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Flickr: Véronique Debord-Lazaro

Seven urban myths about Birmingham

Written by
Chris Parkin

All great cities have urban myths and folk tales - and Birmingham is no different. However, with enough unlikely stories turning out to be completely true, like Lady Gaga treating punters in the Prince Of Wales to a round of drinks, working through the city's urban myths can be a nightmare. So let's make a start…

An actual vampire once stalked the streets of Birmingham
In the mid-noughties, a rumour began that a man was prowling around the Ward End area of the city biting chunks out of people. Once a few of these claims had made the news, there was a flood of calls from people living in Saltley, Small Heath and Alum Rock claiming to have been bitten when they opened their front doors. “I’m not worried, though; I’ve got a lot of crucifixes in the house,” said one local reverend. Despite all of this, no one reported any biting incidents to the police.

Flickr: Gaelx

There was a gypsy curse on St Andrew's
Birmingham City Football Club claimed their dismal performances on the pitch were the result of a 100-year gypsy curse put on the ground when Romani gypsies were evicted from the St Andrew's site in 1906. Oddly, Birmingham City’s fortunes did actually pick up from 2006, with promotion to the Premier League and a 2011 League Cup win. If recent seasons are anything to go by, though, perhaps someone’s put a new curse on the stadium.

Flickr: Elliott Brown

Birmingham has more canals than Venice
It is true that Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice but it has just six actual canals – 11 if you include the Digbeth Branch Canal, Tame Valley Canal and the three loop systems – while Venice has a whopping 177.

Flickr: Basti V

Charlie Chaplin was born in a gypsy caravan in Smethwick
Thanks to Peaky Blinders, this one has taken off again. The tale began decades ago after the discovery of a letter sent to the star by a Tamworth resident called Jack Hill. He wrote that Chaplin was born on the Black Patch in Smethwick to a gypsy queen. A few years ago, MI5 files encouraged the rumours. When the UK was asked by the US to investigate Chaplin’s communist sympathies they found no record of his birth. It had been assumed that Chaplin was born in London.

Flickr: Tom Margie

Chocolate bars come from Birmingham
The first ever chocolate bar – a mix of cocoa powder, sugar and melted cocoa butter extracted from the beans – was made in Bristol by Fry and Son in 1847. In fact, Birmingham didn’t even make the first milk chocolate bar. That accolade went to Swiss manufacturer Daniel Peter in 1875. Brum's beloved Cadbury didn’t make milk chocolate bars until 1897.

Flickr: Elliott Brown

Birmingham was once the capital of the UK
“Was Birmingham the capital of England?” is one of the most googled questions about the city. It’s an idea that’s probably been encouraged by proud Brummies sick of their beloved city being the butt of too many jokes. But it just isn’t true, so stop googling it.

Flickr: Jeff Djevdet

Birmingham City Council banned Christmas
This is one of those myths alighted on and used for devilry by swivel-eyed loons. In 1997, the council needed a way to promote 41 days of events taking place over the winter period, which included Children In Need, city-centre ice skating, arts events, New Year’s Eve and, of course, Christmas. The easiest way to plug all of these was under one banner: Winterval. The media jumped on it, however, claiming the city council had renamed (and even banned) Christmas.

Flickr: historyanorak

Which urban myths would you like to share or debunk? Leave a comment and tell us below.

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