I have just started researching for a PhD in Modern History at the University of Birmingham, under the supervision of Professor Carl Chinn and with financial support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

There is still only a working title for my thesis, but the proposal is a case study of Birmingham and its administration between 1838-1852. This time frame falls within a period of immense change in British politics and society as the impact of industrialisation and urban growth became starkly visible. This was an age of sweeping political reform and immense social upheaval. Life appears to have been running at an ever increasing pace. Birmingham was one of a small number of towns at the forefront of this dynamic change, bursting at the seams with a population that was technologically innovative, culturally motivated and politically radical.

The period under consideration for this research was chosen as one which really represents the frontier between old and new styles of approach to local administration. This is an area which I hope to explore in more detail in my thesis. I am particularly interested in the interface between the ‘public’ and local authorities. I want to understand the extent to which public demand influenced reform at a local level and how local demands might have impacted on changes to national policy as well as consideration of how these new approaches to social management impacted on real lives. Another ambition for the thesis is to move away from the traditional ‘grand narrative’ approach of class conflict, so often applied to nineteenth-century Birmingham,  considering instead the rather more ordinary interactions of daily life. I have discovered that the minute books of both the Town Council and the Street Commissioners reveal an incredibly vivid insight into how Birmingham developed materially during the first half of the nineteenth century. Not through any poetic description or fanciful musings, but through planning applications, petitions of complaint and bye-laws. Such a vibrant and real image of the town emerged from these ‘mundane’ interactions that I thought it would be useful to share them. Hence this blog on an occasional history of the mundane.

Birmingham’s early Victorian history has too often been overshadowed by the towering presence of the later administration of Joseph Chamberlain. It has been written off as a time of civic stagnation. I want to contest this perspective by bringing to the fore the dynamic and often bold actions taken by Birmingham’s early civic leadership.

The majority of evidence sourced for this blog can be found archived at the Library of Birmingham, which offers a HUGE quantity of archival material for anyone interested in the history of Birmingham – and it’s not at all mundane!

Coffee Break?

From Birmingham Journal , January 16th, 1836

Mocha Coffee, at 2s. per pound

    The superiority of Mocha Coffee over every other description must be acknowledged by everyone who has tried it. Its flavour so perfectly mild and free from any property which is calculated to offend a weak stomach, particularly recommends it to invalids; and were it not for the high price at which this description has hitherto sold, there can be no doubt that its use would have long since superseded the Coffee imported from the West Indies.
At the present moment good Coffee is much enquired for and difficult to procure, unless at an extraordinary high price; this is owing to the scarcity of West India Coffee, the consumption of this article in Great Britain being greater than the Colonies can provide for.
The Mocha Coffee, and in fact every description not grown in the West Indies, pays an extra duty of three-pence per pound.  This duty has hitherto had the effect of limiting the importations to very small quantities, but the high price to which West India Coffee has now advanced, brings the Mocha and East India into the market on nearly the same footing.
I beg to state that I have made a large purchase in Mocha Coffee; of its quality I will leave the public to judge. The price is Two Shillings per pound. I have only to invite a trial, resting assured that a trial will convince every person of its superiority over every other kind imported into this country,
                                                               No. 14, High-Street, Birmingham
The richness of Coffee depends almost entirely on the manner in which it is made. It ought never to be boiled. Boiling water poured over the Coffee gradually is the proper method. But those who are very choice in this article should use “Parker’s Patent Coffee Pot“; the plan is most admirable, it being more properly the essence of the coffee, extracted by steam made to pass through the “grounds” and then condensing; thus preserving the flavour and strength to a perfection unattainable by any other method. Another recommendation is, that it cannot by carelessness or any other cause be made bad. I have one of these Coffee -pots by me, and shall be happy to show it to any person. I do not sell them, but can procure them of any size to order.


Expenses of the Watch: 1848

At a general meeting of the Town Council held on February 1st, 1848, the Watch Committee presented the following account of their annual expenses from the previous year. At the opening of the report there was also a table showing the current ‘strength of the police force’, according to rank. The numbers presented were:

69 first class officers
69 second class officers
69 third class officers
61 fourth class officers
9 preparatory officers
5 detectives

The committee also confirmed that ‘the station and section houses are in good condition’.

