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Key to the City™, Birmingham.

Famous People from Birmingham

Statue Commemorating Tony Hancock, Birmingham
Statue Commemorating Tony Hancock, Birmingham

Birmingham is the birth place of or home to some well known writers, sport stars, musicians, politicians and artists. We list a few of the most notable here. If you have the time, we urge you to read a little more about each one on the internet.

Matthew Boulton FRS (1728-1809) was an English manufacturer and business partner of Scottish engineer James Watt. In the final quarter of the 18th century, the partnership installed hundreds of Boulton & Watt steam engines, which were a great advance on the state of the art, making possible the mechanisation of factories and mills. Boulton applied modern techniques to the minting of coins, striking millions of pieces for Britain and other countries, and supplying the Royal Mint with up-to-date equipment.

Cadbury Factory, Bournville, Birmingham
Cadbury Factory, Bournville, Birmingham

John Cadbury (1802-1889) was a tea and coffee merchant in Bull Street, who also made and sold cocoa and chocolate. He developed an emulsification process to make solid chocolate - creating the modern chocolate bar. George Cadbury (1839-1922), was the son of John Cadbury. In 1861 he and his brother, Richard (1835-1899), took over the management of the cocoa factory, but his main interest lay in social reform, particularly in supplying decent housing for the ordinary working man. To forward this he was elected to Birmingham Town Council in 1877 and threw himself wholeheartedly into municipal reform begun by Joseph Chamberlain.

In 1895, George began the greatest experiment of his life - the Bournville Building Estate - which, by 1900, was to grow into the Bournville Village Trust. He bought 120 acres of land next to the factory site and houses were designed to fit in with the surroundings with a generous provision for gardens and open space.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973), author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, was born in Bloemfontein, an Afrikaans-speaking area of South Africa. His parents, Arthur Tolkien and Mabel Suffield, were from Birmingham. In 1895, when Tolkien was three, his mother brought him and his younger brother Hilary back to visit their grandparents at Ashfield Road, Kings Heath, Birmingham. They never saw their father again, he died of typhoid fever in February 1896.

Birds Custard Factory, Birmingham
Birds Custard Factory, Birmingham

Alfred Bird (1811-1878) was an English food manufacturer and chemist. He was born in Nympsfield, Gloucestershire and was the inventor of a series of food products mostly now taken for granted. Alfred Bird's first major invention was egg-free custard (1837). He used cornflour instead of egg to create an imitation of egg custard.

Founder of the Odeon Cinemas chain, Oscar Deutsch (1893-1941) was born in Balsall Heath, Birmingham. He opened his first cinema in nearby Brierley Hill, Dudley in 1928 and by 1933 he had 26 Odeons and 'Odeon' had started to become a household word.

For the arts, comedy actor Tony Hancock (1924-1968), author Barbara Cartland (1901-2000), actor Ian Lavender (born 1946) - Pike in Dad's Army, actor Tony Britton (born 1924), actor Trevor Eve (born 1951), actor Martin Shaw (born 1945), actor David Harewood (born 1965), actor Adrian Lester (born 1968), comedian Jasper Carrott (born 1945), tv presenter Cat Deeley (born 1976), tv presenter Fred Dinenage (born 1942), tv presenter Richard Hammond (born 1969), tv presenter Emma Willis (born 1976) and entertainer Bob Carolgees (born 1948).

Musicians from the city include Ozzy Osbourne (born 1948) of Black Sabbath, Roy Wood (born 1946) of the Electric Light Orchestra and Wizzard, John Taylor (born 1960), Nick Rhodes (born 1962) and Roger Taylor (born 1960) all from Duran Duran, singer Toyah Willcox (born 1958), Ali Campbell (born 1959) of UB40 and Roland Gift (born 1961) of the Fine Young Cannibals.

For sports, Olympic figure skater John Curry OBE (1949-1994) and motorsport commentator and journalist Murray Walker (born 1923).

Politicians from Birmingham include former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940) and Conservative MP Enoch Powell MBE (1912-1998).

Last Updated Friday 6 March 2020

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