Suffolk St Sign
Photo By D J Norton Suffolk St Queensway Sign

Birmingham

I'd looked at my father's photo's of Birmingham many times but always just saw 'Old Birmingham' looking back at me.  It was only early in 2005 when I showed them to a colleague that I saw them afresh.  I'd been working in Birmingham city centre for over two years and, suddenly, some of the locations started to jump out at me.  My frequent walk from bus stop to office had meant that I had come to know Smallbrook Queensway, Holloway Head, Suffolk Street Queensway, Navigation Street and Broad Street intimately.  The pictures now had a context in the modern street scene!

With more careful study of the pictures I was able to work out exactly where many of them had been taken.  Subtle clues from one would help in locating another.  A magnifying glass and old and new maps helped in the investigation.  As the jigsaw came together, two things hit me.  One was that my father had carefully recorded Birmingham prior to the inner ring road development.  The other was that the city had lost a huge number of beautiful old buildings in the name of 'progress'.

My research into the Inner Ring Road project revealed that one man, City Engineer Herbert Manzoni, had been the driving force behind it.  From the late 1950's to the early 1960's it seemed the project went through without any thoughts for the history being lost.  I can kind of understand that, at the time, it must have seemed like a grand plan to transform Birmingham into a modern city where the motor car could navigate without the hindrance of historic street layouts.  But I doubt you'll find many people who will defend it now.

A visitor to this site, Peter Walker, got in touch to say that he was partially involved in the Inner Ring Road project and would be happy to document his thoughts and recollections of the time.  If you are interested in the history of the ring road then I suggest you spend sometime reading his fascinating notes.

I have tried to take my contemporary photographs as close to the original locations as possible.  I think the effect of comparing 'then' and 'now' becomes more extreme when there really is a direct comparison to be made.

If you are aged enough to remember the old city and can help identify the buildings that were lost I would be very grateful for any information you can provide.  Similarly, if you come across errors in my text, please contact me so I can update it.

Where old and new pictures are shown side-by-side, just click on the old picture to see a larger version.  If this does not work it's most likely because you don't have JavaScript enabled - use your Web Browser help to find out how to enable it.


Birmingham Past & Present
"Birmingham Past & Present: In My Father's Footsteps"

"Birmingham Then & Now"

"Birmingham New Street Station Through Time"

Do you like this site?  Then you may be interested in my books...
Birmingham Then & Now

I've developed an interest in what is happening to the city now.  If you want to know more then please visit my Birmingham Developments page.  Note that this includes pictures of some of the old buildings that survived in the past but now are doomed...


To try and reduce download times, I have divided the photographs into various sections.  Please select the link of interest.

City Centre Inside Ring Road
Various Locations within the Inner Ring Road
City Centre Outside Ring Road
Broad St, Horsefair, Bristol Road, St Luke's Rd, Snow Hill/Constitution Hill and
Legge St/Aston St
Inner Ring Road North
Congreve St, Gt Charles St, Livery St and Loveday St
Inner Ring Road East
Lancaster Place, Corporation St, Stafford St, Coleshill St and Moor St
Inner Ring Road South
Dudley St, Hurst St, Smallbrook Queensway and Bull Ring
Inner Ring Road West
Holloway Head, John Bright St, Suffolk St, Paradise St and Easy Row
Inner Ring Road Central
Upper Priory, Old Square and Dale End
South Birmingham
Selly Park, Stirchley, Cotteridge, Kings Norton, Northfield and Rubery
New Street Station
The redevelopment of this fine, old station in the 1960's
Birmingham In Colour 1950s
Colour slides from around the city in the 1950's
Birmingham In Colour 1960s
Colour slides from around the city in the 1960's

Birmingham pictures from other collections

Photo's by Leonard Stace A series of pictures of the city centre taken by the late Leonard Stace in the early 1960's
Bull Ring and
Inner Ring Road by
Leonard Stace
Redevelopment of the Bull Ring and the creation of the Inner Ring Road as
captured by the late Leonard Stace
South Birmingham Businesses A superb collection of pictures of shops, pubs and garages throughout south
Birmingham from a collection aquired by Geoff Thompson
City Centre
Fifteen fascinating City Centre photographs dated between 1950 and 1967 from a collection aquired by Geoff Thompson
Victorian Central Library
Amazing colour slides of the old Central Library in Ratcliff Place
Dowell's Retreat
The fascinating story of Dowell's Retreat, Bordesley

For more pictures of Brum, check out the Trams and Buses and Railways pages.


Recommended Birmingham History Websites

I don't maintain a traditional links page as I prefer to embed relevant links in picture captions.  However, there are several sites that I recommend highly.  For the history of the various parts of the city, you can not beat Bill Dargue's superb site - a real labour of love and an excellent resource!  If it's more pictures you are after then you need to spend a couple of hours at the website of the late Keith Berry.  This site includes the truly amazing Phylis Nicklin collection.  For some colour views that compliment my father's pictures very nicely, John Ball's 'Images of Birmingham' is well worth a visit.  A 'moving' trip through Birmingham in the 1950's can be found on YouTube.  Finally, if you are interested in Ladywood in particular then you need to drop by Mac Joseph's site.

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