St Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham

Cathedral, Birmingham.
Publisher: John Evelyn Wrench

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Once amongst fields, Birmingham Cathedral was originally St Philip’s parish church. At the centre of the growing town of Birmingham, it was designed by Warwickshire
architect Thomas Archer in the new English Baroque style and consecrated in 1715. As Birmingham emerged as an influential industrial centre and city of a thousand trades, with waves of people coming to live and work here, the need for a new cathedral became apparent. In 1905 the Bishop of Birmingham, Charles Gore, chose St Philip’s to be the cathedral of the new diocese of Birmingham.

Birmingham Cathedral

Birmingham, St Phillip’s Cathedral.
On back:
St Phillip’s Church. The Cathedral of Birmingham was erected in 1710 and enlarged in 1874. It contains some beautiful stained glass windows designed by Sir E. Burne-Johns, who was a native of this city.
Publisher: Raphael Tuck & Son

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Council House, Birmingham

Council Chambers, Birmingham
Postmarked 1908

Birmingham City Council House in Birmingham, England, is the home of Birmingham City Council, and thus the seat of local government for the city. It provides office accommodation for both employed council officers, including the Chief Executive, and elected council members, plus the council chamber, Lord Mayor’s Suite, committee rooms and a large and ornate banqueting suite, complete with minstrel’s gallery. . . . In 1852, Birmingham Town Council had inherited the old Public Office on Moor Street, from their predecessors the Street Commissioners, which the council used as their meeting place. It soon became apparent that this building dating from 1807 was not adequate for the needs of the growing town (which became a city in 1889) and that larger premises would be needed. . . . A design competition was established and the council received 29 entries, which was disappointing in comparison to the 179 entries Sheffield and Birmingham received. However a decision was delayed by further financial difficulties. The council was then split over the Gothic entry by Martin & Chamberlain and the classical entry by Yeoville Thomason.

Thomason’s design was chosen; his design featured a central section with a huge hexastyle Corinthian order porte-cochere carrying a balcony with an arch and tympanum high above, flanked by piers and columns which in turn carried a large carved pediment. However, amendments to the art gallery entrance and clock tower were made. The clock and tower are known locally as “Big Brum”. Construction commenced on the building in 1874 when the first stone was laid by the then mayor Joseph Chamberlain. The building was completed in 1879 and cost £163,000 (equivalent to £16,940,000 in 2020). A debate was held to decide the name of the building: the options were The Municipal Hall, Council House and Guildhall. The Council House was extended almost immediately, in 1881–85. The architect was again Yeoville Thomason. This was a combined art gallery, museum, and the home of the corporation’s Gas Department, whose budget subsidised the building, as legislation limited the expenditure of ratepayers’ taxes on the arts.

Within the projecting corner are the Council Chamber and Lord Mayor’s Parlour; within the main entrance is the impressive main staircase. Everything in this central bay is sumptuous, from the six regal lions surmounting the balustrade over the portico, to the panels of rich carving between the upper storey windows, to the lush foliage on the cornice above. The dome is larger than it seems from below; the pediment, designed by Thomason himself and executed by R. L. Boulton & Sons, shows Britannia with her arms outstretched to reward the Manufacturers of Birmingham with laurel wreaths. N.B., Richard Lockwood Boulton (c.1832-1905), an admirer of Ruskin, also worked on the carvings on Northampton Town Hall . . . The main staircase rises from the entrance past an elegant lift on the right, installed to take Edward VII up on his visit of 1909. It divides into two at the half-landing. Here, Thomas Woolner’s touching statue of a young Queen Victoria stands opposite John Henry Foley’s more formal statue of Prince Albert. Above rises the inner part of the dome, nicely described as rising “on eight ribs with rosettes decorating the intervening panels, and spectacular squinches with three setbacks” — “squinches” being the supports, here recessed with intricate carving on each of the arches, for the heavy dome. The banqueting rooms at the front are especially grand.
Victorian Web (with photos)

University of Birmingham, Birmingham

Birmingham University
Postmarked 1911
Publisher: Woolstone Bros, London

The main campus of the university occupies a site some 3 miles (4.8 km) south-west of Birmingham city centre, in Edgbaston. It is arranged around Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower (affectionately known as ‘Old Joe’ or ‘Big Joe’), a grand campanile which commemorates the university’s first chancellor, Joseph Chamberlain. Chamberlain may be considered the founder of Birmingham University, and was largely responsible for the university gaining its Royal Charter in 1900 and for the development of the Edgbaston campus. The university’s Great Hall is located in the domed Aston Webb Building, which is named after one of the architects – the other was Ingress Bell. The initial 25-acre (100,000 m2) site was given to the university in 1900 by Lord Calthorpe. The grand buildings were an outcome of the £50,000 given by steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to establish a “first class modern scientific college” on the model of Cornell University in the United States. Funding was also provided by Sir Charles Holcroft.

