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!

Birmingham Illuminations: 1814


When I was a child my family used to take an occasional coach trip to Blackpool around October time, to see the lights. We would spend the day at the seaside, maybe one or two rides in the amusement park, a blustery walk along the pier and fish and chips on the front. As a child I rarely got to see the lights. The coach would make its way along the promenade slowly on the way home, so we could take in the spectacle, but I was invariably asleep before we had ventured much further than the car park exit. Nevertheless, there was a sense of excitement about seeing the lights and as a family from Brum on a limited income, we certainly travelled far enough to see them.

In Georgian times, before electricity, there was a similar urban fascination with light displays. London famously had a very large display in April, 1789, to celebrate King George’s recovery from ‘madness’. These early illuminations were created with the use of gas lamps and transparencies. A transparency was usually a piece of paper, often coloured and not actually transparent as we understand it, but sheer enough for light to shine through. I found the following report of an illumination in Birmingham in Aris’s Gazette of June 13th, 1814.  Illuminations were a celebration, so it seems likely that this particular display would have been connected to the recent abdication of Napoleon Bonaparte  in April of that year and the imminent visit to England of the Allied Sovereigns of Europe. Some of the descriptions of the illuminations more than hint at it. Whatever the occasion actually was, it must have been a very lovely sight in the pre-gaslamp streets of Brum. And no coach journey required!

Birmingham Illuminations
“The following description, we fear, will be necessarily imperfect; some of equal interest with those described may possibly have escaped our observation:-

High Street
Mr. Powell, Swan Hotel – A very novel and brilliant display of variegated lamps. In the centre was a transparent likeness of our venerable monarch, with circles of lamps diverging to a considerable height, over which was a square frontispiece, consisting of four pillars and a capital, the pillars wreathed with lamps and by a mechanical contrivance kept in constant motion. At the base the word ‘Peace’ in large characters; the tout-ensemble had a most splendid and striking effect.

Mr. Richards, Silversmith – A large transparency representing, in the upper part, Peace, Justice and Prudence; below them Britannia crowning the bust of Pitt and trampling on the badges of despotism. On the left a cherub guarding the crown and blowing the trumpet of fame over the British Navy. Beneath the emblems of commerce, agriculture and industry.

Messrs. Beilby & Co. – Britannia, her spear and shield upon the ground, in the act of kneeling upon the latter, gratefully receiving the blessings of Peace; a lion at her side couchant and cornucopia. Motto:- ‘The blessings of Peace restored”.

Mr. King – Two transparencies, illustrative of Isaiah

The Castle Inn – Portraits of ‘The Saviours of Europe’, Wellington, Hill, Graham, Platoff and Blucher.

St. George’s Tavern – Several transparencies, with inscriptions, and a brilliant display of variegated lamps.

Nelson Hotel – Several transparencies, with a display of variegated lamps.

O. and H. Smith – A transparency with the word ‘Peace’ very tastefully formed by a combination of agricultural implements, musical instruments, cornucopia, &c.

The report also stated that Nelson’s Statue had been illuminated with ‘at least 500 lamps’ – this is the same statue that can be seen in the Bullring today, just down near Starbucks and Selfridges.

Among the many other displays reported is a rather grand sounding one at Mr. Chandler’s on Dale End, ‘A transparency representing Time bringing Louis XVIII to the throne, in the presence of the Allied Sovereigns, the Duke of Wellington and two prelates; Peace extinguishing the Torch of War; with the genius of Pitt hovering above, bearing a scroll which was inscribed ‘My Country saved’ and ‘England has done her duty’. While over on Bull Street Mr. Henry Evans had on display ‘a gigantic figure of Peace, ten feet high, with her hands extended over the Earth on which she had just alighted. Her benign aspect dissipating the clouds of war and desolation’. A rather less poetic and more pragmatic display could be seen at the bank of Messrs. Coates, Woolley & Co. on Cherry Street – a simple illustration in variegated lamps read ‘Trade Revived’. Well, this was Birmingham after all!

You can read hundreds and hundreds of newspapers online by subscription to The British Newspaper Archive, including Aris’s Gazette. Or you can head to the Library of Birmingham, floor 4 and have a look at them for free on microfilm. Birmingham’s amazing archives are under persistent threat from local government cuts. Please support our local resources in any way you can. Once they’re gone, we can’t get them back. Cheers. 