There are lots of interesting expenses on the list, maybe we shouldn’t read too much into the Chief Superintendent’s ‘incidental expenses’ and the greatest expenditure appears to be on clothing and stationery. One woman appears on the list. Although it is not known why Mrs. Ford was left in charge of a female prisoner, but she appears to have been paid quite well for her trouble. Also on the list is a payment to cover damages to a ‘car’. This may have been a cab.

The table has been drawn up from original material taken from the Town Council minute books, which can be viewed at the Library of Birmingham, Archives, Heritage & Photography.  The staff are very helpful & infinitely knowledgeable. And of course the minutes in their original form are available to view free of charge. Because of recent cuts to this important service, visits are by prior appointment only. But do go and look at them, they’re fascinating. Reference number for this volume is BCC1/AA/1/1/2

I hope the format is easy to read. Payments are written in the form £,s,d (pounds, shillings & pence)

Payee Service/goods Payment (pounds, shillings & pence)
John Tonks Printing £20,,14,,0
Hunt & Sons Printing £18,,1,,0
Watts & Williams Surgeons 7s, 6d
J.W. Davies Surgeon 5s,, 0d
J.V. Solomon Surgeon £ 3,,10,,0
Dolans & Co. Clothing £194,,0,, 6
Thomas Evans Boots £153,,10,,0
W. & G. Ashford Stocks 18s,, 0d
Pashby & Plevins Repairs £11,,15,,9
Smith & Hawkes Repairs £1,,14,, 6
B. Burgess Repairs 7s,, 2d
Chief Superintendent ‘Incidental expenses’ £13,,1,,5
Inspector Glossop ‘Incidental expenses’ £1,,17,,3
W. E. Bayldon Apprehending a prisoner £  3,,8,,0
Mrs Ford Taking charge of a female prisoner 13s,,6d
Dawson & Son Printing &c. £19,,10,,0
Mr. Talbut Repairing locks 12s,,7d
Mr. Farmer Repairs 12s,,6d
J.E. Hornblower Preparing plans in support of an indictment £2,,2,,0
Superintendent Roberts Expenses in endeavouring to apprehend a prisoner £1,,15,,0
Allen & Son Stationery &c. £10,,12,,6
J.W. Showell Stationery &c. £4,,9,,9
John Holt Brushes &c. £1,,6,,6
Mr. Parkes Damage done to a car by a prisoner in custody of police £1,,6,,6
D. R. Hill Plans, specifications and estimate of cost of new police station £21,,0,,0

The results are in:Birmingham’s first council election,1838

common seal british library stock

The Birmingham ratepayers elected their first town council on Wednesday, 26th December 1839.  There was a limited electorate because of legislation passed in 1835 which restricted voting to ratepayers of three years standing. Anyone who, for some reason, had not paid their rates during the course of  the previous three years was excluded from taking part in the election. As may be guessed, women were not permitted a vote even if they were long-standing ratepayers.

Shown below are the results of Birmingham’s first council election. The candidates were divided between ‘Radicals’ and ‘Tories’. This might appear odd; when I voted today there was a choice of five candidates from very different political parties. In fact, the choice presented in 1838 as controversial then too. In the run up to the election there were some candidates who were not Tories, but equally did not consider themselves to be Radical. In the list below you’ll see that some candidates are presented as ‘placed upon both lists’.  This was a form of protest. In the end, the Radicals won every seat and on first sight this does appear something of a rout, however the outcome was closer in some districts than others. By my quick calculation, the Radicals took 66% of the total votes.

One interesting name on the list is that of Richard Tapper Cadbury, father of John (who perhaps needs no introduction here).  He was a stalwart of the Street Commissioners, Birmingham’s self-elected administration which held responsibility for managing the town’s infrastructure. In 1851 the council usurped the commissioners, but from the first election until that date there was an uneasy relationship between the two. This is perhaps why Cadbury (and a few other commissioners) made the decision to take part in the election.

The report reveals the returning officer for the elections to be William Scholefield. He was the son of Joshua Scholefield who, along with Thomas Attwood became one of Birmingham’s first MPs. William Scholefield was a known Radical and was elected councillor for St. Peter’s ward, so it might seem a bit off that he was in charge of ensuring fair vote counting. However, at the time of the election, he also held the office of High Bailiff and it was acting in this capacity. He holds the distinction of being Birmingham’s first mayor.

