• Welcome to this forum Guest. We are a worldwide group with a common interest in Birmingham and its history. While here, please follow a few simple rules. We ask that you respect other members, thank those who have helped you and please keep your contributions on-topic with the thread.

    We do hope you enjoy your visit. BHF Admin Team

A TRIBUTE TO OLD BIRMINGHAM

JeannetteM

knowlegable brummie
The Great Western Arcade was excitement for me when I was a youngster. It was a beautiful area to walk along, such lovely architecture above the shops. Every shop seemed so ‘posh’. Very different place now. Then when I was out and about, well into my teens, arranging to meet your friend for a night out in Birmingham. The meeting place was always outside the front of Rackhams, I remember it so well. So many people like me waiting there, to meet up with their mates.
 

Bob Davis

Bob Davis
This is a very interesting thread, Lyn, full of memories, and many thanks for starting it. First, I used to love going into town with Mom when I was young - we'd walk down and catch the No39 at Witton Circle, then spend an afternoon (during the school holidays, of course) touring the shops. Lewis's and Grey's were both our favourites, then we'd go to the Home & Colonial and later Rackham's. Maybe coffee and a chocolate cake in Drucker's. Later, when I was older and with money in my pocket, I loved spending entire Saturdays in town, in the shops, the Museums (especially the Science Museum), and looking for clothes in the many and various outfitters. Cecil Gee was my favourite. A snack in the Kardomah opposite Snow Hill Station, and when I was in my later teens a meet-up with my mates in one of the many trad-jazz pubs there used to be around town. I think this aspect of Brum has more or less disappeared, but times and people change. Because of my not-so-good mobility, it's years since I had a wander around town - it's surprising how hilly central Birmingham is, and I read once that, like ancient Rome, it's built on seven hills.

My wife still goes into town on the bus, which even though we live in the sticks is easy (and free!), and was there yesterday, clothes buying at M&S and whatever the shops are in Grand Central. When I asked her, she said town, in her view, is as crowded as it ever was with people on foot, and certainly the buses to and from town are packed. She also says that much of the character of parts of the older Brum, such as Victoria Square, New Street and the Markets area, is gone, sad to say. It seems to me that, like many cities around the world, Birmingham has moved, and is moving, on; otherwise it dies. When we lived in the USA in the 1970's the nearest 'big city' to us was Cleveland (Ohio), referred to as 'The Mistake On The Lake', and it was a run-down dump. Totally deserted after about 7.00pm in the evenings, and on Sundays. I still occasionally play Randy Newman's song "Burn On, Big River", about the time when the Cuyahoga River, which flows through Cleveland into Lake Erie, was so polluted it caught fire! And became about the only tourist attraction in the place! But hopefully, like Brum, Cleveland's moved on.
Thank you Cecil Gee could not think of the name.
Bob
 

sospiri

Ex-pat Brummie
Jeanette,

In my childhood the Great Western Arcade was way out of my league, but once I had left school I had a bit of dosh and was abkle to buy my mother for her birthday good quality glazed ceramic cats from a shop in this arcade, but I can't for the life of me remember its name. it was at the far end of arcade on the left hand side and sold glasware and chinaware. Any ideas on the name.

EDIT: The period I am referring to is 1947 - 1960 and the Company was W.H. Rhodes Limited, and we already have a thread about them here:- https://birminghamhistory.co.uk/for...s-ltd-china-glass-associated-companies.49165/

After she died and my brother and I were going through her effects, we decided that he should keep these cats and he still has them at his flat in Hampshire today.

Maurice :cool:
 
Last edited:

Radiorails

master brummie
Could I suggest that some posts here get dates/time periods inserted into the posts, some fortunately do. There will be a wide range of reminiscences from the 1940's up to (possibly) the end of the last century. Some places mentioned will have gone - Martineau Street for instance and many shops, restaurants etc. will also have gone. This thread should become a valuable resource for those wanting to study Birmingham of yesteryear: so dates are important.
 

JeannetteM

knowlegable brummie
Maurice,
Sorry Maurice I can’t recall the name of the shop. We lived in Handsworth so to go into town we travelled on the 74 bus which dropped us off at the top of Livery Street. It was a treat to walk through the arcade, which of course was opposite Livery Street. I was lucky enough to use one of the shops when I was about 28 years, in the late seventies and at last earning some good money. I think the shop was called Susan’s, you had to wait outside whilst they unlocked the door to let you in! By the name of the shop - you’ve guessed it, I bought a fabulous dress:grinning:.
 

sospiri

Ex-pat Brummie
Thanks, Jeanette, but the company I was after was W.H. Rhodes Limited. I have amended post #25 above.