Happy Birthday Birmingham History Galleries



It’s four years since the wonderful exhibition ‘Birmingham, its people, its history’ was opened at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BM&AG) and it’s still there and free (though donations are always welcome!) for anyone to go and visit. Charting the history of the city from earliest times to the current day, the gallery contains a wealth of objects, images, information and interactive devices which really bring the history of Birmingham to life.  Taking up half of the top floor, where the oldies among us might remember seeing the ‘dinosaur’, the gallery is fresh and vibrant and an asset to anyone researching local history.

In the gallery you will find a scale model village of Birmingham in medieval times. Look behind you and you’ll see a map showing how the city’s population has grown and how the boundaries have expanded. There is a recreation of Freeth’s coffee shop where you can hear some of the ballads that he penned.  The dynamic role played by locals in the protest against slavery is well covered, along with other political activism which defined Birmingham in the early nineteenth century.


Beyond the nineteenth century the gallery includes a hugely informative and poignant section on war-time Brum and you can have a sit down and listen to real stories, related by real locals, remembering the good times and the bad. Through the twentieth century you should find things that stir your own memories. And there’s a great interactive table that has images of Birmingham provided by BrumPics.

Currently (2016) some of the items are not on display, including the iconic HP sign. This is because of the building works going on outside the building, which have been causing vibrations, putting  some displays at risk. But the Birmingham History Galleries are definitely worth a visit.


Dr Dunn’s Wonderful Cures


The following is a notice taken from Aris’s Birmingham Gazette of October 5, 1801, when Birmingham was a rapidly growing Georgian town. It is interesting to note that Dr. Dunn claims his botanical approach to be successful where ‘other remedies have been tried in vain’. The mention of ‘gravel’ refers to kidney stones, ‘King’s Evil’ was scrofula, a glandular disease and ‘secret disorder’ most likely refers to venereal disease.  It is a shame there is not more detail on what vegetation he prescribes – at least not without providing a sample of wee!

Dr. Dunn, by having many years experience in prescribing REMEDIES for some thousands of people afflicted with the most obstinate and painful DISORDERS, can, with great satisfaction to himself, assure the Public that he has performed many WONDERFUL CURES  by Herbs and Vegetable substances only, after all other remedies have been tried in vain; and as his former success has by no means deserted him, those whom he undertakes to cure may be assured of receiving immediate benefit, which will terminate in perfect cure.
He cures all Disorders in the eyes and deafness of many years standing; also pains and giddiness of the head; convulsions, and all other kinds of fits and nervous complaints; likewise windy and all other disorders in the stomach and the bowels; and is astonishingly successful in curing asthma, coughs and consumptions; also the dropsy, leprosy, scurvy, rheumatism and gravel; white swellings, cancers, King’s Evil, wens and fistulas without cutting; likewise piles and ruptures, scald heads and ulcers. He cures debility, or impotency, and all disorders of the genital system; and cures a secret disorder in all its stages without restraint of diet or hindrance of business &c. and as he highly esteems public approbation above the sordid motives of pecuniary emoluments, it is not to be expected that he will undertake to cure any person whom he judges incurable.
Persons applying personally, or sending a statement of the case with their morning urine, may have his advice every day in the week, from nine in the morning until nine at night, at John Fordes’s, Seedsman, No. 26, High Street, opposite New Street, Birmingham.

‘Cholera’: an early 19th century interpretation

In the last quarter of 1831 news of a fatal cholera outbreak in Sunderland, believed to have originated from a ship which had been allowed to dock without quarantine in the city’s port. It sent alarm bells ringing across the country.  The government issued emergency regulations for civic administrations to control the outbreak, but nevertheless it spread mercilessly across Britain, claiming at least 30,000 lives by the following summer. In 1831 there was still limited knowledge of how disease was spread or how best it should be treated. Below is a letter to the editor of Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, taken from the edition of November 21st, 1831 and presenting what appears an authoritative presentation of the causes by T. Langston Parker, a surgeon at the General Hospital.  The claims really reflect ideas of the time, that disease could be spread by touch or by ‘miasma’, by which was meant bad smells or atmosphere. Parker refers to it here as an ‘effluvia’. 

