Photo By D J Norton

Bull Ring and Inner Ring Road by Leonard Stace

After Bill Stace saw the first page of his father's photographs and began to realise their importance, he supplied me with some additional ones.  While not capturing the charm of the old city, they were just as important as they showed Birmingham undergoing vast changes.  Most of the pictures below show the construction of the new Bull Ring outdoor market in the early 1960's while the remainder illustrate parts of the Inner Ring Road.

It is perhaps hard to believe that the parts of the city being constructed in many of these scenes would last for less than 40 years before being swept away for the current Bullring shopping centre.  It is easy to forget how bad it had become in such a short period and I highly recommend that you visit this website to remind you!  I would like to thank the webmaster of Howlers for allowing the use of two of their photo's to help explain the locations of Leonard's shots.

If you have any old Birmingham photographs you would like to see displayed on this website, please get in touch via the 'Contact' link on the Homepage.

Bull Ring (double exposure)

Bull Ring (double exposure)
You could easily get upset that this classic view of the Bull Ring looking towards St. Martin's had been the victim of a double exposure.  However, looking upon things in a more positive way it's easy to appreciate that we have two pictures for the price of one! 

The view of the Bull Ring shows it as it was before any work started so it must have been taken before 1958.  The second picture seems to me to have been taken through the window of a bus.  Two cars are parked at the side of the road.  To the left is an older style vehicle with some very fancy, metal trim.  To the right is a more 'modern' car and a chap stands in the street chatting to the passenger.  Above this scene there appears to be a canopy with a curving front featuring projecting rectangles, something that should easily identify the location to anyone who can remember such a structure in the city.  Where St. Martin's stands is what I believe to be the reflection of the window on the other side of the bus.  Looking through this, we effectively have a third view of the city!  Through this window I can just about make out some people stood by the road and some rather odd curved projections that, again, might help identify the location of the double exposure.

Graham studied the picture and comments above and came up with this theory:-
"Your Bull Ring 'double exposure' is, I think, a photo taken a few yards before the Bull Ring. The photographer is
on a bus going down New Street, and has photographed the Odeon Cinema, which is the facade you can see (the
cars are a 1946 Jaguar and a 1955 Morris Oxford parked outside) then immediately taken the Bull Ring, leading
to the double exposure."

Market Hall

Market Hall
Market Hall
I suspect that these two splendid photo's of the old Market Hall were taken in early 1961.  The St. Martin's Circus Queensway section of the Inner Ring Road was actually constructed around the market hall and the building survived until November of 1961 when it demolished and replaced by Manzoni Gardens.  What a sad end to such a magnificent building.  According to the British History website, it had been constucted between 1828 and 1835 and although it lost its roof to a fire due World War 2, it continued to function thereafter.

I find the lower shot particularly interesting.  At the bottom, a subway can be seen.  I believe that this subway lead from Manzoni Gardens to the low level pathway that ran from Smallbrook Queensway to the open market.  Opposite the subway was an entrance to the Bull Ring shopping centre and I seem to recall there being a pet shop nearby when I visited in the 1980's - I can still remember the smell!  Robert recalls that it was called 'Pims (or Pimms?) Pets', later renamed 'Animal Magic'.

Looking Towards Bull Ring

Looking towards Bull Ring
I think this picture was taken from the same position as the one above but Leonard had turned around 45 degrees to the right.  In front of us is the site of the fish market that stood on the corner of Bell Street and Spiceal Street.  To the left is the old Market Hall and the shops adjacent to the Woolworths store are to the right.

This made me feel quite sad when I first saw it what with Nelson stood alone as the city was being reconstructed around his ears.  I then realised that he did not appear to be in the correct spot, closer to the Market Hall.  I guessed that he was moved once to make way for the ring road and outdoor market and then moved again when his new spot was ready and Mark, of the Nelson Society, provided this information:-
"You asked whether the statue moved twice during the Ring Road/Bull Ring development and the answer is most definitely YES. The first move, as you suggest, was just a few yards sideways, roughly to the corner of Bell Street, where it is shown in this picture. I have pictures which show the scaffolding around it on 11th September 1959 (in the original location), then pictures of it sitting in the Public Works depot on 21st October and finally an announcement in the Evening Despatch of 28th October that it was in it's new location "in the shadow of the Market Hall." No official unveiling took place as far as I can make out.
I don't yet have all the precise dates of the second move, except to say that it was unveiled on the Bull  Ring 'balcony' on 17th November 1961 - by Alderman Eric Mole."

