Monthly Archives: December 2011

Oh yes it is!

Birmingham Archives & Heritage has a large collection of material relating to the Theatre Royal, which opened in the 1770s on New Street (see The Iron Room’s recent blog post for more on the history of this theatre).

BA&H: Cinderella, or, Things which Came to Pass by Fairy Power and a Slipper of Glass

The run of pantomime texts in the collection reveals that Cinderella, one of the most popular and enduring of all pantomimes and arriving soon at the Birmingham Hippodrome, was performed at the Theatre Royal in 1886. Unlike pantomime today, which usually begins in mid-December and continues until the end of January, the 1886 performance didn’t begin until Boxing Day.

Cinderella was played by Miss Nellie Murray, the Prince or ‘Principal Boy’ was played by Miss Alma Stanley and the Ugly Sisters, Sacharissa and Ann Gostura, were played by Mr Edward Righton and Mr Edwin Barwick. Other characters included Pizzicato, Forget-me-not and Whacks and Smacks. It’s not clear whether the 1886 show had any animals in the cast but every memorable pantomime should have one and this year’s performance at the Hippodrome will be no different!

Seasons Greetings from all at the Children’s Lives project team and best wishes for 2012! We’ll be back in January with some new blog posts and we’ll begin the countdown to our exhibition, opening at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery on March 24th, so we’ll have lots to tell you about! 

Appointments to view material held by Birmingham Archives & Heritage can be made via email at: or by telephone on 0121 303 2468.


Royal Institution for the Blind

A school for the blind was first set up in Birmingham, on Ruston Street, in 1846 by Miss Elizabeth Bache Harrold and her friend Miss Mary Badger. As the numbers of pupils increased it was deemed necessary to move to a property on Ryland Street and then later to Broad Street. In 1848 the school was established as a public charity to be called ‘The Birmingham Institution for the Blind’. The following year two acres of land were leased from Lord Calthorpe, allowing the Institution to build a larger school on Carpenter Road, Edgbaston, which was officially opened in 1852. A lending library of Moon’s embossed books was established (Dr William Moon developed Moon type after losing his sight at the age of 21. He became a teacher of blind children and developed a touch reading scheme of raised curves, circles and lines). In 1880 Braille was introduced in the school. As in the Royal School for Deaf Children, manual work featured heavily within the curriculum, primarily carpentry and basket-making, but towards the end of the 1890s machine knitting, boot-making and typewriting were introduced.

BA&H: MS 1700








Birmingham Archives & Heritage holds the archive for the Royal Institution for the Blind (MS 1700). Appointments to view material can be made via email at: or by telephone on 0121 303 2468.

‘In the happy days of our childhood’

Maria Cadbury (1838-1908) was the daughter of John Cadbury (1801-89) and Candia Barrow (1805-1855). She wrote this memoir, ‘In the happy days of our childhood’,  later in life at the request of one of her nieces (MS 466-344).

BA&H: MS 466-344

The memoir vividly describes the idyllic childhood she and her brothers enjoyed during the 1840s at the family home in Calthorpe Road, Edgbaston, then a very rural area. She describes breakfasts of ‘milk with delicious cream on the top and toast to dip into it, afterwards bread and butter, and coffee’.

The Cadburys would holiday in Blackpool, where the children ‘ran wild, and built wonderful castles on the shore’. There is a particularly evocative description of the clothing Maria wore:

a white frock with two tucks to let down when growing, and worn long . . . boots and white socks . . . a bonnet of white rice straw, lined with white silk and a white silk curtain of ribbon stripes.

Maria remarks that ‘our own home was one of sunshine, our dear Parents doing all they could to make us happy, under a gentle, but firm discipline’. We learn more about this discipline in Maria’s description of the punishment she and her brother George received after ‘an act of disobedience’: when playing in the garden, Maria and George filled their watering cans after being told not to and were punished by being ‘dipped overhead, quickly in and out’ of a deep-filled tub of warm, soapy water. As Maria remembers, ‘it was a distressing ordeal and we cried a great deal, but never forgot the lesson given for an act of disobedience’.

Appointments to view material held by Birmingham Archives & Heritage can be made via email at: or by telephone on 0121 303 2468.