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Notable Brummies


Ex-pat Brummie
Agreed, CBA, but I've come across these plaque problems in other towns. I know there is only so many they can put up due to financial restrictions, but there doesn't seem to be any consistency as how the choices are made.



OldBrit in Exile
Bill Bloye the sculptor has one I see on the building that was built where the house stood that I worked at on Golden Hillock Rd


Ex-pat Brummie
I think that's the problem, John, Bill Bloye produced lots of statutes & similar artwork that can be seen today by anyone in Brum. Shows and music are rather more ethereal - most of it before video & audio recordings were made. Copies of his music are hidden deep in various archives, a few in the British Library, and occasionally you might find an odd copy at a postcard fair, but it is rare stuff.



OldBrit in Exile
Guess as an apprentice for William Bloye in the 1950s having even worked on some of the statues and carvings COULD I QUALIFY??? Just kidding, But, I did work on this one, Over the door way off a building on Bennett's Hill, froze my arse off in the winter, up on a scaffold with two others, caving away. Had to make the tea for the chaps also!!! Now that deserves a medal!!!


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master brummie
Sad to report that Professor Lord Bhattacharyya (see posts 36 and 37) died on 1st March 2019 aged 78. He lived in Moseley and had many Birmingham connections, particularly with the University of Birmingham and Lucas Industries. He was founder of the Warwick Manufacturing Group which encouraged partnership between universities and industry. There was a comprehensive obituary in The Times today. Dave.


Master Barmmie
Mr Richard Spooner MP (1783-1864)

Richard Spooner was a Magistrate, an MP, Governor of the Grammar School, President of the Chamber of Commerce, and a banker in partnership with Thomas Atwood. He is mentioned in the Thread concerning Rookery Hall (Birches Green) which was one of the Spooner family residences. The family was also associated with Elmdon Hall.

There is a short Wikipedia article here...

I put Richard Spooner in the notable category, due to his amazing change of political views from radical Liberal to ultra-Tory.

In 1812, with his partner Thomas Attwood, they fought against and managed to cause the overturn of the Government policy which had caused such damage to Birmingham and the manufacturing towns. Attwood and Spooner made a triumphal entry into Birmingham being met by a large number of people. In 1815 Richard Spooner became High Bailiff.

Richard Spooner has a lengthy Obituary in the Birmingham Journal which goes into much detail...

“...Mr Spooner was, or appeared to be, a decided Liberal...In his younger days he gave fervid and uncompromising speeches in favour of the principles of civil and religious liberty... His opinions were, perhaps, a little more strongly pronounced than his convictions really warranted...

...(1830) Beaten time after time, Mr Spooner had now come to be looked at as a permanently rejected candidate... might he succeed as a Tory.... He changed sides. He changed from having been a bold and uncomprimising Liberal, to ultimately one of the most determined, immovable, and obstructive members of the ultra-Tory party...

...After more defeats he was described by Mr. William Mathews as a "glutton for punishment.".... But in 1844, most likely to his own astonishment, he had a success, becoming the first Tory MP for Birmingham. However he lost again in the 1847 election, but managed to gain a seat for N. Warwickshire at a pending election, where he successfully defended for the next 3 elections...

...every proposal which in his earlier life would have elicited his most strenuous approval, received in his old age his most vehement opposition...He was a proponent of protectionism and a strong Anglican, opposing any measures of relief to Roman Catholics, "Dissenters" or Jews. In his later years he was considered a figure of fun, with his annual (and barely audible) speech denouncing the renewal of the grant to Maynooth Seminary treated with derision.”

The Birmingham Journal does go on to say that although he represented N Warks, Birmingham enjoyed the advantages of a third Member. He warmly defended the local and commercial interests of the town in Parliament.


OldBrit in Exile
so am i jan but then in despair when these wonderful works of art which in many cases has taken years to create are demolished within a blink of an eye...i get so very very angry:mad::mad:

Of course now with the power age taking over, a lot different. I remember Mr. Bloye always liked flowing lines, even when carving Roman letters and numbers in stone or wood, .We used quill pens held at a angle to draw with them. Took a real steady hand. As our residence artists on this group will attest.


Master Barmmie
Dame Ellen Pinsent (1866-Oct 1949)

Ellen Pinsent must be a notable Brummie as on the 8th March 2018 Birmingham’s first female councillor was honoured by having the former Committee Room One at the Council House dedicated in her name.

There is a short 1.5 min video by Deirdre Alden, Conservative Councillor for Edgebaston, talking about Ellen Pinsent.
https://binged.it/2NhOobB https://binged.it/2NhOobB

But, like some members of the Cadbury family, Ellen Pinsent’s involvement with the Eugenics movement of the time doesn’t seem to get a mention. Ellen Pinsent was also a member of the Eugenic Education Society and was on the general committee of the First International Eugenic Congress.

