#Staticstilllife – Share your still life artworks

Here at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG) we are all excited about the opening of our latest exhibition ‘STATIC: Still Life Reconsidered’. The exhibition explores the art of still life so we want to see your still life creations!

Whether through photography, paint or sculpture, whether you’re a budding artist or a professional, we want you to share your still life artwork with us! Simply snap an image of your very own still life and post it with the hashtag #staticstilllife on Twitter or @STATIC_STILL_LIFE on instagram!

Selected work will then be featured on the plasma screen to the entrance of Waterhall throughout July to September for all our visitors to see. You can check out your piece as well as many others at @BM_AG and @thinktank.

Flowers and a Jug by William George Scott.

Flowers and a Jug byWilliam George Scott.
© 2014 William Scott Foundation / Photo © Birmingham Museums Trust.

The ‘STATIC: Still Life Reconsidered’ exhibition is on at the Waterhall Gallery, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, from the 26th July- 31st December. For more information visit; www.bmag.org.uk/events?id=3304

We look forward to seeing your still life creations!

Charlotte Dunn,
Marketing Officer

Images hashtagged #staticstilllife will be featured in the slide show. The still lives featured will be chosen by the marketing team at Birmingham Museums. No correspondence will be entered into about the choice of the Still Lives featured.

The entries to the slideshow will be chosen from twitter and Facebook at the end of each month. We may also feature entry images on the BMAG Pinterest page. You retain all rights in, and are solely responsible for, the content you post. When you send your images to Birmingham Museums, it still belongs to you but we can show it to people and others can share it on different social media platforms.

For more details see full terms and conditions.



First World War – Private Fred Andrews

We have been preparing for an exhibition about Birmingham men who served in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment during the first world war. I had the opportunity to follow up some of these individuals during my recent trip to Northern France. It’s hard to believe that the gentle countryside of the Somme has been the scene of death and destruction, but the reminders are everywhere, not only in the form of military cemeteries but also road signs indicating the front line at various dates during the Somme campaign. This is the first of two blog posts in which I will look at the stories of three men who lost their lives in this area.

Private Fred Andrews

Private Fred Andrews

Private Fred Andrews

Private Fred Andrews served with the 1/6th battalion of the Royal Warwicks and took part in ‘the big push’ on the Somme in July 1916. He came from a working-class family in Ladywood, Birmingham. He was an officer’s servant. In our collection we have a set of letters written by Fred to his mother and sister, which give an insight into Fred’s life on a training camp on Salisbury Plain and later as part of the British Expeditionary Force in France.

Letter written by Fred

Letter written by Fred

On Easter Monday 1916, Fred writes: ‘Dinner time we had biscuits instead of bread. We shall have them every Monday and Thursday. They are hard, but very nice, I can eat them all right. One man has put his wife’s address on one and a 1d stamp, on one side, and on the other he put, This is what they give us on Easter Monday, at Salisbury Plain. He sent one just the same last year from the trenches. If I was the post man I should eat it’.

Fred only writes two letters once he reaches France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. In one he says: ‘The Officers, and N.C.O’s [non-commissioned officers] are very good to us here. We can get two green envelopes a week, so you will get the letters pretty quick. Dear Mum, Will you please give Ollie [Fred’s girlfriend] my love, and address when you see her. They are a very nice lot of chaps that I am with now. And we get plenty of food to eat. I will close now with very Best Love to you all, and Ollie. Do not worry I hope the war will soon be over now. Things are looking up here. Love to all, Fred xxx’. The last letter from Fred was received by his mother on 30 June 1916.

Letter written by Fred's mother to Fred

Letter written by Fred’s mother

The final letters in the series are from Fred’s mother. She writes to him repeatedly during July 1916, pleading with him to write to her: ‘oh son I do hope you are all right I have not had a line for nearly three weeks the last I had you wrote the 30 of June and now it is the 19 of July my own dear boy I am quite sure it is not your fault I do not know what is preventing you from writing if I could only get a line in your hand writing I should feel better’. Mrs Andrews’ letters are returned to her, the envelopes marked ‘missing’.

