A brief history of Birmingham

Birmingham is a vibrant city with a rich history that spans centuries. From its humble beginnings as an Anglo-Saxon village to becoming an industrial powerhouse filled with factories in Victorian England, to its place today as a multicultural hub in the heart of the Midlands. Over the years Birmingham has played a significant role in shaping the cultural, economic, and social character of the UK. Today, it is the country’s second-biggest city and has made a reputation for being an incredibly diverse city that welcomes people in with open arms from all over the world. 

Where did Birmingham begin?

The origins of Birmingham can be traced all the way back to the medieval period, however, it was during the Industrial Revolution that the city began to flourish. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Birmingham became thea centre of manufacturing and trade, which led to the city earning the nickname "the workshop of the world". Birmingham was one of the UK’s best car manufacturers, as well as the home of steam engines, and the Titanic’s anchor was even made in the city. 

Whilst Birmingham is no longer manufacturing to this extent, many of these old factory buildings can still be seen around the city, and have been transformed into new and exciting enterprises. 

The Custard Factory, a Birmingham must-see landmark, is made up of these old factories. 

The Custard Factory is a creative hub in Birmingham and is home to a variety of independent shops, galleries and studios. The area also has plenty of food and drink options, with cafes, bars, and top-quality restaurants. Some of the most popular spots include The Mockingbird Cinema Golf Fang, 670 Grams, NQ64, Chance & Counters, Passing Fancies, and Crazy Pedro’s.

A growing city 

The industrial boom also brought thousands of new workers and their families to the city. As well as a growing number of houses being built for the growing number of workers, the number of visitors to the city also increased which meant that Birmingham’s first hotels were built. The city's first grand hotel, the Royal Hotel, was built in 1777 and advertised as giving guests a higher level of comfort and luxury than the traditional inns already in the city.

The Grand Hotel opened in 1879 and is still open today. Designed by renowned architect Thomson Plevins, this luxurious establishment became a landmark of Birmingham's hospitality scene. The Grand Hotel attracted guests from around the world and set new standards for hospitality in the city, paving the way for Birmingham's reputation today as a destination that offers top-quality accommodation and entertainment.


Birmingham today is the most diverse city in the U.K. This is largely because of immigration to the city in the 1960s and 1970s - during this period, the city welcomed in people from all over the commonwealth, particularly from South Asia, the Caribbean, and Africa. The new communities brought with them their rich traditions, languages, music, and cuisines, adding vibrancy and diversity to the city. This cultural exchange has enriched Birmingham's identity and created a multicultural society that celebrates customs and yearly festivals like Vasakhi and Divali.  

Immigration has also brought a fresh perspective and ideas to Birmingham. This is perhaps best seen in the city’s many small businesses, especially in the hospitality industry. Birmingham is home to many fantastic cafes, hotels and restaurants - the city has become known as one of the best destinations in the country for Indian cuisine. The Balti Triangle is one of the city’s landmarks, whilst Indian food is also a feature of the city’s fine-dining world, such as at Opheem, situated in the Jewellery Quarter. 

Growth and development

In the 20th and 21st centuries, Birmingham underwent significant redevelopment and transformation, establishing itself as a modern city. With its expanding population and growing tourism industry, the city invested in developing the city’s hotels and shopping outlets. One of the city’s biggest developments was in creating New Street station, the Bullring and Grand Central. Birmingham reached a landmark in 2022 after hosting the Commonwealth Games, establishing itself again as a major city in the UK.

Grand Central is a shopping centre located above Birmingham's New Street Station, with over 60 shops and restaurants. However, it is the Bullring which is Birmingham’s premier shopping destination and is home to over 160 shops, including high-end retailers like Selfridges and Harvey Nichols and attracts around 40 million visitors a year.  

Birmingham today

With a long history of growth and development, Birmingham is continuing to develop today. The city now has a population of over one million people and boasts a skyline filled with modern high-rise buildings, including the iconic Library of Birmingham and the Birmingham New Street railway station, which recently underwent a major renovation.

The city is a hub of creativity and diversity, especially in the hospitality industry. Walk around the city and you will be sure to see cafes and restaurants serving cuisine from all around the world. It is this diversity, as well as the high standards of business owners in the city, that has solidified Brimingham’s reputation as the UK’s second city, and as a welcoming and hospitable destination. From stunning architecture to fantastic museums and galleries, and world-renowned food and drinks culture - Birmingham has something for everyone. 

If you’re a hospitality business looking for talented self-employed professionals, or if you are an experienced hospitality worker looking for work, get in touch with the Brigad team today. 

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