Municipal Dreams

Between the wars, Conservative-controlled Birmingham built over 51,000 new council homes – more than any other local authority in the country outside London.  When Neville Chamberlain, a former city councillor and now Edgbaston MP, opened the city’s 40,000th council home in 1933 he spoke with much local pride and only a little exaggeration of:(1)

an achievement on the part of Birmingham which has no parallel in this or any other country

While Chamberlain might seem the quintessential interwar Conservative, his name and local heritage stood for something more.  Before his father Joseph Chamberlain, a dominating figure both as local councillor and MP, became a Unionist, he was a radical.  His influence, that mix, remained powerful in Birmingham.  Neville, his more pallid son, represented some of its good intent and many of its contradictions.

The Birmingham Gazette article marking Chamberlain's formal opening of the city's 40,000 th council home in February 1933 The Birmingham Gazette article marking Chamberlain’s formal opening of the city’s 40,000th council home, October 1933

In…

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