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4352.  Tue Jan 13, 2004 8:25 pm Reply with quote

It is indeed a fabulous resource, Jack, and most of the stuff there has the ring of truth about it.

Birmingham's assay office, established in 1773, is the largest in the world. However, although Birmingham is Britain's most land-locked city, the assay mark for jewellery made in Birmingham is the anchor.

4353.  Tue Jan 13, 2004 8:26 pm Reply with quote

I don't know why I particularly like this, but I do:

Birmingham has three professional football teams - Aston Villa, nicknamed the Villains; Birmingham City, nicknamed the Blues; and West Bromwich Albion, nicknamed the Baggies.

4354.  Tue Jan 13, 2004 8:27 pm Reply with quote

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

There are suburbs in Birmingham called California, Hollywood and Broadway.

4355.  Tue Jan 13, 2004 8:27 pm Reply with quote

If all the Cadbury creme eggs made by Birmingham-based Cadbury were stacked on top of each other, they would be 900 times higher than Everest.

4356.  Tue Jan 13, 2004 8:28 pm Reply with quote

<collapses in exhausted heap>

4391.  Wed Jan 14, 2004 5:50 am Reply with quote

Firstly, "yay, Birmingham's great!"


4022 - much as regional accents should be celebrated as part of our rich and varied culture, I'm sure the Brummie accent is not the most aurally pleasing. However, Shakespeare probably had one, didn't he? Also, although outsiders might not realise the difference, the Black Country accent is very different from the BIrmingham accent, with different vowel sounds, especially 'o's.

6331.  Thu Mar 04, 2004 4:47 pm Reply with quote

In the early 1950s a series of secret underground telephone exchanges were built. They were designed to protect the chain of communications even if a Hiroshima sized atomic bomb destroyed the city above. There were definitely 3 built – the Kingsway Exchange in London, the Guardian Exchange in Manchester, and the largest was the Anchor Exchange in Birmingham. Anchor is 100ft below Birmingham City Centre, with today’s BT tower built directly above it. Unfortunately, by the time they were completed, advances in nuclear weapons and the development of the hydrogen bomb had rendered them obsolete for their original purpose. The centres themselves could still survive all but a direct hit by an atom or hydrogen bomb, but they were linked by conventionally laid cables which would have almost no chance of withstanding the effects of a hydrogen bomb, thus leaving the centres almost completely isolated by the lack of undamaged cables.

Construction of Anchor started in 1953 with a cover story was that a new underground rail or tram network was being built. Work progressed until 1956 when the public were told the project was no longer economically viable; instead Birmingham got its underpasses through the city to help relieve congestion (oh, if they could have seen the future). Nobody realised that in the last 3 years an underground exchange and tunnel system 100ft below Newhall Street had been completed at a cost £4m. Birmingham Council’s Civil Defence meeting records do not mention the exchange, and many GPO workers at the time didn't realise its importance as it was referred to only by the name Anchor.

The entrance used for construction and vehicles no longer exists, but this entrance was part of a slip road that went down giving access to a multi-storey car park for Moor St Station. While construction was going on at Anchor and the new car park, the sliproad carried straight on into the tunnel complex, but once the car park was opened, the road into the tunnels was bricked up as if it had never existed. There are still large, clearly visible ventilation shafts all over the city

The Government D notice classifying this information was removed in 1967, once everyone had realised that Anchor wouldn’t withstand nuclear attack, and articles appeared in the local press. It was still put into immediate use as a telephone exchange, and later was used for copper cables and circuitry for all radio and television broadcast purposes. In the 80s it became the terminal for a new fibre optic link from London. When it was built, Anchor was above the water level in Birmingham, but with the closing down of heavy industry and several major breweries, which used to take water from their own artesian wells, the water level has risen 50ft in the last 50 years, and many of the tunnels are now underwater. In fact, the thick concrete blast proof sections of the tunnel walls have never been completely water-proof either. BT still goes to huge expense to maintain a 24hr pumping system, pumping out thousands of gallons of water a day, but it has recently been put out of bounds to even BT staff due to serious safety concerns and is no longer kept even up to basic care and maintenance levels, although the tunnels do still serve as cable runs to save digging up the city streets.

Anchor was only once put on standby during its lifetime; this was during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. All ordinary engineers were replaced with chosen managers and no women were allowed.

S: wikipedia
S: British Telecommunications Engineers Magazine 2001
S: Birmingham Post 1968
S: Birmingham Evening Mail 1968

6332.  Thu Mar 04, 2004 4:50 pm Reply with quote

Anchor takes its name from the Birmingham assay office which is above the exchange, the mark for Birmingham being an anchor (as Jenny has previously pointed out).

Apparently when Birmingham started producing enough silverware to make it practical to get its own assay office, rather than send everything to other towns to be hallmarked, Sheffield was at a similar juncture, and a coin was tossed in the Crown & Anchor pub to decide on their symbols - Birmingham chose the anchor, Sheffield the crown.

S: as above

6333.  Thu Mar 04, 2004 4:50 pm Reply with quote

This sounds a bit urban-mythy, but apparently there was an underground bus station built under the library area but by the time it was built they realised it wasn't the right size for the new buses which had been ordered, so it was opened as an underground car park for the Council.

6334.  Thu Mar 04, 2004 4:52 pm Reply with quote

A slight elaboration on JJ's earlier post:
The village of Birmingham was probably founded between 550 and 700 AD by an Anglian clan or tribe called the Beormingas – the name probably comes from Beorma’s People’s Village (Beorm – ing – ham). By 1066 there were loads of hamlets and tiny villages scattered around the area, but Birmingham itself was probably one of the poorest and smallest. It’s likely that there were no proper village centres in the area till the 13th century or later.

6335.  Thu Mar 04, 2004 4:52 pm Reply with quote

By 1775 Birmingham was the 3rd most populous town in Britain, after London and Bristol. In the 18th century the population of Britain rose by about 14%, but rose by 900% in Birmingham.

6336.  Thu Mar 04, 2004 4:53 pm Reply with quote

By 1851 Britain was producing nearly 50% of the world’s manufactured goods, and most of them were made in Birmingham.

6337.  Thu Mar 04, 2004 4:53 pm Reply with quote

The first history of Birmingham was written by William Hutton in 1781. William Hutton set up a second hand bookshop in Birmingham after leaving his home town of Derby. He set up Birmingham’s first circulating library in 1751 and Birmingham’s first paper warehouse 1756.

6338.  Thu Mar 04, 2004 4:54 pm Reply with quote

Winson Green (let’s just say it’s not a particularly desirable area to this day) started to become urbanised in 1850, when the Birmingham Gaol, the Borough Lunatic Asylum, the Birmingham Union Workhouse and the Borough Hospital for Smallpox and Scarlet Fever were built here. Nice.

6339.  Thu Mar 04, 2004 4:54 pm Reply with quote

There is an internet campaign called Birmingham: It’s Not Shit. But the sort of people posting on it aren’t doing much for the cause.


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