To the Editor of Aris’s Gazette

Allow me, through the medium of the Gazette, to offer some remarks upon the problematic nature of the Epidemic Cholera. It is evident that a specific virus or poison is the sole cause of all pestilential diseases, in which class the cholera of Asia holds a conspicuous rank. The origin of this virus is due in the first instance, without doubt, to a combination of atmospheric causes which we cannot appreciate, such as electricity, heat, moisture, sol-lunar influence, marsh-miasm or malaria. This appears incontrovertible, since we find cholera originating in those countries where pestilential diseases appear most frequent and fatal, and where, at the same time, such diseases are both epidemic and contagious. However this virus or poison may have originated, it is manifest, from the evidence of facts, that the same combination of causes which produced it are not necessary to its propagation. It may be propagated by contagion; an individual, or a number of individuals, having become diseased from exposure to the first combination of causes, throw off from the body a contagious virus which is capable of producing a disease of a similar character in a healthy individual. Admitting this as one mode of propagating diseases whose character is contagious we must not forget that a similar combination of atmospheric influences may produce the complaint without exposure to contagion; and here one fact may be established that in the present state of our knowledge admits of no dispute, viz.- that all contagious diseases may become epidemic, and that they are most commonly at the same time both epidemic and contagious. This theory of cholera is the only one that can explain and reconcile the conflicting and contradictory statements with which we are on all sides overwhelmed and perplexed. When any doubt exists as to the contagious nature of a pestilential disease, the profession and the public should always decide in favour of contagion, since “no harm can come of taking up the contagious theory”. When cholera is propagated by contagion, or from exposure to human effluvia, the contagious atmosphere is limited to a certain extent around the diseased person, the poisonous effluvia becoming innocuous as it is mingled with and diffused by atmospheric air. Mr. Hermann of Moscow found the air immediately surrounding persons suffering from cholera to contain a peculiar principle, similar to that separated by Moscati from infected air. This contagious effluvia may attach itself to certain articles of clothing or merchandize, of which silks, furs, and woollen goods are the best retainers. A neglect or ignorance of this fact appears to have added in a marked manner to the spread of the cholera at Moscow. All persons do not become diseased on exposure to the matter of contagion. An individual pre-disposition appears to be required, which renders the body susceptible of being diseased by contagion. Poverty and its attendant evils, nervous irritability, characterized by fear or anxiety, bowel complaints, cold, errors in diet, and in intemperance, form the chief causes which pre-dispose to cholera, whether epidemic or contagious. Three persons out of every hundred were the subject of pre-disposition in Moscow.
The atmospheric, or animal effluvia, or virus, producing cholera acts directly upon the nervous system; whether this system may be primarily affected, or whether it become so secondarily from change produced in the nature of the blood, is a point which at present is undetermined, and indeed it is of little consequence since the natural connexion of the nervous system and the blood is so intimate that one cannot possibly be affected without disease or disorder being produced in the other.
It is most probably that the primary impression of the person which produces cholera is made through the organs of respiration on the blood, and secondarily in the nervous system, the blood itself being unduly carbonized and unfitted for the natural stimulus required by the nervous and muscular organs. Hence the diminished irritability of the heart and arteries, the cramp and spasm of the muscular organs, the oppression about the chest, and the torpor of the brain and senses.
The discharges and alteration of the secretions of the bowels and stomach in cholera, are either secondary effects of this general nervous depression, or arise from the direct application of the contagious principle to the internal surface of these organs, most probably from the former. On the nature of disordered secretion, such as that noticed in cholera, I have a remark of some importance to offer, which probably in some measure both the preventative and curative remedies adopted with regard to this disease. The healthy secretions of the body present, on analysis in a state of health, a slight excess of acid or alkali – but under a depraved or disordered nervous influence, or from irritation, the nature of these secretions becomes changed, the acid being rendered alkali and the alkaline acid. It appears from the most minute chemical analysis that the fluids formed in the stomach and bowels are, in a state of health, sensibly alkaline, and that these secretions become acid when the nervous influence which presides over the secretions becomes deranged.  In cholera the fluids voided contain a great proportion  of acetic and butyric acid which was detected by the analysis of M. Hermann, of Moscow. The blood of cholera patients always contains more or less acetic acid in which, in a state of health, a solution of alkaline salts only can be found. These facts, which do not appear to be generally known, are of the greatest importance, both in the prophylactic and curative treatment of this alarming disease. The discovery of acetic acid in the blood of a person afflicted with cholera is due to Dr. Walker of St. Petersburgh.
Since there seems to be so great a disposition to the formation of acids in the fluids of the body in cholera, every kind of ailment should be avoided which tends in the production of acidity in the stomach and bowels. Such are vegetables, particularly green ones, fruits, malt liquors, above all, poor beer, bottled ale and porter. British or French wines with ardent or neat spirit. The acid which commonly assists in malt liquors should be neutralized previous to drinking by carbonate of soda. All indigestible substances which do not immediately form acid, should be carefully avoided, as the irritation which they cause in the stomach may produce a change in its secretions. Mild cholera having prevailed epidemically during the last three months, errors in regimen solely are not unlikely to change the mild into a malignant or fatal disease.
I remain, Mr. Editor,
Your most obedient servant,
T. Langston Parker
34, St. Paul’s Square,
Nov. 16, 1831

