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History & heritage
19 hours ago - Elliott Brown
Did you know?

Outside the main entrance of the Black Country Living Museum

We continue our digital tour of the Black Country Living Museum through my photos taken on a visit from August 2011 (almost 9 years ago). With a look at the buildings outside of the main entrance. The Rolfe Street Baths from Smethwick. Also a building from Wednesbury. A replica Titanic anchor was outside the museum back then. Also a Chassis Press.

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Outside the main entrance of the Black Country Living Museum





We continue our digital tour of the Black Country Living Museum through my photos taken on a visit from August 2011 (almost 9 years ago). With a look at the buildings outside of the main entrance. The Rolfe Street Baths from Smethwick. Also a building from Wednesbury. A replica Titanic anchor was outside the museum back then. Also a Chassis Press.


In this second digital tour of the Black Country Living Museum, we look at the buildings that were rebuilt at the main entrance of the museum, and now used as exhibition rooms. There was also a Chassis Press outside of the museum that you can see from Tipton Road in Dudley. During my visit of August 2011, there was also a replica Titanic anchor, based on one originally made by Hingley at Netherton in the Black Country (this is no longer there). It was made in 2010 for a Channel 4 documentary and was on loan to Dudley Council at the time.

Rolfe Street Baths, Smethwick

A look at the Rolfe Street Baths. Originally built on Rolfe Street in Smethwick in 1888. The building was a striking example of the Arts and Crafts movement of the period. The building closed down and was dismantled brick by brick in 1989. Later to be rebuilt at the Black Country Living Museum in 1999. The original architects was Harris, Martin & Harris of Birmingham. The baths was originally built by the Smethwick Local Board of Health to provide washing and recreational facilities. These days the building at the museum houses the Museum's reception and exhibition galleries.

In 2011 you could see the replica Titanic anchor outside of the Rolfe Street Baths (more on that further down the post).

What looks like a ghost sign painted on the side of the building reads:

ROLFE STREET

BATHS

FIRST BUILT IN SMETHWICK 1888

First look at the façade of the Rolfe Street Baths. It is a striking example of late 19th century architecture. It has ornamental brickwork and terracotta panels.

The terracotta panels has false gables on the façade depicting fish, herons and wildlife rarely seen in the industrial surroundings that the building was once in.

The building has decorative cast iron arches and columns which support the roof in the pool hall (best seen from the inside).

Remarkably the building had surviving being dismantled from Smethwick and re-erected here in Dudley. It's hard to tell that the building wasn't originally at this location.

The former entrances to the Female and Male baths. The building used to have 2 swimming pools with 28 slip baths, 2 showers and a munipical laundry.

These green doors are probablt no longer in use, but were retained for decorative use only. You can see some bricks that don't exactly match the originals. Perhaps some were broken or missing, and they had to use new bricks in the restoration at the museum.

Façade from a factory in Wednesbury

This was a façade from a building originally built as a factory in Wednesbury. It was moved to the museum by the West Midlands County Council Task Force. It was opened at the museum by H.R.H. The Duke of Gloucester on the 24th October 1985. Finance for the building was provided by Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and the then West Midlands County Council (abolished in 1986). This is now the Pre-Paid Ticket Entrance. There is also a door for disabled or elderly people in wheelchairs to use. And they can get access to their coach nearby.

In the middle of this building was an anchor.

Inside was this plaque that was unveiled back in 1985 by the Duke of Gloucester.

The Titanic Anchor

Something you won't see on your visit to the museum now is this replica of The Titanic Anchor. It was made in 2010 by Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd for a Channel 4 documentary. It was on loan at the time to the museum from Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council.

The original anchor was made by N. Hingley & Sons Ltd in 1911 at their factory in Netheron, Dudley. The original anchor weighed 15.5 tons.

In 2011 the Titanic anchor replica was seen outside of the Black Country Living Museum near the former Rolfe Street Baths building. But it was eventually moved to a more permenant location in Netherton where it remains today.

One of the museum volunteers seen in period costume close to the main entrance of the museum, not far from the Titanic Anchor replica. The anchor is now lying face down in Netherton.

Wilkins & Mitchell Chassis Press

Probably the first thing you would see when arriving at the museum on Tipton Road would be this Chassis Press. The  Wilkins & Mitchell Chassis Press was built in 1913 for Rubery Owen Ltd based in Darlaston at the time. It was erected and maintained by The Hulbert Group of Dudley. Wilkins and Mitchell Limited was established in 1904 in Darlaston. They produced machine tools and presses. Their machines could be found in factories all around the world. The Chassis Press here was in use until 1970. It's possible that it could have been installed at the museum site from 1978, or in the 1980s.

