Photo By D J Norton

Photo's by Leonard Stace

When Bill Stace emailed these pictures to me I was very excited by what I saw.  One part of the city that I'd developed a fascination for was the streets surrounding Chamberlain Square.  Because development in this area generally occurred after my father had died, there was very little in the collection to show what had been lost here.  Through further study I found that fantastic Victorian buildings like Mason College, the Central Library and the Midland Institute had been swept away in the late 1960's and early 1970's.  It seems that this destruction was seen by many as 'a building too far' so last minute efforts were made to save the Victorian Central Library and the conservation movement in the city finally found a voice.

These pictures were taken by Leonard Stace with a camera he had purchased from the well known Galloway's store - so well known that the shops at the junction of Colmore Row and New Street were referred to as 'Galloway's Corner'.  There are no dates for any of these pictures but I have reached the opinion that they date from around 1961 until 1965.  If you have any information to date the individual pictures accurately then please get in touch!

I would like to thank Bill Stace for allowing me to show his late father's photo's here.  I'm sure you will agree that they compliment my own father's work very nicely.  We must be thankful that Leonard Stace had the forethought to capture these stunning images.

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.

Chamberlain Square from the Art Gallery steps

Chamberlain Square from Art Gallery
This picture from the steps of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery clearly shows the part of the city for which I feel a great sense of loss.  In the foreground is Congreve Street, a road that used to run from Colmore Row to Great Charles Street.  The building to the left is the Victorian Central Library and to the right is Mason College, fronted by Edmund Street before it had been curtailed.

I took a modern view of this location but I couldn't bring myself to display it side by side with this picture.  Those with the stomach for it can click here. If it wasn't for the presence of the Chamberlain memorial there would be nothing to prove that these photographs really were only seperated by time…

James Watt statue at entrance of Ratcliff Place

James Watt in Ratcliff Place James Watt today
These two pictures illustrate the dramatic change in the nature of Birmingham as a city as profoundly as any you're likely to see.  In Leonard's photo, James Watt stands proud at the entrance to Ratcliff Place, a road that use to exist to the western side of the Town Hall.  In the background is the Birmingham and Midland Institute designed by E.M.Barry and opened in 1858.

My own photo from May 2007 shows James Watt in his new location outside the Birmingham Central Library.  The dramatic difference between the Victorian and modern styles couldn't be more obvious.  Many fans of modern architecture will no doubt try and say that the current Central Library is of great importance and should be admired.  Well, all I can say is that I know which I'd rather look at and I'm not surprised that James Watt is looking at Chamberlain memorial rather than the library!

Paradise Street from Victoria Square

Paradise Street from Victoria Square
A nice view into Paradise Street taken from roughly where 'The Iron Man' stands today.

The building behind the bus was the Royal Mail Parcels Office and it survived until 1985.

Hill Street

Hill Street Hill Street today
A nice atmospheric shot taken from close to the post office at the top of Hill Street and looking down towards Navigation Street.  Above is the bridge that linked the post office to the parcels office on the other side of Hill Street.  In the mist half way down the hill is the Golden Eagle pub which survived well into the 1970's only to be demolished to make way for a small car park.

The modern view shows how this part of the city has been dramatically redeveloped, especially in recent years, with the Orion Building and Beetham Tower both visible.

Town Hall from New Street

Town Hall from New Street
Taken from the top of New Street, this shot shows the Post Office and Town Hall covered in the dirt and grime that was common at the time.  I think the newly refurbished Town Hall looks a bit too clean now!

The Town Hall had an interesting start to its life.  The original design was by J. A. Hansom of 'Hansom Cab' fame but the project had been costed too low and bankruptcy ensued in 1834.  The building was finished off by Charles Edge who had proved himself with the construction of the Market Hall seen here.

Christ Church Passage

Christchurch Passage Christchurch Passage today
The part of the city where Victoria Square is today was once occupied by shops and offices including the famous Galloway's shop that Leonard Stace bought his camera from.  Before they were constructed, Christ Church (built 1805) had occupied most of the land but it was demolished in 1899.  This passageway was called, as still is called, Christ Church Passage and links New Street to Waterloo Street.  I've read that the buildings were demolished with the intention of creating a roundabout but plans to redevelop Colmore Row along the lines of the Inner Ring Road were thankfully dropped!  Still, it's nice to see the steps remain even if the term 'passage' is now something of a misnomer.

Demolishing the Theatre Royal, New Street

Demolishing the Theatre Royal Theatre Royal seating plan
There had been a Theatre Royal on New Street since 1777.  The British History website tells us that it had a classical façade that was elegant and striking.  The original building was replaced by a new Theatre Royal in 1902.  The theatre we see being demolished here was very popular with Birmingham residents and my mother recalls walking up endless stairs to get to 'The Gods' where the cheapest seats were located!

This picture appears to have been taken roughly behind where the stage would have been as it is clear we are looking at the seats within the theatre as many an actor, actress, singer and other artist had done in the past.  I found a small envelope that had once contained Theatre Royal tickets amongst my father's books and had this seating plan printed on it - note the boxes to the right of the photo and the plan.

There is some stunning colour film of the demolition of the Theatre Royal taken by a resident of Guildhall Buildings (incorrectly referred to as Stephenson Buildings by my father) that has been shown on the Central TV programme 'The Way We Were'.  The theatre was replaced by a Woolworths store with offices above.

Stephenson Street

Stephenson Street
Here's another location I've developed a fascination for but one which my father didn't really capture as development took place in the mid 1960's.  Stephenson Street featured the splendid Queens Hotel opened in 1854 and seen to the far right of Leonard's picture.  The rows of cars were no doubt associated with the hotel.  It would be demolished in 1966.

In the middle of the shot we get a glimpse of the gothic Birmingham Exchange in Stephenson Place.  This fantastic building lasted exactly 100 years before being torn down in 1965.  You can see more of it in my father's shot of Stephenson Place.

If you can bring yourself to look, here is the scene today...

New Street / Corporation Street

New Street/Corporation Street New Street/Corporation Street today
This shot was taken close to the old Midland Bank, now Waterstones book shop.  The old and new pictures have much in common for a change!  The biggest difference is that traffic in this area is now restricted to buses using Corporation Street.  In Leonard's time, traffic for the A41 and A34 went up Corporation Street while those seeking the A38 or A441 would be directed down Stephenson Street and Stephenson Place.

New Street

New Street New Street today
I believe that this shot was taken close to the entrace of the Odeon cinema on New Street.  Pedestrianisation and tree planting make it difficult to prove that the old and new shots show the same location!  Behind the trees in the modern view is the large building the looms large in Leonard's picture.  It is now the Britannia Hotel and can be clearly seen in the picture directly above.  When the old picture was taken in appears that New Street was one way towards Corporation Street and Stephenson Place.

Out of shot to the right of the old photo was the 'Big Top' site.  Buildings here were so badly damaged during World War 2 bombing raids that the site had to be cleared and a circus big top moved in for many years before the area was redeveloped in the mid 1950's.

New Street Station

New Street Station
This picture shows the eastern end of platfrom 10 on the Midland (south) side of New Street Station.  The arched roof had been built in 1884.

St Paul's Church from Caroline Street

St Paul's Church, Jewellery Quarter
This is a lovely atmospheric shot of St. Pauls church which was built between 1777 and 1779.  The church sits in the centre of St. Paul's Square and the area is little changed having escaped redevelopment in the 1960's and now being part of the Jewellery Quarter Conservation Area.  Development restrictions are so tight that the façade of a 1930's (my guess) factory in the north west corner of the square was kept when the rest of building was demolished and rebuilt for apartments!