Manchester: The True Second City

I’m a Yorkshireman. For those that don’t understand the War of the Roses and the 600 years of subsequent ‘discussion’, it puts in to context the magnitude of what I am about to say. Manchester is kicking a*se.

I may be currently heading south away from Manchester at c120mph courtesy of Richard Branson, with my heart firmly rooted on the other (right) side of The Pennines, but my business and my head are very firmly placed in Manchester, so much so that I was on BBC Manchester on Monday night explaining WHY Manchester is firmly positioned as Britain’s second city.

Li Ka-Shing has noticed Manchester’s prominence, causing global headlines in the process. Even the most resolute London based columnists have picked up on Manchester’s strength ….and such people are far from the only ones that have picked up on Manchester’s increasing energy judging by the amount of corporate investment heading North.

Manchester has long been a mighty force. The Industrial Revolution was born here; the computer was born here; the Trade Union movement was born here.  The world’s first passenger railway station was in Manchester as well as the first industrial canal and the first regular omnibus service.

Despite Manchester obvious political bias to the left, even Benjamin Disraeli, father of the modern Conservative Party was quoted in the early 19th Century saying “What Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow. The age of ruins is past … Have you seen Manchester?”

Moving towards commerce, Britain’s dramatic social and economic reform later in the 19th century was led by this great city followed by the development of world’s first industrial park, Trafford Park, where Ford Motor Company chose as its initial UK base along with Westinghouse Electric Company – the remnants of which can be seen in Westinghouse Road and the Americanised grid of numbered streets and avenues.

It is then apt that the city once again is leaping ahead of its contemporaries to not only compete with national cities, but genuinely compete on an international scale.  The Brand of Manchester has benefitted from two great football clubs in the city, the immense 1980s music and cultural scene, world leading broadcasting and who could forget Coronation Street, the world’s longest running non-news TV programme.

But Manchester has never had it easy. The City has had to fight against a myriad of adversity from collapses in the cotton trade; the decline in the textile industry leading into the great 1930s depression; huge damage during the war (ironically caused due to the great success of the locally named Lancaster Bomber, built by Avro in Manchester) and more recently the IRA bomb in 1996 – still the largest terrorist act on the British mainland.

Even today, Manchester falls well behind in terms of national investment. The centrally funded investment per capita in London on the public transport network is £5,000 per person. In Manchester it is just £5. But we’ve simply done it ourselves. The reasons Manchester bounced back from these events and factors is the same reason it has grown in strength and power in the last 15-20 years. Its people.

But the resolve of the people of Manchester has led to the city, and crucially the Mancunian economy and the businesses therein to now stand alone in competing not only with all other UK cities, but also with London. But Manchester and its businesses have succeeded by not trying to compete with London, nor with other UK cities. 70% of Brummies recently voted against a ‘truce’ with Manchester over the 2nd city title – Mancunians couldn’t care less, they just focus on their own achievements and developments.

London is in a different league and operates in a different world; it is a Top 10 Global city. Manchester has gained by not trying to compete toe-to-toe with London, but by offering something very different, recognising that the same strength of its people that helped bounce back from a century of adversity is what is driving the city forward and ironically now gaining ground nationally at the expense of London.

With economic difficulties in London prevailing, and an influx of talent being driven away due to job shortages and continually rising living costs, the greater Manchester area has become THE alternative to the capital, becoming the prime location people consider investing in, and living in, after London.

The BBC’s relocation to Manchester Salford last year crystallises the region‘s position as THE business destination of the moment. HS2, the high-speed rail network will see the ‘North-South’ divide decrease ever further with Manchester becoming little more than an hour away from London, less than the average commute from the Home Counties into Central London.

Airport City

Such is Manchester’s commercial development that it now genuinely competes with major European centres of business and commerce, including Paris and Frankfurt, but yet it only compares itself with itself – setting its own standards and seeking to be the best it can be. The immensely impressive £650m Airport City development being just the latest in the global leading initiatives.

The leadership behind Manchester has been the cornerstone to the recent, meteoric rise of Manchester as a commercial and economic power (along with many other things). For reasons detailed in my blog earlier this year about Sir Howard, Sir Richard and The Manchester Family, the city has a huge debt of gratitude to pay for what they have done, and are continuing to do to our city.