A close up look at the Chassis Press. Four gear wheels at the back and two large gear wheels at the front.

There was so many gear wheels here that used to turn when it use. You can also see a smaller gear wheel in front of the larger ones.

It's now just a monument that you would see as you arrive or leave the Black Country Living Museum. A reminder of how successful it was when in use from 1913 to 1970 in Darlaston.

Side view of the Chassis Press with the gear wheels.

On this side you can see four gear wheels at the bottom.

Clearly this wheel used to drive the gear wheels.

One last look at the Chassis Press before getting back in our coach and returning to Birmingham,

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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60 passion points
Green open spaces
19 hours ago - Elliott Brown
Did you know?

The Bandstand and Drinking Fountains at Lightwoods Park

It wasn't just Lightwoods House that was restored in Lightwoods Park. Other historic monuments were restored including the bandstand and two drinking fountains. They look as good as new now. In this post we will look at them from before restoration, during restoration and what they are like after restoration. A new Rest House was built in 2016-17.

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The Bandstand and Drinking Fountains at Lightwoods Park





It wasn't just Lightwoods House that was restored in Lightwoods Park. Other historic monuments were restored including the bandstand and two drinking fountains. They look as good as new now. In this post we will look at them from before restoration, during restoration and what they are like after restoration. A new Rest House was built in 2016-17.


Bandstand

The Bandstand at Lightwoods Park is Grade II listed and dates to the late 19th century. In an Octagonal plan. It was made of Cast Iron on a brick base with a sheet iron roof. The Bandstand was presented to the City of Birmingham by Rowland Mason Esq. J.P. of West Mount, Edgbaston. It was erected in April 1903. It is now in the care of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council (since they took over the running of the park from Birmingham City Council in November 2010). The Bandstand was restored between 2016 and 2017.

The first time I saw the Bandstand in Lightwoods Park was in March 2011. So it was about 4 months after Sandwell took over the running of the park from Birmingham. It would be another 5 years before restoration work began on it (same time as Lightwoods House).

There was scaffolding all over the Bandstand at Lightwoods Park during January 2016. Also some hoardings, so couldn't get too close to it at the time.

In September 2016, restoration of the Bandstand in Lightwoods Park was almost complete. But was still barriers around it at the time.

The Bandstand in November 2017 after restoration was completed.

At the beginning of June 2020 I was back at Lightwoods Park for a lockdown walk around the park. Saw a man doing press ups to the left of the Bandstand.

Drinking Fountain

There is at least two drinking fountains in Lightwoods Park. There is one near Lightwoods House, that was given to the City of Birmingham, by Sydney Edwards of Moorfield Beech Lanes, on behalf of the Subscribers in December 1903. The other drinking fountain is near the entrance to the second half of the park from Galton Road. Both are of an identical design. There is a third drinking fountain of this design in Warley Woods.

I originally saw the first drinking fountain when I first visited Lightwoods Park in March 2011. And it was in a state of disrepair. It was about 4 months after Sandwell took over the running of the park from Birmingham. It would be another 5 years before Sandwell Council started to work on restoring it, and the other drinking fountains.

Scaffolding around the drinking fountain close to Lightwoods House during January 2016. The old tiles on the roof had been removed. There was also hoardings around the area as Lightwoods House was also being fully restored at the time.

I first found the second drinking fountain, near the Galton Road entrance during September 2016, when I walked around the rest of the park for the first time. You could see the tiles in the original colour, and it was missing the tip that was added after the restoration was completed.

The second drinking fountain near the Galton Road entrance to the second half of Lightwoods Park, seen during early June 2020. We were heading to the Warley Woods from here. There is a quote on here (a bit unreadble) from William Shakespeare's Timon of Athens Act I, Scene II.

Those healths will make thee and thy state
look ill, Timon. Here's that which is too weak to
be a sinner, honest water, which ne'er left man i' the mire

In comparison to the two Lightwoods Park drinking fountains, a look at the drinking fountain in the nearby Warley Woods. It was made in 1906-07, and was restored in 2009.

The first time I saw the Warley Woods drinking fountain was during July 2017, while I was on the Big Sleuth bear hunt. Bentley the Bearwood Bear was close by (it is now outside of Lightwoods House).

The Warley Woods drinking fountain seen during early June 2020 on a full lockdown walk around the woods.

