Ikon Gallery


Originally, this building was the Oozlles Street School. It was built in 1877 by the firm Chamberlain and Martin in the Neo Gothic style. In an industrial area, the school functioned until the 1960s. Following a many changes of use and periods of being unoccupied resulting in damage, the building gained Grade II listed status in 1981. The landscape around the old school continued to change, with the development and opening of Brindleyplace in 1994.

In 1998 The Ikon Gallery, a local contemporary art gallery, moved from its previous location in John Bright Street to the Oozlles Street building. Using a National Lottery grant, the building was restored, adding features such as the glass staircase and lift, and reconfiguring the layout to an open plan gallery style. The gallery now has around 120,000 visitors a year.

7890477510_ea3f5ae746_bImage property of Brianac37


The 1870 Education Act resulted in the building of lots of new schools across the country, including Oozlles Street School. The Neo Gothic style was popular at the time, aiming to re-imagine Medieval Gothic architecture. This architectural movement was influenced by the growing cultural interest in Alglo-Catholic religious beliefs.

Architectural motifs such as intricate decoration, lancet windows and towers reminiscent of churches were common. The original tower of the Ikon Gallery was demolished in 1976 after vandalism and disrepair left it unsafe. It was later rebuilt in 1997 using a modern steel frame to ensure longevity.

Fact file:

Location: Oozells Street, Brindley Place 
Built: 1877
Style: Neo Gothic
Status: Grade II 
Use: Art gallery

Further reading:

Newman Brothers Coffin Works


Situated in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter, from 1894 to 1999 The Newman Brothers Coffin Works was a thriving business. The factory specialised making high quality coffin fittings from metal and resin, linings and shrouds. Their works were used worldwide in a number of notable coffins, such as that of Winston Churchill.

When the factory was sold in 2003, all of the stock was left in the building, including handles, photographs, catalogues and designs. This fortuitous discovery lead to the decision by the Birmingham Conservation Trust to restore the building. After years of project uncertainty, work is now underway to open the coffin works as a community museum, including the original stock, in summer 2014. The building will also have let units available to house local creative businesses.

coffin-works2Image property of Jewelleryquarter.net


This industrial building is typical of most factories built in the Jewellery Quarter around the 1800s. The redbrick building is spread over three stories and is constructed of  with stone detail and a slate roof. The cast iron windows are iconically industrial, and can be seen on the facade of factories across Birmingham. The building was designed with specific rooms for each function, with two entrances separating the ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’ areas of the factory.

Fact file:

Location: Fleet Street, The Jewellery Quarter 
Built: 1894
Style: Factory
Status: Grade II 
Use: Community museum

Further reading:

Perrott’s Folly


Perrott’s Folly was built in 1758 by John Perrott, who was a local landowner. There has been much speculation over the reason for the folly, including tales of him spying on his unfaithful wife or the opposite; to look lovingly upon her grave in the Clent Hills following her death. However, the most common reason for constructing a folly is as a status symbol – most likely as an observatory and place for entertaining in Perrott’s case.

Perrott’s Folly has been associated with the works of J.R.R Tolkein, along with several other buildings in Birmingham. The folly may have been inspiration for one of the ‘Two Towers’ in his Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The building was used for observing weather in 1884 by meteorologist Abraham Follet Osler. It became The Edgbaston Observatory, and functioned as a weather forecasting station until 1979.

Since then, the building fell into disrepair. A project to stop the building collapsing ended in 2005, which focussed on repairing the oak beams at the bottom of the tower and the bricks building the structure.

Now, the building is managed by the charity Trident Reach the People who bought it in 2013 for £1. They are continuing ‘The Folly Project’ which aims to discover the buildings heritage through a contemporary art and architecture programme.


Perrott’s Folly is Georgian, built in the Gothic style. The tower holds 139 steps, which lead to separate, small rooms. Every floor of the building has unique windows, with views stretching up to 10 miles away.

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Fact file:

Location: Waterworks Road, Edgbaston 
Built: 1758
Style: Red brick folly
Status: Grade II* 
Use: Restored community project

Further reading:

Sarehole Mill


Sarehole Mill is one of only two working watermills left in Birmingham. The structure standing today was built in 1750, although a mill was documented at this site from the Tudor period.

Notably, in 1755, Matthew Boulton, a key figure in the Industrial Revolution taking place in Birmingham, leased the mill and made some alterations, including the introduction of metal machinery.

The building was a working mill until 1919, when it became unused and derelict for many years. Upon suggestions of demolition, a local community campaign saved the mill and it was restored in 1969.

Now, Sarehole Mill is run by Birmingham Museums Trust and is open to the public from April to November. In the winter of 2012-2013, the mill underwent a large restoration project, including draining and repairing the millpond, renovating the mill itself, and restoring a Victorian bakery on the property which houses an original oven from the 1890s.

JRR Tolkien

JRR Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, spent part of his childhood in Sarehole. The mill is associated with Tolkien as it is believed he drew inspiration from the building and its surroundings in his creation of ‘The Shire’.

Sarehole Mill now offers a permanent exhibition, ‘Signposts to Middle-Earth’, which explores JRR Tolkien’s time spent in Sarehole.

Fact file:

Location: River Cole, Hall Green 
Built: 1542
Style: Water mill
Status: Grade II 
Use: Museum

Explore Sarehole Mill:

entrance, sarehole mill, birmingham, heritage Inside Sarehole Mill photo tour

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 14.41.14 Sarehole Mill pond photo tour

Further reading:

Eagle and Tun


The Eagle and Tun public house was a much-loved local venue, offering live music, which sadly closed in 2008.