The original domed buildings, built in Accrington red brick, semicircle to form Chancellor’s Court. This sits on a 30 feet (9.1 m) drop, so the architects placed their buildings on two tiers with a 16 feet (4.9 m) drop between them. The clock tower stands in the centre of the Court. The campanile itself draws its inspiration from the Torre del Mangia, a medieval clock tower that forms part of the Town Hall in Siena, Italy. When it was built, it was described as ‘the intellectual beacon of the Midlands’ by the Birmingham Post. The clock tower was Birmingham’s tallest building from the date of its construction in 1908 until 1969

The original buildings of the University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, on Chancellor’s Court. Aston Webb & Ingress Bell. 1909. Accrington red brick with saucer domes, with some features reminiscent of Francis Bentley’s Byzantine Westminster Cathedral of 1895-1903; it differs in style from Oxbridge colleges just as that cathedral was intended to differ from the Gothic Westminster Abbey. The buildings also owe something to the pavilion plan of recent hospitals like Sir George Gilbert Scott’s Leeds General Infirmary, where wards diverge from a central front — though, surprisingly, the Great Hall, seen on the left here, was not originally intended to be in this position. The result is a very distinctive — indeed stunning — ensemble. Stone dressings, especially on the entrance pavilion to the Great Hall, relieve the red brick. So do the main decorative elements — a row of nine statues by Henry Alfred Pegram over the main doorways, heraldic carving in the spandrels of the round-arched window, and a ceramic frieze by Robert Anning Bell higher up on the façade. Within their allotted spaces, these features complement rather than distract from the bold outlines of the buildings — a “geometry of squares and circles, cubes and hemispheres, perhaps inspired by (W. R.) Lethaby’s Architecture. Mysticism and Myth (1892).
Victorian Web

“Plan of the New University Buildings at Edgaston”, “The Journal of the Institute of Metals, Vol I”, 1909, pp. 18

The University of Birmingham, which received its Royal Charter in 1900, is the first of the group of modern Universities founded in England during the past eight years, and is the immediate successor of the Mason University College. This College, which owed its inception and foundation to the late Sir Josiah Mason, was opened in the year 1880, and afforded means for the scientific and literary training of the youth of the Midlands for a period of twenty years. The College had at first only four Professors, having charge respectively of the teaching in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, but other departments in Science and Literature were added at a very early date, and in 1892 the work of the College became still further extended by the incorporation of the Medical Faculty of Queen’s College. . . . Soon after the Charter of a University had been granted, it was felt that the accommodation of the Mason College was too restricted, and it was accordingly decided to erect new buildings, in which, first of all, the departments of Applied and Pure Science, but ultimately all the teaching departments, should be housed. This decision was assisted by the gift of Lord Calthorpe to the University of a site of 25 acres at Bournbrook, distant about three miles from the centre of Birmingham. In 1907 Lord Calthorpe gave an additional 19 acres, whiich is now being laid out for College games. The architects of the new buildings are Sir Aston Webb and Mr. Ingress Bell, and the accompanying plan [left] shows the scheme for the whole of the buildings to be erected on the site, and also for the laying out of the grounds.
“The Journal of the Institute of Metals, Vol I”. 1909, pp. 16-7

The main portion of the [Metallurgical] department is all situated on one floor, one of the large blocks being allocated to Metallurgy and Mining. The lower half of this block is devoted to Mining, and the upper half to Metallurgy. The Metallurgical department is approached by a central corridor, as shown [below] and in the sketch plan, and this corridor, which is lighted from above, gives access to all the rooms and laboratories, and also to the teaching museum.
“The Journal of the Institute of Metals, Vol I”. 1909, pp. 19

“Central Corridor and Museum” (Metallurgical Department) “The Journal of the Institute of Metals, Vol I”. 1909, pp. 20
Metallurgical Department “The Journal of the Institute of Metals, Vol I”. 1909, pp. 21

Kitchen, Aston Hall, Birmingham

The Great Kitchen, Aston Hall
c.1910 (1900s stamp)

Google Street View (exterior)

Aston Hall is a Grade I listed Jacobean house in Aston, Birmingham, England, designed by John Thorpe and built between 1618 and 1635. It is a leading example of the Jacobean prodigy house.

A single story extension to the original building. This area provided a much larger kitchen space for servants to use, and during James Watt Jr.’s residence included a steam kitchen range, most notably of which is the ‘smoke jack’. A steel spit uses the steam rising up the chimney to turn the spit, eliminating the need for a servant to turn the spit by hand.

Birmingham Museums

Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham, England

Bridge Cannon Hill Park
Postmarked: 1900s
Publisher: Edwards & CO, Birmingham

Google Street View (approximate).

Originally donated to the citizens of Birmingham by Louisa Ryland, Cannon Hill Park was opened to visitors in 1873, and was designed by TJ Gibson, who also designed Battersea Park in London. Louisa Ryland hoped the park would help the people of Birmingham enjoy their recreation and keep healthy, a legacy that is still going strong. The park itself includes 80 acres of formal parks, as well as 120 acres of conservation and woodland. It’s a brilliant place to enjoy a walk,run or cycle, or just to sit and relax. There’s also a natural amphitheatre with a beautiful listed Bandstand at its centre.
Canon Hill Park

Cannon Hill Park is a park located in south Birmingham, England. It is the most popular park in the city, covering 250 acres (101 ha) consisting of formal, conservation, woodland and sports areas. Recreational activities at the park include boating, fishing, bowls, tennis, putting and picnic areas. . . On 18 April 1873, a local benefactor, Miss Louisa Ann Ryland (1814–89) of Barford Hill House, Warwickshire, gave just over 57 acres (23 ha)[1] of meadow land, known as Cannon Hill Fields, to the Corporation and paid for the draining of the site to create a public park. J.T Gibson of Battersea was employed to transform the site. He constructed two large lakes, the smaller ornamental ponds and a bathing pool. 35 acres were devoted to ornamental gardens and shrub borders. Kew Gardens donated seeds and plants to establish the collection, this collection was used by students to enable them to study botany. It opened to the public in September 1873. A further 7 acres (2.8 ha) were given by the brewer John Holder in 1897, and in 1898 5 acres (2.0 ha) were acquired to straighten the River Rea, which is now culverted and runs along the western edge.