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Temple Row


knowlegable brummie
Hello to you all, and today is my first day with you, and its the history of Temple Row I would like help with.
As you are aware, Temple Row is mainly the office area of Birmingham, with a few shops, but did you know that people actually lived in Temple Row ?
There are very few left now, as the only way you could live there is if you were or are caretakers of the office blocks.
My family, grandparents, lived at 55 Temple Row, looking after Temple Court, which saddly has long disappeared, pulled down to allow the building of the Pallasades.
They moved in to Temple Court in 1949, and had the penthouse right at the top of the building, overlooking St Philips cathedral, and for us grandchildren of William and Olwen Williams, no better or more exciting place to live could be found, an old building, full of character, and hidden away staircases and office facilities, and we loved it.
When my grandfather died in 1956, my father, James Mckenzie Gunn moved in as the caretaker, and we loved it even more, especially as we grew older and into our late teens.
I want to enlarge this post with you at a later date, but just giving you our history at the moment, of just one of the families that lived in Temple Row.
A bit of trouble though explaining to people who asked me where do I live, and I had to give the answer, "Back of Rackhams" but always taken with a laugh. But I'll tell you something, in all the years we were involved in looking after office blocks in Temple Row, I never actually met any young ladies who were using back of Rackhams for their trade, hard to believe isn't it ?
We stayed in Temple Court just a few more years after my father became caretaker, because we moved next door in the early 60's to become caretakers of Union Chambers, which was on the other corner of Needless alley from Temple Court. Can you remember the bridge that crossed needless alley at the cathedral end, well that carried us across from Temple Court into Union Chambers.
I will put a photo on when I can to remind you what Union Chambers looks like, as it still remains a valuable office location in Temple Row.
My father was caretaker there for 17 years, before he passed away with a sudden heartattack in 1971,
and I, Dennis Mckenzie Gunn then became the caretaker for another 18 years before being made redundant in 1989, and lost my home. My wife Veronica and 2 children had a wonderful life in Union Chambers, and it broke our hearts when we had to leave home, but we then moved to Cornwall to where my wife had been brought up, so for 21 years we have enjoyed our life here.
Now to business. Although we lived here as a generation of families for 40 years, I have so little photos to remind me of home, so can any of you help me please with any photos you know of about Temple Row, and I would so love one of Temple Court itself, I do not even have one to remind me of our life there.
As a clue, the door next to 55, was the Conservative club, so do you know of any photos for the club, as we looked after that as well, as part of our job as caretaker. Your help would be so gratefully accepted.
Well, thats my introduction of myself to you, and I hope as the weeks go by that we can make this project of Temple Row really come to life as I go through a few more memories with you, and you remind me of what you remember about our Row.
Looking forward to hearing from you, and thank you for your time in reading my introduction.


ell brown on Flickr
I've got quite a lot of Temple Row photos.

Here are some

Former Birmingham Midshires bank (now Caffe Nero)

Caffe Nero - Temple Row West (former Birmingham Midshires) by ell brown, on Flickr

Pevsner Architectural Guides: Birmingham by Andy Foster

Dates from 1900 - 02 by Mansell & Mansell. A fine office block in brick and cream terracotta, the steel structure firmly expressed in the brick and terracotta grid of the facade. Built for the Ocean Assurance Corporation with the initials and bands of roses and thistles, and waves and fishes, on the corner oriel. Finely moulded entrance. Shallow canted end bay. Delightful fantasy at the top: ogee windows, parapet with heart-shaped piercings, two-stage corner turret, end gables with brick and terracotta diapering. Ground floor windows lowered in 1983.
Great Western Arcade

Great Western Arcade - from Temple Row by ell brown, on Flickr

The Great Western Arcade is an important part of the City of Birmingham's Victorian heritage. Built in 1876, to a design influenced by the Great Exhibition at London's Crystal Palace in 1851, the Arcade spans a tunnel created for the railway line between Snow Hill and Moor Street Stations.

It was voted Birmingham's favourite building in 1988, major restoration work took place in 1984 and further refurbishment in 1998, to ensure that the Victorian Splendour of the Arcade is preserved.

