Wednesday, 30 April 2014


Telford is a town of contrasts, resulting from a New Town designated in 1963 built amongst, and annexing, several small towns.

The Telford part of wider Telford is the hard core new town bit, served by Telford Central railway station. Walking into the town centre from the railway station is one of the most depressing experiences you can have, with desolate spaces punctuated by dual carriageway roads that make no connection with their surroundings. The unfriendly and not-at-all obvious which way you are going / meant to be going footways eventually lead you to the central part, a series of car centric office blocks surrounding a large shopping centres. Oh, but there are a few old style (but fake) signs which I assume are meant to make you think that this part of town has a rich heritage. Do you get the feeling that I don't like the place?

So to the large shopping centre / mall. Aaaaarrrghhhh, I hate these places. Having said that, Telford Shopping Centre as it is called is slightly better than most because (a) it is called Telford Shopping Centre rather than some ridiculous made up name (e.g The Glades), (b) it is relatively old school (1973) and therefore has a straightforward layout rather than the more modern ones which are deliberately designed to make you lost so that you stay and spend more money, and (c), which might be a reason for (b), it has no people-centric street layout outside with which to disassociate itself with (which is not a good advert for Telford itself). There is another reason, (d), which I will come on to.

But because of its relative unawfulness I will allow this picture of a projected clock (which is not normally allowable in my blog).

The shopping centre connects directly to the bus station, where you get a welcome glimpse of the outside world. You also get this clock on the end wall.

The bus station is small and simple, but light and airy, and the simple clock is enhanced by its artistic background. The station handles 2,500 passengers per day. A report in the Shropshire Star in October 2013 had the headline "Demolition of Telford Bus Station is halted". Apparently demolition was planned as part of a town centre "improvement". Telford is an odd town, and not in a good way.

On the other side of the shopping centre this this clock tower, or rather some form of ventilation shaft enhanced slightly by tacking a clock on top. Quite depressing really.

Reason (d), which you have all been waiting for, is in my view the only reason for visiting central Telford at all. For (d) is this mad frog and track clock, otherwise known as the Telford Time Machine.

The whole set up is a design by Kit Williams, and was installed in 1995.

Metal balls move along the track on a large wheel, and the frog opens its mouth to blow bubbles (although none present when I visited).

Overall it is a large structure, totally captivating and totally mad (in a good way). It is also well located in a light and high-ceilinged part of the shopping centre, so that viewing is a pleasure.

Time to leave central Telford (for which I am truly thankful) and venture to the older constituent parts of the town. We are now in Wellington, and the Wrekin Buildings at the junction of Crown Street and Walker Street.

This is now a furniture shop, but clearly started life as something different.

The clock is rather an odd addition to the building.

Modernity has reached Wellington in the shape of a Morrisons supermarket. As so often with Morrisons, the shop has a clock. Not a particularly imaginative one, but a clock is a clock.

We are now at All Saints, an ancient church site but the current building dates from a relatively modern 1790.

The Wellington Community Clock is situated in Market Square. If you look carefully between the posts you can just see our next clock.

Did you spot it? No shame if you didn't, because even close up you are not sure whether it is a clock or not. (and also note the Wrekin Buildings clock in the background).

This is mounted on David Lloyd jewellers, and you can just make out the faded letters spelling out the name on the face.

Next stop is Wrekin College in Sutherland Road, originally known as Wellington College and opened in 1880.

Keeping with the educational theme, this is New College, Telford in King Street.

The road from Wellington back to Telford Central passes through Ketley.

This building is the Ketley Community Centre, home of the parish council and many other activities.

We are now in Oakengates. Two clocks here - the first on the offices of Tranter Lowe chartered accountants at the western end of Market Street:

And the second at this café in Market Street. Rather faded and not currently working.

This is where we end our tour of Telford.

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!