Rest House

I first saw The Rest House in November 2017, not far from Bearwood Bus Station. It looks relatively new. But the roof looked like it was from the 1900s. It had benches around a central area with noticeboards. It's possible that they reused the roof from another building. It was a completely new build. 

The Rest House seen in early June 2020, as I was looking towards a view towards Bearwood Bus Station. There used to be a section in the middle with benches and notice boards, but it seems to have been removed due to vandalism. 

I'll probably next cover the Shakespeare Garden at Lightwoods House. So watch this space!

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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60 passion points
Travel & tourism
01 Jul 2020 - Elliott Brown
Inspiration

The Thinktank Science Garden outside of Millennium Point

The Thinktank Science Garden opened in the new Eastside City Park in December 2012. I initially saw it after it opened. Then a few years later had a close up look at the Thinktank Science Garden during another visit to Thinktank in April 2014. You need your ticket to enter. It has been so hot of late, so cool off digitally with the fun water jets here.

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The Thinktank Science Garden outside of Millennium Point





The Thinktank Science Garden opened in the new Eastside City Park in December 2012. I initially saw it after it opened. Then a few years later had a close up look at the Thinktank Science Garden during another visit to Thinktank in April 2014. You need your ticket to enter. It has been so hot of late, so cool off digitally with the fun water jets here.


Thinktank Science Garden

I was first aware of the Thinktank Science Garden, while Eastside City Park was being built during 2012, outside of Millennium Point (not far from Curzon Street).

In February 2012, I saw signs on the hoardings for Eastside City Park which said:

 
Where scientastic things happen!
 
Thinktank will be taking science outdoors in 2012 with the opening of a new Science Garden. The whole family can get 'hands-on' and 'bodies-on' with our extraordinary outdoor exhibits, and explore the science and engineering that shape your world in our three themed areas - energise, mechanise and mobilise.
The Science Garden will be located directly in front of Thinktank and is part of the Eastside City Park.

 

It was originally supposed to open in the Summer of 2012. But wasn't really completed until early December 2012 when Eastside City Park was first opened to the public. You used to be able to enter the Science Garden using your Thinktank ticket, but according to the official website it is free to enter after 3pm. In the winter period it normally closes at 4pm. It is located in front of Level 0 of Thinktank in Eastside City Park.

There would have been similar hands on contraptions at the old Birmingham Museum of Science & Industry as I remember interacting with them at the Newhall Street site back in the 1990s. Sadly the old museum closed down in 1997, with the majority of the contents being moved to the new Millennium Point site, which opened in 2001. The old museum was free, but the new museum is a paid for attraction.

Most of what you see below was probably newly built in 2012 (unless they recycled parts from the previous museum).

 

2012

My first wonder around Eastside City Park was on the 9th December 2012. The park was opened by the then leader of Birmingham City Council on the evening of the 5th December 2012. While there I had a look at the Thinktank Science Garden from the outside. It was not open.

Only a year earlier in 2011, this was part of the outdoor Millennium Point car park. But that got replaced with a multi-storey car park, enabling this land to be built into a park.

Views of the scientific machines kids can interact with such as the Chain drive (the clock tower), and the wind turbines (on the left).

The view towards the site of what is now the Curzon Building at Birmingham City University (before it was built). But at the time they were finishing off the Parkside Building. Also visible is the now demolish Curzon Gate student accommodation (to make way for HS2). It was demolished in 2019.

2013

Views of the entrance to the Thinktank Science Garden seen during March 2013. This was around half a month before paid to go to Thinktank for the first time with my then camera.

At the time was probably heading to work, so went via Eastside City Park for once. This was before 10am so wasn't open at the time. And when I did pay to go to Thinktank at the beginning of April 2013, I didn't go into the Science Garden at the time.

2014

During the April 2014 visit to Thinktank, we popped into the Science Garden with our tickets. I had some free vouchers from the Birmingham Museums Trust which I could use at Thinktank, as I had a photo of the BT Tower at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery during 2013. So had to use them in 2014 before they expired.

This is called Water playscape.

A close up look at one third of Water playscape. Water was coming out of the tap into the bucket. There was also plastic watering cans and hoses in the pool of water here.

Here we have Elastic squirt. Fire up the wate piston. At the time I was thee I had a go but it didn't really work for me.

Next up we have Effort. Looks like it was balancing wooden hands on it.

Didn't get the name of this machine, but it is tall cylinder with a red arrow on the top.

Then there was the Human hamster wheel.

Then there was the Wind turbines.

The main landmark of the Science Garden was the Chain drive. Looks like a clocktower.

The next contraption was called Hang in the balance.