Once home to a thriving music scene, the band UB40 filmed their iconic video for ‘Red Red Wine’ at the pub in the 1980s. It also featured on the cover of their album ‘The Best of UB40’.


The Victorian building has stood for over 100 years, but now sits disused after its closure. As a Grade B locally listed building, conservation should be considered during potential developments.

The Eagle and Tun has been incorporated into plans for the Curzon Street Gateway to the Birmingham HS2 network. The building will be modified to fit the development.

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Fact file:

Location: Banbury Street, Eastside 
Built: 1900
Style: Red brick
Status: Grade B Locally Listed 
Use: Impacted by HS2 development

Further reading:

Curzon Street Railway Station


Curzon Street Station stands next to the new Eastside development housing Millennium Point and the Birmingham City University ‘City Centre’ campus. Currently sitting empty for most of the year, the building is a far cry from its former glory.

Opening on April 9th 1838, the grand building designed by the architect Philip Hardwick brought trains from Birmingham to London for the first time. The design complimented Hardwick’s previous projects in London.

Including the build of the ‘London to Birmingham’ line, engineered by Robert Stephenson, the final cost of the project was about 6 million at the time.

The station closed in 1966, and is, upon occasion, used for art exhibitions, laying empty for the rest of the year. The building has been threatened with demolition several times, however due to its Grade I listing status these attempts have not been successful.

Curzon Street Station has been incorporated into Birmingham’s HS2 plans. The station will be restored as part of the centre of the HS2 network, once again hosting trains from London to Birmingham. Sitting inside a large glass structure, the building will be refurbished to showcase Hardwick’s original facade at the entrance, which has survived the building’s disuse.


The current structure is in a derelict state, with the façade the most retained element. There was once a supplementary goods station, locomotive sheds, stables, warehouses and offices on site.

Curzon Street Station was built three stories tall, with a grand iron and stone staircase inside. It has Roman influences, aiming to compliment Hardwick’s previous architecture in London.

49114687_3ad7bec9d1_bImage property of Steve Cadman

Fact file:

Location: Curzon Street, Eastside 
Built: 1838
Style: Philip Hardwick
Status: Grade I 
Use: HS2 Development

Further reading:

Aston Hall


Built between 1618 and 1635, Aston Hall was designed by architect John Thorpe. Sir Thomas Holt, who built the house, lived there from its construction throughout his life. The property remained in the family until 1817 when it was sold. After changing hands, the building became an open museum and park, until it was bought by the Birmingham Corporation to become the first historic country house in municipal ownership in 1864.

Now, the museum is run by the Birmingham Museums Trust and is open during the summer for visitors.

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The exterior of Aston Hall was built in the Jacobean style of the time. Jacobean architecture is a curious mix of Elizabethan design and new, Renaissance features such as columns and intricate carvings on exotic woods. Architectural elements inspired by the Classical style were also prevalent in this period, including the use of scrolls in plasterwork.

The interior of the property contains beautifully restored period detail, thanks to the buildings Grade I listing status. Examples of 17th century plasterwork can be seen alongside original woodcarvings and chimney pieces. The rooms of the museum have been decorated with traditional interior design from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Fact file:

Location: Aston 
Built: 1618-1635
Style: Jacobean
Status: Grade I 
Use: Community museum

Further reading:

Birmingham Cathedral


Designed by architect Thomas Archer, St Philips Church was built between 1711 and 1715, when it was consecrated. Following the rapid growth of industrial towns, there was need for more churches in Birmingham. St Philips was built for the growing parish of St Martin in the Bullring.

The structure was built at one of the highest points in the area. Notably, it is the third smallest cathedral in England! In 1905, the building became a cathedral and the seat of the Bishop of Birmingham.

The cathedral was bombed during the Second World War, on the 7th November 1940. Thankfully, The Birmingham Civic Society had taken some of its contents into safe keeping during this period, and the building was later restored.

12945359935_4376a9d23d_bImage property of Peter Broster


St Philips Cathedral was built in a Baroque style. Archer was influenced by the architecture of Rome, which is visible in classical elements of the building design, such as the use of pillars.

There have been several additions to the building, including urns on the parapet of the tower in 1756. Four stained glass windows, designed by Edward Burne-Jones, were installed between 1885 and 1897.

Fact file:

Location: Colmore Row, City Centre 
Built: 1710-1725
Style: Baroque
Status: Grade I 
Use: Church of England

Further links:

Library of Birmingham


Following extensive planning and various location choices by Birmingham City Council, a plot between the Rep Theatre and Baskerville House, originally a public car park, was decided as the home of the new Library of Birmingham. An international competition was run by the Royal Institute of British Architects to find an architect to design the building. Mecanoo and Bruno Happold were chosen as the winners and went on to unveil plans for the new development in April 2009.

The library was formally opened on 3rd September 2013 by Malala Yousafzai, a schoolgirl who, following the survival of a Taliban attack, has campaigned for educational and women’s rights from Birmingham, UK.

The Library of Birmingham won overall West Midlands Building of the Year at the RIBA West Midlands Awards.

It is important to note that the original Central Library is located in Chamberlain Square. It was the city’s library from 1974 to 2013. The old library has failed to gain listed building status and will be demolished in 2014 to make way for a redevelopment of Paradise Circus.

10575381886_3006630d4a_bimage property of Tony Hisgett

Fact file:

Location: Centenary Square, Birmingham

Built: 2010-2013

Style: Postmodern

Architect: Francaine Houben

Use: Library

Further reading: