Page:EB1911 - Volume 03.djvu/1008

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985
BIRMINGHAM

oldest body established here, have among their chapels a handsome structure in Bristol Road, the Old Meeting, which in 1885 replaced the building in which the congregation was formed on the Presbyterian model by a number of ministers ejected under the Act of Uniformity. Another chapel, the New Meeting, in Moor Street, is memorable as having been the place of Dr Joseph Priestley’s ministerial labours from 1780 onwards. In 1862 the Unitarians removed from this place to a new Gothic edifice, called the church of the Messiah, in Broad Street, where they preserve a monument of Priestley, with a medallion portrait in profile, and an inscription written by Priestley’s friend, Dr Parr. The first meeting-house of the Society of Friends dates from about 1690. Among Independent chapels, that of Carr’s Lane had John Angell James and Robert William Dale as ministers. The Baptists first erected a chapel in Cannon Street in 1738. The Wesleyan Methodists were established in Birmingham by John Wesley himself in 1745, when he was roughly handled while preaching on Gosta Green. In 1903 a very fine central hall, with lofty tower, was opened by this body, in the style of the Renaissance, fronting upon Corporation, Ryder and Dalton streets. The Presbyterians have also places of worship, and the Jews have a synagogue. From the revolution of 1688 until 1789 the Roman Catholics had no place of worship here; but Birmingham is now a Roman Catholic bishopric. The cathedral of St Chad was built from the designs of A. W. Pugin. At Erdington, towards Sutton Coldfield, is a large Benedictine Abbey (1897) of the Beuron congregation, founded as a monastery in 1876; and in the vicinity, at Oscott, is St Mary’s College, where the chapel is a fine example of Pugin’s work. Cardinal Newman was superior of the Oratory of St Philip Neri from its foundation in 1851.

Administration.—The government of the town resided originally in the high and low bailiffs, both officers chosen at the court of the lord of the manor, and acting as his deputies. The system was a loose one, but by degrees it became somewhat organized, and crown writs were addressed to the bailiffs. In 1832, when the town was enfranchised, they were made the returning officers. About the beginning of the 19th century, however, a more regular system was instituted, by an act creating a body of street commissioners, who acted for the parish of Birmingham, the hamlets outside its boundaries having similar boards of their own. The annoyance and difficulty caused by these bodies, thirteen in number, led to a demand for the incorporation of Birmingham as a borough; and a charter was accordingly granted by the crown in 1838, vesting the general government in a mayor, sixteen aldermen and forty-seven councillors. The powers of this body were, however, unusually restricted, the other local governing bodies remaining in existence. It was not until 1851 that an act of parliament was obtained, abolishing all governing authorities excepting the town council, and transferring all powers to this body. Another local act was obtained in 1862, and in 1883 these various acts were combined into the Birmingham Corporation Consolidation Act. In 1889 Birmingham was created a city, and a grant made of an official coat of arms carrying supporters. The title of lord mayor was conferred on the chief magistrate in 1897. The city council consists of eighteen aldermen and fifty-four councillors, selected from eighteen wards; it is divided into seventeen committees, most of which consist of eight members. The corporation is the largest employer of labour in the borough, and is also a large landowner.

The gas, electric and water supplies are in its hands. The gas supply was taken over in 1875, and the electric in 1900 for £420,000. The local sources of water-supply are the rivers Bourne and Blythe, the Plant Brook and the Perry Stream, and eight deep wells. These works can provide 20 million gallons daily in dry weather. A large area outside the city boundaries is supplied, and in 1891, the demand having risen to nearly 17 millions a day, new sources had to be considered, and it was determined to seek an entirely new supply in Wales. By an act of 1892 power was given to acquire the watershed of the rivers Elan and Claerwen, tributaries of the Wye, lying west of Rhyader in Wales, and to construct the necessary works, the capital authorized being £6,000,000. About £5,900,000 had been spent when, on the 21st of July 1904, King Edward VII. formally opened the supply. Two reservoirs on the river Elan, formed by masonry dams from 98 to 128 ft. above the river-bed, were then completed, the construction of the three planned on the Claerwen being deferred until necessity should arise. Nearly a mile below the confluence of the rivers the great Caban Coch dam, 122 ft. high, and the same in thickness at the base, and 600 ft. long at the top, holds up the water for over 4 m. in the Elan, and over 2 in the Claerwen, having a capacity of 1500 million gallons. A series of thirty filter beds is included in the original scheme; and the water travels 73.3 m. from the source to Birmingham by gravity alone with a fall of about 170 ft. The area of the gathering ground is 45,562 acres, the mean annual rainfall in the district being 63 in. The complete scheme provided water for fifty years in advance, and a maximum of 75 million gallons a day was taken into account, in addition to 27 million gallons for compensation water to the river. The part of the works opened in 1904 provided about 27 million gallons of supply daily to the city. The corporation is obliged by the act to supply towns within 15 m. of the line of the aqueduct. A village for the accommodation of workmen was established near the Caban Coch dam; and the corporation adopted a modified form of the Gothenburg system in respect of the supply of intoxicating liquors, permitting no publican to open a licensed house.

The administration of the poor-law is vested in a board of guardians of sixty members for the parish of Birmingham. The parish of Edgbaston (wholly within the borough) is in the poor-law union of King’s Norton, and that part of the parish of Aston included in the borough is in the Aston Union. There are three workhouses—that for Birmingham parish, situated at Birmingham Heath, is capable of receiving over 2000 inmates. In 1882 a superintendent relieving officer was appointed, and a system of cross-visitation started for the purpose of checking abuses of outdoor relief. Workhouses, infirmaries and cottage homes are managed by the board, on which women first sat in 1880. The administration of justice was performed from 1838 to 1884 by a court of quarter sessions, with a recorder, and a court of petty sessions. In 1884 Birmingham was made an assize district of Warwickshire. In 1905 a special juvenile offenders’ court was initiated. The borough gaol is at Winson Green towards Smethwick. The drainage system is managed by the Birmingham, Tame and Rea District drainage board, constituted in 1877, and consisting of members from the city council and from districts outside the municipal area.

Birmingham was enfranchised in 1832, when two representatives were assigned to it, and Thomas Attwood and Joshua Scholefield, leaders of the Political Union, were elected. In 1867 three members were assigned, and in 1885 the number was increased to seven, and a corresponding number of parliamentary divisions created, namely Bordesley, Central, East, Edgbaston, North, South and West. By the Provincial Local Government Board Act of 1891 four local board districts were added to the city of Birmingham for local government—Harborne (Staffordshire), Balsall Heath (Worcestershire), Saltley and the rural hamlet of Little Bromwich (Warwickshire). These districts were by the act declared to be in the county of Warwick, though still remaining in their respective counties for the exercise of freehold votes. By this act the boundaries of the city were made conterminous for parliamentary, municipal and school board purposes. The area is 12,639 acres.

The population of Birmingham in 1700 was about 15,000. In 1801 it was 73,000, and it increased rapidly through the century. In 1891 it was 478,113 and in 1901, 522,204.

Education.—The oldest educational institution is the grammar school of King Edward VI., founded in 1552 out of the lands of the Gild of the Holy Cross, then of the annual value of £21. The endowments now yield upwards of £37,000. The principal school included in the foundation is the boys’ high school, held in the building in New Street. It has a classical and a modern side, and educates about 500 boys. Adjoining it, in a new building opened in 1896, is a large high school for girls, with 300