I know it’s a bit late to write about my Michaelmas term midterm trip to Birmingham. Still, I think it could be a good recommendation for my fellow peers to explore the West Midlands and Birmingham during their Lent term reading week or whenever!
I went back to Birmingham for Michaelmas term break. I say, ‘I went back’ because Birmingham hosts my alma mater – The University of Birmingham where I spent three years of undergraduate time. I will come back to my former University in the latter section of the blog, but for now, I want to stick to the ‘tourist’ attractions of the City.
As everyone might be well aware, Birmingham was the birthplace for Peaky Blinders, Bournville Cadbury Chocolate factory, the Jewellery Quarter, etc. If you are a fan of any one of these cultural attractions. In that case, I firmly believe a trip to Birmingham is worth a two-hour train journey from Euston or Marylebone.
Bournville Cadbury Chocolate factory
The Chocolate Factory isn’t too far from my former second-year house. I went there for my term break because I had never been there in my Birmingham University life. The factory is just next to Bournville railway station and the Worcester Canal. Hence, it is very accessible by public transport. Richard and George Cadbury, the brother founders, built the factory there because it was easy to transport milk through canals from nearby farms and cocoa through the railway from London. Victorian England manufacturing living conditions were harsh for child and adult labour. George Cadbury acquired 120 acres of land near Bournville to improve cramped living conditions and at his own expense. So after you visit the factory, it is worth walking around Bournville and Selly Oak to imagine how workers’ live in nearby houses (and also how I cope living there in my second year).
The Jewellery Quarter
I actually don’t know much about Peaky Blinders. Still, if you are into that sort of thing, the Jewellery Quarter has so much 19th-century factory/ red-brick architecture. It also hosts the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter (the former Smith & Pepper jewellery manufacturing firm). You can see the tools and machines to make jewellery, gold decorations, cufflinks, etc. If you like the art of handcrafting jewellery, you would definitely like to visit there.
Lichfield and Stratford-upon Avon
I know it is confusing, but the Stratford I am talking about is in the West-Midlands, and not the London one. One can’t say they are a fan of English literature without going to Lichfield and Stratford-upon Avon because these places were where Dr Samuel Johnson, Erasmus Darwin and William Shakespeare lived during their lifetime. I also recommend my fellow peers visit Lichfield, north of Birmingham, because of the magnificent Cathedral, Samuel Johnson Birthplace and Erasmus Darwin House, where I spent three months interning there, doing primary research about Darwin’s story with his illegitimate daughter.
For Stratford-upon Avon, I think Anne Hathaway’s Cottage & Gardens (Shakespeare’s wife’s house) and Shakespeare’s Birthplace are great places to understand how Shakespeare came up with his amazing works and Tudor England life.
The University of Birmingham
I am not going to say too much about my undergraduate life at Birmingham. However, there are some exciting places on campus like the famous Old Joe Clock Tower, Barber Institute of Fine Arts and Lapworth Museum of Geology. I am not a big fan of Art History and Geology, but you would definitely enjoy visiting Birmingham University’s museums if you are into these things. Like most UK universities, almost every University has an iconic symbol (mostly clock towers). The Old Joe Clocktower was built to commemorate Joseph Chamberlain, the University’s first Vice-Chancellor. And it’s been used by me to navigate around campus and go home after late-night study.
I am sure my peers would enjoy their Lent term break with my comprehensive guide of a reading week trip to Birmingham!