The following is taken from the Birmingham Journal,  December 29th 1838. This newspaper is available to read online, by subscription to the British Newspaper Archive and free of charge (appointment advised) at the Library of Birmingham.

Corporate Elections in Birmingham

Each ward in the town was contested by Tory candidates, every one of whom were defeated. Elections commenced in the different wards precisely at nine o’clock in the morning under the superintendence of deputy returning officers, and the poll was kept open until four o’clock when the boxes were conveyed to the committee room of the Town Hall and their contents examined by W. Scholefield esq., the returning officer, and the following were declared the result of the elections.

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©The British Library Board

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©The British Library Board 


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©The British Library Board

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©The British Library Board


Soup for the poor


The food bank is rapidly becoming a vital addition to local communities across twenty-first century Britain. In the nineteenth century, soup shops played an equally important role in the rapidly expanding towns that had been spawned by the Industrial Revolution. Back then, people in need were dependent upon the parish, which, under an act that had been passed in the time of Elizabeth I,  had a legal obligation to care for its poor. Everyone in the parish contributed to a poor rate, which was distributed to those deemed to be in need and worthy of assistance. In times of extreme economic distress communities often took further action and those who had the means would provide blankets and set up soup shops as large sections of local society struggled to survive on the few shillings a week from the poor fund.  The following is taken from the very first edition of The Birmingham Inspector,  a short lived newspaper published in 1817. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 would bring in the workhouse system that we tend to associate with Victorian poverty (although Birmingham was a slightly different case), but prior to that the precarious lives of the indigent poor could often be dependent on the provision of cheap soup. This notion of a nutritious and cheap ration of food had come from the continent at the beginning of the century, the brain child of Count Rumford, an advisor to the Bavarian monarchy and possibly the founder of soup kitchens. The suggestion presented by the newspaper is for the setting up of a soup shop in Birmingham.

The Inspector article begins by first decrying the national obsession with eating meat and suggests that it will therefore be fortunate, both as respect to the finances and the health of the community, if the expedients of a hard time should render a simpler diet habitual and that the consumption of meat should be reduced to its proper and moderate degree. The article then moves on to extol the virtues of soup, as first presented by Rumford:

The action of water in the preparation of food is perhaps not sufficiently known, or not considered. It was early observed by Count Rumford that the quantity of solid food necessary to form soup, amply nutritious, was so very small as to excite astonishment, how a person could possibly exist upon it…this is effected by the long-continued application of gentle heat to a mixture of water and vegetable matter; as barley-meal, oatmeal or potatoes. 

The economy of this method of food preparation was further ‘scientifically’ explained in such a way that it made soup sound like some new-fangled invention of the Industrial Revolution, rather than a simple method of cooking that has been around, probably forever!

The fairinaceous and gelatinous particles thus become completely suspended and diffused through the water, and when received into the stomach, draw it, as it were, with themselves, into a course of decomposition and consequent digestion. 

The best and most economical recipe to ensure maximum nutrition at minimum cost should be,

One pound of solid matter, in the form of grain or meal, would probably be  amply sufficient to thicken a gallon of water; or twenty ounces if a large proportion of potatoes are to be used. These proportions should be considered…as the basis of this soup, which ought to be kept several hours in a state of simmering, not boiling; the principal intention of other additions is to give flavour. The use of potatoes is strongly recommended as highly nutritious and greatly reducing the expense, they should be reduced in boiling to an uniform pulp. 

The addition of other vegetables to this most basic of soup were presented only as flavourings and these should be of the finest and strongest flavour, such as celery, onions, turnip and carrot &c., all cut into small and thin slices; herbs &c….and the whole, if well seasoned with salt and pepper will absolutely not require the addition of meat, either in point of nutriment, flavour or solidity. 

The writer of the article concludes by stating that the foregoing hints have not been thrown out at random: they have been verified by actual experiment and once more congratulates the name of Rumford a name which, after all the ridicule which is affected to be cast upon it, stands foremost in the list of those who have soberly and effectually exerted themselves to remedy the evils which the madness and folly of the rich and the great, in all countries, bring down upon the poor and lowly.

