Black Country Irish: Red-headed Kilcoign

Irish Rows If there’s one thing you learn researching the Irish in the Victorian city, it’s that 19th century newspaper editors love an Irish Row. Roger Swift wrote whole papers about the policing of Irish rows in Wolverhampton, but it’s an expression that comes up time and again, wherever you find the poor Irish crammed …

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Foucault in Northfield: Birmingham’s reformed pubs

As I mentioned recently, apparently historians love pubs more than anything. I was particularly intrigued by a discussion with Nathan Booth at the Urban History conference in Cambridge about the internal layout of pubs in his recently-completed thesis on Stalybridge - I hadn't given this a lot of thought, focusing mainly on the streetscape. So …

The good death of Lawrence Britcliffe, part four: dark nights of the soul

This is the fourth part in a series about one of my long-distant ancestors. There's also been an introduction, a post on Lawrence Britcliffe's family and youth, and on the murder he committed in 1739. Much of the story in this post is found in the sermon preached at his funeral service at Bacup in …

Walkies

Just a quick one to say a massive thank you to everyone that came out on a bright - but chilly - Saturday to have a walk around one of the less glamorous parts of Wolverhampton this weekend. Thanks too to Wolverhampton Art Gallery for organising it. I had a fantastic time wandering around the remains …

‘Symbols of Urban Malaise’: Past and Present

Rather than a brand new post here this week, I’ve written this for the MBS Birmingham blog on Cameron’s approach to so-called “sink estates”, or as Michael Heseltine believes, everyone knows that they’re “slums”. As you can imagine, that got my back up a bit.

Language, as Chomsky, Foucault, Lefebvre or any number of other critical theorists will tell you, is crucial. It sets the tone and the scope of debate, it stigmatizes and divides, it creates problems and solves different ones. For Lefebvre, it’s an integral part of the production of social space – describing a housing estate as a slum automatically sets a tone and starts a debate, whether there’s any basis for this or not. It’s even more specific this week: Cameron is targeting language itself as a cause of extremism, of segregation, of division and modern cultural problems. Statistics fly around about the number of women, in particular, amongst Muslims, in particular, who are not learning the Queen’s Own English. Like slums, these are myths – not to say there aren’t truths hidden in there but they are obfuscated by larger, disingenuous distractions. The effect of these is to redirect public opinion away from the wider benefits to society that learning a language can bring (which the last government’s free ESOL classes sought to help) and towards the stigmatisation of small sections of society which can be blamed (women; Muslims; foreigners). It’s all highly distasteful, and a major problem of modern political debate.

Modern British Studies Birmingham

simonSimon Briercliffe

Simon Briercliffe is a doctoral researcher in the Department of History at the University of Birmingham working on Carribee Island in Wolverhamption during the 19th century. He blogs at uptheossroad.wordpress.com and you can follow him on Twitter @sbriercliffe.


David Cameron last week set out his new plans to wage “an all-out assault on poverty and disadvantage” by investing £140 million into revitalising 100 post-war housing estates in the UK. These, he holds, are totemic of the social problems facing our cities: “those built just after the war” in particular “actually designed [crime] in,” they are “self-governing and divorced from the mainstream”; “decades of neglect have led to gangs, ghettos and anti-social behaviour” and “spatial analysis” has shown that 2011 rioters “came overwhelmingly from these post-war estates.”

He was supported in his analysis by Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Greg Clarke who was interested in…

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Maps, Modernity and False Economies

Rather than a normal post today, here’s one I prepared earlier, for the British Association for Victorian Studies. It stems from some of the research I’ve been doing using Wolverhampton Council’s committee minutes from the 1850s-1870s – so all thanks to the team at Wolverhampton City Archives for their help.

The Victorianist: BAVS Postgraduates

Simon Briercliffe is a first year doctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham, working on research entitled “The Stafford Street Area of Wolverhampton c1800-1871: space, housing and ethnicity”. His interests are in applying spatial and digital theory and analysis to urban “history from below”, which is usually an excuse to study as many maps as possible. Simon can be found on Twitter (@sbriercliffe) and WordPress (https://uptheossroad.wordpress.com)

Caption: Section of Robert Syar Hoggar’s plan of Wolverhampton, 1851-4. This is scanned from the remaining copy of the map retained by the Wolverhampton Council Sewerage Committee and later annotated with the completed works. Used by kind permission of Wolverhampton City Archives and Local Studies, ref. no. MAP/388b. Caption: Section of Robert Syar Hoggar’s plan of Wolverhampton, 1851-4. This is scanned from the remaining copy of the map retained by the Wolverhampton Council Sewerage Committee and later annotated with the completed works. Used by kind permission of Wolverhampton City Archives and Local Studies, ref. no. MAP/388b.

In 1851 an advertisement appeared in The Builder, the Wolverhampton Chronicle and the Staffordshire Advertiser inviting tenders for a new survey and map of the growing town of Wolverhampton. Located at…

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