….but we also have to recognise the environment they have fostered to promote, encourage and support business. This is seen partly in the attraction of major corporations to follow in the footsteps of Ford and Westinghouse, but also in Manchester’s real commercial power – the dynamic, entrepreneurial spirit of its people and the keen commercial edge which is rendering it a UK beating commercial power.

Manchester/North-West businesses have a unique position. The immense innovation the city saw in industry, transport and leading technology through people like Alan Turing and more recently with the invention of Graphene, echoes through the life blood of the region’s businesses today. We may only have a tiny handful of FTSE-100 representation, and a barely greater number of FTSE-250, but the commercial might of the region’s businesses is immense. And it is down to the people behind them, and within them.

With such an [increasing] reliance on people, and particularly key talent to drive these businesses forward, it is little wonder that the North-West recruitment market has survived better than the other non-London markets.

The smarter Manchester recruiters accept London’s position as a super-power (football aside….!). As mentioned above, I am currently speeding towards London to spend the day in London, the 1hr 47 min journey from my Wilmslow home, does not give me the longest commute of City workers, such is the convenience of the North-West. The magnitude of the North-South divide can only truly be appreciated by those who see it on a daily basis. But as also mentioned above, Mancs don’t care. We back ourselves without peers.

We also see that as Manchester business continues to strive for innovation, continues to lead the way in attitude (and reaps the benefit of doing so), so the quality of the people required increases. The North-West is without question the prime non-London location for professionals to consider – approximately 50% of our successful NW appointments are with individuals relocating to the area. But the challenge to find, attract and ultimately secure that talent is not to be sniffed at. The realisation of that is arguably the regions businesses’ biggest weakness.

…Good job then there is a nationally renowned Head-Hunter based amongst you that leads and overcomes that challenge…..even if my heart still won’t let me accept that even in the 15th Century War of the Roses, the Red Rose had the victory.

42 Comments on “Manchester: The True Second City”

  1. Great blog, really informative. Never really understood who there was much competition for 2nd City?

  2. Interesting Blog. I’m not sure Manchester can really claim to be a second city, the sheer mass of Birmingham and its legacy as the manufacturing centre of the country are simply too much for Manchester to overcome. More people were employed by the automotive industry alone in the West Midlands than live in Manchester. Number simply don’t lie.
    Interestign facts all the same.

    • JB
      I don’t think you are comparing like with like,you say.”More people were employed by the automotive industry alone in the West Midlands than live in Manchester.You should have compared the West Midlands workforce to Greater Manchester population.Its like saying,once more people in Greater Manchester worked in cotton and fabrics than the population of Birmingham.I notice the population of Manchester has risen at a far greater rate than Brum.The Greater Manchester area is forecast to grow to 3,000,000 by 2025.

  3. Great blog Gary. Manchester has totally re-invented itself over the last decade to become an amazing city. Really interesting to see the detail and historical facts behind the city, thanks for sharing.

  4. Interesting blog, and some great points made. Is Manchester really that far behind London? It is quite obvious that it has gained huge ground against and away from other cities, but in all aspects, as London suffers from continual banking woes, Manchester continues to grow – the gap is narrowing. London, we’re comng to get you next! 😉

    • Manchester is flying and leaving all other cities trailing in its wake…..but make no mistake, London is on a different plane. I spend a day or 2 per week in The City and current woe or not, it is leagues away. Manchester’s realisation of that is what has enabled it to take similar leaps forward.

  5. Great Blog again, really thought provoking. The public transport statistic is an absolute shocker and utterly outrageous. £5 to £5000?

    • ….And yet we are still one of the standard bearers that other cities seek to follow! With the final approval of the Northern Hub this is only going to improve!

  6. Coronation Street is the worlds longest running TV programme?
    Not a chance!
    Fact Checks please.

    • @Iain – You clearly aren’t from Manchester to nip pick like that. 😉 I can’t think of many programmes, news programmes aside, that outlast Corrie’s 52 year run, and certainly that that are still in their original format as Corrie is.

      A true Manc would have had a positive thing to say…. 😉

  7. Is this the same Manchester that is doing so well, it has boarded up shops in main central area – picadilly gardens – it looks terrible

    • Every city has unoccupied units in the current climate, Manchester has a lot less than most, and many of the ones you speak of are in advance of large scale development.