Report from Samuel Jones, Inspector of Smoke Nuisance


Birmingham had a very different landscape to that other great product of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester.  There were few of those great ‘satanic mills’ that came to characterise  early nineteenth-century Northern England in the popular imagination. Nevertheless, this was a town of remarkable innovation and mass production and Birmingham certainly did have a problem with smoke pollution. When the French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville visited in 1835, he described a town where everything is black, dirty and dark, although every moment breeds gold and silver (‘Journeys to England and Ireland’).

The dirt and the smoke that blighted Birmingham came from the numerous steam engines that drove the town’s metal rolling mills, glass houses and numerous furnaces. In 1818 the Street Commissioners received a letter from Walter Hopper Esq., complaining that the smoke from steam engines at the New Union Mill was exposing his estate, near Five Ways, to ‘volumes of smoke’ which rendered the land ‘quite disagreeable’. When looking through the Street Commissioners minutes this appears as a perennial complaint across several decades and across the town.

By the 1840s there was an increasing interest in issues of health and personal comfort and the Street Commissioners appointed a full time inspector of steam engine smoke in 1844. Jones was responsible to the Steam Engine Committee and would present official reports annually. There doesn’t appear to have been a formal system for measuring smoke at this time, other than timing the emissions and inspecting the engines. This report is taken from the original minute books of the Birmingham Street Commissioners, which can be viewed by appointment at Birmingham Heritage, Archives and Photography at the Library of Birmingham, reference MS 2818/1/8 (please be aware that, as a result of severe staff cut backs, opening times for the archives is now restricted, I would recommend phoning first)

Report of Samuel Jones to the Commissioners of the Birmingham Street Act
February 5th 1849

‘When I commenced my duties in 1844 there were 173 steam engine chimneys, large and small, with 225 furnaces. Several parties had at that time applied means for consuming smoke but they were very seldom used, there being 111 chimneys that emitted dense black smoke from 16 to 35 minutes within every working hour, others varying from 6 to 16 minutes per hour. At the present time there are 224 steam engine chimneys, with 297 furnaces and 2 more now in course of erection. Which makes an increase in the last five years of 57 chimneys and 72 furnaces, the nominal power of the various engines amounting to about 3500 Horse Power. The quantity of fuel used for working of this power alone amounts to about 300 tons per day and most of it of the very commonest description. There are 17 of these chimneys, including some with flues from muffles in them that emit dense black smoke from 12 to 18 minutes within the hour, and 50 others though greatly improved since first under inspection, are still indifferent, they smoke from causes that may be avoided from 6 to 10 minutes within the hour, the others vary from 2 to 6 minutes per hour. There are 50 chimneys used exclusively for muffles, annealing pots and stoves – 22 for puddling and tube furnaces, 6 for glass houses, 2 for gas works – making a total of 304 chimneys (exclusive of smiths forges) from which such a quantity of dense smoke would arise as would envelop the whole town were it not for the many and excellent means adopted for its consumption. This shews that the nuisance is greatly abated but it is not to the extent it could be, as I am convinced that all steam engine proprietors ought to be in such a position, for their own advantage, as would enable them to work their engines without making so much smoke as would either injure the health of or be a nuisance to the Public’

Using Google Ngram viewer

There are all sorts of useful websites and digital tools for research. I’m not a particularly technical person and many of them go over my head. I tend to avoid things that require installation of extra software too. But Google Ngram viewer is free and very easy to use – just type it in your search engine bar and it should come up straight off.


You’ll see an interesting looking graph and a few boxes, Google have included some sample search terms as an example (Albert Einstein, Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein). What the lines on the graph are showing are the comparative books written on those subjects across the space of 200 years (in this case 1800-2000). I tried this out myself by inputting the words ‘Municipal Corporations Act’ and got the following results

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This shows that the peak in publications of books about the Municipal Corporations Act was in 1906 – this makes sense as this was the year that Beatrice and Sidney Webb published their great tome on English Local Government. Below the graph there are links to publications by year, which is really useful if you’re looking up a specific topic and unsure where to start. The search is limited to publications available on Google Books, but there are lots of those, particularly older publications, so it does offer a decent overview.

