Friday, 4 April 2014

Birmingham (Part 1 - City Centre)

This is the start of an epic trek around the West Midlands. There is a lot of ground to cover, and I know I have missed some clocks out (just not enough time), and there must be loads of others that I do not know exist.

Our Birmingham escapade begins in the city centre - my definition being the area within the Queensway inner ring road (and a later posting will cover the many clocks which lie the other side of this road, and could easily be described as being in the city centre - so really the city centre is being defined by how many clocks is it reasonable to include on one posting, which I admit is not the usual way of creating geographical boundaries. But being unusual doesn't mean that it is not legitimate. Am I rambling? Ok, let's move on).

The tour starts in Victoria Square - appropriate as so many clocks around Britain date from the Victorian era. It is also home of the now superseded Central Library (ok, this is actually in the adjacent Chamberlain Square), a glorious brutalist building designed by John Madin, and a place of many happy memories from my student days.

Its replacement is close by, and is another fine building. However, I can't help thinking that the outer decoration looks like barbed wire, which is surely not the right image for a building that should be welcoming people in.

Anyway, none of this has anything to do with what we are supposed to be talking about. So let's look at the clock on the Council House.

The clock is supposedly known locally as Big Brum, and the tower dates from 1885.

The view below is from the roof terrace of the new library.

I'm not sure what this next building is, but it appears to be flying the red flag and therefore is perhaps the headquarters of the Birmingham Socialist Republic.

Victoria Square House is on the south side of Victoria Square. It was originally the General Post Office of 1891.

This clock above the doorway is a rather modest affair.

However, to the rear of the building is a much more modern extension, with a much larger clock.

We move on past the reconstruction of Birmingham New Street station and up into Cannon Street. 

Here we find The Windsor public house. Last time I visited the clock was surrounded by a Samuel Coopers Free House sign, but this has now been replaced by a picture of what I assume is Windsor Castle.

Back down onto New Street and along to the junction with Corporation Street. Here we find Slater Menswear, and its three-faced clock high up above the street.

Just around the corner on Corporation Street is what was once upon a time Nathan's, but is currently an empty shop.

Incidentally, am I the only person who misses the subways which used to be along Corporation Street, and their strange below street level worlds in the traffic roundabouts?
Anyway, we divert down Union Street and on to High Street where we come across this clock tower.

The story of the clock is told on a metal plate on the base. It was originally sited outside the Kings Head public house on Hagley Road, but was removed for road widening in 1971. It was then moved in 1979 to its current location. The clock dates from about 1900.

The next picture shows the High Street clock (amongst the branches) and our next port of call - the clock tower in Priory Square.

We move through Priory Square and back on to Corporation Street. Here we find the Victoria Law Courts building, designed by Aston Webb and Ingress Bell, and opened on 21 July 1891.

And at the end of Corporation Street as it turns back on itself to become Steelhouse Lane is Lancaster Place.

Heading down Steelhouse Lane we arrive at Bull Street. Here we find what must be the hardest clock to spot in the city. You really have to know where you are looking and then crane your neck to see this example high up on the side of a tower, with buildings all around you at ground level.

It was only because I knew there was a clock on this building that I spotted it at all, and that was after several visits to the site.

This is Temple Point (formerly known as Windsor House) on Temple Row.

Close by is the Great Western Arcade, opened in 1876 and built on iron supporting arches which span the railway line into Snow Hill station.

The clock is at the northern end of the arcade, and is very similar to that on the Victoria Law Courts building (which I have only just noticed whilst preparing this blog entry).

Moving southwest along Colmore Row, we arrive at St Philips, Birmingham's Church of England cathedral.

The building was consecrated in 1715, but was only designated as a cathedral in 1905. It is apparently the third smallest cathedral in England.

Our final stop on our city centre tour is the Birmingham and Midland Institute on Margaret Street.

This wall mounted clock next to the entrance is one of the most unusual clock mountings that I have come across.
So, we have completed our tour of the city centre. It is now time to make the dangerous journey across the inner ring road......


  1. The Kings Head clock has now gone back to the Kings Head at Bearwood but not in its original place. It is now on the diagonally opposite corner

  2. David, thanks for this update.