  8. Great blog Gary and a great account of Manchetser. I picked up on this having seen your comments on the MEN article – shame that here and even more on that site (and on you twitter feed below), people seem hell bent on slagging Manchetser off. We have a fantastic city, yes it is not without it’s problems but overall as you say, we are kicking arse.

    Well done on a great account.

  9. Good Blog. Manchester is possibly only great because of the feeder cities and town’s around it. Bolton, Bury. Warrington, Oldham, Rochdale and above all SALFORD? Without them, where would Manchester be?

    What is in Manchester itself?

  10. Hi Gary. Pains me to say this being a Yorkshireman too, but you’re right. I think for a time in the 90s it appeared a genuine rivalry between Leeds and Manchester, but due to a number of cultural, sporting and political reasons, Manchester is accelerating well ahead of everywhere else.

    I’m not sure what it is, but Manchester has always had it. More than anything, it’s a city with a soul. It has a good buzz about it. I also think it’s the attitude of the folk that live there; it’s a good mix between swagger (see Graham Stringer’s comments about it becoming the first city) and peace (look at the ‘treaty’ with Birmingham’). It plays it down the line.

    It also works well because it’s greater than the sum of its component parts. It was mentioned that Manchester is only great because of its feeder cities (Bolton, Bury etc). Of course, this is true of any great city – it develops a synergy with its surrounds. London has Westminster, Kensington, Richmond… everywhere. New York developed from Long Island, New Jersey suburbs… all of it. That’s where a city stops being only itself and becomes more of a region.

    You can tell when institutions like the BBC move out to Manchester – not Pebble Mill – that things are on the up. Geographically it’s also very well placed, halfway between London and the Scottish belt, but also between Merseyside and West & South Yorkshire.

    So I’m saying this as a Yorkshireman who lives in Harrogate but regularly commutes to the North West. I don’t want to move from Harrogate (why would I?) but enjoy the banter and the buzz of the NW.

    Long may it thrive.

  11. Excellent blog and some great points. There is little doubt that Manchester is the second city. Everything about the city gives the edge over any other City, including London in many areas. Manchester’s modesty is also key to it’s success. It lets others scrap between themselves whilst it focuses on its own success.

  12. Brilliant Blog Gary, loved it although as a Manc I am perhaps a little biased. I missed this the first time it was out, nice to see it re-emerge. You points just highlight why we Mancs love our city and adopt even yorkshireman who have seen the light!

  13. Interesting blog and some relevant points raised but surely you have failed to mentioned the benefit the cultural mix of Manchester has brought to the region? WIthout that, Manchester would not even compete with Birmingham.

  14. “The Industrial Revolution was born here” – are you sure? Almost all the early innovations were made in Birmingham, including the world’s first cotton mill. By 1780 Birmingham was the third biggest city in England and was being called the ‘first manufacturing town in the world’. It was its invention of the cotton mill which allowed Manchester to grow – it took the idea and applied it on a massive scale.

    • I’m quite sure there is no definitive answer. Accordingly to Historians, The industrial revolution is thought to have stemmed from the Textiles, Canals and Railways. By 1780 Manchester had become known as Cottonopolis and was deemed to be the Worlds First Industrial City (Source Alan Kidd), the first ever factory being in Derby in 1721 but the first mechanised (steam powered) factory opening in 1781 on Miller Street in Manchester. Northampton has the first cotton mill in 1738 with Birmingham having a donkey-powered mill in 1741 (alas the factory went bankrupt the year after, the machine then sold to a Mr Cave who took it back to Northampton and converted it from donkey to water power)
      As for Canals and Railways, Manchester has the first of those with the Bridgewater and Manchester/Liverpool railway.

      Northampton can claim the Cotton Revolution
      Birmingham can claim the Donkey Revolution
      But Manchester has a strong case over the Industrial Revolution.

      • Sorry Gary, I’m not sure I agree. According to the Enyclopedia Britannica “by the late 18th century, Birmingham became the leading nucleus of the Industrial Revolution in Britain.”

