Born In Brum

Birmingham is one of our greatest cities but is the butt of many jokes. It seems the good-natured folk of England’s second city are happy to be the cause of so much mirth because they know they’ve got the last laugh! There are many reasons to be proud of coming from Brum and that quiet, self-assured ability to laugh at oneself comes from knowing that you’re pretty great, so it doesn’t matter. Birmingham has given the world some pretty incredible inventions that you may not realize, is a city of creativity and ingenuity for many centuries. Here we celebrate some of the everyday essential gadgets that were born in Brum:

  1. The Photocopier

James Watt, a famous engineer patented the ‘letter copying machine’ way back in 1779 as a response to extreme amounts of paperwork in his office. He designed a special ink for use with the device which is known to be the first ever photocopier. Watt lived and worked in Birmingham working with Matthew Boulton on steam engines. His office copier was so effective and popular that it was in use for over fifty years. Birmingham still attracts the brightest and best in business, engineering, and creativity. If you need to visit the city for business, why not consider the comfort of Birmingham Serviced Apartments at

  1. The Bicycle Bell

James Watt had an apprentice called John Dedicoat who invented the world’s first bicycle bell. His career developed into a manufacturer of bicycles in Birmingham, but his earliest achievement was the creation of the warning bell on bikes to alert pedestrians to the bike’s presence.

  1. The Whistle

You might not have given much thought to the humble whistle, but it too was born in Birmingham. A toolmaker named Joseph Hudson made the first whistle at his home in St Mark’s Square in around 1875. Three years later it was being used to signal the end of the Notts Forest/Sheffield second round football match of the FA Cup. Hudson also created a police whistle to replace the previous hand rattles used. The factory still lives today and can be found on Barr Street.

  1. The Smoke Detector

How many lives has this great gadget saved over the years? We owe thanks to a chap called George Andrew Darby from Birmingham, who patented the idea for the first heat and smoke detector back in 1902.

  1. The Windscreen Wiper

The first patented windscreen wiper was placed by Mills Munitions in Birmingham in 1921. The wiper had been originally invented by an American inventor called Mary Anderson but Mills were the first British company to patent their own design of wiper. Williams Mills also invented the modern hand grenade. You might not think this is much to be proud of but before Mills’ now famous ‘pin and pineapple’ design, grenades were extremely dangerous to handle. This design made them much safer.

  1. The Electric Kettle

Every brew made quickly and effortlessly is thanks to Arthur L. Large, a Birmingham engineer who invented the immersed heating resistor in 1922. Aside from the addition of a safety valve in 1933 and thermostat in 1955, electric kettles haven’t changed a great deal since those early days in Brum.