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Charles Dickens In Birmingham

Shera

true brummie
i have just read in the mail that charles dickens read "a christmas carol" in the town hall birmingham in dec 1853.

i had no idea he came to birmingham. is it only me who never knew this :blush:
 

Shera

true brummie
i think its brilliant that he was at the town hall.

mike, im glad im not the only one that never heard about it. :rolleyes: apparently on 27th dec 1853 the weather was very bad - snow and bitterly cold. i will have a look at those links youve posted.

maggie, yes it says he did a talk on the friday night which was for the working classes :)
 

anthea

master brummie
I believe there is a room in the Birmingham & Midland Institute which is called/named the Dickens Room. I was there in the 1980's so perhaps things have changed since then. I also think he gave lectures and readings there. Anthea:)
 

JohnO

master brummie
I was always given to understand that Dickens wrote ''The Old Curiosity Shop'' whilst staying at Hill House, Dagger Lane, in West Bromwich??? The house once belonged the the bloke who ran up Nelson's famous signal ''England Expects' etc at the Battle of Trafalgar Mind you, I could just be suffering from my usual state of confusion here? :D
 
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Vivienne14

Super Moderator
Staff member
Thanks Jennyann. Dickens was very fond of Birmingham people and the causes they pursued to educate and improve the lot of ordinary people. This is a snippet of his inaugural address to open the winter session of the Birmingham & Midland Institute on 27 Sept 1869 :

"I bear an old love towards Birmingham and
Birmingham men. I have said that I bear an old love towards
Birmingham and Birmingham men; let me amend a small omission, and
add "and Birmingham women." This ring I wear on my finger now is
an old Birmingham gift, and if by rubbing it I could raise the
spirit that was obedient to Aladdin's ring, I heartily assure you
that my first instruction to that genius on the spot should be to
place himself at Birmingham's disposal in the best of causes"

Now that's praise indeed! Viv.
 

Vivienne14

Super Moderator
Staff member
The first Birmingham & Midland Institute c.1855 when the foundation stone was laid by HRH Prince Albert. Barry was the architect. An impressive building and gives a clear message about Birmingham's serious commitment to education. Viv.

Ham___Midland_Institute_1855.JPG
 

Vivienne14

Super Moderator
Staff member
I hadn't realised that Dickens, not only delivered his famous and popular readings in Birmingham, but also acted at the Theatre Royal in New Street.

Charles Dickens' Amateur Theatrical Company gave an amateur performance at the Theatre Royal, Birmingham, as part of a brief provincial tour in June and July 1848. This was to raise funds for a perpetual curatorship of William Shakespeare's House in Stratford-upon-Avon, purchased by London and Shakespeare Committee in 1847.

There were two performances at the Birmingham Theatre Royal; on the 6 and 9 June and the Company included various of his literary and artistic friends as well as his brothers, Frederick and Augustus Dickens. Dickens was the acting and stage manager and made all the arrangements for the troupe. The performance included Ben Jonson's comedy "Every Man in His Humour" and Mrs Inchbold's farce "Animal Magnetism" Of the performance it was said: "The acting of Mr Dickens and Mr Forster displayed histrionic capacity of the very highest kind".

Also the bar in the vaults of the Theatre Royal was named the Shakespeare Tavern. I don't know for certain, but perhaps this was named in connection with this cause. Viv.

ImageUploadedByTapatalk1328973531.832025.jpg
Theatre Royal New Street (the 3rd theatre in 1820)

This view has the Shakespeare Tavern written on the building.
 

Vivienne14

Super Moderator
Staff member
Great publication Mike. So good to have all the drawings in one place. Love the coach journey London - Birmingham from the Pickwick Papers. ImageUploadedByTapatalk1373797122.945564.jpgHad another look at the description of their arrival in Birmingham:

Dickens describes the view from the coach as it approaches Birmingham. Cinder roads, brick dust, furnace fires, tall chimneys, heavily laden wagons all suggest a very busy, industrious scene. I wonder if the London coach was approaching via Digbeth?
ImageUploadedByTapatalk1373796916.931908.jpg

They arrive at the Old Royal Hotel. I think this was modelled on the Royal Hotel on Temple Row where Dickens himself had stayed. When Pickwick asks the waiter where Mr Winkle lives the waiter tells him it's around 500 yards away. I did wonder if this might have been near the wharf at the bottom of Snow Hill as Mr Winkle is a 'wharfinger' - a proprietor of a wharf.ImageUploadedByTapatalk1373797068.760611.jpg


The house of Mr Winkle is briefly described too. Sounds part home, part business premises.ImageUploadedByTapatalk1373797085.764918.jpgImageUploadedByTapatalk1373797095.821095.jpg