It has 42 units of independant shops and upmarket speciality retailers as well as high street names.


ell brown on Flickr
The Old Joint Stock - Temple Row West

The Old Joint Stock - Temple Row West West by ell brown, on Flickr

The Old Joint Stock is pub theatre located on Temple Row West in Birmingham (off Colmore Row, near St Philip's Cathedral)
It has 80 theatre seats on the first floor of the Old Joint Stock pub.
It is Grade II listed as the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank. It was designed by architect J A Chatwin in 1864 and converted into a pub in 1997. The theate opened in 2006 by owners Fuller, Smith and Turner.


knowlegable brummie
Every Sunday morning during the 50's my brother and myself would clean the Great Western arcade, general wipe around, then the long hard work of mopping the floor by hand, all for a little extra pocket money, my, how brummies used to work in those days.
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knowlegable brummie
A little bit of history of Temple Court from 1949.
The building stood on the corner of needless alley, where the Pallasades now stands, and the entrance to 55 Temple court was entered by going up a few steps, into a large long hallway which took you to the hand-driven lift, with its metel gates, and controlled by a small hand held lever, and as I stayed a lot of times with my grandparents, I was actually allowed to drive the lift, but it meant my having to be smartly dressed so as to take passengers up to the various floors, although my grandfather had to be in the lift with me. When dad took over as caretaker, I was then 16, so I could handle the lift on my own, and got to know many of the tenants of Temple Court.
We had another entrance on the corner of Needless alley, which only allowed tenants to walk up 2 flights, then along a corridor passing offices, to join the lift, and be taken up more levels.
Our back door entrance stood in Cannon street, but only the brave tenant would use this way, because it meant a climb up the stairs for six floor levels before you could enter the building for your offices, so it was not used many times.
Its main purpose was to allow us to get rid of the waste from each days baskets in the offices, and that was hard work, because each night the baskets where emptied into hessien sacks, then carried down these six flights of steps to the back door, ready for the dustmen, as they were called in those days, to take away.
Now an interesting reminder for you, because the lower floors at the rear of Temple Court was occupied by the Bell and Nicholson warehouse and department store, do you remember that ? You imagine it, this huge warehouse, selling all sorts of goods, including carpets and lino, which where down in the lower level, below Cannon Street, and we lads had to do the fire watch duties every weekend, to make sure all was ok. One weekend, two friends were staying over with us, and we went on fire duty. It was to much for four young teenagers, the fun we had down in the carpet section, playing hide and seek in almost total darkness among the piles of rugs and carpets. One of us climbed on top of a pile of rugs to hide, but when it came time to get down, he placed his hand on a stack of carpet, which was kept in an upright position in those days, and on jumping down it toppled the carpet into the next one, which then toppled into the next and so on until over two dozen carpets fell to the floor.
To the people who then had to arrive on Monday morning to this mess of fallen carpets, I now make a public apology for causing you so much work, and of course there may well be a few still alive today who worked in Bell and Nickolsons and may be a part of this forum to take note of my apology.
Right, the interest now is for your memories of Temple Row, Cannon Street and Bell and Nickolsons warehouse in the early 50's and into the 60's, with any photos you know about, or have hidden away in the loft that suddenly springs to mind.
I have a photo included of my grandparents that may just jog a memory or two who remembers them for their time in Temple Court, until he passed away in 1957.
Will and Olwen Williams.


master brummie
I used to visit a number of buildings in the city center for work purposes and in the course of time I would take photos from various roofs in Brum, this is from Temple Row building and I took shots from Temple Row I took shots of the demolition of the Britol and west building the roof of rackhams the plan is to find the photos and put them back on the web

In my time the there would be a caretaker in every buidling, this change over time and it would be that a caretaker would have a number of building to look after, there were of course a number of caretakers that stick in my memory, an old work friend took photos from the roofs of brum in the 1950,s and 1960,s now I would love to see his collection
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knowlegable brummie
Thank you so much, thats the first picture of Temple Court for me. Your first picture shows us looking towards Union Chambers, when this photo was taken, Union Chambers was the highest building in the city centre, I say the highest, not necessary the tallest, but the highest, because every road from Temple Row slopes off downhill, the Cathedral was built on the highest spot so as to be seen from all angles towards Birmingham, and Union Chambers stands right opposite the cathedral, so until the retunder was built, we held that right to be the highest in Brum.
But my delight are the dark buildings in front of Union Chambers, because they are the Conservative club and Temple Court,which runs to the corner of Needless alley and opposite Union Chambers.
Your second photo shows Temple Court right at the edge of the photo, but at least we have a little hint of it.
The third photo is very interesting, because it takes us round the bend and towards were Union Chambers would later be built, it would be just next door to the last small building, now this is history in the making, so thank you so very much for your effort on our behalves.


