Played in Birmingham

Charting the heritage of a city at play

By: Steve Beauchampé & Simon Inglis
RRP: £14.99
Format: 152pp softback 210mm x 210mm
ISBN: 0 954744 519
Published by English Heritage in May 2006

The birthplace of lawn tennis, the setting for the first world snooker championships, home of the world's most popular referee's whistle and the original Percy Jeeves, and the centre of the world's largest ever works football association - the city of Birmingham has a proud and fascinating sporting heritage.

Co-written by fans of the city's two rival football clubs - Steve Beauchampé (a Birmingham City supporter) and Simon Inglis (a fan of Aston Villa) Played in Birmingham leads readers along a trail of fascinating locations and little known buildings, landscapes and waterscapes, in all corners of the city and its surrounds.

Birmingham is a city founded upon hard work, enterprise and civic pride. Its stock of historic public baths includes three of the oldest operational swimming pools in Britain, including the magnificent Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath, one of only three British baths still in use today that merit Grade II* listed status.

In 1888 a Birmingham draper was responsible for setting up the Football League, the first in the world. Birmingham also has a proud record at grassroots level. Following on from the pioneering example set at Bournville by the Quaker brothers, George and Richard Cadbury, during the early 20th century Birmingham industrialists - at factories such as Bakelite, Dunlop, BSA, General Electric and HP Sauce - invested in an extraordinary network of sports facilities for their employees, in turn giving rise to the largest works football association ever known. So big that its annual awards ceremony used to take place over seven consecutive nights.

For those who do not know Birmingham, or perhaps dismiss it as a mere concrete jungle, Played in Birmingham also reveals a wealth of green space - parks, cricket grounds and bowling greens - several barely more than a mile or so from the Bull Ring. Birmingham has more municipal golf courses than any other English city.

Perhaps even more surprising, Birmingham's topography is interlaced with rivers, brooks, lakes and pools, with Edgbaston Reservoir forming one of the great waterscapes of urban Britain - a magnet for anglers and sailors alike. (Indeed the city's angling association was once the largest in the world, with over 68,000 members in the 1970s. It is still Britain' largest today, with 200 active clubs.)

This is a book full of delightful surprises and quirky details, many of which are little known, even within the Birmingham area. There has never been a history of the city quite like it.

Played in Birmingham is sponsored by Birmingham City Council.