This Web Page is Birmingham Pictorial, updated, 10th December 2013
All photos © Robert Darlaston
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suffering from much damage and neglect during the war years.
There were corners which were pleasant enough, but no one would have called the city attractive, colourful or vibrant.
That was the place we left in the early 1970s.
Today, when we go back to see old friends we are struck by the changes since those days.
These photographs were all taken on such ‘tourist’ visits and show that the once boring old industrial city in the Midlands
is now, in fact, a place of considerable interest and style.
Left: Queen Victoria’s statue in Victoria Square, with the Town Hall beyond.
Panorama of Victoria Square: the
former GPO building is at the extreme left, then the
Town Hall designed by Joseph Hansom and based on the
Left: The Council House; right: looking across Victoria Square towards Waterloo Street.
Chamberlain Square with the Art Gallery entrance at the left and the rear of the Town Hall to the right.
Two more views with the Town Hall: left, towards the Art Gallery entrance (beneath the clock tower) and, right, across what was once Ratcliff Place, where now Queensway emerges from a tunnel beneath the 1960s Library.
Left: Summer in Colmore Row, looking towards Snow Hill station, with the Cathedral Precinct to the right.
Right: Christmas in the Great Western Arcade, built over the cutting taking the Great Western Railway company’s line into Snow Hill station.
Left: Looking up Corporation Street from the entrance to New Street station. At the left is the former Midland Bank building which has since become a remarkably palatial branch of Waterstone’s bookshop.
Waterloo Street, built at the time of
St Philip’s Cathedral, dedicated in
1715 and designed by Thomas Archer, is based on the baroque churches of Bernini
and Borromini in
Two more views of the Cathedral
The Bull Ring:
Nelson looks down on the Bull Ring, as he has since his statue was erected in 1809. But now he stands before the futuristic Selfridges’ department store, which looks exotic by day and even more so by night.
The Bull Ring gained its name from bull-baiting which took place there about 700 years ago.
early 1960s the street market was held in a traditional wide open space in
Selfridges’ store by night.
It was originally used as offices, but has now been upgraded and converted to residential use.
Close to the Bull Ring; Moor Street station concourse. The steam locomotive is preserved for display purposes.
Finest of the city’s railway stations was Curzon Street, opened in 1838 and terminus of the London & Birmingham Railway.
(Right) A close-up of the arms of the L&BR over the main entrance.
The building survives out of use, but is no longer owned by the railway. Regular passenger trains ceased to use the station when New Street was opened in 1854, but the building continued in use as railway goods offices until 1968.
The Victoria Law Courts in Corporation Street; a remarkable building of ornate
terracotta, opened in 1891. Queen
Centenary Square, looking towards Symphony Hall, which was completed in 1991 and opened by H.M. the Queen. The Repertory Theatre is at the extreme right.
Left: the interior of Symphony Hall, widely recognised as having one of the finest acoustics in the world.
the statue in Broad Street, opposite Centenary Square, of the three
eighteenth-century men who were behind
Also in Centenary Square is the new Library of Birmingham, opened in August 2013.
This remarkable building, with its reconstructed Victorian Shakespeare Room and its two roof gardens (one is pictured right), replaced
the inverted concrete ziggurat built in the 1960s and reviled by the Prince of Wales, which in turn had replaced the much loved Victorian Library.
Broad Street, just beyond Symphony Hall, and (a hundred yards up to the right) Oozells Street with the ornate Ikon Gallery just discernible through the Cherry Trees
The view from Gas Street basin to the Hyatt Hotel, and an unchanged area by the Worcester Bar
Left: Pleasure boats on the canal behind Symphony Hall (at the left) with Broad Street crossing the bridge in the background.
Right: Surviving older buildings alongside the canal, with the National Indoor Arena in the distance.
The canal behind Symphony Hall on a winter’s afternoon and a Spring evening.
The University of Birmingham
Pleasure boats on the
Edgbaston is a
spacious and leafy suburb little more than a mile from the city centre.
hand picture shows part of the
Court The buildings were
designed by Sir Aston Webb, best known for designing the façade of
The statue of George I, by Jan Van Nost, dating from 1722, outside the Barber Institute of Fine Art near the University entrance.
The Barber Institute is regarded as
one of the finest small art galleries in
The entrance to the Great Hall, completed in 1909.
photograph explains the origin of the once derogatory phrase “Redbrick”, used
by Oxbridge men about “lesser, provincial” universities. In the early years of the war
Left: “Old Joe”, the university clock tower, named after Joseph Chamberlain who was the driving force to establish the university and who was its first Chancellor. The tower is 325 feet high and modelled on the Torre di Mangia in Sienna.
Right: The Vale, part of the university’s extensive campus. This land formed the grounds of private residential property until acquired by the university after the war.
Continuing south-westwards down the Bristol Road:
A little further down the Bristol Road from the University: Selly Manor in Bournville. Parts of the building date back to 1327.
The suburb of Bournville was developed in the 1890s by the Quaker Cadbury family as a “model village” for employees of their chocolate factory. The houses, built in the Arts and Crafts style, remain much sought-after, particularly by university staff.
once property of the Earls of Plymouth, were acquired by the city between 1888
and 1920. To the left enthusists fly kites with a view over the city beyond. The other photograph faces in the opposite
direction, with views across Worcestershire, over Bromsgrove and the
Left: Where world industrialisation first began – Soho House, the home of Matthew Boulton from 1766 to 1809.
Boulton, William Murdock, Erasmus Darwin, Joseph Priestley, Josiah Wedgwood, William Withering and James Watt were the architects of the Industrial Revolution. They called themselves the Lunar Society and met at Soho House to discuss scientific projects and the development of modern means of manufacture. The society was so named because, in the days before street lights, they met at full moon to take advantage of the moonlight when walking to and from Soho House.
Soho Manufactury was built nearby
and supplied fine ware to many of the Courts of Europe.
The Chamberlain Clock, erected in 1903 at the junction of Warstone Lane, Vyse Street and Frederick Street. Joseph Chamberlain was at one time M.P. for the district.
Caroline Street: a Georgian building with an elegant portico, still in use as a workshop.
Attractive brickwork on the façade of this jewellery works in Vittoria Street.
permanently open (i.e. “welcoming”) gates of the Jewellery Business Centre,
commissioned by H.R.H. the Prince of Wales in the 1990s and sculpted in steel
and brass with glass ‘jewels’. The
initials of the Centre can be seen within the doorway, set out in hallmark
style, with the customary
Right: A traditional Birmingham street sign in the Jewellery Quarter.
Vyse Street, with various local jewellery ‘outlets’ to tempt the buying public and, at the right, the recently opened Jewellery Quarter railway station, largely obscured by the 19th century gentlemen’s urinal, made in Glasgow from cast iron.
The Stately Homes of
A couple of miles from the city centre takes one to Aston Hall, built in 1634 for Sir Thomas Holte. It was acquired in 1818 by James Watt jnr but was bought by Birmingham Corporation as a museum in the 1850s. The interior contains a particularly impressive Long Gallery (right).
On the eastern fringes of the city is Castle Bromwich Hall, a Jacobean mansion completed in 1585, and once a seat of the Earls of Bradford. The hall is privately owned and not open, but the gardens include the last surviving baroque garden, to which the public is admitted.
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My memories of childhood in
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