Saturday, 29 September 2012

Rednal Tram Terminus

The Rednal Tram Terminus is exactly as the name suggests; a terminus for the old Birmingham tram network! Trams used to come down the Bristol Road from the City Centre and take people to the Lickey Hills in Bromsgrove for their holidays. The old terminus building is still standing. Use has changed over the years from public toilets to varying restaurants (it is now a Cantonese takeaway).

Around the back of the building, there is a section of old cobbled street, and inlaid in the cobbles are two sections of track, which come to a point at one end. These are the remains of the tram tracks! Some of the cobbles are covered with grass but most of it is uncovered. There are no signs telling you what these are, which I think is a shame. The other end of the tram lines is in the city centre, by the Gas Hall.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Walking for Heritage; More Toilets

...and a viaduct with pieces missing!

Thus post contains two elements, neither of which are on the actual walk guide, but are on the route. I have included them as points of interest as you will see them as you walk the route!

More Toilets
This time, a Victorian public urinal! Gosh I spoil you all don’t I?!

Located on the corner of Great Barr St and Heath Mill Lane, Digbeth, this structure has been closed off from the public. I only know about it and what it is because when I was at college in an attempt to become a plumber, we had a full scale discussion about it!

As far as I know, the inside is just a metal wall which gents can pee against, and some poor Victorian child probably had the job of cleaning it. It is quite a fine metal structure and the detail on the external panels is very decorative. I think it is cast iron. 

Partial Viaduct
This is quite something. This wall, as seen on Heath Mill Lane (if walking from Deritend back towards Eastside), doesn’t look like much. It’s only a wall, right?


Once you step onto the towpath and look back up at it, you will see that it is part of a huge brick built structure, a bridge, that goes across the canal. There are no signs to tell you anything about this, but a look on my old mate Google Earth at this area seems to suggest that this was built for use as a railway bridge! I am not sure if it was ever used to carry tracks through this area. It seems quite strange to knock out the archways over the road sections if it was just built to look pretty.

It is quite a peculiar thing to notice once you know that it isn’t just another really high brick wall! You can read more about them both here.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Walking for Heritage; Heath Mill Lane

The Walking for Heritage route now takes you from Deritend High Street at the Old Crown, down Heath Mill Lane towards Fazeley Street and the canal.

As the name suggests, there was once a corn grinding mill on this lane, powered by the water from the River Rea. I cannot find much information about this mill, though I did find out that it was unusual as it had two mill wheels which were in tandem.

One of the original Free Libraries of Birmingham is also situated on Heath Mill Lane, opposite the Old Crown.

Other points of interest down this road is the wall made of crushed cars, some Victorian urinals (which are the focus of the next post!) and also St Basils church.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

University of Birmingham Blue Plaque; Fred Shotton

"University of Birmingham. Frederick Shotton. Furthered understanding of climate change 1949-1974"

On the wall outside the Lapworth Museum of Geology, on the Edgbaston campus of the University of Birmingham.

Fred Shotton was also key to the D-Day Landings. Read more here and here.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Walking for Heritage; The Old Crown

This is stop 08 on the Walking for Heritage route. It is near the Custard Factory and the old Lloyd’s Bank – it is in fact over the road from the latter, on the corner of Heath Mill Lane/High Street Deritend.

A real gem, this! I love it, I love walking past it, I love looking at it!

The Old Crown is indeed very old – it dates back to the 1300s but most of it is actually 16th century in age. It was possibly built for intended use as a guildhall, which would make it the first school in Birmingham. It is white and black timber framed and the top floor overhangs the bottom. There is a courtyard (beer garden!) to the rear and it looks almost like old stables – I was going to ask at the bar but I chickened out. Given the location, it is a strange building but then I suppose Birmingham grew around it, not the other way around!

I found an architects drawing whilst researching this blog post. It’s really interesting to see how much it hasn’t changed! There are also some old photos and information here.

The Old Crown has upstairs rooms and is also a B&B – I can’t seem to get on the website at the moment but when I can I’ll update this post.

When I was doing the walk, I went inside for a quick look. It feels like a proper pub - low ceilings, big oak tables, fires. There are pictures on the walls and the tables have key dates from history burnt into them.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Walking for Heritage; Lloyd's Bank

This blog post follows on from the previous WfH post about the Custard Factory. This next location is pretty much in the same place – it is now a music shop that you walk past when entering the Custard Factory site!

Lloyd’s bank goes back in time to 1765 and has its roots in Birmingham. You can read more about it here.

When I was doing the walk I actually forgot about it and had to go back! As such, the pictures I took were not very good, but fortunately some kind people of the Flickr-verse have loads, so here they are.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Walking for Heritage; The Custard Factory

The Custard Factory is the next location on the Walking for Heritage route. To get here, continue walking down Digbeth High Street, away from the city centre. The Custard Factory will be on your left. This blog follows on from the previous WfH post.

The Custard Factory is sometimes called the Devonshire Works, and was built in 1902 as a… custard factory! This was the home of Alfred Bird and his eggless custard powder. This grand building is now a complex of offices, galleries, independent shops and I believe a TV studio. It is also the home of my favourite bead shop!

