Court Number 1, Thomas Street, Birmingham, 1871:
What I like about this photograph is that if you concentrated only on the houses in the background then this could easily be a modern photo. I used to live in a house that looked a little like one of those houses, and anyone travelling to London on the train that passes through Surbiton and Clapham will see scores of homes just like these.
Yet, if you cast your eyes down the photo to the cobbled streets, makeshift laundry lines, rickety out-buildings and tatty occupants, the picture becomes a world away from anything we could imagine.
A reminder that much of our world is still theirs.
Regent Row, Birmingham, c.1900
Just off Regent Place in Birmingham, in what was part of what was known in the 18th and 19th centuries as the ‘Jewellery Quarter’ due to its high volume manufacturing of jewellery and coins.
On 28 May 1845, a party of jewellery representatives was sent from Birmingham to Buckingham Palace with the intention of persuading Queen Victoria to wear British made jewellery for the purpose of promoting it, and a meeting took place with the Royal couple. The group gave the Queen and the Prince an armlet, a brooch, a pair of ear-rings, a waist buckle, a watch-chain, a seal and key, together valued at over 400 guineas. All products were manufactured by Thomas Aston of Regent’s Place and Mr. Baleny of St Paul’s Square. The party claimed that 5,000 families were dependent on the jewellery trades in Birmingham.
the building on the right is, I think, still there, but the windows have been changed. Birmingham, like most former industrial cities, is a great place to wander around if you’re into industrial history. It’s a city full of former warehouses and factories - many of which are now three storey flats.
Slum, Birmingham, c. 1872
Broken windows, ragged clothes and narrow alleys. A typical Victorian slum.
What I find touching about photographs of people in slums from the nineteenth century is that this picture is probably the only image that exists of these people. They would never have the means to purchase their own camera, and so street photography like this is the only way these people are able to live on in history. But for this picture, they would be completely forgotten.
Who knows if the people here ever even saw this photograph of themselves? Its likely that they didn’t.
Saturday Bridge, Birmingham, 1901
If it looks like a Victorian wall, then you’re guaranteed a bit of Victorian advertising.
This bridge in Birmingham is completely different now. Chimneys and old buildings are gone, replaced by banal office blocks.
The old adverts here are great, some brands include ‘OXO’, ‘Lifebuoy Soap’ ‘Remy’s Starch’ and a show at the Theatre Royal entitled ‘A Royal Divorce’ which I think was all about the affair between Napoleon and Josephine.
There is horse mess on the ground here, and a lady pushes a barrow as children look on.