Monday , November 28 2022

Let the games begin: Birmingham, then and now – in pictures

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1. The Bull Ring Market

January 1939 Street traders display their wares at the open air market. The heart of Birmingham’s commercial centre since medieval times, the Bull Ring referred to a green in the middle of the market where bulls were tied for baiting before slaughter. Archaeological excavations in 2000 as part of its redevelopment revealed a large ditch where Selfridges and the Park Street car park now stand. Rubbish thrown into the ditch included fragments of pottery, indicating that there were kilns here in the 13th century.

Bull Ring
Humphrey Spender/Picture Post/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

2. Edgbaston cricket ground

July 1963 West Indies supporters outside Edgbaston cricket ground before the third test match versus England. The sporting venue was built in the early 19th century, after the Calthorpe Estate gifted the land to Warwickshire County Cricket Club. The first test match was played in 1886 with the first Ashes test match played in 1902. It became the first English ground outside Lord’s to host one of world cricket’s biggest tournaments in 2013 – the ICC Champions Trophy final.

Edgbaston Cricket Ground
Central Press/Getty Images

3. Muhammad Ali, Bull Street

June 1979 Muhammad Ali, arguably the world’s greatest boxer, had close links with the city and visited a number of times. The 1979 visit was to be his last UK ring appearance, when he put on a boxing exhibition with fellow American Jimmy Ellis. According to reports in the Birmingham Mail, a fan at the match was given Ali’s shorts with the message: “To Leslie Ward from Muhammad Ali, three times champion of the world. Enjoy life, it’s later than you think.”

Bull Street in Birmingham
Mirrorpix/Getty Images

4. Victoria Law Courts, Birmingham

November 1974 Crowds outside the Victoria Law Courts during the trial of the Birmingham Six, where six Irish immigrants were tried for the Birmingham pub bombings. The explosions on 21 November, 1974, killed 21 people, making it the deadliest attack on English soil during the troubles. The men were convicted in August 1975 and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, after a long campaign, an appeals court overturned all six convictions in 1991.

Victoria Law Courts, Birmingham
R Viner/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

5. Primark in the Bull Ring, Birmingham

August 1969 About 3,000 men, women and children took part in the Northern Ireland civil rights march, including 13-year-old Robert Daly, his 10-year-old sister Rita, and Bernadette Barnett, 11. The three youngsters were all cousins of 15-year-old Gerald McAuley, who had been shot dead in Belfast a week earlier. The marchers sat down in Colmore Row to observe a two-minute silence in memory of the teenager.

Primark in the Bull Ring, Birmingham
Mirrorpix/Getty Images

6. Baskerville House, Centenary Square

1953 The Dagenham Girl Pipers perform on the green in front of the prominent city landmark. Baskerville House, now somewhat overshadowed by Birmingham’s new library, was once occupied by businessman John Baskerville, who is buried nearby. It remains an office building today.

Baskerville House and the Hall of Memory in Centenary Square, Birmingham
Hanley/Popperfoto/Getty Images

7. Rookery Road, Handsworth

June 1977 Cyclists lead the Africa Liberation Day rally. The photograph was taken by Vanley Burke, now 71, who has spent most of his life documenting the lives of black people in the city. Burke, who moved to the West Midlands from a farm in the foothills of Jamaica’s Blue Mountains in 1965, was given his first camera – a box Brownie – when he was 10. Talking about photographing the black experience, Burke once told the Guardian that such events were not covered in the press. “The only way black people got into the news,” he said, “was if they committed a crime.”

Africa Liberation Day rally at Handsworth in 1977
Vanley Burke

8. Alexander Stadium

2002 and 2021 Two female athletes competing at the international athletics stadium in Perry Barr – triple jumper Ashia Hansen in 2001 and heptathlete Katarina Johnson-Thompson in 2021. The arena is the one of the 2022 Commonwealth Games’ main venues.

Long Jump, Alexander Stadium
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images and Ian Stephen/ProSports/Shutterstock

9. New Street

May 1931 New Street is at the heart of one of the city’s main shopping and leisure areas and links Victoria Square to the Bullring Shopping Centre. It is believed to have existed since medieval times and one of its first mentions, as Novus Vicus, can be found in the 1296 Borough Rental records.

New Street in Birmingham, May 1931
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

10. Town Hall

October 1940 Crowds gather to listen to a military band playing in front of the town hall in Chamberlain Square as part of War Weapons Week during the second world war. The war bonds campaign had already raised £8m pounds. Today the hall is draped in Commonwealth Games banners.

War Weapons Week in Birmingham, October 1940
Haywood Magee/Popperfoto/Getty Images

11. Bomb damage, Sparkbrook

1940 Birmingham was the second most heavily bombed city in the country during the second world war. This photograph shows the Stratford Road area. In the background is the Piccadilly Banqueting Suite, now a wedding venue, in the Balti Triangle.

Bomb damage in Sparkbrook, Birmingham
Mirrorpix/Getty Images

12. Hall of Memory, Centenary Square

1957 Smaller but standing proudly next to Baskerville House is the Grade I-listed Hall of Memory. It commemorates the men and women of Birmingham who gave their lives in conflicts including the two world wars. Peeking just above it is the renovated library and, inside the hall, a first world war roll of honour bears the words: “There was none that gave them an ill-word, for they feared God greatly … So they passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for them on the other side.”

The Hall of Memory in Centenary Square, Birmingham
Simon Webster/Alamy

13. Chamberlain Clock, Jewellery Quarter

1946 A Birmingham Corporation tram heads across Warstone Lane, with the Chamberlain Clock in the background. Unveiled in 1903, the clock commemorates Joseph Chamberlain’s visit to South Africa after the Boer War. Chamberlain was responsible for the modernisation of the city while he was mayor, between 1873 and 1876. A new project is looking into his role in the British Empire’s colonial legacy.

The Chamberlain Clock in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham
Dave Bagnall Collection/Alamy

14. Gas Street Canal, Birmingham

July 1953 Colourful boats bob along the Gas Street Basin, at the heart of Birmingham’s canal network. The waterways were an integral part of Victorian Birmingham and during the Industrial Revolution they played a crucial role in the development of the city and the Black Country, transporting coal, iron and other heavy goods.

Gas Street Canal, Birmingham
Phyllis Nicklin/University of Birmingham

Contemporary photography: Andy Hall. Picture editing and research: Jim Powell. Words: Nazia Parveen

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