Read CHAPTER XVII of A Tale of One City: The New Birmingham, free online book, by Thomas Anderton, on


There is now little or nothing further for me to say, save to put a tag to my small story, and make my little bow to my readers. Birmingham, like other modern enterprising centres, goes moving on “down the ringing grooves of change.” The city means to forge ahead, and will not permit anything to impede its progress. Scaffolding seems more conspicuous than ever, and before the ink is dry upon my page, more old buildings will be down and more new buildings will be up. Since I began these chapters (which have appeared in The Midland Counties Herald during the past months) some important, notable changes have taken place. For instance, the Birmingham Old Library in Union Street, associated with the names of many Birmingham worthies, has disappeared, and its site is occupied by the new City Arcades. That conspicuous landmark, Christ Church, with all its memories and curious belongings and characteristics, is now no longer to be seen. Old narrow streets are being widened, old buildings are bulging out, and large new buildings are being erected in all directions. The municipality have taken in hand some important housing schemes which may be advantageous to the working classes, and result in the erection of some of those new artisans’ dwellings which, so far, have not been conspicuously numerous. In the meantime local debts go on merrily, or I should say seriously, swelling. Ratepayers have to be squeezed to find the necessary funds for the increasing outgoings; but best-governed cities in the world must pay a price for their advantages and pre-eminence, and the citizens thank the gods that they have men who will devote thought and energy to laying out public money, and fervently hope that this may be done wisely and well.

Some of our public men who are so ardent in forwarding new schemes and improvements can, of course, say that if these developments mean higher rates and growing assessments, they themselves have to bear their share of the burdens. This, of course, is so, but it must be owned that when we have a hand in spending large sums of money with the influence and importance that accompany the process, we pay our quota of the financial imposts if not cheerfully, at least without the grudging feeling of those who merely have to pay, pay, pay.

Gentle, and I trust forbearing, reader I have written my story, and have added to my iniquity by publishing it in book form, but I indulge a small hope that it may possibly interest a limited number of those who, like myself, have watched with their own eyes the rapid growth and almost amazing development of Birmingham during the last forty or fifty years. Writing almost entirely from my own observation and memory, I may have made some slips and mistakes, but I have tried to be careful and accurate, and have endeavoured to verify my facts and figures from authentic sources when possible. I therefore venture to hope that my errors are not very many, and not of any serious moment.

Writers, we know, are often prone to say that if their readers experience as much pleasure in reading their pages as the writers have had in writing them, the said readers will be rewarded for their time and pains. I am not going to repeat this pretty formula, I am rather inclined to say that if my readers experience my feeling that I have said enough, they will not be sorry to see these last words of my final page.