Give me the ‘Ring

I feel attached to Brum – it’s where I spread my wings as a teenager, and I’ve spent years there, shopping, exploring and having fun. The last two decades have seen so much change there, when I was recently given a copy of Mac Joseph’s book ‘Bull Ring Birmingham in Postcards and Old Photographs’, it brought back a whole bunch of memories. I then remembered I had some self-taken pictures and bits of ephemera of the changes.Although I’m not a Brummie, I feel like one, and I pine for the days when the city showed so much vision and potential. It seemed anything was possible, for a while.

I remember well that compass orienteer set into the brickwork of the central reservation. I can recall peering out of the pedestrian bridge with a relative when I was about 10. It all seemed so modern then. The Rotunda, of course, is iconic, and reminds me of coming home. When I see that, I know I've returned. Taken from 'Bull Ring Birmingham in Postcards and Photographs' by Mac Joseph.

Construction well underway from the Bullring webcam (hence the poor image quality) - note St. Martins stranded forlorn and the covered pedestrian walkway across the site.

The King Kong sculpture didn't last long, and eventually ended up in a Spook Erection marketplace in Scotland. I loved Manzoni Gardens.Taken from 'Bull Ring Birmingham in Postcards and Photographs' by Mac Joseph.

Great discussion about the King Kong sculpture and it’s travels here…

One of my own pictures taken from inside the new Bullring during development. This is looking out from West Mall onto what would be the central square. St. martins would be to the left of shot.

The far end of the site from a snowy, winter day. Picture saved from the Bullring Webcam.

This would now be about where the road tunnel goes under the centre from the front of New Street. How grimy it looks.Taken from 'Bull Ring Birmingham in Postcards and Photographs' by Mac Joseph.

Another of my photos from the time of the Bull Ring demolition - St. Martins House is just beginning to be demolished, and this would be at the foot of the Rotunda at the lower end of High Street. Manzoni Gardens was down there somewhere.

Remarkably, throughout the upheaval, life carried on as normal in the nearby building. Brummies just got on with it. This webcam shot shows New Street Station operating as normal.

Reader Howmuch? says that he can remember that after the sixties Bull Ring opened, there were gorillas in a shop unit converted to house them for entertainment. Anyone remember that? This view is one I remember well, and is still vey iconic to me. Taken from 'Bull Ring Birmingham in Postcards and Photographs' by Mac Joseph.

Another view from during the construction of the West Mall. This is the construction of the glass curtain at the crossway over the central walkway, from the upper level. Note the boxed in, ever present pedestrian route beyond the glass. The necessity to maintain this right of way caused the builders massive headaches.

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11 Responses to Give me the ‘Ring

  1. ianrobo says:

    thanks Bob, but we should never forget what a monstrosity the old one was because it enclosed people and never made them free.

    I really think the new one works well and should date well

  2. John Bishop says:

    I used to travel by train from Lichfield to New Street ,then walked through the market to Digbeth during the time that they were dismantling and rebuilding the Bullring.Those walkways over the deep foundation holes were interesting to say the least.I took dozens of pictures of the operation,but a change of computer and being stored on floppies mean most are gone.I changed jobs before the real rebuilding really got going. I have only been back briefly,and had trouble orietating myself as so much has changed.Trying to remember where i walked with only the Station and Church as a reference was all but impossible.

  3. stymaster says:

    If it’s old photos of Brum you want, you can do no better than Phyllis Nicklin’s slides. Some of them show things like the Inner Ring Road under construction. Some other great ones at Photos by D J Norton.

    I love Birmingham too: a proper big city just a short bus ride away is a great thing.

  4. As I mentioned, my Dad’s colleague composed a song about the Bullring. It was for a competition to celebrate the 21st anniversary in the mid 1980s. I can still remember lots of the words, such as “It’s 21 years today, our anniversary, The Bull Ring Shopping Centre’s got to be the place to be”. I really liked it and was genuinely amazed that it didn’t win! Googling it, I see that the person that did win was called Pete Arnold and the song was commercially released.

  5. Pedro says:

    Hi Bob,

    I have a few old photos of Birmingham to sort out. I have put a few on Panoramio, one of which your eagle eye had noticed that was scanned the wrong way round.

    Here is the tag to Old Birmingham…

    One that is really appreciated is a scan of a photo taken by mly late uncle of the building of the Rotunda…

    All the best Peter

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  10. parvyb says:

    PHOTOS are fantastic , i was remembering the old carousel when you go up thr ramp and turn right above the open market. As a young kid i always wanted to go on the carousel , and a few times mom let us go on it. We used to get donuts on the odd occasion too form the shops that overlooked the market. Then there was the underpass that lead to new street that was always daunting especially in evenings. it always struck me as a strange place to have shops, this was where the argos was. great memories of kong. such lovely memories

  11. I remember that balcony of shops in the last photo. They were very scruffy by the late 80s but the highlight for me was a shop with a doughnut machine in the window. It was a giant deepfat fryer thing with a conveyor belt type mechanism that flipped the doughnuts through the fat and along the conveyor and then flipped them into some sugar. We would watch them being made then walk to the right hand side of the photo where out of shop there was an outdoor seating area below the traffic flyover but above the market. The whole area was infested with pigeons. This spot would be where the base of Selfridges opposite St Martin’s church is now.

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