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Explore the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter



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It is often said that Birmingham has more canals than Venice, but it is strangely hard to find clear statements or concrete evidence. Even the City of Birmingham's website is rather guarded on this subject.

So I decided to try to settle the matter. But a good deal of searching failed to turn up figures for the length of canals within the Birmingham city boundary, and nothing at all on the mileage of canals in Venice. So far, no good, then.

But I do have large scale maps of both Birmingham and Venice, and an accurate engineer's scale, so I decided to sit down and measure up all the canals in the two cities. (In case you're wondering, however long did the silly man spend doing that? - please, don't ask! I'd rather not think about it.)

And the answer turns out to be quite clear cut. Birmingham does indeed have more canals than Venice; in fact, it has loads more canals than Venice. To the nearest mile, the figures are:

Birmingham 35 miles

Venice 26 miles


Sorry, Venice!


Surprising? Not really. Whilst Venice does have a very dense network of canals, it is a tiny place in comparison to Birmingham (the whole of Venice would fit within Brum's Middleway with room to spare).


Note:  For Birmingham, I took all the navigable canals within the city boundary. In the case of Venice I took all the canals in the area most people think of when Venice is mentioned, ie the area of the city of Venice, comprising the six  sestieri, and excluding outlying areas such as Giudecca, the Lido and the islands in the lagoon. (In actual fact the result is so clear cut that I don't think it would change if the canals in the outlying areas were included.)




The pollution of the central area and the flight of the middle classes led ultimately to the loss of virtually all of Georgian  Birmingham. It wasn't only the Old Square that disappeared, but also the area around what are now called Newhall Hill and the Sandpits,  Ashted, and others. It is interesting to speculate as to what might have happened if, for example, canal building had ended with the cutting of the Birmingham Canal from the Black Country into the Gas Street area. In that case the pollution would have been concentrated in the west, around Ladywood and Winson Green, and the central area and Jewellery Quarter might have developed very differently.




Die sinking is the process of engraving a die for use in the stamping of coins, medals and so forth.




In deciding what colours to use for this site, I thought it would be appropriate to match as closely as practicable the very smart blue and cream colours in which Birmingham Corporation painted its buses and trams, back in the days when the  Corporation provided the city's transport.


It's hard to believe now, but in those days Brummies used to be justifiably proud of their transport, not only because it was the city's own transport, which is important, but also because the Corporation ran an excellent service that none of today's privatised companies could hold a candle to. 




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2001 Bob Miles