When placing herself forward for election to the Council in October 1911 she stated that the neglect of defectives largely increased the number of criminals, paupers and unemployed, who came on the rates for support....Many defectives were preventable cases, others need never have been born if only we had given the unfortunate mothers and fathers proper care and control.

Around the time of her election in the November of that year she shared a platform with the Duke of Portland who prophesied that at the present rate of mental deteriation, three centuries hence there will be more insane persons than those who have their faculties unimpaired. The Government should insist on the segregation of all men and women obviously incapable of earning their own living. Mrs Hume Pinsent of Birmingham stated that 13 feeble-minded women produced over 100 illegitimate children.


knowlegable brummie
There are so many academics and business people we are proud to say are Brummies but I've played a little game with my son over the years ( he's 26 now so he knows the reply before I ask the question ) concerning my Brummie musical heroes. A song would come on the radio and proud as I am of Birmingham I would ask my son, 'Where do you think this band came from?' 'Yes I know, Birmingham Dad.' 'Thats right son. Yes Jeff Lynne - ELO come from Shard End. Moody Blues, Black Sabbath, Spencer Davis Group, UB40, Duran Duran (well except lead singer)....OK gang fill in the blanks there so many. May not have been the Mersey Sound but Brummies certainly rocked the world.


Master Barmmie
George Grenfell (1849-1906) is mentioned in the Thread “Heneage Chapel.” As he came to Birmingham at the age of 3 years, was schooled at King Edwards, Gem St. and joined Scholefield and Goodman, he could be thought of as a notable Brummie. In the 1950s Heneage Chapel was demolished and a new Chapel was named after him.

His Wikipedia entry can be found here...

The book advertised here in 1908 can be read via the Internet Archive...

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Pro Civitate

To serve
A reply to this old thread says "no". Well I disagree. How do you define a famous person of Birmingham? Surely it's a very narrow concept to only consider people actually born in Birmingham? Many of Birmingham's famous people were not born in Brum but were long associated with Brum after they became famous.
What about:
William Hutton
Prof. Fred Lanchester
James Watt
& my favourite author Lee Child to name a few.

Kumar Bhattacharyya is the foremost engineer of his generation and well deserved his title. He is alive and well living in Moseley in the former Lucas home.

What do other members think?
You basically have to have been dead for 20 years, for your legacy to have been suitably assessed. Whether you were born here, died here or you lived here for a time qualifies you for the association.


Master Barmmie
Notable Birmingham People


John Skirrow Wright is a man who in Birmingham’s current consciousness has all but disappeared and yet he was a man who was almost omnipresent in all aspects of Birmingham’s mid-Victorian life that were for the benefit of its citizens. The General Hospital, the Chamber of Commerce, The School of Art, the Children’s Hospital and the early Birmingham Hospital Saturday Fund and the Blue Coat School, to name but a few, were all blessed by his active allegiance in time as well as money.

Born in 1822, he came to Birmingham in 1838 where he was employed at the button manufactory of Smith and Kemp, where his talents marked him for a swift ascendancy from traveller to partner in 1850. As with many of Birmingham’s great patrons, he was a non-conformist and whilst sharing the profits of his enterprise, he nonetheless opposed factory legislation, arguing that it interfered with the individual employer.

Whilst President of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce JSW came up with the idea of Postal Orders, to enable the poorer people to have the same facility to buy goods and services by post. The rich had bank accounts and could write cheques.

A delegation of the Birmingham Chamber went to the annual meeting of Chambers of Commerce in London and John Skirrow Wright presented the idea, complete with all the details on how it would work including all the Postal Order values proposed.

At first London bankers were against the idea, thinking it would affect their businesses, and the idea was rejected. However, eventually the bankers realised that the people who would use postal orders were not their customers and therefore no threat to their business. Consequently, at the Annual Meeting a year later John Skirrow Wright presented the idea again and this time it was accepted and the Postal Order system was started exactly as Skirrow Wright and Birmingham Chamber had proposed.

He became the first chairman of the Birmingham Liberal Association and in 1880 stood for parliament as a Liberal in Nottingham – a position in those far off days that was greatly revered. At the same time he had been helping the Liberal cause in re-elections at Birmingham. Unfortunately on the evening of his success, at a dinner held in his honour at the Council House, he expired to the shock of all.