        To go on: “Birmingham’s explosive industrial expansion started earlier than that of the textile-manufacturing towns of the North of England,[34] and was driven by different factors. Instead of the economies of scale of a low-paid, unskilled workforce producing bulk commodities such as cotton in increasingly large, mechanised units of production, Birmingham’s industrial development was built on the adaptability and creativity of a highly-paid workforce, practicing a broad range of skilled specialist trades with a strong division of labour, in a highly entrepreneurial economy of small, often self-owned workshops.[35] Levels of inventiveness were exceptional: between 1760 and 1850 – the core years of the Industrial Revolution – Birmingham residents registered over three times as many patents as those of any other British town or city.[”

        ” In 1709 the Birmingham-trained Abraham Darby I moved to Coalbrookdale in Shropshire and built the first blast furnace to successfully smelt iron ore with coke, transforming the quality, volume and scale on which it was possible to produce cast iron.In 1732 Lewis Paul and John Wyatt invented roller spinning, the “one novel idea of the first importance” in the development of the mechanised cotton industry. In 1741 they opened the world’s first cotton mill in Birmingham’s Upper Priory. In 1765 Matthew Boulton opened the Soho Manufactory, pioneering the combination and mechanisation under one roof of previously separate manufacturing activities through a system known as “rational manufacture”.[41] As the largest manufacturing unit in Europe this come to symbolise the emergence of the factory system. In 1746 John Roebuck invented of the lead chamber process, enabling the large-scale manufacture of sulphuric acid, and in 1780 James Keir developed a process for the bulk manufacture of alkali – together these marked the birth of the modern chemical industry.

        Most significant, however, was the development in 1776 of the industrial steam engine by James Watt and Matthew Boulton. Freeing for the first time the manufacturing capacity of human society from the limited availability of hand, water and animal power, this was arguably the pivotal moment of the entire industrial revolution and a key factor in the worldwide increases in productivity that would follow over the following century.”

        • Actually the majority of both answers are correct. This very debate has raged since 1884 if you believe it.

          Manufacturing and Chemicals were Birmingham’s strong points and the development of specific inventions surrounding engineering can trace the originations to Birmngham or at least the Midlands, hence the high number of patents. Manufacturing likewise has its roots in the Midlands well before industrialisation.
          As stated, Birmingham’s cotton mill was preceded by 2 years by Northampton, and as mentioned used animal power.The Watt engine was actually a development of the Newcomen Steam Engine, althought the Watt engine was more widely used, and it was indeed that engine that powered the first industrial (Steam Powered) factory in Manchester, although I seem to think it was 1780 not 1781, indeed in MIller Street. It took 10 years until Ancoats became the first industrial suburb which is actually what we see as being the true birth of the industrial revolution, a birth rightly stated as being in Manchester, aka Cottonopolis.
          You are right to say the manufactruing base started in earnest before the Northern towns, most of which didn’t gain pace until the 1800s, but the midlands industrial manufacturing lagged behind that of Manchester.

          As again rightly highlighted, the transportation infrastructure of canal and rail was the tipping point of the Industrial Revolution and the reason why many will say the period didn’t fully commence until 20 years after the Miller Street Steam powered factory.

          WIth 30 years of studying the subject, I am of the opinion that Manchester did indeed father the industrial revolution, factories, use of power and transportation become impossible to argue against. Birmingham facilitated it, but being a feeder club to the Premiership Champions does not give you the trophy.

          Of course, none of us has dared to mention Ironbridge.

          Fascinating subject.


          • It is fascinating – I agree with you; it’s whether you think innovation or scale is more important, I suppose. Birmingham was too isolated to produce materials en masse; that’s why, until canals and rail reached there (not that much later, I think), it specialised in small metalwork.

            You’re right; arguably Ironbridge has a stronger claim than either.

            The differences between the two cities are summed up by his quote from the French traveller de Tocqueville in the 1840s:

            “At Birmingham, almost every house is occupied by one family only; at Manchester, part of the population lives in damp cellars, hot, stinking and unhealthy; thirteen or fifteen individuals in each one. At Birmingham this is very rare. At Manchester, stagnant water, streets ill-paved or not paved at all. Too few public privies. These conditions are almost unknown at Birmingham. At Manchester, some great capitalists, thousands of poor workers, next to no middle class… the workers are gathered into factories by the thousand – by two thousands – three. At Birmingham, the workers labour at home or in small workshops alongside their masters.”