Build a bridge. This was one thing I recall from the old Birmingham Museum of Science & Industry on Newhall Street. Although I don't know if it was saved from there, or completely a new build.

Also saw this Car with square wheels. Two square wheels and two round wheels. Won't get very far.

And finally we have this thing that was part of Mobilise. Maybe you have to move those rubber items around the steel tubes?

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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70 passion points
Green open spaces
01 Jul 2020 - Elliott Brown
Gallery

Sunday evening walk around Shirley Park on the 7th June 2020

On the evening of Sunday 7th June 2020 we went to Shirley in Solihull for a walk around Shirley Park and some of the surrounding roads such as Haslucks Green Road and Hurdis Road. Heading back into the park, found a field that led to a secret wooded walk. Also in the former putting green was daisies and carnations. Due to the pandemic the playground and dog agility area were both closed.

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Sunday evening walk around Shirley Park on the 7th June 2020





On the evening of Sunday 7th June 2020 we went to Shirley in Solihull for a walk around Shirley Park and some of the surrounding roads such as Haslucks Green Road and Hurdis Road. Heading back into the park, found a field that led to a secret wooded walk. Also in the former putting green was daisies and carnations. Due to the pandemic the playground and dog agility area were both closed.


Most days of lockdown, not been going out that much. And some weekends at home all day. We went in the car down to Shirley, parking on the Stratford Road (before the lay-bys were closed off), and had another walk around Shirley Park after 7pm in the evening. This was on the evening of Sunday 7th June 2020 (3 weeks ago at the time of writing this).

My previous Shirley Park post is here: Shirley Park over the years off the Stratford Road in Shirley.

 

Entering the main entrance on the Stratford Road in Shirley saw this War Memorial bench. It was part of the Fields in Trust commemorative war memorial benches, that have been placed all over the country marking the Centenary of the First World War (The Great War 1914-18). (during 2014-18).

Not far from Shirley Parkgate was another War Memorial bench. This one commemorating those lost during the Second World War (1939-45). There is also a war memorial here.

Looking to the Shirley Park Play Area / playground. Closed during lockdown / the pandemic. But saw a pair sitting on the swings.

Near a bench heading to the Haslucks Green Road exit / entrance was this hopscotch board on the path. Probably drawn in chalk.

Walked down Haslucks Green Road and re-entered the park from the Hurdis Road entrance / exit.

Cyclists going past the Welcome to Shirley Park noticeboard.

Turned right into this former football field. There was markings on the grass that showed that something used to be here. Also the edges of the field were raised up for some reason or other.

This view was after briefly going down the secret wooded path. The main footpath in the park can be seen near that line of trees.

The former football field had paths going into the wood, so we checked it out. Never been round this part before.

It is part of a Wetland Walk. Trees cover the walk, while the path seemed to be covered in leaves and wood chippings.

The path wasn't very long. Normally my Shirley Park walks would take me back into the park via Grenville Road.

Near the end of the wooded walk, there is a barrier up ahead.

Looking back into the former football field where the exit to the secret path was.

A close up look at the Dog Agility Area while it is closed during the lockdown. Dogs can go up the ramp and jump through the hoop.

Dog owners could sit on a bench. But instead with it closed, dog owners have to walk their dog around the park. It seems like they keep taking them off the leash a lot. Plus they bark a lot if another dog goes past (or a human they are not familiar with). I prefer cats.

Final section through the former putting green. Now a wildflower meadow. Saw this Common Starling on the grass.

The Wildflower Meadow had a lot of daisies and carnations. Which looked nice.

Close up look at some daisies.

Close up look at the carnations.

On the way out near ALDI, saw this bin with the message: "If the bin is full, take your litter home. Think First!".

Love Solihull and the Friends of Shirley Park.

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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60 passion points
Classic Architecture
30 Jun 2020 - Elliott Brown
Did you know?

History of The Grand Hotel, Birmingham

The Grand Hotel, Birmingham was established in 1879 on a site on Colmore Row on land owned by Isaac Horton and the architect was Thomson Plevins. The Victorian hotel was near the original Victorian Snow Hill Station. Derelict for many years. Most of the 2010s was spent restoring the hotel. Also down Church Street.

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History of The Grand Hotel, Birmingham





The Grand Hotel, Birmingham was established in 1879 on a site on Colmore Row on land owned by Isaac Horton and the architect was Thomson Plevins. The Victorian hotel was near the original Victorian Snow Hill Station. Derelict for many years. Most of the 2010s was spent restoring the hotel. Also down Church Street.


