Category Archives: Walking tours

The modern architecture of Birmingham

The city skyline in Birmingham is increasingly changing with a collection of modern architecture. These buildings are becoming iconic for our city, and are well worth visiting if you haven’t already!

library of birmingham elliott brown birmingham modern architectureLibrary of Birmingham by Elliott Brown

Library of Birmingham

The Library of Birmingham is one of the newest additions to the Birmingham skyline. Built on the site of a car park,  and has quickly become  a city landmark. The exterior of the library is clad in metal geometric shapes, linking to the cladding of The Selfridges Building. The interior revolves around a huge circular stairwell, which is definitely worth exploring.

selfridges building by brianac37 birmingham modern architectureThe Selfridges Building by Brianac37 

The Selfridges Building

Costing around £40 million to construct, The Selfridges Building is unmistakable. The building is clad in 15,000 aluminium disks, giving it a futuristic exterior. Inside, the Selfridges department store offers retail and dining outlets. The store is currently undergoing redevelopment work costing around £25 million, including the recent transformation of the Beauty Hall.

millennium point by guy evans modern architecture birminghamMillennium Point by Guy Evans

Millennium Point

Millennium Point and the Eastside building mark the beginning of the redevelopment of Birmingham Eastside, implemented by the Big City Plan the the current plans for the HS2 development. Millennium Point houses Birmingham ThinkTank and an IMAX screen, while both buildings are sites for Birmingham City University facilities, with a second phase of build currently in construction.

staying cool rotuda birmingham modern architectureImage property of Staying Cool

Birmingham Rotunda

The Rotunda has had a varied history and has divided opinion throughout Birmingham. Once a block of offices, the building has been developed by Staying Cool and UrbanSplash to provide an apart-hotel and luxury living accommodation.

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selfridges building the bullring birmingham by Brianac37 

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birmingham rotunda by Holly Occhipinti

 

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Discover Birmingham’s heritage architecture

Birmingham has a beautiful variety of heritage architecture. Discover our top picks, and head out into the city to visit them this summer.

Grade 1

aston hall exterior birmingham

Aston Hall

Aston Hall is a large Jacobean building, situated in a prominent position overlooking Birmingham. It was built in the early 1600s at the commission of Sir Thomas Holt. The hall remained in the ownership of the family until the 1800s, and after changing hands several times it is now a public museum.

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Aston Hall features a lavish interior, decorated to reflect the different time periods the Hall has lived through. The extensive grounds are perfectly sculpted, and can be explored by visitors from April to November.

curzon street railway station birmingham by Steve Cadman
Image property of Steve Cadman

Curzon Street Station

Curzon Street Station opened on April 9th 1838. It was designed by the architect Philip Hardwick to bring trains from Birmingham to London for the first time. The station had a prominent place in the function of the city, until it was closed in 1966. Since then, the station has remained unoccupied, except for the occasional art exhibition.

station arial hs2 birmingham
Image property of Birmingham Newsroom

The station is set to be transformed in the new Birmingham HS2 development. Curzon Street station will once again link London to Birmingham with a high-speed line, bringing the station back to its former glory. The building will be incorporated into a new glass structure, signifying the new Curzon Street Gateway.

Grade 2

newman brothers coffin works by jewelleryquarter.net
Image property of Jewelleryquarter.net

Newman Brother’s Coffin Works

Newman Brother’s Coffin Works is one of Birmingham’s hidden heritage gems. In the heart of the Jewellery Quarter, the business was busy from 1894 to 1999 producing high quality coffin fittings, linings and shrouds for prominent members of society. The factory was sold in 2003 along with all of its old stock, including handles, photographs and catalogues.

The Birmingham Conservation Trust is currently restoring the building, set to open in summer 2014 as a community museum showcasing the business’ original stock. The building will also have units for local creative business use. 

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Image property of Staying Cool

Birmingham Rotunda

The Birmingham Rotunda is one of Birmingham’s most unlikely heritage buildings. It was originally planned as one of James A. Robert’s designs in the original Bullring scheme, but plans were later changed until its eventual construction. Opinion on the building is divided; when it was built many disliked it, but since its closure it has evaded demolition due to public protest!

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Image property of Staying Cool

The 25 story building has since been developed from its original use as office blocks to a luxury apart-hotel run by Staying Cool at the Rotunda, and a selection of homes by UrbanSplash.