            Or as Asa Briggs said in VIctorian Cities…. “”The comparative history of the economic and social structures and political movements of Manchester and Birmingham shows just how different two individual cities could be…. [Birmingham] First, there was great diversity of occupation …. Second, work was carried on in small factories, and economic development throughout the century multiplied the number of producing units rather than added to the scale of existing enterprise…. Relations between ‘masters’ and ‘men’ in Birmingham were close therefore, if not always good, and the economic and political philosophies which thrived locally were those which laid emphasis on ‘mutual interests’, ‘interdependence’, and ‘common action’…..Third, a large proportion of the Birmingham labour force were skilled and therefore relatively well-off economically…. There was less pressure, therefore, for ‘factory reform’ and less fear of women’s and children’s labour, more dependence on friendly societies, and less on trade unions and a far greater emphasis on education. Fourth, there was considerable social mobility in Birmingham, or at least considerable local optimism about the prospects of ‘rising in society’…”

            They were considerably richer than yow, even then.

    • Very funny (for a yam yam brummie), and now Ironic, and a sign of the times that it is Birmingham that is constantly picking the fight, constantly proving which tiny part of a vague measurement they could be considered a competitor to Manchester. A sign of the times oh decending Brummies. 😉

  15. Manchester is in a totally different league to Birmingham and whilst the Brummies are going backwards, Manchester is flying. Thats is why Mancs don’t even consider it a fight anymore.

  16. I’m not an expert on the industrialisation, but on the wider issue of the UKs second City, there really is no contest. Birmingham was there some time ago, but for over a decade, Manchester has become second only to London in national power of every kind.

  17. Great blog and lively comments. I’m not at all interested in who is the 2nd city, but having seen Manchester grow in stature and positioning, from by home across on the right side of the pennines, I found it fascinating to read some of the reasons behind it. I wouldn’t change my home, but I am in awe of how quickly Manchester has risen

  18. Great debate. Having spent my formative years in Manchester over 20 years ago, its great to see the place continue its journey. Good write up.

  19. I actually think Glasgow is the second most impressive city in the UK (after London). Liverpool and Newcastle also have better architecture than Manchester or Birmingham.

    I agree about Birmingham by the way – although from about 1890 to 1980 Manchester was declining and Brum was thriving, so these things can reverse at any time. By the way, yam yams and brummies are from different places.

    What I dislike about Manchester – and there is a lot that I like – is the sort of willy-waving boosterism that thrives on these sorts of posts.

  20. I should probably explain that last comment – while Manchester is clearly doing better than other provincial cities, it’s still pretty poor in a European context. Indeed, i,f you look at deprivation, average wages, skills levels – it looks shockingly bad compared to the UK average. Moreover, in comparing it to Birmingham, for example, Greater Manchester looks pretty similar to the West Midlands in terms of productivity and so on.

    Yet when you go to Manchester, all you get is how amazing the city is, full-on marketing and willy-waving, as if it is somehow in the same league as Munich or Hamburg or Copenhagen or Toulouse. When you ask people where they live, though, none of the people banging on about how great Manchester is actually live there, do they. Oh no – Cheshire all the way. Maybe the odd one in Didsbury. Compare that with European cities, or even Edinburgh or Glasgow, where the city’s leaders and their families live in flats in the centre.

  21. What a great article. I’ve only seen it today after also reading the OV Manchester WhitePaper. It makes me proud to be a Mancunian. You both perfectly surmise why I never left after my masters, the people. I’m proud to be considered one of them now.

  22. Enter Birmingham – Britain’s Second City on the internet and you get 110,000 responses, enter Manchester – Britain’s Second City and you get 895 responses. End of argument. PS I’d go with The Encyclopaedia Britannica’s version of events rather than a biased Manc’s. Tara a bit!

    • What horse-shit from a bitter brummie. Google “Manchester – Britain’s Second City” and you get 3.6m hits.

      Facts are facts. As Disraeli said – What Manchester does today, the rest of the world does tomorrow.

      Aside from Donkey power and inventing the militant car worker, what has Birmingham achieved?

  23. Not bitter a Brummie, a Proud Brummie.

    You ask what Birmingham has achieved I refer you to the above contribution from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, they are facts, not what the likes of you or I may think about our respective cities. Look on the back of the new £50 note, two great men who pioneered the industrial revolution in Birmingham (Boulton and Watt a Scotsman), The Soho mint is Soho Birmingham not London by the way, the only place then capable of making counterfeit proof coins in massive numbers. Birmingham known as The City of a Thousand Trades and along with its’ Black Country Cousins the Workshop of the World. Manchester known for cotton, well it may have been useful for packaging the things Birmingham made.

