Birmingham History In Old Photos & Film

Birmingham England local history old photos archive film

Birmingham is famous for its waterways, the Bull Ring shopping centre, (now rebuilt and rebranded as Bullring), and the Gravelly Hill interchange nicknamed Spaghetti Junction.

Today it’s home to more than a million people, comfortably making it the UK’s second-largest city. But surprisingly, this is about the same number of residents as lived there in 1931!

What has changed from past times is the cultural, religious and ethnic diversity of the city. As reported by the BBC, the city council states about 42% of the population have Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. It is estimated that almost 50,000 residents cannot speak English at a passable level.

It’s also a surprisingly young city population, with many more under-18s and many fewer over-65s than found in most UK communities. Unfortunately, the high number of young people without qualifications makes finding quality jobs difficult in an age where labour-intensive industries have largely disappeared.

Birmingham’s Old Photos and Vintage Film

This section of Local History Videos shows archive film and video compilations of old photos focused on the city prior to 1950, or looking at a variety of decades in the 20th century.

See the list at the bottom of each page to quickly and easily track down the years, locations and events you’re most interested in.

Alternatively, if you’re interested in seeing a range of vintage films about the city from 1950 onward, head over to the section Vintage Film & Old Photos of Birmingham 1950-1989.

And if you want to see what other locations have been added to this site, we have a Sitemap for England.

One Hour of Vintage Film Showing Old Birmingham

JR SMITH: Published on 15 Feb 2018.

Join us as we take a journey into the heart of Birmingham throughout the 20th century.

Nostalgic Pictures of Birmingham

BazzaFromBrum: Published on 31 Mar 2009.

Bazza’s Old Pics of Birmingham. Music by Barry’s Guitar, former lead guitarist of “The Hykells” late 60’s early 70’s.

Old Pictures of Birmingham 

Earface: Published on 31 Oct 2013.

Collection of old photographs of different areas of the City of Birmingham.

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Birmingham Images: 1960s to 2000s

Zensgio: Published on 27 May 2019.

A look at images of Birmingham through 40 years of change.

Award Winning Photography of Birmingham & Black Country

TheSiDon: Published on 27 Oct 2010.

Our last glimpse of the Industrial Revolution – Heartfelt mood entrenched imagery and poignant moments captured on film represent the deterioration of the flag-posts of an era much forgotten — the canals and railways so integral to powering Birmingham’s industrial revolution and the development of England & the United Kingdom.

Photographed by Peter Donnelly during the 1960s – decaying vistas, time-worn monuments, or simply sublime snapshots in time – this selection of imagery and verse is history with a heart.

The photographs form part of a project Peter started in 1965, when he won The Daily Telegraph photographic competition with a unique set of images taken in and around “old” Birmingham & The Black Country, England.

The judges included David Bailey, one of Britain’s best known fashion photographers, Emil Buhrur editor of the Swiss magazine Camera, Ian James editor of The Photography Year Book & George Rodger founder of Magnum Photographers Agency.

Peter started to add the verse during the 1980’s-90’s.

Two albums have been produced more recently after finding layouts Peter had created.

He also produced a unique series of poems postcards and posters about “Old Birmingham” which featured on BBC News, Radio WM & Midlands Today.

These captivating images are now available to order in a range of different formats.

Birmingham and Black Country Nostalgia Award Winning Poems and Photographs. 

Birmingham – History Of Midlands TV News

BhamUrbanNewsUK: Published on 10 May 2013.

This piece first broadcast on 9 May 2013. Televised on UK’s regional television ITV Central. Programme (Program) — ITV News Central.

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Old Photos of Nechells and Erdington in Birmingham

Paul Burden: Published on 15 Apr 2014.

Then and now photos of Nechells and Erdington in Birmingham.

Birmingham In The 1920s

Birmingham (1920s)

Britainonfilm: Published on 25 Mar 2010.

This is an excerpt from ‘Birmingham, The Way We Were’ DVD.

Birmingham In The 1930s

Silver Jubilee Home Movie (1935)

Thekinolibrary: Published on 1 Feb 2016.

1935 Birmingham, Silver Jubilee. Rare 1930s home movie footage.

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Pageant of Birmingham (1938)

Idowish12: Published on 20 Oct 2011.

In 1938 Birmingham celebrated the 100th anniversary of the city’s Borough Charter.

A pageant was the main feature of the celebrations, held at Aston Park from July 11th to the 16th (because of its success, the pageant was extended to the following week, from July 18th until the 23rd).

Eight episodes told the story of Birmingham from its prehistoric origins to its position as the ‘hub of industrial England’ and its final status as a city in its own right. It was produced by Gwen Lally (1882-1963), the first female pageant master, and thousands of residents from across the city took part.

Birmingham (1930s)

HuntleyFilmArchives: Published on 19 Feb 2013. Birmingham, West Midlands, England.

1. Birmingham’s water supply.  Impressive dam on a reservoir at Elan Valley in Wales. (up to 1min 20sec) 

2. ‘Birmingham of Yesterday’

Bull-ring market. Market hall.  Shopping streets. Police force march along the pavement by the side of a wall past the camera.  The police officers in the front are dressed all in white. A policeman dressed in white directs traffic.  Schoolboys. Physical jerks. Civic and historic buildings. Football. Playground. Schoolboys in snow sleds.  Skiing. Handbell ringers.  

Firemen down the poles.  Fire station. Detailed practise, ladders, engines down the main street. (This section missing 08/07 is probably now number 1012)

The power station, detailed interior, turbines.  Young boys in industry, huge factory, old men and women working.  Polishing lens, button making. Pressing sheet metal, primitive foundry, inspecting sheet metal.  Milk production, washing, filling bottles. Women at work making studs.

