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Birmingham City Centre

Victoria Square

Victoria Square
Victoria Square
Fountain and Town Hall
Fountain and Town Hall

The square was was renamed Victoria Square and a statue of Queen Victoria unveiled on the 10th of January 1901, An honour bestowed late in her 63 year reign as she died just 12 days later. In the past the square was a busy traffic junction but is now a pedestrian area and a focal point for the city. An international design competition was held for a central water feature in the square, which was won by Dhruva Mistry and was completed in 1994, when it was officially opened by Diana, Princess of Wales. The redevelopment of the square also included Iron: Man, a sculpture by Antony Gormley was installed and unveiled in 1993.

The square can be considered to be the centre of Birmingham as it is the point from where local road sign distances are measured. It is a short walk from St. Philip’s Cathedral on Colmore Row and its position at the west end of New Street make it part of the main pedestrian route between the Bull Ring and Brindleyplace areas.

Other points of interest around the square are the Town Hall - a grade I listed building of the 1830s in the classical style, which has undergone extensive restoration and reopened in 2007. It is here that Felix Mendelssohnís oratorio Elijah was premiered on the 26th of August 1846. The Former Head Post Office building, dating from 1891 and built in the French Renaissance style, is in the south corner of the square and owes its existence to the efforts of the Victorian Society, who in 1973 opposed plans for its demolition.

If you are interested in shopping in the City Centre see the Shopping Page.

Centenary Square

The square was named in 1989 in celebration of the centenary of Birmingham achieving city status in 1889.The city council purchased the land in the early 20th century for the creation of a grand civic scheme to include new council offices, mayor’s residence, public library and concert hall. The scheme was abandoned during World War II with only half of the planned Baskerville House having been built. The first building in the square was the Hall of Memory, erected 1922-5 to commemorate the 12,320 Birmingham citizens who died in World War I.

Points of interest around the square include the Birmingham Rep theatre, the Industry and Genius sculpture in front of Baskerville House, the International Convention Centre and Symphony Hall, the Hall of Memory, the Hyatt Regency Hotel, the Spirit & Enterprise fountain and the Boulton, Watt and Murdoch gilded statue of the founding fathers of Birmingham.

Hall of Memory and Baskerville House
Hall of Memory and Baskerville House
Hall of Memory
Hall of Memory
St Philip's Cathedral
St Philip's Cathedral

St Philip's Cathedral

This Church of England cathedral is the seat of the Bishop of Birmingham and was built as a parish church and consecrated in 1715, St Philip’s became the cathedral of the newly-formed Diocese of Birmingham in the West Midlands in 1905. St Philip’s was built in the early 18th century in the Baroque style by Thomas Archer and is located on Colmore Row The cathedral is a Grade I listed building. St Philip’s is the third smallest cathedral in England after Derby and Chelmsford.

In 1884, with the prospect of cathedral status in mind, the church was enlarged and a new Chancel was built by J. A. Chatwin. The alterations included new columns, choir stalls and an organ, but perhaps the most significant additions were the new windows by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones. The windows at the eat end depict the Nativity, Ascension and Crucifixion while at the west end is the Last Judgement.

Canals

It is said that Birmingham has more miles of canal than Venice. That the city grew and prospered was to a large degree the result of the founding fathers realisation of the importance of the latest transport revolution and in February 1768 an Act of Parliament was passed to enable Birmingham to be linked by a canal to Wolverhampton and the infant canal network that was being built.

From the start Matthew Boulton played a leading role in the building of Birmingham’s canals. He, and many other manufacturers, could see the benefit of water transport to a land locked town, dependent on poor roads and expensive carriage charges for all its trade. With the coming of the railways the canals became less important but were still in commercial use up until, at least, the 1960s. By this time the city had turned its back on its canals and they were hidden behind high walls and closed gates.

Canals have been reinvented as places for leisure, recreation, wildlife and are now part of our heritage. The canal between the Mailbox and the National Indoor Arena (NIA) - once hidden from view - is today the central feature for the Convention Centre, Brindleyplace and the Mailbox. Nor is this the full extent of the rehabilitation of our canals. All over the city, and far beyond, houses and apartments are being built beside these waterways and the once forbidden towpaths are enjoyed by thousands.

Canal by the Convention Centre
Canal by the Convention Centre
Farmer's Bridge Top Lock
Farmer's Bridge Top Lock

For more pictures of Birmingham see Photographs of Birmingham City Centre.