    Beyond the industrial revolution and into the war years Birmingham’s war effort was massive more than half of all Spitfires produced were from Vickers Birmingham approx. 12,000 plus 300 Lancasters. Then you have the gun industry/quarter the likes of BSA, who also made motorbikes, cycles etc plus all the armoured vehicles made in Small Heath(Metro C)When Birmingham was bombed it was hardly reported as it would have damaged the Country’s morale, if Birmingham could not make the hardware we could not have fought the war.

    Into the 1960’s Central Government introduced legislation to stifle Birmingham to give other regions a chance which is fair enough, household incomes were 13% higher in Birmingham than the national average, higher than London and the South East.

    Iconic British brands and marques: Mini, Jaguar, Landrover, BSA, Cadbury, Typhoo, ICI, MG, Lloyds and Midland Banks two of the big four banks both started in Birmingham. From the wider West Midlands Region, Aston Martin and Morgan.

    And today a multi cultural City more than twice the population than that of Manchester without a BNP councillor in sight. Voted 19th in ‘Places you must visit’ in the New York Times 2012, no mention of Manchester, 33.5 million visitors in 2012, the largest German market outside Germany with 3 million plus visitors, The CBSO at Symphony Hall with the finest acoustics in the world (ask Simon Rattle), Grade 1 listed Town Hall oldest purpose built concert Hall in Britain, Great theatres including the busiest in the UK the Hippodrome, The largest library (new)in Europe, third largest start of the art hospital in Europe where our servicemen are treated, Birmingham Museum with the world’s largest pre-Raphaelite collection of art, The Berber Institue of Fine Art, The oldest working cinema in the UK – The Electric, More canals than Venice, more parks than Paris, the largest local authority owned park in Europe – Sutton Park gifted by Henry V111, 6 million trees. I could go on and on but I do not wish to sound like a shouty Londoner or Mancunian

    The London centric Birmingham bashing BBC having a shallow pole of 1000 people does NOT make Manchester the second City. Personally Liverpool takes the Northern crown for me and there are other great Northern cities equal to Manchester in terms of a great history ie. Sheffield, Leeds. In terms of Britain I would put Glasgow ahead of the Northern cities for culture, history and importance plus they are sound people.

    What this entire ‘debate’ boils down to is money, London bashes us because each of the 33.5 million visitors to Birmingham are spending money here and not there and I believe Manchester is doing the same.

    No ore about cotton please.

  24. Birmingham – stuff you should know!

    Birmingham is an amazing city, and there are probably a few interesting and quirky facts here that you never knew about.

    BullringBirmingham means home (ham) of the people (ing) of the tribal leader Birm or Beorma.

    Birmingham’s first canal was opened in 1769 and linked Birmingham to Wednesbury. There are many locks on the canals including the famous Guillotine Lock in Kings Norton, which was used to control the flow of water between canals owned by different companies.

    Birmingham is home to Cadbury’s Chocolate. George and his brother Richard Cadbury moved their successful chocolate manufacturing business from Bull Street, Birmingham to Bournville in 1879.

    Built as part of The ICC in 1991, Symphony Hall is the home of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

    ‘Floozie in the Jacuzzi’
    Victoria Square hosts one of the largest fountains in Europe, with a flow of 3,000 gallons per minute, it is known as “The River” but has been nicknamed “The Floozie in the Jacuzzi”.

    Bingley Hall, the world’s first exhibition hall, opened in 1850 on the site now occupied by The ICC.

    John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, spent his childhood in Sarehole, Birmingham. The tiny village of Sarehole is said to have been the model for the Shire, home of Bilbo in the book The Hobbit.

    Phil Coker giving a reading
    Home to JRR Tolkien
    Alec Issigonis was one of the most colourful car designers of modern times. He went on to design the world famous, Birmingham- made ‘Mini’, which started production in 1959 at Longbridge, Birmingham and is still in production today.

    Birmingham is home to the historic Bull Ring – site of a market for more than 800 years. Within the complex are five retail markets attracting around 20 million customers a year.