Birmingham, UK (1935)

BrianTrenerryArchive: Published on 14 Aug 2009.

Birmingham, UK 1935.

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Birmingham In The 1940s

Birmingham Tram Tour (1940s)

HuntleyFilmArchives: Published on 27 Nov 2014.

Trams and trolleybuses in Birmingham.  Bus marked “Special” leaves the depot in the rain.

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WWII, Industry, Munitions, & Home Front (1940s)

Thekinolibrary: Published on 24 Mar 2016.

1940s Birmingham during WWII. Industry, munitions, and home front.

Car Rally: Coventry to Birmingham (1940s)

Dean Nelson: Published on 20 Jun 2015.

The Midlands (1946)

HuntleyFilmArchives: Published on 24 Feb 2012. The Midlands of England, a very good analysis of Birmingham in 1946.

Birmingham streets – buses, trams.  A very good look at public buildings and shops etc.  Municipal bank, parks. Suburban streets. Nursery. Babies and baby.  King Edward School. University. QE Hospital. Welsh water to the city, the reservoir in Elan Valley, mid-Wales.  Shots of reservoir and water pouring out of it. Power stations. Bus station. Steelworks, iron foundry, machine.  Electrical shop floor. Generator. Electroplating teapots etc. Car factory assembly – Austins? – Spraying, welding, drive out of the factory. Pneumatic tyres – Dunlop factory.  Bourneville. Bike (motor). Farming, Warwick. Stratford-on-Avon.

Panoramic view of the extensive countryside below a cloudy sky.  Amongst country scene is curving open space, possibly river bend. Soundtrack narration evidently begins halfway through dialogue.  Three lined paths or narrow roads in the sunshine which fades into a shot of a large stately home in a clear sky. A row of elegant, old houses along a road (possibly private) in a country setting. 

View of a busy main road in a part of Birmingham city centre. Church with tall steeple prominent in the background as double-decker bus approaches and goes past camera. Shot, from nearly rooftop height,  looking down a busy street in the city. Buses and cars moving up and down, same positioned view of another high street with tall, imposing buildings along either side. The soundtrack plays sprightly orchestral music.  Road level view of very imposing almost ‘Romansque’ building stretching beyond the camera. Traffic along approaching road, one car moves away from the camera down road. Rooftop level view of huge white stone square buildings.  Many windows along front and side. Large green spaces along the front of building with stationary cars visible along the side of building. A small, domed, white stone building with canopies along the base, very prominent along the left side of the road.  The camera pans down and along the building taking in road traffic. Shot of ornate building frontispiece with green erg and statue of a male figure in front. Road level view of a quiet street. The camera clearly positioned under a bridge as it takes in imposing buildings and dock tower.  Looking up at another ornate building with dome work frontispiece. Buses and cars pass in the foreground, the camera pans right across the street. Clock tower and buildings, as in the previous view, more prominent. Flags hang down from the building and a statue of lords or great soldiers come into view.  Camera continuing to pan, shows building to be the same as that of the previous shot. Soundtrack states it is the ‘Birmingham Council Chamber’. Shot of ‘councillors’ at work around a long table inside the building. The man at the head of the table gets up and walks to map. He points to it as rest look towards it.  View of a large square building with pillars along the front – ‘Municipal Bank’. Shot of lake surrounded by trees with a path curving around along the side. Two women and child visible walking down it. View of the park area. Path lined by trees with well turfed green area along near side.  People walk along it.

Birmingham Tram Tour (1940s)

Film HuntleyFilmArchives: Published on 27 Nov 2014.

  • Birmingham Tram with “Special Car” written on side. 
  • Single-decker tram enters depot.
  • Close up of driver adjusting points? 
  • Man runs for tram.
  • Looking over the driver’s shoulder at the controls.

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Queen Elizabeth Hospital Unit (1940s)

HuntleyFilmArchives: Published on 10 Oct 2016.

Birmingham United Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital Unit.  Probation nurses in training prior to the foundation of the NHS.

  • Doors open on nurses in library and canteen, ping-pong. 
  • Girls with hockey sticks.
  • On steps waves goodbye to a car. 
  • Reading notice board in a lecture hall.
  • Correcting uniform, buttons, hats. 
  • Sister tutor tells nurses to sit.
  • Close-ups of faces.
  • Anatomy, skeleton.
  • Handling bones. 
  • Demonstration ward.
  • Bed making.
  • Dental health.
  • Medical examination.
  • Tray of thermometers in glasses. 
  • Taking temperature.
  • Bed making.
  • Using telephone.
  • Black ambulance.
  • Lifting casualty off the bed onto a trolley. 
  • Preparing X-ray.
  • Bandaged man.
  • X-ray examination.
  • Doctor on the phone.
  • Preparing operating theatre.
  • Clearing equipment. 
  • Nurse gives an injection.
  • Puts on a gown.
  • Scrubbing-up.
  • Patient into the theatre.
  • Anesthetist.
  • Breathing-bag inflating.
  • Gloved hands and masks. 
  • Instruments.
  • Handing utensils to doctor / surgeon.
  • Patient recovers.
  • Takes pulse.
  • Awarded certificate.
  • Pin on medals.
  • Study adverts in job pages. 
  • Weighing baby.
  • Help man into bed.
  • Daffodils in a vase.
  • Nurse relaxing, reading.
  • Ends with nurse resembling Virgin Mary, with Halo.

More West Midlands pages


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