Viv
 

mikejee

Super Moderator
Staff member
Different trade, but in 1837 there was a John Winkles, hairdresser, at 10 Livery st, which I reckon is now under the railway approx. opposite where Lionel st joins Livery St
 

Rupert

master brummie
Google Earth has stopped working for me...must have done something wrong...but it seems to me that the Farmers lift locks would be about 500yds north of the Old Royal and Livery St. would run by them. The various lock levels had short wharves I think. The canal would be the Fazely Canal, or too such. Not far away from the Livery address, at the bottom of the locks and on the other side of Snow Hill would be a longer run of Wharves. All still there. Coal wharves and such.
I suppose the dates co-incide...and what a remarkable find indeed. So, from the Old Royal Hotel, opposite the Great Western Arcade on Temple Row (gone now of course)...walk across to Colmore Row on the east walkway of St. Phillips (past the Blue Coat School)...down Livery St. to the above address. You would be walking in Dickens footsteps. A remarkable find indeed...well done.
Should be a walking route for all keen visitors interested in what matters. You guys could offer 'tourist guide tours' on little golf cart trains. There is so much still to see and if not see, to think about.
 

Vivienne14

Super Moderator
Staff member
That's great Mike and Rupert! Maybe Dickens walked that route to get his haircut by Mr Winkle! We know Dickens drew from real life characters for his books, so I do hope our Mr Winkle of Livery Street was in his mind when he wrote those passages. This is now doubly interesting for me as I have ancestors based around those wharves and Snow Hill; two of my ancestors were blacksmith/shoeing smiths on Honduras Wharf and at Snow Hill Passage. A fascinating part of Birmingham, but now mostly re-built I think.

There's another Birmingham mention in the Pickwick Papers, this time referring to Birmingham counterfeit coins. In the extract
"Brummagen Buttons" meant bad silver. So the stranger was pretending the waiter would give him bad/counterfeit change for a "five"
View attachment 87341

Viv.
 

Rupert

master brummie
Having not read the Dicken's text, I don't know how the visit to the Wharfinger relates to the story. However, since limited luggage would be carried onboard a horse drawn coach, extended luggage would be presumably sent ahead via. canal barge and the owner/manager of the wharfe would be contacted on arrival. Presumably the wharfinger would be paid according to the duration of contact with the material so, hence the immediate enquiry and visit. Maybe an insight on travel in the times in question. Also the extended luggage might indicate an extended stay requiring a larger version of yer stuff. For a season of plays or readings.
No last minute planning in those days. An extended trip required weeks of thought.

Perhaps the house was to the left of the Y in Livery St. Opposite seems to be a factory wharfe. There would have been a slip/wharf and a pier and on the other side of the pier was the lock. Perhaps small wharfes/slips were used for transporting small loads, safely and the Winkles and their like handled just that. Most boats probably had accomodation available on the off chance of a carry. There is another wharf shown there but I bet this was the place and it was certainly centrally located. Some folk travelled by boat as passengers...made for a longer journey though.

Of course, Dickens/Pickwick would have been told to contact Mr Winkle on arrival by the shipping company and the waiter would be very familiar with the name, being that the facility would have been used extensively by other travellers before. I don't know. Conjecture or not...it's a wonderful, wonderful insight.

Ref...https://www.british-history.ac.uk/m...id=10098&ox=1073&oy=252&zm=1&czm=1&x=221&y=81
 

Vivienne14

Super Moderator
Staff member
Should have said the purpose of the journey to Birmingham was to tell Mr Winkle that his son had married. Mr Winkle thought the message could be more effectively delivered by Mr Pickwick as Winkle junior didn't want to upset his father. So the trip would have been a very short one. In fact they travelled back again via Coventry the next day. All the same that's interesting to get a sense of how busy the canals would have been and, as you say, not just for the transport of coal, materials etc. Viv.
 

Rupert

master brummie
Ok... but only a story Viv. but based on the personal experience of a trip to Brum with extended baggage and Pickwick would be a Dickens charachter played by himself surely and the luggage and wharfinger would have been personal gained experience and data. He would write about his associated experiences and maybe the story was in part true and part dreamed up. It has to be.
By the way, 60/64 is the house on the canal and it can be viewed on GE now. Not the same building obviously but the same location and you can see the pier and slip which would be the same. No.10 that Mike found is fantastic also. So he just left the 'r' off and people have kids and grand kids who do other things even hair dressing. And move up the street to do it.
 

Vivienne14

Super Moderator
Staff member
Yes agree Rupert. Fiction, along with hard evidence, can also give us clues about the past. Good to make the connections too. I also like the fact that Dickens had a soft spot for Birmingham and its people and imagine he almost certainly would've taken the time to have a nose around a canal wharf etc. All good writing material and inspiration. Viv.
 
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