101 Things Birmingham Gave The World. No. 50: Panhandling


If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Despite the protests of anyone who’s ever wanted to make it from one end of New Street to the other, asking people for money is profitable and it will continue. Birmingham has some world class panhandling: the girl with the odd voice and dreads who needs 65p to get home to Bearwood, the squaddie who’s missed his train back to base, Vernon the Big Issue seller who made a Christmas single, and not to forget the historical local begging on a global stage that bought us the ICC with all that European money.

So would you be surprised to see that the city invented a certain type of begging? Of course not, but it happened some way before there was a city to beg in.

In the Domesday Book, Birmingham is recorded as one homestead: worth about two goats. But in 1166 the Lord of the Manor Peter de Birmingham obtained a royal charter from Henry II permitting him to hold a weekly market “at his castle at Birmingham” and crucially to charge tolls on the market’s traffic. Money, in effect, for just passing up New St.

This was one of the earliest of these charters that would be granted in England, and definitely the cheekiest: imagine charging people to come into a rough area to look at some stalls of turnips and mead. Not only did Lord de Birmingham invent panhandling, it seems like he started the first farmers’ market.

Come to Birmingham, it’s yer money we’re after, baby.

And thus, as we take the ripple of applause for reaching our 50, we launch our Kickstarter for 101 Things Birmingham Gave the World: The Book.

Birmingham is not just the crucible of the Industrial Revolution, but the cradle of civilisation.

That’s a bold claim, but we make it all the time. To each other only of course, frightened of the loud trumpeting and drum banging that might ensue should we actually tell anyone from outside the city. So it was a claim without serious backing until when, in 2011, a man called Craig Hamilton from — you’ve guessed it — Birmingham had the brilliant pub idea of collecting together 101 things Birmingham gave the world. We all piled in, helping with ideas and writing – we’ve now got to 50.

Now we need your help to push us to finish the full 101 and produce a wonderful book that will sit alongside Joseph Priestley’s 1782 An History of the Corruptions of Christianity, Eddie Fewtrell’s King of Clubs or some of Alton Douglas’s books of photocopied 50s bus tickets.

Go back us, there are loads of price points and rewards.

Author: Jon Bounds

Jon was voted the ‘14th Most Influential Person in the West Midlands’ in 2008. Subsequently he has not been placed. He’s been a football referee, venetian blind maker, cellar man, and a losing Labour council candidate: “No, no chance. A complete no-hoper” said a spoilt ballot. Jon wrote and directed the first ever piece of drama performed on Twitter when he persuaded a cast including MPs and journalists to give over their timelines to perform Twitpanto. But all that is behind him.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.