Mr Wright was subsequently interred at Key Hill Cemetery. The funeral took place on a hot spring day - the 19th April 1880 and was conducted with the splendid pomp and ceremony that was the signature of our Victorian forebears. Thousands of Birmingham men, women and children lined the procession route, so that over 300 policemen were involved to keep the route clear. The funeral had been arranged by the Metallic Airtight Coffin Co Ltd of Great Charles Street and whilst the coffin was indeed metal lined, it was nevertheless tastefully created in oak with brass furniture. The inscription on it read “ John Skirrow Wright, died April 15th 1880, aged 58 years”. On the lid of the coffin were placed a number of wreaths made from white camellias, hyacinths, primulas, lily of the valley and maidenhair fern.

Following the open he.... were over 20 carriages in the cortege, which, as they set off were accompanied by the melancholy tolling of the bell of Handsworth Old Church. Along the route curtains and blinds of houses were closed and even shops had closed for the day out of respect. At the Recreation Ground in Burbury Street, a procession of representatives from the public bodies of Birmingham formed and walking four abreast also processed to the cemetery at Key Hill until it arrived at the gates, when it split into two so that the he.... passed through the throng.

The first part of the funeral service was conducted at The People’s Chapel, which was arrived at by 3.00 pm. After the service, the congregation left to the strains of “The Dead March” from Saul and from there onwards, the procession wended its way on foot to the last resting place of Wright. As the coffin was lowered into the ground, the assembled people sang “Rock of Ages”.

After his death, the Mayor of Birmingham, Mr Richard Chamberlain, convened a memorial committee. Most of the town politicians at the time felt that they did not wish to erect a statue, but rather more erred in favour of a portrait to hang in the new art gallery, or perhaps a bust to be placed in the Council House. Unfortunately this was contrary to the expectation of the man in the street, who felt that the only way to honour Mr Skirrow Wright was to erect a noble statue to his memory. One such person of this persuasion was a Mr Apperley who wrote to the Birmingham Daily Post, arguing that a bust in a niche of the Council House would rarely be seen except when given permission to enter the Council House. He stated that “We will have a statue if we buy it ourselves” and made it clear that the people wanted “something whereby we can show our children the form of one we love so well and instil in them the good qualities he possessed. If ever a man deserved a statue Mr Wright does and if ever the working men want a statue to anyone they want one to him”

Eventually it was concluded that a statue would fit the bill and Francis Williamson was given the commission which was wrought in marble and unveiled in front of the Council House by John Bright MP on 15th June 1883. The Birmingham Daily Mail reported that the pose of the figure was admirable with Mr Wright standing in a bold upright attitude as was his won’t when addressing an audience.

The statue stood in Council House Square with Joseph Priestly, and was joined by the statue to Queen Victoria in 1901. However the death of Edward VII saw that Messrs Priestly and Wright were despatched to Chamberlain Place, so that the Toft memorial to Edward VII could take pride of place next to his mother.

In 1914 The Builder (a national journal for the architect and all those interested in the constructive and decorative arts) had written a review on Birmingham’s public monuments and had generally disparaged the city’s attempts at honouring it’s great and good and criticised much of the execution and settings of its statues. However, despite calling the Chamberlain Fountain miserable and Chamberlain Place “squirt square” (!) it found the least unsatisfactory feature that of the John Skirrow Wright statue and despite such unfortunate adjectives as “cold”, “stiff” and “provincial” it conceded that of all Birmingham’s statues, this displayed a simple and refined design and that the figure and the base displayed a certain amount of cohesion.

The statue remained in Chamberlain Place until 1951 when it was removed to a storage depot as no suitable place for it could be found. The consequence of this dispossession was that the statue was scrapped, but not before a bronze copy of the bust was made in 1956 by William Bloye.

In a superb act of irony, the bust was unveiled in a niche in the Council House on 13th September 1957 where it remains to this day. It is half way up the stairs on the left and in quite an obscure place where only the avid seeker may find it – how appalled would be the working man of the 1880’s in casting into obscurity their great benefactor.

Stephen Hartland
The Birmingham Civic Society

29th April 2006

I have posted this with the permission of Stephen Hartland who also supplied the photo's.

When coming across the name of John Skirrow Wright, I looked for a mention on the Forum. The pictures are now missing and so I tried that old chestnut Wikipedia, and the write up was very much similar to the one above.

Any road up there are pictures included...



Master Barmmie
The Statue Protection and Presevation Thread is now locked, but the first person mentioned in the Notable Brummies thread is John Skirrow Wright (1822-80), and he wanted some taken down !

In October 1848 the ‘Principality’ shows a statement signed by six people, including John, during a Peace Protest at Waterloo. They leave the statement at the monument as a protest against its continuance, and a desire to see it and other such monuments removed.


Bob Johnson

master brummie
In 2014 I stopped at a hotel in India that had been converted from a boat building yard.

Walking around the hotel I found a wall plaque in memory of 'George Brunton' from Birmingham.

I have attached a pic of the plaque and a link to the hotel 'The Brunton Boatyard Hotel'.

Brunton 005.JPG