knowlegable brummie
What a collection of photos, number one Rackhams of course, number two the midland bank that stood on the corner of Temple Row and Cherry st. and I opened my first ever bank account here in 1957.
The third is the building on the corner of Temple Row and Waterloo st, and of course number four, the arcade, where I mentioned earlier that I cleaned the floors of.
The other building is Norfolk house, where I stood in at holiday times as the caretaker when they went on holidays.
A big thank you for the photos, good memories.


knowlegable brummie
Thank you for your reply, and I am looking forward to any more you may have, and as you state, as time went on, and caretakers left or passed away, it became the custom to ask other caretakers to look after more buildings, rather than employ another caretaker. Nowadays there are even less, as its become the norm to have security companies look after the buildings.
My own brother has just retired in 2011 as the caretaker of Grosvenor house in Bennets hill, right down the corner of New st.
and he was there with his family from around 1978, and you can bet they will not have another caretaker in.
I had to stand in for many other blocks as well, as we became a small community of caretakers, and would cover for each other at holiday times.


Super Moderator
Staff member
Hi Historicaldennis. I've found it fascinating reading your recollections of Temple Row. I always wondered what it must have been like to actually live in the City Centre. I've 3 photos for you The first two are of the same row of houses, 29-37 Temple Row. They were stil there in the 1940s but I don't know when they (very regretably) were demolished.
The third photo is of the fountain on Temple Row in 1946
Your memories make interesting reading. Thanks. Regards Viv.


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master brummie
Have to agree with the comment by Viv. Very interesting indeed and enlarges upon that which we have already seen. The sketch of the corner Temple Row/West Temple Row is a great addition (post #14 by Phill). If it has been on before I must have missed it. Is the date available? Anyway, the houses under demolition (seemingly a long time ago) can be picked out on the Samuel Lines painting of 1821 which is very accurate for the time. No Needless Alley then. A sketch of the Old Royal Hotel is posted #5 and on the Lines painting the white Theatre Royal can be seen and immediately to the right the New Royal Hotel on New Street. I have included the Lines painting again...it belongs here also.


Facinating to read your account of the area it must have been a bit of an adventure living in the city for such a long time. I hope your brother has a lovely retiremment and it's a bit more peaceful. Do tell us more...


knowlegable brummie
Thank you so much for your lovely comments, because this is the first time ever I have joined any forum, and now 70 years old, I thought my comments would be a bit rambling, but you, and other comments below yours, have encouraged me to go on offering you my memories.
the reason for all my request for thoughts on Temple Row, is like many many others, I have been tracing my family tree, so I will let you all know more about this later, its even more facinating than Temple Row, or maybe a bore, we will soon find out, because what I want to do is let you all know about Temple Row a bit by bit, and theres lots of bits, so be prepared.

paul stacey

master brummie
what wonderful memories and great photo's and drawings, I studied all the old photo's of snow hill and the then disused miles of bridges and tunnels how I remember when approaching Brum, by train as a young lad coming home on leave all excited about seeing the family again, and the sooty old station. thanks dennis for your memories and photo's of your family I found them very interesting.


ell brown on Flickr
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knowlegable brummie
Well done paul, and you couldn't beat the old smell could you ?
We used snow hill a lot, in my early years to go back to wales to the family, for I was born in Fffestiniog snowdonia, right in the slate mine area, so we often went home as a young child to see my uncles and aunties, and it was snow hill that took us to Llandudno, and a change of trains to Ffestiniog.
We also used snow hill to get to Acocks green, were we lived before moving in to Temple row as the caretakers following my grandfather death, and my wifes gran lived in Tysley, so snow hill brings back many memories.
Mind you, to get to Fffestiniog, we could also go the other way to Bala and change there, or was it the other way round, snow hill to Bala ? I cant remember, perhaps a senior moment.
Look out for more photos from ellbrown, because he seems to have taken a lot of brum, and looks like he will post them to me