University of Birmingham

Hugh Jones' Higher Education Postcard reaches us this week from the heart of the West Midlands

Hugh Jones is a freelance HE consultant. You’ll find a daily #HigherEducationPostcard if you follow him on Twitter.

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This card commemorates the opening of the University’s Edgbaston Campus by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra on 7 July 1909.

Civic pride shines through, centre stage being taken not by the King or Queen but by the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Alderman G H Kenrick.

Perhaps this is rightly so – Kenrick had been one of the voices campaigning for the establishment of the University.

The British Medical Journal reported in July 1898 on a meeting to promote the foundation of a university for Birmingham and the Midlands – Mr Kenrick (as he then was) proposed the motion

That, in the opinion of this meeting, it is essential that in the interests of the city and the Midland district generally, a University shall forthwith be established in Birmingham.

The motion was passed, and Kenrick pledged £10,000 (out of a target of £250,000) to support its establishment.

The tower on the card is The Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, known better as Old Joe. About 100 metres tall (opinions vary), the tower is modelled on the Torre del Mangia in Siena.

The University did not spring fully-formed from thin air. Seminars for medics were held in Birmingham in the late 1760s – a formal medical school (later Queen’s College) was established in Birmingham in 1828.

Separately, Mason Science College was founded in 1875, and in due course incorporated the medical school. It became Mason University College in 1897 and, in 1900, was given a Royal Charter as the University of Birmingham.

2 responses to “University of Birmingham

  1. There’s a nice account of the Royal visit in Cheeseman’s Mirror to a Mermaid (Pictorial reminiscences of Mason College and the University of Birmingham).
    The king and queen were taken from New Street station to the council house by carriage where Kenrick was knighted. They then went onto the university through streets lined by bunting and singing children. All sorts of merchandise was made for the visit. .

  2. Ah yes Old Joe the very phallic c(l)ock tower, but not so many of the now surrounding buildings, many built quite recently in the original buildings style, many other ‘civic’ Universities would do well to emulate such sympathetic central buildings, though Brum’s outer buildings are much more modern and quite good looking, unlike many of Basil Spences carbuncles blighting campuses.

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