Preparations for an epidemic


Cholera swept across the globe from 1829, perhaps beginning in China and causing tens upon thousands of deaths on its route. It reached Britain in October of 1831, generally believed to have arrived on a ship which docked in Sunderland. One of the first tragic victims there was 12 year old Isabella Hazard who lived near the docks. After attending church twice on Sunday she fell ill and died the following day. The government responded quickly, introducing legislation mandating that all civic authorities must institute a board of health and take immediate preventative action. There was still little understanding of the transmission of disease at that time, general theory was focussed on ideas of ‘miasma’, the spread of disease through bad atmosphere. The cholera epidemic was a global disaster and in Britain more than thirty thousand died. This was not as lethal as other fatal diseases of the day, particularly TB, but nevertheless it was a dreadful event that caused untold misery and suffering.

Birmingham was a notable exception. There was one death attributed to cholera, in July 1832, but otherwise the town remained completely free of the terrible impact of the disease.  Professor Ian Cawood of Newman College University and the late, brilliant Dr. Chris Upton, suggested that the attitude of the  Board of Health established in Birmingham in 1831 was a significant factor in that prevention, as it insisted on a programme of cleansing the town and creating a healthy environment. This was perhaps in line with the prevalent thinking on ‘miasma’. The minutes of the Birmingham Street Commissioners includes an entry for a special meeting held on November 7th, 1831. This really shows that the town administration was fully committed to working cooperatively in deflecting cholera and the success of the programme is remarkable.

The following minutes are taken from the records of Birmingham’s Street Commissioners, held by Birmingham Archives, Heritage and Photography at the Library of Birmingham,  this volume reference MS 2818/1/1/6 Please support our local archives and heritage which are under constant threat of funding cuts from the local authority. Once they’re gone, they’re gone for ever.

On November 5th, 1831,  special meeting was held at Birmingham’s Public Office ‘for the purpose of considering what steps it may be proper to take in reference to the statement which appeared in the London papers of today, announcing the appearance of cholera in London.’ Birmingham was far from the ports, but with the ever improving transport system, the coming of the railways and the masses of bodies travelling to the town for work,  the disaster that had recently struck Russia and other parts of the continent, must have appeared imminent. Action was urgent. It was decided to form a committee – this was in advance of a government mandate requiring the establishment of Boards of Health – which would include representatives from the General Hospital as well as administrative officials and ‘clergy of all denominations’.  High Bailiff Oliver Mason presided over the committee and coordinated with the Street Commissioners and Guardians of the Poor to ensure that all recommendations of the new committee were carried out. At a meeting of the Street Commissioners held two days later, the extent of the programme was presented.

  • The Commissioners were instructed to clean all the town sewers and ensure that streets were swept and cleansed thoroughly; in response to the instruction they  ordered the Paving Committee to open and clean all the sewers and drains in the town and to employ as many extra hands as would be necessary to ensure that the roads were kept clean; special attention was called to the cleansing of courts and small passages and ‘the neighbourhoods of the houses in the lower classes’. John Dester, the town’s chief sweeper, received instruction to ensure that all of the town’s occupants swept their portion of the footpath every day
  • The Overseers of the Poor were responsible for ensuring that the homes of the poor under their responsibility were cleansed and whitewashed and ‘proprietors of small houses be respectfully and earnestly requested’ to take similar precautions in their own properties. All with ‘as little delay as possible’

These procedures, which included the whole community of the town, were really very advanced, particularly in the attention given to the sewers. It would have placed a strain on local services and inculcated the sort of expense that was usually baulked in those straitened times. But in the face of an impending crisis, the whole town came together, and it was this early ‘community spirit’ combined with level heads and rational organisation that helped to save Birmingham from the cholera.

