By JR on Saturday, July 30, 2011
It encapsulates a manufacturing heritage stretching back 250 years. During the Napoleonic Wars, almost 1.9million muskets, rifles, carbines and pistols were manufactured for the Government in the district's numerous weapons factories.
But Birmingham's historic Gun Quarter is now to be renamed because of concerns that it could be linked with the firearms crime which blights other parts of the city. Officials said residents no longer wanted to be associated with weapons of war.
Instead the district to the north and west of the city centre will be known as St George and St Chad in recognition of a local church and Birmingham's catholic cathedral.
Yesterday, opponents of the rebranding exercise said the Gun Quarter had been sacrificed on the altar of political correctness, while even the Dean of St Chad's Cathedral said the decision sounded 'irrational'.
Tim Huxtable, Birmingham City Council's Tory head of regeneration, said the decision had been taken after a public consultation, although one petition received by the council was signed by just 50 people objecting to Gun Quarter.
He said: 'We listened to the local community, which is the whole point of consultation. The views of local people seem quite clear.'
Sir Albert Bore, leader of the opposition Labour group, said: 'What kind of nonsense is it when we replace the Gun Quarter with St George and St Chad? 'Like it or not, and I am not into the arms trade myself, the Gun Quarter has a historical connection with this city. This is just political correctness.'
The name change was described as a 'terrible shame' by the owner of one of the few surviving gun makers in the district. Simon Clode, managing director of Westley Richards and Co, said: 'This is an important part of Birmingham's history. The area is not well occupied by gun makers now, but it's still the Gun Quarter.'
The Very Reverend Canon Gerry Breen, Dean of St Chad's Cathedral, said the name change was 'almost as irrational as deciding not to call the Black Country the Black Country'.
Reverend Larry Wright, Rector of St George's Church, however, said he was among those who had lobbied the council to change the name. 'We wrote on behalf of our own congregation - many of whom wanted a name change to move away from any suggestion that this area was associated with gun crime,' he said. 'But they could have come up with something snappier (than St George and St Chad).'
A council spokesman insisted the gunsmith area would live on as a separately defined part of the new St George and St Chad quarter.