Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Proposed Renaming of Birmingham City Gun Quarter. Cry: "Shame!"

They might be back-peddling slightly now but some smart-alec local councillors have decided, upon the petition of fifty 'concerned residents', that the old Birmingham 'Gun Quarter' (or, what is left of it after the developers, recently got their mits on it), should be re-named, to dissociate the area from 'drug-related gun crime'. The first thing that occurs to me is that it's a real pity that the notoriously corrupt and now (thankfully defunct) Restormel Borough Council 'lost'the petition of thousands of St Austellians, who protested about the demolition of the old Odeon Cinema. Because, if fifty Politically Correct Brummie protesters are really enough to snuff out a portion of our nation's history, how much more valid, to conserve a significant part of local history, would have been a petition comprising thousands of objections to its destruction? But, hey! That is 'modern Britain' for you!

The fifty Brummie protesters are, apparently, concerned that the name the 'Gun Quarter' suggests some kind of official support or recognition of the drug-related gun crime in the city. The fact that there is on-going, notorious, drug-related gun crime suggests to me that more time and resources should be aimed at stamping it out.

Meanwhile, as its councillors squander time and resources on such absurd nonsense as renaming old established local areas to appease fifty 'right-on' residents, Birmingham council has a massive deficit that would have the late Joseph Chamberlain spinning in his grave. So proficient and popular was this adopted son of Brum that, after a term as Mayor Of Birmingham, he stood unopposed in the general Election of 1876 and was returned as one of the city's MPs, which he remained for the rest of his lfe. So influential was he in late 19th and early 20th century politics that Winston Churchill said of him "He made the weather". He had made his fortune out of screw manufactory, one of the many metal works associated with Brum, because of the large local deposits of iron ore; which accounts for the rise of the city during the industrial revolution which, in turn, put Britain at the top of the class in innovation, design and production (there's a memory that is a real blast from the past). Gun production was all a part of this; to such an extent that, a famous local firm, called William Powell & Sons, was instrumental in securing Birmingham its own Proof House in 1813, since when there has always been a Powell on the Board of Guardians.

It can certainly be said, without fear of exaggeration, that the Birmingham gunmakers made the weapons that made and guarded the Empire. Later when Liberty herself was endangered, they were still there doing the job and firms such as A A Brown made machine tools for Spitfire fighters . And that's all on top of turning out tens of thousands of sporting guns; some of which are right up there with the Best of the Best worldwide.

Surely, the unproductive and disorganized squads of modern British politicians might at least look back on our nation's industrial past with pride? - especially since truly British industry produces less and less every year; even Bristol Cars nearly bit the dust and are now foreign-owned - and especially since the diminished Birmingham gun trade is at least still there.

In any event: while the government of modern Britain is spreading 'great western democracy' over parts of the earth that have no use for it, and street rioters run amok, unchecked for days on end; while it has been over-regulating the law-abiding in everything from radiator settings to smoking in public, just as all the major banks went bust; similarly, it was debating fox-hunting, while there are still mentally defective people sleeping in doorways, and the old and sick are sometimes left to die in filthy hospital corridors. Where do those in national and local government find the time for all the twaddle?

Cry "Shame" on Birmingham City Council.

Today's picture is of the Birmingham Gun-barrel Proof House.


  1. NJS,

    Well written!

    The first round of destruction of the gunmaking quarter occurred in the late 1960's . The chief loss was the historic St Marys Row which housed quite a few gunmaking companies & even more independent specialists such as barrel makers, stockers & actioners. On the east end of the row stood the impressive factory of WW Greener.


    It should have been preserved but instead it was demolished like the rest of the row & adjacent streets in a 'modernisation' which befitted nobody in the end.

    There's a tale told that when Greeners were demolished the basement still held many experimental & incomplete guns that were of no interest to anyone (at the time). They were still there when what remained of the basement was filled with concrete. Perhaps it's an old gunsmiths story but my local gunmaker (he does still make shotguns) was an apprentice working a couple of streets away at the time & swears it's true – I'd like to think it is.


  2. The 1960s were the start of the realzation, by architect/developers, such as Erno Goldfinger, that they could make fortunes out of historic sites by building high-rise purpose-built slums. I even, for a period, worked in one of them: Alexander Fleming House, at the Elephant & Castle, once the HQ of the old Department of Health a Social Security. There was a particular tower there, which was used by the AIDS unit of the Department, and we used to call it 'The Condominium'. Now, I believe that it has all been converted to 'inner-city housing'. I hope that they removed the external grills over the windows, which Erno had, thoughtfully, designed to keep out the glare; in fact, they rusted in place (sometimes doubled-over), meaning that the rooms inside were in a perpetual twilight zone. Still, no one cares; listens or acts and the eastern end of Jermyn Street is doomed to go the same way: the so-called 'regenerated' 'StJames's Gateway' will soon become a haven for drug-dealers and prostitutes: at least, I hope that it does; just to prove the point.