I’m sure there are lots of uses for this tool. Another that I tried was testing out how much interest there was in municipal towns in the early 19th century. This time I changed the date range to the period 1800-1850, which is my area of interest. It’s simple to do, you can see a small pair of boxes with ‘between’ next to them, just in the top left hand corner. In the search box I typed the towns I wanted to compare, separating each with a comma (this is important). So, this graph reveals the number of publications on Birmingham, between 1800-1850 and in comparison to the number of publications written on two other major centres of industry and urbanization

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It’s interesting to note a peak for each of the towns in 1838, the year that Birmingham and Manchester were first granted their Charters of Incorporation. Overall, there appears to have been far greater interest in writing about Manchester than there was for either Birmingham or Leeds. And again, there are links beneath the graph to numerous books available on Google Books for the topics from this date range.

Finally, it is possible to search books published in other languages – I changed this in the drop down box marked ‘corpus’ next to the date range boxes and selected German – I have highlighted 1845 here because that was the year that Engel’s Condition of the English Working Class was published, originally for a German audience. There is a small peak for Manchester at this point.

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The numbers on the left of the chart are revealing the percentage of Google Books that these publications represent – a very, very tiny number in these rather specialist cases. But I think the tool is good fun and has the potential to be interesting for research, if only as a way of locating free to download books on specific topics in certain years. Or to just gauge how much interest there has been in your topic over an extended period of time.

A Porcine Adventure

Report from the Birmingham Daily Post, January 18th 1858

Birmingham Police Court

Before Mr Kynnersley and Mr Phillips

A Porcine Adventure:-  A rough looking young fellow named William Bennett, living at the Worcester Wharf, was charged with being concealed on the premises of John Sheldon, a labouring man, residing in Cheapside, with intent to commit a felony.  Sheldon said that he was awakened by his “Missis” between one and two o’clock in the morning, in consequence of a noise in the pigstye, and on going down to ascertain the cause, he found he prisoner lying in the stye in the comfortable straw bed that had been made up for the pigs on the previous evening. The animals themselves had been turned out of their quarters, and were grunting their discontent in the yard. Sheldon naively observed to the Bench that he believed that if he had not so opportunely discovered the intruder his pigs “would have gone in no time”. The Magistrates appeared to take a similar view of the matter and committed the prisoner to the House of Correction for seven days.

At the same session:

A Couple of House Robbers:- William Smith and Maria Gill who cohabit together in Woodcock Street were placed at the bar charged with having in their possession a quantity of household goods, wearing apparel, and other articles, the produce of some of the innumerable house robberies that have taken place of late in all quarters of the town. The prisoners were apprehended on Friday night by Detective-officers Palmer and Clarke, and the house being searched a heap of bed linen, half a dozen chairs, a clock, and other property were found.  A portion of these were identified by Mrs Coley, a married woman, living in Sheep Street, whose house was entered by means of skeleton keys during her absence and robbed on the 21st ult.  The prisoners were therefore remanded until tomorrow, for the production of evidence in other charges against them.

A little history of Harborne

I came across this little history of Harborne when I was looking for something else and, as I got drawn into it, thought you might enjoy it too. It’s taken from Showell’s Dictionary of Birmingham, always a delight to rummage through. There’s a copy in the Local Studies Centre at the Library of Birmingham, 4th floor. If you’re there or thereabouts for a visit it’s worth finding out, I believe it’s usually kept on the bookshelf that faces the glass doors into the Wolfson Reading Room. 

Harborne did not become part of Birmingham borough until 1891. Before that it had fallen into the boundaries of Staffordshire County.  Showell’s was published by the Cornish Brothers around 1885.

David Cox ‘Harborne’ (Google Art Project)

“Harborne is another of our near neighbours which a thousand years or so ago had a name if nothing else, but that name has come down to present time with less change than is usual, and, possibly through the Calthorpe estate blocking the way, the parish itself has changed but very slowly, considering its close proximity to busy, bustling Birmingham. This apparent stagnation, however, has endeared it to us Brums, not a little on account of the many pleasant glades and sunny spots in and around it. Harborne gardeners have long been famous for growing gooseberries, the annual dinner of  the Gooseberry Growers’ Society having been held at the Green Man ever since 1815. But Harborne has plucked up heart latterly, and will not much longer be ‘out of the running’. With its little area of 1,412 acres, and only a population of 6,600, it has built itself an Institute, (a miniature model of the Midland) with class rooms and reading rooms, with a library, with lecture halls, to seat a thousand at a cost of £6,500, and got Henry Irving to lay the foundation stone in 1879. A Masonic Hall followed in 1880, and a Fire Brigade Station soon after. It has also a local railway as well as a newspaper. In the parish church, which was nearly all rebuilt in 1867, there are several monuments of olden date, one being in remembrance of a member of the Hinckley family, from whose name that of our Inkley’s is deductible; there is also a stained window to the memory of David Cox. The practice of giving a Christmas treat, comprising a good dinner, some small presents, and an enjoyable entertainment to the aged poor was begun in 1865, and is still kept up.”

