A truly Birmingham Meeting: Radical supper at the Town Hall, 1836

On January 30th, 1836, the Birmingham Journal published an enthusiastic report of a dinner held in the Town Hall in the previous week. Although there were many ‘distinguished guests’, the paper declared this had been a ‘truly Birmingham meeting‘ with ‘no false glare thrown about it by any specious show of aristocratical influence or sanction‘. The Hall had been decorated ‘appropriately’ and the galleries were adorned ‘with a galaxy of  beauty and fashion’. It was customary at Town Hall dinner meetings for the ladies to sit in the galleries, while the gentlemen drank and feasted in the main hall below. This ‘respectable assemblage’ of gentlemen included Birmingham MPs Thomas Attwood and Joshua Scholefield, along with the Irish MP and ‘Liberator’, Daniel O’Connell.

Many toasts were drunk during the course of the evening: ‘to the Mayors of the Liberal Corporations’; ‘to the Spirited and Judicious conduct of the Mayor of Leicester’; ‘to Poland, may England and France speedily vindicate the rights of humanity by the restoration of Poland’. (Polish exiles were among the distinguished guests). Speeches were political and Radical. They called for ‘Justice for Ireland’ and  spoke of the great hopes held for the reform of municipal corporations (the 1st Municipal Corporations reform Act having recently been passed).

Musical entertainment was provided by the Town Hall organ, played by Mr. Hollins, whose performance ‘and his performance on that noble instrument delighted the company’. He was accompanied by Mr. Pearsall, ‘in excellent voice’ led the singing of ‘Here’s health to all good lasses’ and ‘Roast beef of Old England’ (see video above). The evening, claimed the report, was ‘magical’.