Fred Andrews Graves Registration Card

Fred Andrews Graves Registration Card

Fred had been killed on the very first day of the battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916. He was 21 years old. Mrs Andrews eventually received this photograph of his grave (see image above). Fred still lies in Serre Road Cemetery No. 2 at Beaumont-Hamel, but he now has a permanent headstone.

Fred's permanent headstone

Fred’s permanent headstone

I visited Fred’s grave in June 2014. Serre Road is one of the many Commonwealth cemeteries designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens. It was completed in 1934. The Commonwealth cemeteries are now maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and are beautiful and peaceful places to visit.

Serre Road cemetery

Serre Road cemetery

During the 1920s and 30s many relatives of the dead visited their graves in France, some with the assistance of veterans’ associations. We do not know whether Fred’s family ever had the opportunity to do this.

Our exhibition ‘Soldiers’ Stories: Birmingham and the Royal Warwickshire Regiment 1914 to 1918’ opens on 19 July 2014.


Henrietta Lockhart
Curator (History)

Anchors Aweigh!

Hello, I’m Louise Deakin and I work at Soho House museum as a Visitor Services Assistant. Soho House was the elegant home of industrialist and entrepreneur Matthew Boulton from 1766 to 1809.

Portrait of Matthew Boulton by Lemuel Francis Abbot, 1801-03

Portrait of Matthew Boulton by Lemuel Francis Abbot, 1801-03

The other week I was lucky enough to attend the Birmingham Hidden Spaces photography exhibition at Curzon Street Station. Opened in 1838 as a link from London to Birmingham, the station has Grade I listed status and has been closed to the public since 1966.

Curzon Street Station

Curzon Street Station

Amongst the photographs on display were those of the Birmingham Assay Office on Newhall Street, in the Jewellery Quarter. Opened in 1773 it initially operated from three rooms in the King’s Head Inn, managed by four staff and only operating on Tuesdays. Upon opening, it’s first customer was industrialist and entrepreneur Matthew Boulton, who had led the campaign for its establishment in 1773. It later moved to it’s own office on Little Canon Street in 1815. Finally making it’s home on Newhall Street in 1877, it is the largest Assay Office in Europe and a fine example of Birmingham’s industrial heritage and Boulton’s determination.

Birmingham Assay Office on Newhall Street

Birmingham Assay Office, Newhall Street

Matthew Boulton thrived on charming his way through society, presenting goods to the aristocracy and encouraging them to place orders. Renowned for Silverware and Sheffield plate (silver-plated copper) the Soho Factory brought fancy tableware to the new middle classes. Frustrated by the time delays on sending silver pieces for hall marking in Chester or London (then the only Assay Offices in the country), Boulton campaigned successfully for over two years, laying the foundations for the growth of the Jewellery Quarter.

Paving stone on Frederick Street, Jewellery Quarter with the inscription 'Matthew Boulton. He raised the profile'

Paving stone on Frederick Street, Jewellery Quarter with the inscription ‘Matthew Boulton. He raised the profile’

Many people are confused by the Birmingham Anchor hallmark, as we are situated so far from the coast. However, the decision was made while Boulton was staying at the ‘Crown and Anchor Tavern’ in London, to discuss the possibility of the office. The rumour goes that the choice was made on the toss of a coin which resulted in Birmingham winning the Anchor and Sheffield with the Crown (later changed to a rose).

Birmingham Anchor hallmark (image credit from Birmingham Assay Office)

Birmingham Anchor hallmark (image from Birmingham Assay Office)

The office’s silver collection contains over 1,400 pieces of Birmingham craftsmanship, showing the many different styles over the centuries. There is also an archive library that houses rare books, including ones owned by Boulton himself. Today the Jewellery Quarter is Europe’s largest concentration of businesses involved in the jewellery trade, producing 40% of all jewellery made in the UK, hallmarking around 12 million items a year.

Matthew Boulton lived to the grand age of eighty, succeeded by his son Matthew Robinson and his life’s work. The Soho Factory stood for one hundred years and some of the silver it produced can been seen on display at Soho House.

