Birmingham history

We are so proud of our city. Once famous for being the city ‘of a thousand trades’ Birmingham was a world-leading pioneer of jewellery, toys and buckles, and continues to lead the way today as an exciting, ambitious and global city.

Birmingham’s history as a major settlement dates back to the early 12th century as a popular market town. The development of Birmingham’s extensive canal network marked Birmingham as a key player in the global export market- you may have heard Birmingham has more canals than Venice! The city gained a worldwide reputation as a powerhouse of manufacturing and invention- in fact, to this day over 40% of all the UK’s handmade jewellery is produced in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

In the 19th century, George and Richard Cadbury opened their iconic chocolate factory in Bournville, securing Birmingham’s position as a beloved household name across the world.

Today, Birmingham has undergone a dramatic transformation. Former industrial properties such as Bird’s old Custard Factory have been converted into some of Birmingham’s most exciting arts and nightlife venues. Visitors to the city are amazed by its stunning transformation, you can sit among beautiful Georgian buildings and outstanding architectural structures, in our busy and dynamic city.

Now, Birmingham is a centre of arts and culture, commerce and entertainment with a friendly and diverse community. It is home to the largest financial services and creative sectors outside of London, and now many young people are choosing Birmingham to live in with more jobs and opportunities than ever before and all the benefits of a capital city at a fraction of the cost. The city has built its reputation as an exciting destination to stand with the major cities of Europe, and has previously been included in the Rough Guides' Top 10 Cities to visit in the world.

The essence of Birmingham is captured by its apt motto ‘Forward’.

Five of the best things to come out of Birmingham:

  • Cadbury chocolate
  • Fine, handmade jewellery
  • Ground-breaking research
  • Shakespeare (just down the road…)
  • University of Birmingham graduates