What Is the Birmingham Red Light District?

The Birmingham red light district is a section of the English city of Birmingham that is historically notorious for the prevalence of illegal prostitution. Prostitution first came to the area during the 1950s, and it subsequently thrived for many decades before its nearly complete eradication in the 1990s.

This area of Birmingham, formally known as Balsall Heath, was a respectable working class neighborhood throughout the first half of the 20th century. However, partly due to a surge in criminal behavior in the 1950s, much of the property value dropped, causing a considerable portion of the population to move away to more vibrant locations. Additionally, local officials demolished a number of neighborhood residences, further adding to the sense of deterioration. Consequently, prostitution and other crimes, such as drug-dealing, increased.

By the 1970s, the neighborhood had become infamous for the large population of prostitutes, pimps and brothels participating in this illegal industry. Cheddar Road was one of the epicenters of the trade, and it is estimated that at one time, more than a dozen pimps and 450 prostitutes worked there. Additionally, at least half of the 50 homes in the area are thought to have been employed as brothels. In 1992, a proposal was forwarded by some local officials aimed at creating zones of tolerance for prostitution, though this did not ultimately resonate with enough of the population. By 1994, residents developed street patrols designed to expel pimps and prostitutes, leading to a two-thirds decrease in activity. By 1995, residents claimed that it was all but eliminated, and the area saw a demonstrable 21st century revitalization.