The Matthew Boulton silver collection at Soho House

The silver collection at Soho House

Louise Deakin,
Visitor Services Assistant,
Soho House

Spitfire Club

Did you know that Birmingham produced over 50% of all Spitfires in the War? Between 1940 and 1945, the Castle Bromwich factory was rolling out an average of 40 new planes a week! We need your help to build a lasting memorial to these magnificent machines and the men and women who built them.

spitfireBirmingham Museums is delighted to have received support from both the Heritage Lottery Fund and the DCMS Wolfson Galleries and Improvement Fund to radically reinterpret the Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft on display at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum. To do this, a 50m₂ gallery will be constructed on the Mezzanine floor, where visitors will be at eye level with the aircraft.

The gallery will enable visitors to find out about the history and evolution of the Spitfire through four themed sections: Design, Manufacture, Use and Legacy. Not only will the gallery look at the technical achievements of the planes, but also look at the human stories of the people who made them at the Castle Bromwich factory.  The science of flight will also be explained through the interpretation.

We are thrilled the gallery is over 80% funded; however, we do need some help to fulfill that extra 20%! That is why we are inviting you the join our exclusive ‘Spitfire Club’.

Join the Spitfire Club

For a one-off £75 donation, you will receive a certificate of membership, three updates from Lis Chard-Cooper, the Science and Industry Curator, on the progress of the project and an exclusive invitation for you and a guest to see the completed gallery before it opens to the public! You will also be acknowledged online as being an ‘oppo’ (that’s RAF slang for friend!) of the gallery.

If you are interested, please send a cheque made out to ‘Birmingham Museums Trust’ to:
The Spitfire Club, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Chamberlain Square, Birmingham, B3 3DH.

Alternatively, you can call Jenna Nicholas, Development Officer, on 0121 348 8292.

Joseph Chamberlain: a Birmingham icon

July 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the death of one of Birmingham’s most famous personalities. Joseph Chamberlain transformed Birmingham during the 1870s when he was the town’s Mayor. He later went on to represent Birmingham in Parliament and to serve in the cabinet as Colonial Secretary. He was a controversial figure during his lifetime and continues to be so today. This is a series of snapshots from Chamberlain’s career, based upon objects in our collection.

Ceremonial Trowel

Ceremonial Trowel given to Joseph Chamberlain, 1874

Ceremonial Trowel given to Joseph Chamberlain, 1874

As Mayor of Birmingham, Chamberlain ran the town like a business, taking utilities like gas and water into public control. He improved the health of the population through better sanitation. One of his most controversial acts was the demolition of large swathes of ‘slum’ housing which made way for the commercial centre of Corporation Street; this enhanced the business environment but many people were displaced and not re-housed. On 17 June 1874 Chamberlain laid the foundation stone of the new Council House, which still stands at the heart of Birmingham. This trowel commemorates the event.

Postcard of Joseph and Mrs Chamberlain

Postcard of Joseph and Mrs Chamberlain

Postcard of Joseph and Mrs Chamberlain

Chamberlain’s personal life was beset by tragedy. His first and second wives, cousins Harriet and Florence Kenrick, both died in childbirth. At the age of 52, Chamberlain found happiness with 23 year old American Mary Endicott. Images of Chamberlain usually portray him as looking severe, but in this postcard we get a rare glimpse of him smiling.

Satirical Drawing of Joseph Chamberlain

'Dogs of war', satirical drawing of Joseph Chamberlain by Sir John Tenniel, 1899

‘Dogs of war’, satirical drawing of Joseph Chamberlain by Sir John Tenniel, 1899

In the 1890s the British government was keen to keep South Africa within the British Empire rather than see it become a Boer republic. In 1899 Chamberlain, now Colonial Secretary, was preparing for war against the Boers. In this caricature, Chamberlain pretends to ‘Oom Paul’, the President of the South African Republic, that ‘the dogs of war’ (a quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar) are just going for a walk. This cartoon was published in Punch.

