Birmingham and Midland Institute
The Birmingham and Midland Institute (BMI) (grid reference SP066870), is an institution concerned with the promotion of education and learning in Birmingham, England. It is now based on Margaret Street in Birmingham city centre. It was founded in 1854 as a pioneer of adult scientific and technical education (General Industrial, Commercial and Music); and today continues to offer arts and science lectures, exhibitions and concerts. It is a registered charity. There is limited free access to the public, with further facilities available on a subscription basis.
Following the demise of the Birmingham Philosophical Institution, founded c.1800, which was wound up in 1852, the BMI was founded in 1854 by Act of Parliament "for the Diffusion and Advancement of Science, Literature and Art amongst all Classes of Persons resident in Birmingham and the Midland Counties", as the Council had rejected the Free Libraries and Museums Act 1850. The principal promoter of the project was Arthur Ryland, while others prominent in its establishment included George Dixon, John Jaffray, and Charles Tindal. The BMI commissioned architect Edward Middleton Barry to design a building next to the Town Hall in Paradise Street. The foundation stone was laid by Prince Albert in November 1855. With the building half-completed, in January 1860, the first public museum was opened in the BMI. Immediately the Council reversed its decision, and adopting the Act, negotiated with the BMI to buy the rest of the site. The other half of the planned building (up to Edmund Street) was completed by William Martin using the intended façade but redesigned behind. The municipal Public Library opened in 1866, but burned down during the building of an extension in 1879. Exhibitions of art were moved from the BMI to Aston Hall during rebuilding. In 1881 John Henry Chamberlain (architect and Honorary Secretary of the BMI) completed an extension to the Institute.
When its old building was demolished in 1965 as part of the redevelopment of the city centre the BMI moved to Margaret Street, the home of the private Birmingham Library, built in 1899 to the designs of architects Jethro Cossins, F. B. Peacock and Ernest Bewley, and now a Grade II* listed building. A blue plaque on this building commemorates Albert Ketèlbey, who studied at the Birmingham School of Music when it was part of the Institute.
In 1876, the subject of "phonography" (or Pitman shorthand) was introduced to the BMI. During the first session, Marie Bethell Beauclerc, the first female shorthand reporter in England, taught 90 students. By 1891, there were over 300 students, predominately male, attending her phonography classes.
In 1837 A. Follett Osler (Fellow of the Royal Society) gave a presentation on readings taken by a self-recording anemometer and rain gauge he had designed. He was funded by the Birmingham Philosophical Institution to design instruments and record meteorological data. He gave instruments to the BPI and BMI starting an almost unbroken record of weather measurements from 1869 (to 1954, date of source material). In 1884 the BMI leased Perrott's Folly, a 100-foot monument in Edgbaston, for use as an observatory. In 1886 the City of Birmingham Water Department allowed the BMI to erect instruments in an observatory on the nearby covered water reservoir. By 1923 a daily weather map was on display outside the Institute. The Observatory was still in operation in 1954 (date of source material). The Observatory received funding from the City Council, and the Air Ministry at various times.
Various independent societies are affiliated to the BMI including:
- the Birmingham Philatelic Society, Moseley United Nations Association, Institute Ramblers, Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society, Alliance of Literary Societies, Birmingham Art Circle, Birmingham Water Colour Society, Midland Painting Group, Midland Spaceflight Society, Workers Educational Association, Dickens Fellowship, Olton Recorded Music Society, British Russian Society, the Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry, the Royal Institute of British Architects, Birmingham Film and Television Festival, Midland Co-operative Society and the Society for the History of Astronomy.
