Birmingham’s Victorian heritage commemorated

George Dawson and Samuel Timmins Blue Plaques unveiled in the Shakespeare Memorial Library.

The Birmingham Civic Society and Everything to Everybody Project unveiled Blue Plaques commemorating the work of George Dawson and Samuel Timmins in the Shakespeare Memorial Library at the Library of Birmingham on 28th February.

The unveiling took place against the backdrop of a new exhibition from the Jewellery Quarter Research Trust in the Shakespeare Memorial Room celebrating Birmingham’s Shakespeare heritage in relation to Dawson and Timmins.

George Dawson (1821-1876) was a nonconformist preacher, lecturer and activist with an influential voice in the calls for political and social reform in 19th century Birmingham. He became a widely celebrated lecturer, promoting the ‘Civic Gospel’ and helped to found the Shakespeare Memorial Library. The‘Everything to Everybody Project has sponsored this Blue Plaque to recognise Dawson’s relevance to society today. The plaque will be erected in the Skyline Room, outside the Shakespeare Memorial Library.

Samuel Timmins (1826-1902) inherited a family business manufacturing small steel tools and hardware, but his true passion was literature and he dedicated his efforts to establishing the Shakespeare Memorial Library. The plaque will be erected on his home in Elvetham Road, Edgbaston soon after the ceremony.

Professor Michael Butler, Birmingham Civic Society said: “For over 100 years, Birmingham Civic Society has worked to make Birmingham a better place for everyone, encouraging community engagement and promoting pride in our city. We award Blue Plaques to significant sites around the city and to people who have excelled in their career or made a significant contribution to our city and we are delighted to be celebrating Dawson and Timmins contributions to Birmingham. To-date we have erected over 100 Blue Plaques reflecting the diversity of the city and its incredible past, each telling its own fascinating story.”

The exhibition in the Shakespeare Memorial Room, ‘The Heroic Age in Birmingham History’ is the sixth community curated exhibition created as part of the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project. The Jewellery Quarter Research Trust’s exhibition tells the story of how George Dawson, Samuel Timmins, Joseph Chamberlain and JT Bunce made a significant impact on Birmingham’s history contributing to the improvement of health and living conditions, as well as the founding of municipal buildings: schools, museums, swimming baths, hospitals and libraries.

The exhibition charts the impact these individuals, along with their colleagues who made up the ‘Our Shakespeare Club’ – founded in 1858 – had in the life of the wider community.

Professor Ewan Fernie, Project Director Everything to Everybody Project (pictured), said: “We love sharing the great public Shakespeare collection which George Dawson and Sam Timmins established, and I’m looking forward to honouring those pioneers with richly deserved blue plaques. And where better to do so than outside Birmingham’s historic Shakespeare Memorial Room, part of the first great Shakespeare library in the world, which owes its very existence to Dawson and Timmins?”

The Everything to Everybody Project is an ambitious celebration of one of the UK’s most important cultural assets: the Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library – not just the first great Shakespeare library in the world but also the only great Shakespeare collection which belongs to all the people of a city.

The ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project is a collaboration between the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council, with funding contributed by National Lottery Heritage Fund and History West Midlands Everything to Everybody will give this uniquely democratic Shakespeare heritage back to people and communities across Birmingham.

To achieve this, Everything to Everybody is working in conjunction with anchor institutions and arts organisations such as Birmingham Civic Society and the Jewellery Quarter Research Trust. Find out more about this project and others

Pics – Jas Sansi.