Wooden Folder Presented to Joseph Chamberlain

Wooden folder presented to Joseph Chamberlain in Cape Town, South Africa, 1903

Wooden folder presented to Joseph Chamberlain in Cape Town, South Africa, 1903

The Boer War came to an end in 1902, and in the following year Chamberlain toured South Africa to promote reconciliation between the British and the Afrikaners. He was broadly welcomed, and persuaded the Prime Minister John Gordon Sprigg to hold elections. This elaborate wooden blotter was presented to him by the South African Progressive Association. It is lined inside with blotting paper and was used to blot letters to ensure that the ink was dry.

Satirical Postcard of Joseph Chamberlain

Satirical postcard of Joseph Chamberlain, around 1905

Satirical postcard of Joseph Chamberlain, around 1905

In his early career Chamberlain was a radical reformer, but later he became increasingly imperialist. This satirical postcard pokes fun at a variety of policies that Chamberlain ‘juggled’ as Colonial Secretary. One of his last campaigns was for the imposition of tariffs upon trade with countries outside the British Empire, in order to favour imperial trade. He became notorious for using two loaves of bread as visual aids during a speech in Birmingham, arguing that a loaf baked under tariff reform would be no more expensive than one baked under free trade. The phrase ‘Birmingham bred’ is a pun on this.

Souvenir Booklet

Souvenir booklet from Joseph Chamberlain's 70th birthday celebrations, 1906

Souvenir booklet from Joseph Chamberlain’s 70th birthday celebrations, 1906

Despite his mixed fortunes as a national politician, Chamberlain was always a popular figure in Birmingham. Throughout his career he used a monocle and wore an orchid in his buttonhole, and his instantly recognisable image was reproduced on countless souvenirs. His 70th birthday in 1906 was marked by huge celebrations and a parade through the city centre was attended by thousands. This souvenir programme cost threepence.

To see more objects from our Chamberlain collections, visit ‘Birmingham: its people, its history’ on the third floor of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, or see our Chamberlain Flickr page.

Henrietta Lockhart
Curator (History)

Birmingham History Cake Challenge for Museum Cake Day

Culture Themes’ museum cake day #MusCake is back again on June 25th. So it’s time to celebrate with a new cake challenge! This year we are challenging you to bake a Birmingham History inspired cake (or biscuits) and to post a picture of your creation on our Facebook page or tweet us. The best entry will receive a prize and feature on the Facebook page.

If you would like to enter the competition you have until 4pm on June 24th. Only one entry per person! The competition will be judged by curators at Birmingham Museums. We will announce the winner via twitter and Facebook on June 25th. We will also tweet all your cake competition entry images using the #MusCake hashtag on the same day. See the competition rules.

If you are looking for inspiration here are a few objects from our Birmingham history collection:

Flag from 1960s Bull Ring Shopping Centre

Flag from 1960s Bull Ring Shopping Centre

HP Sauce Sign

HP Sauce Sign

Or perhaps you fancy something a bit more challenging? Such as these beautiful Birmingham made buttons:

Some beautiful Birmingham buttons

Some beautiful Birmingham buttons

Or if you are feel really adventurous, how about a Birmingham building inspired cake?

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery exterior

Ambitious enough to make a Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery cake?

You can find more Birmingham history collections inspiration on our Pinterest board.

Good luck everyone – we can’t wait to see your Birmingham inspired cakes and biscuits!

Linda Spurdle and Ria Frate,
Digital Team

#MusCake day is a Culture Themes initiative, one of the monthly events they have on twitter to promote the work of museums. Culture Themes is a multi-national group of museum professionals who love museums. Find out more about Culture Themes at their website http://www.culturethemes.com and follow them on twitter @culturethemes.

Volunteer of the Year winner

To celebrate National Volunteers Week we asked our staff to nominate volunteers who they felt had gone above and beyond in their roles. The difficulty for everyone was selecting just one person to nominate as we have so many wonderful people giving their time as volunteers!

So here to announce the winner is Deputy Director Simon Cane….


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