Maurice :cool:
 
Last edited:

john knight

signman
Tho old city is dead and buried, as far as I'm concerned, nothing now but new offices and re-vamped shops.
I remember as I think many others will do also,the old bull ring with the policeman directing the traffic standing in the middle of the cobbled road, how he never got run over in the ice or snow amazes me, corner of Moor st. Oswald Bailey, and over the way , Woolworths with the old lady in black on the steps selling handy carrier (4p).
T he market hall without the roof, Times Furnishing,(now Waterstones), the Odeon with Wimpey bar next door, the Midland Educational shop in Corporation st.,old Lewis's with the zoo? on the roof, the old OLD Square with Kings Hall market opposite, the Mecca ballroom, opposite Murdochs piano and music shop where I bought all my records, the music shop in Cherry St., for sheet music.
Yates wine bar and Barrows stores, Henry's, Jamaica Row with all the fruit and veg barrows,the Gaumont cinema, Chetwynds
where all the teds bought their zoot suits which was beneath the West End ballroom corner of Navigation st., and the opposite corner the hot potato man the Queens Hotel fronting New st. station, and the Woodman pub.
Galloways corner of New st.,main post office opposite,as well as the Kardoma in Colmore Row you had the National milk bar over the road next door to the Grand hotel.
I could go on forever, but I'll leave room for someone else's memories.
 

ellbrown

ell brown on Flickr
I go up a lot taking photos and can verify the city centre is often packed with people.

Note I often try to avoid taking photos with people in them so will often wait at a spot till there is nobody in the photo, so in my photos it can look like the area is deserted. Ell probably does the same.
I usually prefer to take views when it's not too crowded. Wouldn't want to take a photo while in the middle of a crowd.

Yesterday from the Council House saw a small protest, probably about Birmingham Wheels closing. Even then, Victoria Square looked empty. And not as busy as when the Frankfurt Christmas Market was there.







A few hours later Victoria Square was like this.



Probably also less people out when it was raining.

 

Nico

master brummie
I liked to visit the city centre as a youngster, it was lively and all the hustle and bustle you expected was there to be experienced. Maybe it was only very old people who found irritations but generally speaking most people seemed to enjoy their trips into town.
Shopping interests were dependant on your age and if you were married with family. I am sure adults always had their favourite shops and other places they usually visited.
When with adults most of the shopping was not of great interest to me but sometimes some places did have an area of interest. The Bull Ring and Markets always had an aura of excitement as they varied in what they did and often previously unseen things came along. Of course no visit to the city was complete without a meal at Woolworth in the Bull Ring, Pattisons or Kunzle. For me the buses were the principal interest and would be the reason to happily agree to a town visit. Over the years - during WW2 and up to 1954 a bus journey into town was usually interesting in itself. Identity Card checks, road detours due to bombing or demolition, newer buses or a rare one that I had never ridden before. Then there was the occasional visit to friends or relatives that lived very close to the city centre. I never found it a time that I did not enjoy.

At a later time, aged ten onwards, I was able to make journeys on my own to town so my spheres of interest started to expand. The Cherry Street Model shop, Snow Hill railway station and the Broad Street area which was less well known as were the main shopping streets of Corporation Street, High Street and New Street: these places were a discovery in themselves.
But by 1954 I had moved to the Deep South ;)
Remember the TV jingle Brum had to "I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside? I do like to shop around the Bullring. Stuck in my mind.
 

Nico

master brummie
Tho old city is dead and buried, as far as I'm concerned, nothing now but new offices and re-vamped shops.
I remember as I think many others will do also,the old bull ring with the policeman directing the traffic standing in the middle of the cobbled road, how he never got run over in the ice or snow amazes me, corner of Moor st. Oswald Bailey, and over the way , Woolworths with the old lady in black on the steps selling handy carrier (4p).
T he market hall without the roof, Times Furnishing,(now Waterstones), the Odeon with Wimpey bar next door, the Midland Educational shop in Corporation st.,old Lewis's with the zoo? on the roof, the old OLD Square with Kings Hall market opposite, the Mecca ballroom, opposite Murdochs piano and music shop where I bought all my records, the music shop in Cherry St., for sheet music.
Yates wine bar and Barrows stores, Henry's, Jamaica Row with all the fruit and veg barrows,the Gaumont cinema, Chetwynds
where all the teds bought their zoot suits which was beneath the West End ballroom corner of Navigation st., and the opposite corner the hot potato man the Queens Hotel fronting New st. station, and the Woodman pub.
Galloways corner of New st.,main post office opposite,as well as the Kardoma in Colmore Row you had the National milk bar over the road next door to the Grand hotel.
I could go on forever, but I'll leave room for someone else's memories.
Mum bought her wedding dress in Brum. in 1952. She got the train to New Street and should have turned right and she turned left by mistake and got a bit lost then found a tiny little shop that sold baby clothes. The owner was a seamstress and had one home made wedding dress in the window. Which she altered for mum. I don't know where it was and she couldn't remember when telling the story. But she liked to tell it. Her and dad had their honeymoon night in Brum too as Brum was special. It still is.
 