Near the Bull Ring

Workers near the Bull Ring
Here's a scene that would be have been familiar to Birmingham residents as the new Bull Ring took shape - steel reinforced concrete buildings being erected.  Note the spire of St. Martin's church to the upper left of the picture.

Bull Ring Near Woolworths

Bull Ring near Woolworths
This view was taken from where the pathway from Smallbrook Ringway met the outdoor market.  To the upper left is the Inner Ring Road held high by the concrete columns and, at the time the picture was taken, the old Market Hall was accessible from the ramp that led towards High Street.  To the right of the photographer was the site that the new Woolworths store would be built on.

Here is a picture was taken from outside of Woolworths in the late 1990's looking towards where Leonard took his shot (he would have been on the far left).  Compare the concrete columns supporting the road with those seen above.

Bull Ring Near Ramp

Bull Ring near ramp
This was where the outdoor market was surrounded by roads on three sides!  Out of shot to the left was where the ramp provided access to the markets.  The shop units in the middle would later contain a chippy that was very popular and I recall sitting by the statue of Nelson, surrounded by pigeons many times in my youth...  Nelson would later be sited on the far right of the above shot, as shown below.

Here is a picture taken from the ramp showing this area as it was in the late 1990's - note the shop units to the left.

Bull Ring from Moor Street Ringway

Near Bull Ring inc. old Woolworths
This picture was taken from Moor Street Ringway looking towards the Bull Ring.  On the left is a new office block that features in many of the pictures on this page thus providing a good point of reference.  To the left of the lamp post is the tower and spire of St. Martin's church and on the far right the old Woolworths store can be seen.

Concrete Ramp Off Moor Street Ringway

Concrete ramp off Moor St Ringway
Here, Leonard has walked forward a few paces from the position of the shot directly above and has peered over the concrete fence.  The ramp to the car park is indicative of the modern and functional style being inflicted throughout the city centre.

Nelson Statue in New Bull Ring Site

Nelson statue sited in new Bull Ring
With progress on the new Bull Ring markets being made, it was now possible to move Nelson to his new home feet away from the busy Inner Ring Road.  The plinth tells us that the statue was originally erected in 1809.  It managed to stay in the same place for over 150 years but would be in its new home for less than 40…  Nelson is now a prominent feature in the new Bullring.  I wonder how long he will be left in peace for this time!?

Smallbrook Ringway

Smallbrook Ringway
Smallbrook Ringway
Smallbrook Ringway
This section of the Inner Ring Road at Smallbrook Ringway was the showpiece for the project and was completed first.  The upper two pictures show Norfolk House to the right and the Ringway Centre to the left.  The latter building was designed by James A. Roberts who would later go on to provide Birmingham with its most iconic building - the Rotunda.  The lower shot is from close to Hurst Street looking back towards the Bull Ring.  Today, the road no longer occupies the high ground as it did it was constructed; instead, cars and people all operate at the same (low) level and the once familiar underpass lined with shops has long gone.

The observant will note that I refer to Smallbrook Ringway here but to Smallbrook Queensway elsewhere on the site.  Well, there is an interesting story there!  When the original parts of the ring road were constructed, they were named Ringway (note Moor Street Ringway above).  When the Queen came to Birmingham in April 1971 to open the Queensway tunnel, she inadvertently referred to the whole Inner Ring Road as the Queensway thus all the roads had to be renamed!

It you do have interest in the 1960's architecture that was introduced to Birmingham then I recommend you have a read of 'Signalling the Sixties' (1.3Mb PDF) produced by the council's planning department.