An ‘Extraordinary Special Meeting’ of the Town Council was called on November 27th 1843 where an imminent visit from Prince Albert was announced. Two letters from Secretary of State Sir James Graham were presented; these were dated November 24th, giving notice of the intended visit on the 29th. The following correspondence was transcribed into the minute books and reveal that this was to be a whistle-stop tour of local businesses and King Edward’s grammar school. The minute books can be found at the Library of Birmingham, Archives, Heritage and Photography, BCC1/AA/1/1/1
Whitehall, 24th November, 1843
His Royal Highness Prince Albert has notified to me his intention of paying a visit to Birmingham on the Morning of Wednesday next, the 29th November.
His Royal Highness will arrive at the Rail Road Station from Drayton manor about half past ten o’clock and is anxious to visit the Manufactories, of which I enclose a list, in the order set forth in the encloseed paper.
Royal carriages will be in attendance at the Rail Road station to convey His Royal Highness to the Places which proposes to visit, and as the time which the Prince can devote to this excursion is limited it is desirable that the Municipal Authorities should receive His Royal Highness at the Station on his first arrival in the Borough.
I hasten to give to you the earliest information of the intended visit that in concert with the Corporation and the principal inhabitants you may prepare for the reception of His Royal Highness and may make arrangements which will secure his easy progress from place to place.
I shall be obliged if you will communicate to the owners of the establishments which His Royal Highness proposes to visit, his gracious intention that they may be ready to receive him, and to show those branches of their Manufactories which are most worthy of observation
- Bacchus & Sons – Glass Makers – Ashted
- Philip Muntz – Rolling Mill, Boring of gun barrels etc by steam – Livery Street
- Jennens & Betteridge – Papier mache manufactory – Constitution Hill
- Elkington Electro Type gilding etc. – Newhall Street
- Sargant – Sword maker – Charlotte St
- Armfield – Button maker – Newhall Street
- King Edward’s School
- Town Hall
- Proof House
return to the Rail Road station
This list is interesting in that it represents some of key industries for which Birmingham was becoming so well known: guns of course, but also buttons, glass and other metal wares. Many of these manufacturers were not only local captains of industry, but were at the cutting edge of technological advances.
The second communication from the Secretary of State, bearing the same date, related to security arrangements, appearing almost as an afterthought:
With reference to my letter addressed to you this day on the subject of the intended visit of His Royal Highness Prince Albert to Birmingham on Wednesday next, it has occurred to me, that you may require some assistance in addition to the Police to preserve order and to be placed at your disposal
A Guard of Honor will be in attendance to meet His Royal Highness on his first arrival in Birmingham and the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Warwick, and the Officer commanding Her Majesty’s troops in Birmingham have received orders to afford any assistance which you may require in aid of the Civil Power to keep clear the carriage way and to prevent any obstructions
I have the honor to be, Sir, your faithful servant
A royal visit was an important endorsement for a town which in recent years had struggled to maintain public order during a period of sometimes violent national unrest. Less than year previously there had been an assassination attempt had been made upon Queen Victoria. No doubt the extra military assistance was welcomed by the town council, who agreed upon the following warm response, to be presented to the Prince by the Mayor:
To His Royal Highness Field Marshall Prince Albert of Saxe Cobourg and Gotha
May it please your Royal Highness,
We, the Mayor, aldermen and Burgesses of the Borough of Birmingham approach your Royal Highness’s presence with feelings of exaltation and gratitude for the distinguished honor conferred upon us by your Royal Highness’s gracious visit to our Borough – We hail it as a mark of the confidence of your Royal Highness in the loyalty and affection of our Hearts towards our beloved Queen and of your Royal Highness’s appreciation of the high respect and esteem that we entertain for Her Majesty’s illustrious Consort.
The personal virtues which so eminently distinguish your Royal Highness as a Man, a Husband and a Father, it is our happiness to know and our pride to acknowledge.
We welcome your Royal Highness to this Seat of Industry and the Arts and we fervently pray the Supreme Ruler of the Universe to vouchsafe to our Most Gracious Sovereign the Queen to your Royal Highness, and to your Royal Offspring a continuance of this special favour and protections, and that you may ever possess and enjoy the affection and esteem of a loyal, a prosperous and a happy people
The unanimously agreed response of Birmingham’s municipal men reveals a great deal about their values, including an emphasis on masculinity and family values. There is an evident pride in the town’s industry, but also in its arts both are capitalised in the transcription and the council men boldly proclaimed the town as a ‘Seat’ of industry and the arts. Here is an insight into how the town perceived itself and how it wished outsiders to view it. There is also an important reassurance that the people of Birmingham held a loyalty to the Crown and a respect for the current monarchy.