Nico

master brummie
Only being a Brummie by marriage I don't have a lot of childhood memories of Birmingham but do recall in 1950s:
  • those annual trips to see Fr Christmas and Uncle Holly at Lewis's
  • meeting my Dad (who worked in Brmingham) and having lunch with him - Greys, Lewis's or the Co-op
  • was the roof garden on Lewis's? - vaguely recall a pets corner.
  • Pimms Pets in the Market Hall (although I don't remember it with a roof).
  • those fascinating money shutes in Greys - remember when they took your money and then sent it via that tube thing.
My main memories of the big shopping areas are in the 1970s when as a student I travelled into and then out of Birmingham every day in term time. At different times of the day depending on when lectures were. Getting on and off the bus in Corporation Street (the number 12). The Christmas windows at Rackhams - waiting to see what the theme was. I didn't like the subway steps especially when it had been raining as I was worried about slipping. If it was early evening then you could hear the noise of the starlings coming in to roost. Also watch their swooping around.
Those were the days when bags were searched when you went into the main shops (just after the pub bombings). Nobdy minded that things took a little longer. I am sure that the last time I went into the centre people were moving more quickly - or have I just slowed down? People actually looking round and not just at a phone screen.
I also remember being fascinated by the news which moved across - but I can't remember where - was it somewhere opposite Bull Street?
I do remember those starlings I found them quite comforting in a stressfull time. They matched the hubub that was going on beneath them. I used to race from work in Coventry, I was not let off five minutes early even though I offered to come in early, and they knew my circumstances "you are paid till 5.30pm and that is the time you will finish work, bla bla bla" I was a rebel then, I raced through the town across Greyfriars Green to the station but I always missed the first train to Brum, but I still ran, was bursting so I went in the platform loo then got the train to New St. Straight in to the MacDdonalds full of posers, How can you pose in MacDonalds?, but they did, to me at any rate, cheese burger and a coffee in a paper beaker, bluuurgh! Then high tailed it to the the hospital in Aston to visit mum every night. I got lost the first time. I remember a big traffic island and a white tiles or painted round subway with little windows and shops underneath.
When I visited her on Saturdays my mate came with me, he was on day release at Mathew Bolton College and he knew the pubs. I remember the Sack of Potaotes and The Corn Exchange. Brum was all dug up even then and with hoardings. That was late 70s. I found it friendlier too.
My Brum colleagues had a joke about a shop called Finlays. I don't know where it was/is. A newsagent?
I went to a few training days in the Post and Mail and I remember a lovely arcade with a fanlight, bow shop windows with black and white tiles on the floor and a friendly postman walked me all the way there.
 

Robert Ensor (bob)

master brummie
Going to town as a kid ride the bus with Mom and my sister walk round the Bull Ring go in all those big department stores the excitement, Lewis"s all those floors and furniture displays, I remember a cabinet that had four TV's 1 large one one above 3 small ones in a line underneath
Did not see that stuff next to the shoe shop in Rednal.
Never liked C & A all I can think of about that store ladies underwear
The hustle and bustle of all the people then standing in line to catch the bus home with the shopping bags as it got dark
Going to town chapter 2 now my friends and I go on our own and do just for fun, walk round the Bullring go to the Museum, those shows at Bingley Hall were you could but x-ray specs, go play in the carriage's at Moor St Station, walk through the markets and the Midland Red Garage dark a smelly, a trip to the Silver Blades Sunday afternoon listening to My Ding a Ling by Chuck Berry
The guy who sold American style hot dogs with onions from a cart by the 62 terminus.
Going to town ( Down Town ) now things have changed for chapter 3 the Top Rank and all the other clubs dancing, Rum and Blacks Ha Ha trying to pull a bird, looking for that last dance the slow one finally getting the courage to ask.
Starting to dine out Winpey's, Gino's at the top of the ramp getting the He-Man Grill, at the bottom of the ramp a man sold baked spuds.
 

Robert Ensor (bob)

master brummie
Bob,they're sad memories now of what a nice youth we had.
I would not change a thing and yes l would do it all again
Well maybe get a forwarding address or two or a Email address and a cell number .
Make Facebook list girls maiden names.
Get my mom's bread pudding recipe
O and buy stock in Microsoft .
 

john knight

signman
Was there ever a British Restaurant in the City, I used to go to one in West Bromwich where you could get a dinner for 1/6
 

Lady Penelope

master brummie
During the 60's I recall dodging the buses as they turned off New St and up Corporation St. Yes the pavements always seemed to be teeming with people, sometimes shoulder to shoulder. We had to move quite slowly up or down the underpass steps past the Rotunda to the markets, always incredibly busy. And coming out of the Odeon cinema on New Street at dusk, the sky seemed black with starlings, the noise of them was wonderful!
My cousin worked at the Council House in the 60's and told me about the starlings. Apparently they were culled as they were making such a mess of the church. Very sad. She said that the formations at evening time were amazing. When you think about it you can understand why they were called 'murmerations'.
 
Top