‘A well seasoned tippler’

Birmingham Police Court

On Saturday October 9th, 1858, before magistrate William Lucy,

A well-seasoned tippler.- The notorious Barbara Colman was placed at the bar charged, as usual, with being “drunk and disorderly”. She was described as of Fox Street, hawker, and this was nearly her hundredth appearance before the Magistrates. Today she said she did not know how it was; “when I’m ill, I keep sober, but when I get well, then I go off drinking.” What were the Magistrates to do? Sending her to gaol was of no avail. The old stager put in a novel appeal: Please your worship, I was going to be married.” This from a lass who owns to sixty-eight was too much for one’s gravity, and amidst the general laughter, Barbara was discharged, and in gratitude for this she said, “I’ll ask you all to the wedding!”

This item was taken from Birmingham Daily Post, October 11th 1858.  Available to view by subscription to the British Newspaper Archives. Birmingham’s historical newspapers can also be viewed free of charge in Local Studies at the Library of Birmingham, 4th floor – please support our local libraries and archives.

A humble petition

Petition gov.uk

A couple of weeks ago I signed an on-line petition that was calling for a change in a certain government policy. On reaching 100,000 signatures the petition was then presented for debate in Parliament and the response made public. All British citizens can take part in petitioning the government on any subject that they feel strongly about, it is a tradition that goes back hundreds of years and was particularly popular in the early part of the 19th century, the so called ‘Age of Reform’. Petitions from Birmingham during this time included one in 1812 demanding an end to trade embargos  (as a result of Orders in Council) that were having a negative impact on the town’s trade with America and another around the same time calling for the repeal of the East India Company’s charter. Other large manufacturing and port towns, such as Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol, also petitioned and as a result both policies were repealed. Petitioning could be a powerful political tool, especially when combined with outbreaks of popular unrest.

Petitions then were, of course, hand written and signed. On a recent archive trip I was lucky enough to see an example of an original petition.

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1828 Birmingham petition (Donna Taylor)

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1828 Birmingham petition (Donna Taylor)

As you can see it was quite a chunky scroll, but with the exception of a few holes along the paper between the signatures, is in great condition. It was fascinating to see. This particular petition can be dated to 1828, because the first signature is that of ‘Charles Shaw, High Bailiff’. Bailiffs were elected annually and Aris’s Birmingham Gazette published their names around the same date each year, so it was pretty easy to trace.

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1828 Birmingham petition (Donna Taylor)

There’s something rather special about seeing a person’s signature, I always feel it’s as close as I can get to a handshake with the past. Although it was not possible to unroll the whole scroll, it was possible to see that it comprised several petitions attached together. This makes sense, because it was likely that petitions were left in multiple locations to attract plenty of signatures.  In parts it looked as though sheets were glued together, but there was also evidence of stitching:

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1828 Birmingham petition (Donna Taylor)

This is a great resource. But why is it in Birmingham, and not tucked away in a Parliamentary archive? Well, in 1828 there was an attempt in the House of Commons to have the Nottinghamshire constituency of East Retford disfranchised (that is, they would lose their MP) following decades of alleged electoral corruption. There was a suggestion that one of the big industrial towns that did not have an MP could instead be given the East Retford seat; the two towns primarily tipped for the transfer were Manchester and Birmingham – and Birmingham set about gathering signatures requesting that it be given the Parliamentary seat. In the end, East Retford retained its MP for another few decades, while Birmingham and Manchester would have to wait until 1832 to realise their ambition of representation. As a result, the petition was never delivered to the House.

The Birmingham petition can be found at Birmingham Archives, Heritage and Photography, Library of Birmingham – reference MS 3097 (1 of 2) 


If you are interested in current Parliamentary petitions, the official website is here: https://petition.parliament.uk/