Bird’s also produced baking powder and blancmange, and their custard powder is still used today.

The Custard Factory is the place to be for creative, arty types. The atmosphere there is very chilled out; people can wonder around, walk through it, browse the shops and get a bite to eat. The building exterior has been preserved (the letter box still exists in the wall!) and it is very grand and imposing.

The exterior of the Custard Factory, taken from an open top buz

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Birmingham Coat of Arms

The Birmingham Coat of Arms is a beautiful piece of work; so much colour, so many things to look at, so many elements formed into one item. I  had to do a mini project about it when I was in primary school, and sometimes I'm shocked at how many people who either don't know we have one, or what it looks like. Hopefully this blog will help explain it a bit!

The Coat of Arms is used as a symbol to identify people, families, clans and tribes. They are used today to separate cities (for example, the City of London and the City of Westminster - pretty much the same place [I use this term loosely!], but different coat of arms)


The Birmingham Coat of Arms was first used in 1838 when Birmingham was a borough. It has changed several times, with parts added and colours changed. It is based on the de Bermingham family armorial bearings, and the supporters (the female and male figures on each side) were added in 1899 when Birmingham became a City. In 1976 a new Coat of Arms was adopted, this time incorporating Sutton Coldfield (the Tudor Rose in the crown which commemorates Henry VIII granting a charter to Sutton Coldfield in 1528).

The colours and patterns of the main shield are taken from the City Flag, which can be seen flying from the Council House daily. Parts of the flag date back to 1325. The ermine cross which goes across the shield represents Edgbaston and Sutton Coldfield, and the Bishops mitre in the centre represents John Vesey, Bishop of Exeter, who was born in Sutton and procured the charter from Henry VIII, amongst other things.

Quite a lot of history in our Coat of Arms! You can see it in most places around the City - it features on buildings, road signs and used to be on the buses and rubbish trucks!

You can read more about it here, as well as by following the links in the text.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Glacial Erratic in Cannon Hill Park

My mission to find all the glacial boulders continues!

I visited Cannon Hill Park last week with my family and may have quoted Donkey from Shrek as I walked past the boulder. This lump of rock used to have a fence around it, and also a notice board to say what it was. Neither of these are here any more!

You can read more about the boulder here and here. Do you have any memories of it? Let me know!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Walking for Heritage; Public Toilets!

I have included these on the blog purely as an attempt to show off.

Behind this billboard on the way down Digbeth High Street towards the Custard Factory, is an old block of public toilets! I only know this because it was on the telly a while ago on a programme called Grime Busters (I think, I may be wrong!) and some poor council guy had to go in wearing full PPE and breathing equipment to try and clear up all the pigeon poo!

The only hint at this being a toilet block is around the side (facing the High St) – the blue tiled wall gives it away.

The remains of these toilets can be seen on Digbeth High Street, as you walk from the HMV Institute towards the Custard Factory. You are now entering Deritend, possibly the oldest part of Birmingham.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Walking for Heritage; HMV Institute

The next stop on the route is the HMV Institute, just down the high street from the police station. Walk away from the city centre and you’ll see it!

The HMV Institute is now a music venue (and quite a good one at that), but it was originally built to be a Methodist chapel in the early 1900s.

The exterior of the building is very ornate – red brick and stone work – and there are some carved stone figures, all of which are different. More can be read on the Wiki page.

You can read more about Digbeth here. This is stop 5 of the Walking for Heritage route.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Walking for Heritage; Digbeth Police Station

This blog posts continues the Walking for Heritage route. The previous post can be read here

From the Typhoo Tea Factory, follow the route of the walk (Fazeley St, New Canal St, Meriden St, Coventry St, Allison St, Digbeth High Street]. The police station is on the corner on your left. You will also pass a second ‘art house’ on the way.

The Digbeth police station is a grand building, designed by Henry Stilgoe (the City Surveyor) in 1911. I can’t find much more information about its history, which is a shame. If anyone knows of any then do let me know! This police station is still in use today.

As I was walking down Allison St, I saw the police station (pretty awesomely) reflected in the windows of the building opposite! 

One more pic 

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Lifford Lake, King's Norton

A hidden gem! I found it on Google Earth, and then proceeded to hunt it out and find it. And boy, did I find it! This is another wondrous place – it is surrounded by industry (the Lifford household recycling centre is a stone’s throw away) and there are no signs from the road that make it obvious. I found my way there from Lifford Lane – take Tunnel Lane (signposted as the River Rea Heritage Trail), and Lifford Lake is straight up this road. There is a small car parking area, and then the following sign is visible:

The space opens out to reveal a large body of water – this was once a compensation lake for the nearby mill (which you passed as you walked up Tunnel Lane – this is now on private land, but you can see the buildings from the gate, as well as the sandstone folly). Lifford Lake was built in 1815 and is popular for fishing. I took a panoramic photo while I was there.

You can read more about Lifford here.

Pics taken by me, August 24th 2012. They are up on Flickr!