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SO PROUD OF GREAT GRANDAD JOSEPH... Relative joins commemorations marking 100th anniversary of Chamberlain death.

Byline: FIONNUALA BOURKE fionnuala.bourke@trinitymirror.com

Joseph Chamberlain AGREAT grandson of Joseph Chamberlain - the godfather of modern Birmingham - last night told of his pride at his ancestor's achievements in the city on the 100th anniversary of his death.

Oliver Chamberlain has travelled to Birmingham from his home in Dorset to join the commemorations being held across the city to mark the passing of its former Mayor on July 2, 1914.

His father, Austin, is the eldest son of Joseph's eldest son, also named Austin - the British Statesman and Nobel Prize Winner.

Oliver who works as a land agent, was a guest at Newman University conference on Friday to discuss his great-grandfather's achievements. Under the banner 'Joseph Chamberlain: Imperial Standard Bearer, National Leader, Local Icon' it assessed Chamberlain's work as Mayor of Birmingham, Colonial Secretary, leader of the Liberal Unionist Party and Tariff Reform.

"I am very proud of my greatgrandfather's achievements. He was an outstanding politician of his age," said Oliver, who is also Chairman of the Wessex Reserve Forces and Cadets Association.

"He was a great social reformer at a time when great social reform was important. He was the architect of modern city governance work and how local government was run.

"My grandfather spoke about him while I was growing up but my father never knew him. He was born in 1917, three years after Joseph Chamberlain died.

"My great aunts, Hilda and Ida, Joseph Chamberlain's daughters also spoke about him. Joseph had three wives - and we always remembered his third wife, Mary, as 'Grandma.'" ."

Oliver says he would like to visit Birmingham more often if other commitments permit.

"I don't come to Birmingham as often as I should do," he told the Sunday Mercury. "I did marry a girl from Worcester, whose father worked in Birmingham, so I have other links to the city, too.

"I've visited Highbury Hall (Joseph Chamberlain's former home in Moseley) and Birmingham University, where he was the first Chancellor.

"But the furthest I have got in politics is the parish council! After my father and my uncle, Neville Chamberlain, there haven't been any more politicians in the family. My eldest daughter, Caroline Squire, is quite keen."

Fifty of Joseph Chamberlain's descendants, including Oliver, are due to attend a memorial dinner at the House of Commons this week, sponsored by Robin Walker, Conservative MP for Worcester. Such is Birmingham's gratitude to Joseph Chamberlain that its citizens held the biggest birthday party in their history to mark his 70th birthday in July 1906.

Half a million turned out to thank 'Our Joe' on that special day.

As the mayor of Birmingham for an unprecedented three years from 1873 to 1875 Joseph Chamberlain transformed his adopted town both economically and physically.

He moved to Birmingham from London to join his uncle's screwmaking business Nettlefolds, later part of Guest, Keen and Nettlefolds, later known as GKN.

His "gas and water socialism" - the belief that local utilities should be in the hands of the people who lived there - saw the council take control of energy supplies, making a handsome profit, which was ploughed in to providing more facilities for Birmingham.

Rundown streets were bulldozed and replaced by a new "Parisian boulevard" christened Corporation Street.

Out went the crowded ghettoes of Thomas Street and the Minories, and in came the fivestorey offices and shops of a modern city.

There was an ambitious school building programme, assize courts, new libraries and public baths, and a Council House to be proud of, overlooking the city centre square which bears his name.

Yet there are no statues of Joseph Chamberlain in the city - partly due to his Protestant non-conforminst background - and he is buried in an obscure corner of Key Hill Cemetery, in Hockley. His eldest son, Austin, whose mother Harriet died in childbirth, was first elected to Parliament as a member of his father's Liberal Unionist Party in 1892, sitting in the seat of East Worcestershire, Austin was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1926 for his work aimed at ensuring peace between Germany and France while he was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs from 1924 to 1929.

Upon his father's death he became the member for West Birmingham, holding the seat until his own death in 1937.

Austin's half-brother Neville was Prime Minister from 1937 to 1940 after becoming an MP at the age of 49 in 1918. Neville was born in Edgbaston and was the only son of Joseph Chamberlain and his second wife, Florence, Harriet's cousin.

He was an outstanding politician of his age and a great social reformer at a time when great social reform was important.

CAPTION(S):

Joseph Chamberlain's greatgrandson |Oliver Chamberlain and, below with Joseph's great-great granddaughter, Caroline Squire
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 6, 2014
Words:788
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