Birmingham and Midland Institute

The Birmingham and Midland Institute (popularly known as the Midland Institute) (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.

The Birmingham & Midland Institute
BM CoA.png
The Coat of Arms of The Birmingham & Midland Institute [1]
MottoLatin: Sine Fide Doctrina
Motto in English
Endless Learning
Established1854 by Act of Parliament
PresidentSir David Cannadine
Vice-presidentDr Serena Trowbridge, Samina Ansari
Location, ,
United Kingdom
Birmingham and Midland Institute, current site
Recruitment leaflet, 1866. Written and designed by J. H. Chamberlain, Honorary Secretary, who appears in the first woodcut recruiting Hercules to the institute. The text tells two apocryphal stories: one of a poor man who, inspired by a BMI lecture, made his fortune: the other of a man who scoffed at the BMI and grew ass-like ears.
Blue plaque to Albert Ketèlbey commemorating his time as a student of the Birmingham School of Music


The Paradise Street building, demolished c1965

Following the demise of the Birmingham Philosophical Institution, founded c.1800,[2] which was wound up in 1852, The Birmingham & Midland Institute 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.[3] The Institute 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.[4] With the building half-completed, in January 1860, the first public museum was opened in the Institute. Immediately the Council reversed its decision, and adopting the Act, negotiated with the Institute 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 Institute to Aston Hall during rebuilding. In 1881 John Henry Chamberlain (architect and Honorary Secretary of the Institute) completed an extension to the Institute, in the gothic style.

When the premises at Paradise Street were demolished, in 1965 as part of the redevelopment of the city centre, the Institute moved to 9 Margaret Street. Margaret Street was originally the home of the private Birmingham Library, but it became part of the Midland Institute in 1956, when members voted for it to be subsumed into the Institute. The Birmingham Library premises were built in 1899 to the designs of architects Jethro Cossins, F. B. Peacock and Ernest Bewley, and is now a Grade II* listed building.[5] A blue plaque on this building commemorates Albert Ketèlbey, who studied at the Birmingham School of Music when it was part of the Institute.

Charles Dickens was an early president after giving recitals in the Town Hall to raise funds. The Institute contains the 100,000 volumes of the Birmingham Library, founded in 1779.

In 1876, the subject of "phonography" (or Pitman shorthand) was introduced to the Institute. 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.

A School of Metallurgy was set up in the Institute by G. H. Kenrick in 1875. This was spun-out from the Institute in 1895 as the Birmingham Municipal Technical School, now Aston University.[6]

Weather recordingEdit

Perrott's Folly, also known as The Observatory

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 the Institute starting an almost unbroken record of weather measurements from 1869 (to 1954, date of source material). In 1884 the Institute 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 Institute 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.

Affiliated organisationsEdit

Various independent societies are affiliated to the BMI including:

The Birmingham Civic Society, The Birmingham Philatelic Society, Ex Cathedra, Institute Ramblers, Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society, Midland Spaceflight Society, Workers Educational Association, Dickens Fellowship, The Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry, the Society for the History of Astronomy, The Victorian Society (Birmingham & West Midlands).[citation needed]


The office of president is held by some person of eminence in the arts, sciences or public life. The presidential term usually lasts one year, but can be extended up to three years; 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 the practice to invite a person of national renown to serve.[7] The following is the list of presidents:


  1. ^ "Birmingham and Midland Institute". Heraldry of the World. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Waterhouse 1954, pp. 11–23.
  4. ^ "Birmingham and the Midland Institute". The Illustrated London News. Vol. 27, no. 771. 24 November 1855.
  5. ^ Historic England, "Birmingham and Midland Institute (1343095)", National Heritage List for England, retrieved 5 October 2016
  6. ^ "History and Traditions". Aston University. 2010. Retrieved 9 August 2010.
  7. ^ Waterhouse 1954, p. 46.


  • 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.

External linksEdit

Coordinates: 52°28′53″N 1°54′14″W / 52.4814°N 1.9038°W / 52.4814; -1.9038