The office of president is held by some person of eminence in the arts, sciences or public life. The presidential term lasts one year; and one of the presidential tasks is to deliver an inaugural address. In the early years, the president was usually a person of prominence in the West Midlands, but the election of Charles Dickens in 1869 raised the Institute's profile, and it became possible to invite a person of national renown to serve. The following is a selective list of presidents:
- 1854 (1st President): George Lyttelton, Baron Lyttelton of Hagley
- 1856 (3rd): William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth, Conservative politician
- 1862 (9th): Sir John S. Pakington, Conservative politician
- 1863 (10th): William Scholefield, businessman and Liberal politician
- 1867 (14th): Matthew Davenport Hill, lawyer and penologist
- 1869 (16th): Charles Dickens, author
- 1870 (17th): Lyon Playfair, scientist and Liberal politician
- 1871 (18th): T. H. Huxley, biologist
- 1872 (19th): Canon Charles Kingsley, author of Westward Ho! (1855) and The Water-Babies (1863)
- 1874 (21st): Sir John Lubbock, banker, politician, philanthropist, and scientist
- 1875 (22nd): Professor Henry Fawcett, statesman and economist
- 1876 (23rd): John Morley, Liberal statesman and newspaper editor
- 1877 (24th): Professor John Tyndall, physicist
- 1878 (25th): Arthur Stanley, Dean of Westminster
- 1879 (26th): Professor Max Müller, philologist and Orientalist
- 1881 (28th): Professor Sir William Siemens, engineer
- 1882 (29th): J. A. Froude, historian and novelist
- 1883 (30th): Sir William Thomson (afterwards Baron Kelvin), mathematical physicist and engineer
- 1884 (31st): James Russell Lowell, poet and United States Minister to Great Britain
- 1885 (32nd): Edward White Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury
- 1886 (33rd): Sir Frederick Bramwell, civil and mechanical engineer
- 1887 (34th): Sir John Robert Seeley, essayist and historian
- 1888 (35th): Sir Arthur Sullivan, composer
- 1890 (37th): Edward Augustus Freeman, historian
- 1892 (39th): W. E. H. Lecky, historian
- 1893 (40th): Sir Edwin Arnold, poet and journalist
- 1895 (42nd): William Boyd Carpenter, Bishop of Ripon
- 1900 (47th): Mandell Creighton, Bishop of London
- 1903 (50th): Joseph Hodges Choate, lawyer and United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom
- 1904 (51st): Sir Oliver Lodge, physicist
- 1905 (52nd): Charles Gore, 1st Bishop of Birmingham
- 1906 (53rd): Richard Webster, Viscount Alverstone, Lord Chief Justice
- 1908 (55th): Sir William Blake Richmond, artist
- 1911 (58th): Cosmo Gordon Lang, Archbishop of York
- 1912 (59th): General Sir Ian Hamilton, army officer
- 1914 (61st): Sir Frederick Treves, surgeon
- 1915 (62nd): Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, actor and theatre manager
- 1921 (68th): Guglielmo Marconi, inventor and electrical engineer
- 1923 (70th): Austen Chamberlain, awarded the 1925 Nobel Peace Prize
- 1924 (71st): Sir Reginald Blomfield, architect
- 1925 (72nd): F. E. Smith, Earl of Birkenhead, statesman
- 1929 (76th): Sir Frank W. Dyson, Astronomer Royal
- 1933 (80th): Sir James Jeans, physicist, astronomer and mathematician
- 1935 (82nd): Stanley Bruce, High Commissioner of Australia to the United Kingdom (formerly Prime Minister of Australia)
- 1936 (83rd): Sir Josiah Stamp, industrialist and banker
- 1939 (86th): Thomas Horder, Baron Horder, physician
- 1940 (87th): Sir H. Walford Davies, Master of the King's Music
- 1942 (89th): John Sankey, 1st Viscount Sankey, judge and Lord Chancellor
- 1943 (90th): Ernle Chatfield, 1st Baron Chatfield, Admiral of the Fleet
- 1944 (91st): Norman Birkett, judge and politician
- 1945 (92nd): Sir Charles Galton Darwin, physicist
- 1946 (93rd): Edward Woods, Bishop of Lichfield
- 1947 (94th): Sir Richard Winn Livingstone, classical scholar and university administrator
- 1949 (96th): Sir Raymond Priestley, geologist and Antarctic explorer
- 1950 (97th): Leo Amery, politician and journalist
- 1951 (98th): Sir Raymond Evershed, judge and Master of the Rolls
- 1953 (100th): John Boyd Orr, 1st Baron Boyd-Orr, biologist, politician, awarded the 1949 Nobel Peace Prize
- 1954 (101st): Oliver Lyttelton, businessman and politician
- 1983 (129th): Sir David Willcocks, musician and composer
- 1992 (139th): Rachel Waterhouse, local historian and activist
- 1999 (145th): Fay Weldon, author
- 2016 (163rd): Julian Lloyd Webber, musician
- 2017 (164th): Roger Ward, political historian
- 2018 (165th): Simon Callow, actor
- Anon. (1830). An Historical and Descriptive Sketch of Birmingham, with some account of its environs, and forty-four views of the principal public buildings, etc. Birmingham: Beilby, Knott & Beilby. p. 185.
- Waterhouse 1954, pp. 11–23.
- "Birmingham and the Midland Institute". The Illustrated London News. 27 (771). 24 November 1855.
- Historic England, "Birmingham and Midland Institute (1343095)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 5 October 2016
- "History and Traditions". Aston University. 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2010.
- Waterhouse 1954, p. 46.
- A full list of presidents to 1954 appears in Waterhouse 1954, pp. 183–4.
- Davies, Stuart (1985). By the Gains of Industry: Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, 1885–1985. Birmingham: Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery. ISBN 0-7093-0131-6.
- Groves, Peter (1987). Exploring Birmingham: a guided tour. Oldbury: Meridian. ISBN 1-869922-00-X.
- Holyoak, Joe (1989). All About Victoria Square. Birmingham: The Victorian Society, Birmingham Group. ISBN 0-901657-14-X.
- Waterhouse, Rachel E. (1954). The Birmingham and Midland Institute, 1854–1954. Birmingham: Birmingham and Midland Institute.
- Official website
- Historic England. "Birmingham Midland Institute (Grade II*) (1343095)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 7 April 2019.
- Birmingham City Council on BMI
- Birmingham Heritage on BMI