Birmingham grew to international prominence in the 18th century at the heart of the Midlands Enlightenment and subsequent Industrial Revolution, which saw the town at the forefront of worldwide advances in science, technology and economic development, producing a series of innovations that laid many of the foundations of modern industrial society. By 1791 it was being hailed as "the first manufacturing town in the world."
Its six universities make it the largest centre of higher education in the country outside London. Birmingham's major cultural institutions - including the
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Library of Birmingham and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts - enjoy international reputations, and the city has vibrant and influential grassroots art, music, literary and culinary scenes. People from Birmingham are called 'Brummies', a term derived from the city's nickname of 'Brum.'
There are 571 parks within Birmingham - more than any other European city - totaling over 3,500 hectares (14 sq mi) of public open space. The city has over six million trees, and 250 miles of urban brooks and streams. Sutton Park, which covers 2,400 acres (971 ha) in the north of the city, is the largest urban park in Europe and a National Nature Reserve. Birmingham Botanical Gardens, located close to the city centre, retains the regency landscape of its original design by J. C. Loudon in 1829, while the Winterbourne Botanic Garden in Edgbaston reflects the more informal Arts and Crafts tastes of its Edwardian origins.
Literary figures associated with Birmingham include Samuel Johnson who stayed in Birmingham for a short period and was born in nearby Lichfield.
Arthur Conan Doyle worked in the Aston area of Birmingham whilst poet
Louis MacNeice lived in Birmingham for six years. It was whilst staying in Birmingham that American author
Washington Irving produced several of his most famous literary works, such as Bracebridge Hall and The Humorists, A Medley which are based on Aston Hall. The poet
W. H. Auden grew up in the Harborne area of the city and during the 1930s formed the core of the Auden Group with Birmingham University lecturer Louis MacNeice. Author
J. R. R. Tolkien was brought up in Birmingham, with many locations in the city such as Moseley bog, Sarehole Mill and Perrott's Folly supposedly being the inspiration for various scenes in
The Lord of the Rings. The award winning political playwright
David Edgar was born in Birmingham, and the science fiction author
John Wyndham spent his early childhood in the Edgbaston area of the city, as did
Dame Barbara Cartland.
Today the city is home of two of the country's oldest professional football teams:
Aston Villa F.C., which was founded in 1874 and plays at Villa Park; and
Birmingham City F.C., which was founded in 1875 and plays at St Andrew's.
17 & 19 Newhall Street in Birmingham's characteristic Victorian red brick and terracotta, Wikimedia Commons