, tools, steel pens, locks, lamps, bedsteads, gas fittings, sewing machines, articles of papier maché, railway carriages, etc. The quantity of solid gold and silver plate manufactured is large, and the consumption of these metals in electroplating is very great. Japanning, glass manufacturing, and glass staining or painting form important branches of industry, as also does the manufacture of chemicals. At Soho and Smethwick in the vicinity of the city are the famous works founded by Boulton and Watt, who there manufactured their first steam engines, where gas was first used, plating perfected, and numerous novel applications tried and experiments made. Among the public buildings are the Town Hall, a handsome building of the classic style, the Free Library, commenced in 1861, the central portion of which was burned down in 1879, when the irreplaceable Shakespeare library, and the collection of books, prints, etc., bearing on the antiquities of Warwickshire, were destroyed; the Midland Institute and Public Art Gallery, the Council House, etc. There are statues of the Prince Consort, James Watt, Sir Robert Peel, Lord Nelson, Dr. Priestley, Rowland Hill, Sir Joshua Mason, and others. The finest ecclesiastical building is the Roman Catholic Cathedral, a noble Gothic structure. The principal educational establishments are Queen's College, providing instruction in theology, medicine, and arts; a Roman Catholic college (at Oscott); the Royal College for Medicine, Arts, Engineering and Law; the Mason Scientific College, founded by Sir Joshua Mason, 1875, opened 1880, now Birmingham University; and the Free Grammar School, founded by Edward VI., etc. The Reform Act of 1832 made Birmingham a Parliamentary borough with two members; the act of 1867 gave it a third; while the Redistribution Act of 1885 divided it into seven divisions, each sending one member to Parliament. Birmingham is known to have existed in the reign of Alfred, in 872, and is mentioned in the Domesday Book (1086) by the name of Bermengeham. Another old name of the town is Bromwycham, a form still preserved very nearly in the popular local pronunciation, Brummagem. Pop. (1919) 861,585.