🏴 England -
The Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games took place in Birmingham, the second largest city in England with a total population of about 1,115,000, on the evening of 28 July 2022, with the participation of 72 Commonwealth countries and territories. The city is located in the English Midlands and was the centre of the industrial revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries.
There is evidence of occupation of various sites in the Birmingham area dating back to the Stone Age and Bronze Age and the Romans established a large fortress at Metchley, near the site of the present day Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston, as part of their campaign to subdue the Welsh tribes to the west.
In Anglo-Saxon times the southern part of what is now Birmingham was part of the territory of the Hwicce people while the northern part was part of the Angle Kingdom of Mercia which eventually subsumed Hwicce. When the Vikings occupied large swathes of England, the area which is now Birmingham remained in the free part of West Mercia which supported the West Saxons in their fight to free England.
After the Norman conquest of England, Birmingham was described in the Domesday Book of 1086 as, ‘Richard holds of William [Fitz Ansculf of Dudley] four hides in Birmingham. Land for six ploughs: one is in the lordship. There are five villagers and four small holders, with two ploughs. Woodland half a mile long and two furlongs wide, it was and is worth 20s. Wulfine held it freely’. The lords of the manor became known as the de Birmingham family and in 1166 Peter de Birmingham bought the right to hold a weekly market in his castle from King Henry II. A confirmation charter was granted for the market in 1189. The town began to grow and there is evidence that as early as 1308 that Birmingham was a place of production of metal goods.
The reference to Birmingham in the 1086 Domesday Book -
By 1538 one traveller described the town, “…There be many smiths in the towne that use to make knives and all mannour of cuttinge tooles, and many lorimers that make bittes, and a great many naylors. Some say that a great part of the towne is maintained by smithes, who have their iron and sea-cole out of Staffordshire”. Subsequent visitors all mentioned how busy the town was, full of the deafening sound of metal-bashing. Industry continued to grow and in the meantime, during the Civil War, the inhabitants opposed the Royalists and found themselves being attacked by the forces of Charles I.
The Bull Ring, Birmingham, late 18th century:-
As the town grew more prominent, citizens debated their often radical politics and the town found itself at the cutting edge of the Enlightenment when men such as the inventors and industrialists James Watt and Matthew Boulton, the physician William Withering (who discovered digoxin), Erasmus Darwin (physician, philosopher and grandfather of Charles Darwin), Joseph Priestley (the discoverer of oxygen) and Josiah Wedgwood the pottery manufacturer from Stoke, founded the Lunar Society.
Royal Mail issue 10 March 2009 - members of the Lunar Society - Matthew Boulton, James Watt and Josiah Wedgwood -
Statue of the ‘Golden Boys- Boulton, Watt and Murdoch, Centenary Square, Birmingham -
The town turned itself into an enormous workshop as the industrial revolution proceeded and thousands of people from the surrounding counties moved there to work in its numerous industries. Slum housing and poor living conditions were often the lot of the factory workers but in 1873 the radical liberal industrialist, Joseph Chamberlain, was elected Mayor of the town and began a vast programme of slum clearance and improvements in the town including the building of Corporation Street in the town’s very centre. Eventually Birmingham received its Charter as a city in 1889.
Joseph Chamberlain -
The city gradually spread out to engulf more areas and thereby increase its population. The city was a frequent victim of German air raids in the first part of the Second World War and then, after the war, as Britain entered a new post-colonial era tens of thousands of immigrants from around the Commonwealth and elsewhere began to arrive, settle and bring up families in the city which brought the city to where it is today - a diverse, multi-cultural, tolerant society and a very apt place to host the Commonwealth Games.
Birmingham’s Chamberlain Square, the Central Library and Selfridge’s building depicted previously on Royal Mail stamps:-
Scenes from the Opening Ceremony, 28 July 2022 -
The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall arrive -
The Red Arrows -
The Raging bull -