Monday, 21 April 2014

Birmingham (Part 5 - Erdington to the City Centre)

Part 4 of our Birmingham journey took us from the south of the city to the city centre. Part 5 now takes us from the north to the city centre, starting with this building at 151 Sutton Road just to the north of Chester Road, otherwise known as the outer ring road.

Does anyone know what this building was originally used for? It looks like some form of municipal building given the design, quality and ornamentation. It seems to small to be any form of library, post office, police station, but the ground floor arrangement of windows suggest some form of public access, thus ruling out electricity or water sub stations.

The public access theory is also supported by the clock, which is now unfortunately starting to fall into disrepair. Has anyone started a campaign to restore this lovely building?

North of Chester Road is probably not officially recognised as being in Erdington, but we have now moved south into the territory proper. This is the junction of Sutton New Road with The Green, where we find Viktor's Drinkstore.

Just a bit along Erdington High Street is the church of St Barnabas.

The church was consecrated on 23 July 1824, and has only recently been restored after a major fire.

A bit off the beaten track now as we divert to the junction of Fern Road with Spring Lane to find the Lifestyle Express local store. There wasn't much rushing around when I was there, so perhaps fast life styles only happen at certain times in these parts.

And our speedy living would be somewhat messed up by this clock which is not working (or perhaps it is just a cunning plan to make you think it is much later than it really is, and therefore you need to stock up with goods immediately - if only there were a convenient store open - oh look there is!)

Another church, this time St Peter and St Paul in Witton Lane, Aston. The building originally dates from the 15th century, but was substantially rebuilt during the 1880s.

This church has only one clock face, which now faces the flyover of the A38(M) Aston Expressway.

Opposite the church is Aston Hall, work on which started in 1618 and was completed in the 1630s.

The clock itself is a later addition from 1867.

From Aston Hall to Aston Cross, the junction of Lichfield Road and Park Lane.

This is the site of a medieval cross, subsequently replaced by a brick clock tower in the style of Aston Hall. This tower was, however, unstable, and was replaced by the current cast-iron tower in 1891.

You can see from above that this clock is non too reliable.

The plaque notes that the clock tower was manufactured and erected by George Smith and Company of the Sun Foundry in Glasgow. The Sun Foundry operated from 1858 to 1899, making all sorts of ornamental iron work, including bandstands and railings.

Our final stop is the Barton Arms on the High Street (A34) at its junction with Park Lane. This pub has two clocks - we start with the small one above its entrance.

But we look up to the top of the building to see this lovely clock tower with multiple faces, proudly proclaiming the pub's name. This is how all pubs should be built. Talking of which, it was built in 1901, and is said to have been the haunt of Laurel and Hardy (

And what better way to end our tour of Birmingham than with a trip to the pub!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Birmingham (Part 4 - Bournville to Five Ways)

Today we take a nice long walk from Bournville to Five Ways. Although it was a windy and cloudy day, so not the best conditions for walking or for taking photographs.

Our first location is the Bournville Baths of 1904 on Bournville Lane, and part of the Bournville estate established by the Cadbury chocolate company.

The contrast with the more modern building surrounding it works quite well, although the street furniture detracts a little.

Right next door is the recreation ground, and its amazing half-timbered pavilion of 1902. The building is slightly over the top for its functions, but who cares?

The clock itself is very simple, and faces out onto the grounds.

Turning into Linden Road we start to pass the entrances to the Cadbury factory and to its visitor attraction Cadbury World. No time for chocolate tours today as we have plenty of clocks to seek out. Including this example on one of the gatehouses.


A short way to the north along Linden Road is this amazing bell tower.

And all the more amazing is it is on the Bournville Junior School of 1905, and is accompanied by a lovely clock.


"Carpe Diem" - seize the day.

The whole of Bournville is worth exploring (probably on a sunnier and calmer day) as there are all sorts of gems.
With reference to clocks, you can spot this example tucked away behind the premises fronting Sycamore Road.

Time for a little stretch of the legs now, up Linden Road, into Oak Tree Lane, and then right into Bristol Road. Now the huge clock tower of the University of Birmingham (forever known as Edgbaston Poly to this Aston graduate) hoves into view.

But before we get there (as it can be seen from a long way off), we make a quick diversion into Dale Road to visit the student accommodation of Jarratt Hall.

At last we reach the university campus itself. This immensely tall structure is the Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, named after the first Chancellor of the university (and various other public offices as we have seen elsewhere in Birmingham).

The tower is modelled on the Torre del Mangia in Siena, and was designed by Aston Webb and Ingress Bell. It was completed in 1908. There are different versions of how tall it is, but it is at least 100 metres. This height was put to good use in 1940 when it was used for radar experiments.

The clock is by Joyce of Whitchurch, with a face diameter of 5.25 metres. The minute hand is 4.1 metres long.

Elsewhere on the campus is the more modern Public Health building.

On the other side of the Worcester and Birmingham Canal is the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. This massive complex has another tall clock tower with an enormous dial, seemingly providing a challenge to its university neighbour.

To the west of the hospital campus is the much newer building. Here the clock is inside the main reception area, which I suppose makes more sense from the patient's point of view.

A walk to the north brings us to the High Street in Harbourne.

The old school building is now a branch of Prezzo and I think is used for other purposes as well.

It is a shame it is no longer a school, but it is pleasing to see that the building and its clock tower have been retained and is looking in good health.

Talking of schools, at the end of the High Street we turn into Somerset Road to visit the Blue Coat School and its pleasant grounds.

Following the Harbourne Road we eventually meet the less salubrious setting of the  Hagley Road.

The Ivy Bush pub is on the junction of Hagley Road with Monument Road.

A little way east towards the city centre is The Oratory of Saint Philip Neri, built in 1851.

We are nearing the end of our walk now. the penultimate site is Morrison's supermarket Hagley Road at Five Ways.

And finally, the Five Ways clock.