Locally Listed


Image property of Brianac37

Eagle & Tun

The Eagle and Tun public house was a much loved local venue, offering a thriving music scene; the band UB40 filmed their iconic video for ‘Red Red Wine’ at the pub in the 1980s. After closure in 2008, the building has been left empty.

hs2 artists impression new canal street 3d birmingham newsroom
Image property of Birmingham Newsroom

The Grade B locally listed building is intended to be inetgrated into the new Curzon Street Gateway development as part of the Birmingham HS2 scheme. The building will be modified to fit, and will be renovated.

Explore Tolkien’s Birmingham

J.R.R. Tolkien spent much of his childhood in Birmingham, living in the Kings Heath and Sarehole areas after moving there from South Africa with his mother in 1896. It is believed by many that several prominent Birmingham landmarks may have influenced Tolkien, shaping the stories in his well-known books ‘The Lord of the Rings’. Discover Tolkien’s Birmingham; you could visit all these sites in one jam-packed day!

Sarehole Mill

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

Sarehole Mill may have been an influence when Tolkien created the places ‘The Shire’ and ‘Hobbiton’ in his books. Sarehole Mill’s idyllic setting and nearby Moseley Bog draws comparisons with Tolkien’s rural fantasy locations. Notably, Tolkien and his brother were regularly chased away from the Mill by the miller’s son!

The Mill held special memories for Tolkien, and he aided the public appeal to restore the museum in the 1960s. Now open as a museum, Sarehole Mill can be enjoyed all year round by the public.

Old Joe

The Joseph Chamberlain Clock Tower, or Old Joe to students, sits proudly in the centre of the University of Birmingham campus. Built between 1900 and 1908, it was designed in the Neo-Classical style, and is known as a campanile; the Itallian term for ‘bell tower’.

Tolkien stayed at the University of Birmingham in 1916. The University was being used as temporary wards during World War I, and Tolkien was treated there following contracting trench fever in the Somme.

It has been suggested that Old Joe’s glowing clockface inspired the creation of ‘The Eye of Sauron’ from Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy.

Perrott’s Folly

Perrott’s Folly was built in 1758 by John Perrott, who was a local landowner. There has been very creative speculation over the reason for constructing the Folly, but the most common reason is as a status symbol and place for entertaining guests.

Perrott’s Folly and the nearby Edgbaston Waterworks Tower make a formidable pair in the Birmingham skyline. It has been suggested that these two towers could have influenced the ‘Two Towers of Gondor’ in Tolkien’s works.

Tolkien’s Birmingham is a varied collection of sites that inspired Tolkien and featured at key moments in his life. Take a tour and travel through idyllic hideaways to city landmarks. Visit the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery website for more information on their Tolkien Trail to get your exploration started.

Featured image property of Nic Redhead

Walking Tour: 24 hours in Birmingham City Centre

If you have 24 hours to spend in the centre of Birmingham, what better way to spend the day than exploring the city’s finest examples of architecture. Follow this simple walking tour to visit Birmingham’s iconic buildings.

Walking tour

The Bullring

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Head to the Bullring for early morning shopping to avoid the crowds. Admire the modern architecture of the Selfridges Building, and visit the famous rag markets – taking in St Martin’s Church along the way.

Library of Birmingham

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Take a leisurely walk to Broad Street, and spend the rest of your morning exploring the Library of Birmingham, one of the city’s newest architectural icons.

Lunch at Brindley Place

Brindley Place Birmingham canal by Roland TurnerImage property of Roland Turner

Have a well-earned break and stop for lunch at nearby Brindley Place in one of the many eateries overlooking the canal.

Museums and galleries

chamberlain square birmingham by brianac37Image property of Brianac37

Stroll nearby Chamberlain Square, spending an hour or two in the Birmingham Museum or the Ikon Gallery (just around the corner,) whichever takes your fancy!

Birmingham Cathedral

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Head back into the city centre to admire Birmingham Cathedral, the building that gives Birmingham its City status.

Dinner at The Lost and Found

the lost and found briminghamImage property of The Lost and Found

Have dinner at The Lost and Found, a Grade II listed building with stunning interior design. Treat yourself to a cocktail  after a day of exploration.

Sleep at The Rotunda

staying cool at the rotunda birminghamImage property of Staying Cool

If you’re a visitor, spend the night in The Rotunda thanks to Staying Cool, and sleep in the lap of luxury in one of their many apartments with views across the city skyline.