Law Makers, Law Breakers

Although Birmingham was incorporated in 1838, until 1851 the majority of the management of the fabric of the town still fell under the control of the self-elected Street Commissioners. Over the course of some 80 years they oversaw the transformation of the town from a few puddled streets into a thriving commercial centre. They held administrative responsibilities not dissimilar to our current council, including paving, draining, lighting but also street cleansing, licensing of cabs, managing the markets and filling in potholes. They also had to oversee some seismic changes, particularly the coming of the railways. Overall, reading through the minute books of the Commissioners, there is an impression of a pretty impressive system. However, just like today, the management of a large and dynamic infrastructure came with many difficulties and the Commissioners came under fire, particularly over issues of drainage and smoke pollution. In the letter below, taken from the Birmingham Journal of September 24th, 1842, a local resident is complaining about something which must have been quite an issue to those living and working nearby, that is the smells of managing Birmingham.

Law Makers, Law Breakers,

Sir,- if I mistake not, our commissioners have made a bye law to prevent persons removing manure &c. between a certain hour in the morning and a stated time at night. Now, at their own premises in Shadwell-street, manure is often removed during the day, causing such a stench as cannot be conceived, far different to stable manure generally.  In fact, it is quite a nuisance.
Yours respectfully,
Birmingham, September 17th, 1842

From rumour to riot


Rioters attacking firemen in the Bull Ring

In the wet and stormy summer of 1839, Birmingham was in turmoil. There was a strong Chartist presence in the town, holding meetings in the Bull Ring twice a day promoting the ideal of universal suffrage to large crowds. It was the newly established town council which had the responsibility of policing the tensions, a difficult task given that the Churchwardens had taken up a legal challenge against the legitimacy of the council. They refused to hand over any of the rate money to the council, leaving them hamstrung and unable to properly suppress the growing unrest. In consequence the town’s first mayor, William Scholefield, decided to approach the Home Secretary for support. A body of Metropolitan Police had been dispatched, arriving in Birmingham on July 4th and subsequently being subjected to a severe beating as they attempted to break up a meeting. Two of the London police were stabbed, although they did make a recovery at the General Hospital. In consequence of this a new, bitter antagonism grew between the Brums, the alien police force and the town council who had called them in. Across the course of several days the Metropolitan officers exacted their response, operating a random stop and search policy and confiscating any tools that might be deemed as offensive weapons. In an artisan town where men relied on their tools to earn a living this act only added to the pervasive tensions. The riot act was put in place, but few observed the magistrates’ ban on assembling in public places. On July 15th a notorious riot took place in the Bull Ring, a number of shops were razed, firemen were attacked and some local families were forced to clamber down from upstairs windows as Birmingham burned. The episode caused a good deal of national scandal, the young Queen Victoria summoned a meeting with Prime Minister Melbourne and  wrote of her concerns  in her diary.

The case against the arrested rioters reached the Warwick Assizes in September, during which three men were found guilty of the capital offence of pulling down property. The following is the witness statement of Edward Savage, a shoe maker of Bow Street (near Horsefair). This is a useful statement as, if accurate, really reveals just how the riot of July 15th began. The Lovett and Collins mentioned in the transcript were William Lovett of the London Working Men’s Association and John Collins, a journeyman pen maker from Birmingham who was a leading Chartist. The two had been arrested and imprisoned in Warwick gaol for penning and publicly posting an objection to the behaviour of the London police. The news of their bail on the 15th had clearly reached Birmingham.

Edward Savage, a shoe-maker, Bow Street:- I left work about seven o’clock on the night of the 15th of July, and went with a few neighbours to the meeting at Holloway-head. There were some hundreds there. We came from Holloway-head down Exeter Row, where Wilkes directed the mob to go down Smallbrook Street, down Digbeth to the Warwick Road to meet Lovett and Collins. I and my companions saw two policemen endeavour to take a man into custody. We afterwards followed the crowd to Camp-hill, and the man, who was not taken, told the people there assembled how he had been treated by the police. When the man told the mob what had happened, some of them said they would go and ‘hammer’ the police. Two hundred, I should think, went back towards the Bull Ring.

