Birmingham, a city and a municipal, parliamentary, and county borough, the chief town of the Midlands, is celebrated for its metallic manufactures throughout the world. It stands near the centre of England, in the north-west of Warwickshire, with suburbs extending into Staffordshire and Worcestershire, 112 1/2 miles NW. of London. It is picturesquely situated on the east slope of three undulating hills, on the Rea and the Tame, and though rather irregularly built, has been greatly improved in this respect within recent years, while its water-supply and sanitary arrangements are admirable. There are seven public parks in the suburbs. The public buildings include the Corinthian town-hall (1832-52), the scene of triennial musical festivals and great political meetings; the market-hall, dating from 1838; the Italian municipal buildings (1874-78), at a cost of nearly £200,009; the corn exchange (1847); the Gothic exchange buildings (1863-65); and the post-office. Queen's College (1867) and the Mason Science College, founded in 1875 by Sir Josiali Mason, were incorporated in Birmingham University in 1900. Other institutions are the Birmingham and Midland Institute, the museum and art gallery, the school of art, the technical school, the libraries, King Edward VI.'s grammar-schools, and the blue-coat school. Birmingham became the see of a bishop in 1904. Its mayor has been a Lord Mayor since 1896. There are more than a dozen statues or memorials of Birmingham worthies (including Watt, Priestley, Bright, Chamberlain, Mason, Dawson), and other eminent men. The parish church of St Martins, erected in 1873 at a cost of nearly £30,000, stands on the site of the old building, dating from the 13th century; and the Catholic cathedral of St Chad (Birmingham being the seat of a Catholic see) was erected from the designs of Pugin, at a cost of over £30,000.
In Leland's Itinerary (1538) Birmingham is referred to as the abode of 'smiths and cutlers.' In cutlery goods it has been completely superseded by Sheffield, but in all other kinds of the finer metal manufactures it is unrivalled by any other town in the world. Iron and brass founding are carried on, and steam-engines and various kinds of machinery are made; but the principal manufactures are the finer kinds of gold, silver, copper, brass, steel, mixed metal, plated metal, glass, papier-mache, japanned and electrotyped articles, including firearms, ammunition, swords, metal ornaments, toys, jewellery, coins, buttons, buckles, lamps, pins, steel-pens, tools, arms, and locks. Over 560,000 gun-barrels were manufactured in 1891; and other specialties, of which an enormous quantity are manufactured, are steel-pens, buttons, nails, and screws. ' Brummagem' is colloquially used to denote anything sham or fictitious, such as cheap jewellery, now no longer made here so much as in London and in Germany. Near Handsworth, a little to the north of Birmingham, were the famous Soho Works, founded by Watt and Boulton. The Bermingeham of Domesday was later known as Bromwychham (whence Brummagem). During the Civil War the town supplied the Parliamentarians with swords, but it was taken by Prince Rupert in 1643. It suffered severely from the plague in 1665-66. The celebration by a number of Radicals, 14th July 1791, of the capture of the Bastille, was the occasion of a serious riot by the upholders of church and king, who attacked Dr Priestley's house, and destroyed his library. Subsequently Birmingham was prominently associated with the reformers of 1832 and the Chartists, and it was the famous headquarters of what was known as the Liberal ' caucus.'