    The Mini in 1967
    The Mini in 1967
    Two miles from Birmingham city centre is one of the biggest motorway junctions in Europe:Gravelly Hill Interchange, known as ‘Spaghetti Junction’ to millions of motorists.
    Soho House is the elegant home of industrial pioneer Matthew Boulton, who lived their from 1766 to 1809. Boulton in partnership with James Watt developed and patented the steam engine at the nearby but now demolished Soho Factory.

    William Murdock, who worked for Boulton and Watt at Soho, Handsworth, invented gas lighting. His cottage at Soho Foundary was the first domestic building to be lit by gas (1798).

    James Watt, who lived in Birmingham 1775-1819, developed the steam engine. Through it, the firm Boulton and Watt sold the industrial revolution to the world. Watt also invented the letter copying machine, forerunner of the photocopier. His name stays in our vocabulary through the lightbulb measurement- 60 Watts, 40 Watts, etc.

    The first x-ray was taken in Birmingham
    X-Ray photography for medical purposes was pioneered by Major John Hall Edwards; he took the first x-ray in Birmingham in 1896.

    Curzon Street Station, Digbeth, was the terminus of the London and Birmingham railway, with a station built by Philip Hardwick in 1838, who designed the original Euston Station too.

    Birmingham’s international Partner Cities include Chicago (USA), Frankfurt (Germany), Johannesburg (South Africa), Leipzig (Germany), Lyon (France) and Milan (Italy).
    Birmingham’s basketball team are the “Bullets” and there are three professional soccer teams; the “Blues”, the “Villains” and the “Baggies”.

    Birmingham’s Centenary Square is made up of more than half a million individual bricks – all hand laid!

    Other big cities are green with envy when you mention Brum’s 6 million trees, more parks than any other European city, a record-breaking 14 consecutive gold medals form the Chelsea Flower Show and our National Britain in Bloom awards.

    Birmingham’s Central Library is the city’s busiest building, Europe’s largest public library and lends 8 million books each year.

    The population of Birmingham is approximately 1 million people; 6 million people live within 50 miles of the City.

    There are 3 universities and over 450 schools in the City.

    Ozzy Osbourne
    Black Sabbath’s Ozzy Osbourne
    Birmingham is home to many past and present rock bands including Ocean Colour Scene, Duran Duran, ELO, Dodgy, UB40 and Black Sabbath.

    There are 30 other Birminghams around the world and one crater on the moon called Birmingham!

    The history of the founding de Birmingham family is difficult to follow as there were seven Williams in a row.

    Celluloid was invented in 1862, by Alexander Parkes; the first plastic was known as Parkensine.

    Lunar Eclipse in 2004
    Birmingham is also on the moon
    The first of the famous Odeon chain of cinemas first opened in Perry Barr, Birmingham in 1930.

    Place names in Birmingham include California, Hollywood and Broadway!

    Nigel Mansell, Indy and Formula One Champion was born, lived and worked in Birmingham.

    John Wyatt invented a machine for spinning wool – the spinning jenny.

    Henry Clay invented a new form of papier mache using sheets of paper (1772).
    Joseph Sampson Gamgee (1828-80), a Birmingham doctor, invented the surgical dressing known as cotton wool.

    Joseph Priestley, a Birmingham minister (1780-91), discovered oxygen.

    Villa and Blues
    Villa and Blues
    Electro-plating was invented in Birmingham by John Wright in 1840.

    Two of Britain’s big four banks were founded in Birmingham – Lloyds (1765) and Midland (1836).

    The pneumatic tyre was invented in Birmingham by John Dunlop in 1888.

    Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914) is recognised as the founder of municipal government.

    State education was pioneered in Birmingham in the 1850s.

    Three British Prime Ministers attended Mason College, forerunner of the University of Birmingham.

    Antonin Dvorak, Czech composer (1841-1904) said of Birmingham: “I’m here in this immense industrial city where they make excellent knives, scissors, springs, files and goodness knows what else, and, besides these, music too. And how well! It’s terrifying how much the people here manage to achieve.”

    Council street cleaners regularly sweep 1,300 miles of road and empty 4,000 litter bins – helping to make Birmingham officially the UK’s cleanest large city.

  25. Its all gone quiet Manchester……still waiting for some of your hype, the hype only you believe!


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