The Grand Hotel, Birmingham

Built between 1875 and 1879 The Grand Hotel was opened on the 1st February 1879. It was build on land opposite St Philip's Church (not a Cathedral at this time) on Colmore Row. Also down Church Street with the back end on Barwick Street. Until the 1870s there was Georgian terraces surrounding St Philip's Churchyard. The leases on these began to end in the 1860s and they were demolished. The site was acquired by Isaac Horton, a major Birmingham landowner. His architect was Thomson Plevins. The hotel opened at the time with 100 rooms. There was also a restaurant and two coffee rooms. The hotel was let to Arthur Field, a hotel operator from Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

The hotel was extended in 1880 when the corner on Church Street and Barwick Street was built. By 1890 the hotel operator was running into financial problems and it was handed back to Horton Estates Ltd. In the 1890s the architects Martin and Chamberlain was hired to reconstruct and redecorate the hotel. The hotel was built in the French Renaissance style, so it wouldn't look out of place in Paris. Was even a room in Louis XIV style decoration.

In the 20th century, the hotel was host to royalty, celebrities, politicians of the day, who would wine and dine in the Grosvenor Suites. The likes of King George VI, Neville Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin, Malcolm X etc attended functions or stayed in the hotel at the time. The hotel ran into problems and closed in 1969. Hickmet Hotels took over the lease of the hotel from 1972 until 1976. In 1977 Grand Metropolitan Hotels took it over. The architect Harper Sperring did some modernisation works in 1978. The lease passed to Queens' Moat Hotels in the 1980s and 1990s, but little was done to the hotel at that time.

The hotel closed down again in 2002. The owner wanted to knock it down in 2003, but The Victorian Society stepped into save it. In 2004 the hotel was given a Grade II* listing protecting it from demolition. Restoration works of the hotel began in 2012, with the hope that it would reopen sometime in 2020.

 

One of my earlist photos of the Grand Hotel taken in February 2010 from Cathedral Square (St Philip's Cathedral grounds). Under scaffolding, it wasn't clear what was going to happen to it at this point.

In October 2010, a look past Bagel Nation and some of the other shops that used to be down here.You can see columns with Corinthian capitals at what was the main entrance to the hotel. There used to be a Starbucks down here and Snappy Snaps.

Another look during December 2010 from Colmore Row. The scaffolding covered the top half of the hotel.

By February 2013 restoration work had began on the Grand Hotel. And from Colmore Row you could see even more scaffolding and hoardings at ground level. As well as down Church Street.

Now down on Church Street, with a look down Barwick Street. The architecture style changed here as this was the 1880 extension. The 1890s additions were by Martin & Chamberlain.

The buildings down on Barwick Street were built of red brick. The hotel ends where Barclays Bank is today.

This view was taken during March 2014 from Cathedral Square. There was still scaffolding wrapped all around the building at this time.

In April 2015 they were rebuilding the roof and installing steel girders underneath.

Many of the previous shops had to move out of the Grand Hotel, but the signs remained. In October 2015 there was banners on Colmore Row for the Rugley World Cup 2015 which was being held in England. The view from the 141 bus.

By December 2015 the scaffolding had come down and you could see the restored stonework on the hotel. Still a crane on site at the time, but the roof looked finished. Still hoardings on the ground floor. Cathedral Square view in the rain.

Ground floor hoardings were coming down by February 2016. And new shops, cafes and restaurants were ready to be fitted here.

By October 2016 many of the new shops, cafes and restaurants were open. Including 200 Degrees Coffee, Cycle Republic and The Alchemist.

An autumnal look during November 2016 from Cathedral Square. With buses on Colmore Row in front of the Grand Hotel. Leaves on the lawn around the St Philip's Cathedral chuchyard.

A nightshot taken during February 2017, near the corner of Church Street and Colmore Row. All the scaffolding had gone. All of the new venues on Colmore Row were open. The Alchemist is on the corner.

Onto April 2017 from Cathedral Square, where you can see Cycle Republic, Up & Running, Liquor Store, Crockett & Jones and 200 Degrees Coffee.

More of the same from September 2017. Some of the shops had blinds open. It really does feel like you are in Paris, or maybe even Birmingham's French Twin City of Lyon? What do you think?

In December 2017 a walk down Barwick Street. A new venue had opened called Primitivo, which was a Bar & Eatery.

I last went down Barwick Street at the back of the Grand Hotel during October 2019. The new venue here is called Tattu.

Plus a second look at Primitivo.

Hopefully the hotel will open soon. Was supposed to be in Summer 2020. But due to the pandemic / lockdown, will it be delayed even further?

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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