Monthly Archives: February 2012

Not long to go now…

As we’re a little more than a month away from the opening of the exhibition, here is some further information about visiting Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Running from 24 March – 10 June 2012 in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery’s Gas Hall, Children’s Lives will reveal both how the experience of childhood has changed and how it has been understood and constructed by adults over time. It will bring the voice of the child to life and draw the connections between the past and the present into sharper focus.

Children’s Lives will be a fascinating insight into Birmingham’s history, as well as a key resource for understanding the changing nature of childhood locally, nationally and internationally. Photographs, archive documents, costumes, artwork and objects will bring to life more than 300 years of history, with collections drawn from Designated and nationally acclaimed collections held by Birmingham Archives & Heritage (BA&H), BMAG and the Media Archive of Central England.

Children’s Lives will include a creative programme of events and spark debate about the lives of children in today’s Britain. Read more information on the Children’s Lives project.

Admission charges:

Adult: £4
Concession: £3
Children aged 5-16: £2
Family: £10
Unwaged: £2
Self-guided schools (per-head): £2
Birmingham school groups: Free

Children’s Lives is a partnership project between the University of Birmingham, BA&H, and BMAG. It is curated by Ian Grosvenor, Professor of Urban Educational History at the University of Birmingham, and Dr. Siân Roberts, Head of Collections Development at BA&H and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham.

Children’s Lives will be part of Birmingham’s contribution to the Cultural Olympiad programme in 2012 and is supported financially by the Heritage Lottery Fund.


Birmingham Children’s Hospital

BA&H: HC-BCH-1-13-1

2012 will see Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital celebrate its 150th birthday. 

On June 25th 1861 Thomas Pretious Heslop (1823-85), a physician who had joined Birmingham’s Queen’s Hospital in 1853, held a private meeting of hand-picked individuals to propose a new Children’s Hospital. At a later public meeting the governors of the Queen’s Hospital denied the need for such an institution, but the resolution was passed and founded on the principles in the image above, opening the next year. Originally situated on Steelhouse Lane, in 1867 the Birmingham and Midland Free Hospital for Sick Children opened a building on Broad Street, taking over the building of the Lying-In Hospital and Dispensary for the Diseases of Women and Children. Free admission was qualified by means testing, so that those who could not afford to pay were looked after.

Funding for the hospital proved difficult, with an 1886 appeal needed to keep one of its wards open. In the appeals leaflet the hospital claimed to have relieved 14,000 patients in the last year alone. The initial plans for a move were agreed in 1908 as space became an issue, although the move to a new children’s hospital building was not even started until 1917. In 1913 a Children’s Hospital Brick League was set up to help fund the new building. Any child who gave one guinea could have their initials cut into a brick, and attended a brick laying ceremony for it at the hospital. The onset of World War I slowed the movement of the project, and the first patients arrived with little fanfare to an unfinished building in 1917. The finished building was visited in 1919 by King George V and Queen Mary. In 1998 the hospital returned to Steel House lane and occupied the former General Hospital, renamed the Diana, Princess of Wales Children’s Hospital.

Birmingham Archives & Heritage holds the archive for the Children’s Hospital. Appointments to view material can be made via email at: or by telephone on 0121 303 2468. 

You can read more about the Children’s Hospital on their blog and you can donate to the hospital here

Patrick Haines

Norton School

A reformatory school was founded in Birmingham in 1852 by Joseph Sturge, in a house in Ryland Road; the Birmingham Reformatory School Society was founded to manage the school, and within a decade it had changed its name to the Birmingham Reformatory Institution.

BA&H: MS 244

The idea of a reformatory was quickly taken up, and in early 1853 premises were provided for the school by Charles Adderley, MP (later Lord Norton), on his land at Saltley, about two miles outside the city. Lord Norton spoke regularly in Parliament on educational issues, and in 1854 was largely responsible for the Youthful Offenders Act; he was also a member of the Reformatory and Industrial Schools Commission of 1883. He was a keen proponent of a ‘humanist’ approach to reformation, emphasising the value of education over harsh discipline, and this appears to have influenced the methods used by the school in Saltley. Lord Norton remained associated with the school throughout his life, hosting an annual day out for the boys and staff at his house, Hams Hall. Lord Norton died in 1905, and in 1908 the school changed its name from Saltley Reformatory to Norton Boys’ Home; however, it seems that it was more usually referred to as Norton School or Norton Training School.

The school originally provided space for 37 boys, rising to 100 by the end of the nineteenth century, and it provided education and training for them, in carpentry, shoemaking, and farming. Around 70 acres of farmland was eventually acquired, and outdoor work was given a prominent emphasis until well into the twentieth century. Boys were admitted between the ages of about nine and 17, although as time went on the number of younger boys declined, and after 1933 only senior boys were admitted.

Mr. Kunzle and the Alpine Home for Sick Children

On the corner of Broad Street, now Five Ways Shopping Centre, used to stand the factory of Kunzle Cakes Ltd, founded by Christian Kunzle (1879-1954). Mr. Kunzle was also President of the Children’s Hospital during the 1930s. The Swiss born chef and chocolatier sent sick children, particularly those suffering from tuberculosis, to his house in Davos, Switzerland, to recover in the clean mountain air.

BA&H: HC-BCH-6-3-2

The first party of thirty children arrived in 1932. The Davos Courier reported that two of the children had been so ill that they had hardly left the hospital before. When the Second World War broke out in 1939 the children recovering at the Alpine School could not get back to England from neutral Switzerland, finally returning when the war was over. A blue plaque above the Santander bank now marks where the factory once stood.

Patrick Haines