St. John Ambulance Association: Nurses for Egypt (1882)

From Birmingham Daily PostSeptember 12th, 1882

St. John Ambulance Association:- Nurses for Egypt

To the Editor of the Daily Post,

Sir,- Will you permit me to inform numerous local applicants who have addressed me on this subject – some of whom (men and women) have most generously volunteered their services – that the conditions upon which they are accepted are these: All travelling and other necessary expenses of the nurses and ambulance pupils who may be selected for service at the seat of war are paid; and although the committee’s list is fully complete, further increase of the number, which is much required, will depend on the pecuniary support received from the public, who are earnestly appealed to for contribution to enable dispatch of this expedition on its mission of humanity. Subscriptions – however small – will be gratefully received, acknowledged, and forwarded to the promoters of the Egyptian Relief Fund by,
Yours faithfully,
G. King Patten, Hon. Secretary
105, Colmore Row
September 11

In 1882 the British government staged an intervention in Egypt, sending a fleet of ships to the coast in July, with an army of more than 40,000 men heading across land towards the Suez Canal zone and on to Cairo and other key towns/ports. Britain maintained an occupation of Egypt until after the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian treaty. The St. John Ambulance Association was founded in 1877, developing and forming into a uniformed brigade a decade later. There was a military nursing corp at this time, ‘The Army Nursing Service’, which had been active during the first Boer (Zulu) War. The conditions must have been extremely challenging for women travelling to North Africa at this time.

Some interesting background on the Army Nursing Service can be found here:



Charge of Bigamy

From Birmingham Daily Post, September 13th 1861

Birmingham Police Court

Before T.C. Kynnersley, T. Cox and C.H.Cope Esqs.

Charge of bigamy.- A young man named W.G.Reed, a coach-maker, residing in Francis Street, was brought up on remand, charged as above. It appeared from the evidence that in December 1850 (sic.) , the prisoner married a woman named Elizabeth French, at St. Andrew’s Church, Bordesley, in this town. – Mrs. Sarah Wall, pew opener at the church, said she saw the parties married, and Detective Jenns, who had the case in hand,  produced a copy of the marriage certificate. Within seven months the coach-maker, who had gone up to London, became acquainted with a young woman named Emma Churchill, and was in July 1959, married to her at St. Phillip’s Church, Stepney. Jenns produced a copy of the certificate of this second wedding. The defence set up by the accused was an odd one. His first wife, a deformed young woman….agreed to make her his wife, on condition that, should she bring forth a living child, the union should be held to be binding, but if the babe died then the marriage would be void. The child did die and he, leaving the deformed woman, married Churchill in London. The Bench committed him to the next assizes for trial. The question of bail being referred to, the Magistrates said that they would accept two sureties in £50 each, and the prisoner at £100. Not being provided with the sureties, the bigamist was locked up.

**The missing word, replaced in the text above with three dots, was not quite legible to me, and the more I looked at it the more unsure I was of what it read. I think, given the context, it perhaps referred to the impregnation of  poor Elizabeth French. The date ‘1850’ seems quite clear in the print, but it would seem more probable that it should have read 1858, which would tie in with Reed’s trip to London ‘within seven months’. 

A Nuisance on Henry Street

This letter to the editor featured in Birmingham Daily Post on September 9th, 1859

A Nuisance
To the Editor of the Daily Post

Sir,- Will you oblige me, on behalf of several of my neighbours, by giving publicity to the following most intolerable nuisance: Every day, but far worse on Saturday, the occupants of houses situated on the corner of Heneage and Henry Streets are greatly annoyed by parties in in the next yard in Henry Street flying their pigeons and throwing stones, potatoes &c., upon the roofs above houses, which fall into the first named yard with destructive effect upon windows &c.,  and render it very dangerous for children walking in the yard, and adults too; when if any remonstrance is made by the neighbours they only receive abusive language for their interference.  Can you, Mr. Editor, or any of your correspondents enlighten me as to what I or any of my neighbours can do for the suppression of this nuisance which becomes more and more unbearable and oblige,
faithfully yours,
Henry Street