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Birmingham 1890

BordesleyExile

master brummie
Mackenzie's 1890 "romantic" painting of Birmingham is as interesting for its omissions as well as the perspective. Has anyone got any idea where the painter would have stood to get this view?

(Replacement. I think it is the one. It certainly fits the descriptions )
 

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Shortie

master brummie
Handsworth Heath perhaps? I think it may have been more built up by 1890 than the picture suggests though.
 

cookie273uk

master brummie
I see a lot of Artists Licence in that painting and very little fact like a number of Victorian Artists who were more concernced with Romance than factual 'nitty gritty' . Eric
 
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BordesleyExile

master brummie
Yes, I agree, Cookie. Mackenzie certainly missed out a lot of chimneys & thats a shame for they were part of Birmingham's distictive skyline. Thank you for your input, Shortie.
 

Vivienne14

Super Moderator
Staff member
This is interesting as the thing that immediately caught my attention was the churches. Then I tried, unsuccessfully to identify them. Only on closer inspection did I realise there's a cottage in the foreground and two figures. So for me the focus would be the churches, but I found it very difficult to get my bearings with this one. Like Cookie says, must be artistic licence. Viv.
 

Shortie

master brummie
Viv - it look me a while or so, then, remembering that St Phillip's is Italianate in style, then St Mary's had a very tall, thin spire, and St Martin's which is not far from St Phillips - then look at the centre church and I am sure that is St Phillips. St Mary's to the left and St Martin's to the right. Artistic licence is very much in evidence, but take the view from Handsworth Heath - near Soho House, and on the skyline that is what you would see. I think the artist wished to paint a better picture than the one he saw, and although I think that's an odd thing to do, this is a very attractive painting. The churches are not exactly like that, but I feel that I am right, given the styles. I am happy, however, for someone to prove me wrong!
 

Vivienne14

Super Moderator
Staff member
Right Shortie, that makes sense. Can definitely make out St Philips. At one point I'd got it into my head that the church on the left was Christ Church but your suggestions make more sense. Agree it's an attractive view - an attempt to give a rural feel rather than heavily industrialised. Viv.
 

Shortie

master brummie
I agree Viv - I think he just wanted to show Birmingham's skyline and as it perhaps looked 20 years or so prior. Christ church would have been to the right, and I don't remember its spire as being very tall, whereas St Mary's was (it was a huge church, bult to hold 1,700 worshippers). I am now thinking that the cottages are perhps those that were around the Hockley Brook area - there were most definitely some. We will probably never know for sure.
 

Rupert

master brummie
I believe that this is a view towards Birmingham from the Old Birmingham Canal which may be represented in the foreground by the rider riding along the towpath and the bridge over to the left of the cottage. Edgebaston resevoir is behind the vantage point and the un-natural mounding in the foreground might be something to do with that. I don’t happen to think that this picture is fanciful at all and may be a fair representation of ground level at that time which can not be 1890 but early 1800s possibly. What is interesting is that we might be viewing Priory Brook and also the leat to the old priory pond in St Phillips Sq. I have shown the brook in blue dots and the leat in red. This land north of the city was slower to develop because of deeds and ownership.
Points of interest are A…Might be a representation of the old New Hall which was owned by the Colmores and let to Boulton who used it as a warehouse for a while.
B…St. Philips.
C…Christchurch.
D…St. Pauls. (land given by Colmore)​

Baskervilles house would be in the area in front of Christchurch.​

New Hall and Baskervilles house were both constructed on Easy Hill.
This picture is a great addition to our collection and shows us a view not seen before...around 1820 or so. It's kind of hard to put the dating of features all together but seem to remember that the spire was put on St Pauls around then. Thanks for posting the picture and you asked for an interpretation and this is my effort. An important picture and hope I am right.​
 

Shortie

master brummie
I have to disagree there Rupert - Easy Hill and New Hall were about a quarter of a mile from each other - New Hall was at the bottom of Newhall Street. Christchurch had not got a tall spire like St Mary's either and was very near to St Phillips - 2 mins walk. Look at a picture of St Mary's and I think it becomes clear that the left hand spire is that of that particular church.
 

Shortie

master brummie
You might be right there John, so that means St Martin's and St Phillips are in the pic. I have been looking at several maps and pics this morning, and it seems it could be anywhere. Loads of spires that seem to have no recognised church attached to them abound, so I suspect there is poetic licence in spades in most pictures.
 

Key Hill Brian

Proud Brummie
Lovely picture, as you say though quite romantic.
It does indeed look like Aston hall & Aston parish church, whic meand the view is from Perry barr direction.
The canal runs from Gravelly hill to perry barr - so that fits as well!
Possible from the rear of what is now Witton cemetery on the high ground?
 

Rupert

master brummie
I made a reply before but the site went down when I tried to post, so I lost it. It's a tantalizing picture and John and Shortie's comments are valid. As far as Shortie's assertion to the hill down from Colmore row...well that is correct. We have seen an etching before of a similar aspect of Aston Hall which was considered to be from the Electric avenue area in Witton considering the relationship between the church spire and the hall. What is the tall rounded building to the left of the hall though and can the other church spires be identified. You would have to possess keen eyesight to see St Martins from there I think including a bent sightline Shortie. The view might be from Holborn Hill maybe and there is a canal and stream below there. Why would it be labelled as a picture of Birmingham if it were of Aston. Still we have seen errors like this, as well as dating, before.
 

BordesleyExile

master brummie
Thank you all for your input. I find your argument & supporting picture particularly compelling, John and its always a joy to see an A E Everitt picture of course. What an interesting silouette Aston Hall has.
 

Rupert

master brummie
It's not over yet. Vantage point and foreground have to be decided. Also spires and domes identified. Thanks for your appreciation of my efforts also and if not correct still a major effort was put in to effect an arguement. If the spires and domes can not be identified then this is by no means concluded. The domes on Aston Hall do not look like the picture and the domed building with the cross to the left of that cluster has not been commented upon. Could that be the forerunner of Cuckoo bridge in the foreground left...over the Fazely canal or Hockley Brook? Or another bridge at Holborne hill or thereabouts. The domed building could at least be considered to be St. Phillips in the Easy Hill down town location.
 

Rupert

master brummie
I think John is right and the Aston Hall site has it. I believe the dome to the left of the Hall would be the dome on the original King Edwards School which was and still is just to the left of the Hall on Frederick Street. The church to left might be one of the Chappels down that way if they had spires. The school was opened in 1883 I read so the date would have to be after that. The bridge in the foreground left would be Cuckoo Bridge which spanned Hockley brook and the Fazely canal. A lot was going on there. The cottage is outlined on the 1890 map quite well and although the painting is a bit rudementary, the draughtsmanship seems to be fairly accurate. If you go on Google Earth and draw a line from Cuckoo Bridge to Aston Hall it gives the same alignment of St Peters & St Pauls/the Hall/the School. Also the cottage and bridge. A lot of things must have been built around there in a hurry though and I believe that was the case and it seems from the foreground terain that the process was underway. Perhaps the artist, like some of us, was trying to make a picture of the way things were before it was too late. A photo would have been quicker and the view is of Aston not Birmingham...ah well.
Some refs. below.

1890 OS https://www.british-history.ac.uk/m...d=10085&ox=1535&oy=2086&zm=1&czm=1&x=213&y=38

King Edwards https://www.astonbrook-through-astonmanor.co.uk/schoolshistory
 
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