Newman continues late colleague’s research

Updated on: 06/07/2017

Newman University is continuing the work of its late colleague, Dr Chris Upton, who as the region’s leading local historian, had researched the name of the well-known Needless Alley in Birmingham’s city centre.

Dr Chris Upton, who passed away in 2015, worked as a Reader in Local History at Newman University for many years, also writing regular columns for the Birmingham Post, including a feature on Needless Alley. In 2004 Chris was named as one of the region’s "living geniuses" by ITV Central. During his time at the university Dr Upton collected materials including maps,  pictures, documents, oral history recordings and printed materials, which now sit in Newman University’s local history collection in their library for current students, staff and researchers to use.

Recently, the university was approached by BBC WM, to find out more about Needless Alley. Using the materials that Chris Upton collected, Reader in Modern History at the university, Dr Ian Cawood, was able to continue the research. Dr Cawood said "Dr Upton’s research provided the basis for my investigations, using the university library’s collection of local history information."

The alley is called ‘Needless Alley’ as a corruption of the name ‘Needlers’ Alley’ referring to the needle workers who worked there during the industrial revolution; This was proved by a 1970s photograph which is held in the Newman collection which shows the last surviving needleworker’s shop.

Dr Cawood worked with the BBC to document the findings in a short video clip which was recently broadcast on BBC’s Midlands Today: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-birmingham-40203488/needless-alley-how-did-birmingham-street-get-its-name

Dr Upton’s lasting contribution to the heritage of the West Midlands is celebrated in an annual lecture held by the Archives and Heritage Service of the Library of Birmingham. This year the talk will be given by George Demidowicz of the University of Birmingham, who as head of archaeology at Coventry City Council for twenty years frequently worked with Chris. It will be held on Monday 6th November at 5:30pm in Room 101, Level 1, Library of Birmingham and is open to the public.

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