Brave new world?

The Birmingham Bull Ring feature I compiled last week seems to have stirred quite a bit of interest, both here and on Facebook. I realise it’s a long way from Brownhills, but for people of a certain age, hopping on the 156 and taking the hour-long trip into Birmingham was a rarified and exciting experience when you were more used to the confines of Brownhills High Street. I have really strong, fond memories of the old Birmingham pictured here, and also of the sense of failure that engendered it in the late eighties and early nineties. There will be more on this subject to come, as I’m trying to collect images from the period I recall so fondly. Please click on the images to visit the original photographers sites – there’s a whole treasury of stuff there from some great photographers.

Telly Salvalas does a promo for Brum – as he did for many cities. This never, ever gets old. Enjoy.

Birmingham Shopping Centre

I think I remember this - but it could be a false memory. I think this was where the central island of shops was in the original Pallisades, above New Street Station. Nice threads on the gent, to boot. Picture spotted in the wonderful Flcikr photo stream of FrMark.

70s Birmingham 0039

Now, this one has opened up a who can of railway anorak worms. This is the old Snow Hill Station, which I'd always been told was a remarkable place, but never looked into. Apparently, when disused in the seventies, it was used a a pay car park. These cars are parked on the old platforms. What the very hell? Take a look at FrMark's wonderful Flickr photo stream for more.

From the brilliant and essential Birmingham, it’s not shit blog, a fantastic piece about a lost shortcut in Birmingham, recently closed.

Requiem for a piss-stained short cut by Danny Smith

Danny Smith has written some brilliant stuff about Birmingham on the site and Jon Bounds, the creator and curator of the blog is fast approaching national treasure status. Please check them out.

Steel drums

So close.... and yet so far away. I remember this spot, must have passed through it loads of times - probably clutching my latest vinyl purchase from Virgin or Frank Wild Records - but can't place it. Like so much of the old Bull Ring, you knew how to get to bits of it, but you were so dislocated from the rest of the city by roads and subways that you were never sure exactly where you were. Taken form the Flickr photosteam of bretwilde.

In the above eighties TV advert, look out for the dreadful fashion, and actor Stan Stennett (who was in Crossroads at the time) on the escalator in Central Court. Cheesy, or what?

Bull Ring

More memories. Gino's was a series of Italian restaurants - not sure if they were a national chain or just a Birmingham thing. Must have had one of my first 'proper' meals out here. I think there was this one in the upper maze of the Bull Ring, one like a cafe that sold ice cream on Centre Court and another on the corner of, I think, Smallbrook Quensway at Horsefair (where the Pagoda is now) - I'm talking late seventies until mid eighties. Please help me here - anyone remember them or the details? What became of them? I know I had some kind of pasta; it was mind bendingly exotic to me then. Another good one from the Flickr photo stream of FrMark.

Martineau Place

Matineau Place still exists and came in for a serious turd-polish at the same time as the old Bull Ring was demolished. I always found the concrete beams and hard, brutal architecture confining and depressing. It has never seemed to fare well commercially, even after the revamp. Spotted in FrMark's Flickr photo stream.

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14 Responses to Brave new world?

  1. Andy Dennis says:

    A few memories there! Were the buses always that clean? I recall the fountain in the Pallasades, but, like you, Im not sure where it was, but I think it was at the junction of malls that you arrive at by the ramp from New Street. I only have vague memories of Snow Hill from catching the (steam) train to go on holiday in Torbay, but it was one of those cathedral-like places, which reverberated with the sounds of engines, doors slamming, people running and shouting and whistles. Not at all the depressing place that is New St Station.

    • Ann says:

      The fountain was outside of Austin Reed Clothes shop , and was removed late eighties / early nineties , when we were younger we put bubble bath in it you can imagine the mess 🙁

  2. Dave says:

    god how i miss the old brum !!!!

  3. Roger Jones says:

    In 1986 the businesses that traded in the then Birmingham Shopping Centre and running up the ramp from New street were Midland Bank, McDonalds, D&A, Warring & Gillow, Austin Reed, Jonathan Silver, J Weir(pictured), Vacant unit, Dixons, Michel H’dress, Quadrant, Billingtons, Freedom, Gino’s and on through to the Bull Ring. So you are correct in your positioning of the Fountain, and Gino’s was prominent at the mall exit to the Bull Ring.
    The photo featuring Trendy ladies fashions is in the passage going to/from the High street subway close to the Rotunda. Off picture to the right of Trendy was a butchers called ….. Bob’s (chuckle)
    Martineau Square retailers included Currys, Halfords, Dixons(in the pic), Supasnaps, JJB Sports, Mallin the Penman, and an assortment of fresh food outlets.
    From my copy of Newman’s Retail Directory 1986. More if you need it.

  4. stymaster says:

    Yep, placement of Gino’s and the fountain is right. Birmingham was a frequent trip, even as a child- but for me it was by train from Walsall or the 157, not the 156. Mom worked in town for years, as did I a few years later. The problem these days is it’s changed enough that I sometimes lose my way…

  5. Thanks for your very kind comments on my Flickr photos. I hope to post more as I find time to dig them out and scan them. They’ll nearly all be from between 1972 and 1976, when I was a student at Gosta Green.


  6. Just to confirm that Roger Jones is correct re the shops in the then Birmingham Shopping Centre, location of fountain and Ginos! The Birmingham Shopping Centre was a lot more “laid back” in those days and you could wait for people and just pass the time by the fountain, not hassled to buy things and keep moving. Smart, too, apart from Asda in the back corner, before Asda went “upmarket”!

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  8. Jim says:

    I remember the Palisades well, I worked at Jonathon Silver Clothes for many years both in the Palisades and on New St, I also remember the Westerner shop, Samuel Pepys Clothing and Clangers as well as Cecil Gees on New St opposite the other Jonathon Silver store, happy days

  9. Jennie says:

    I worked at Ginos on new street station,they had three more places in Birmingham town centre

    • Tim says:

      I don’t suppose you’d have saved a menu from your time there or can recall with any detail the chicken pancakes?! I only went a handful of times as a youngster in the late ’70s when my parents took me up to Birmingham on the train, but have very fond memories of the Birmingham Shopping Centre/Pallasades restaurant.

  10. I definitely remember the fountain, it must have still been there until at least 1978 or so when I was around 4/5 years old. There were always crowds of people staring at it and you virtually had to queue to get to the front to “have a look at the fountain”. I think there were lights where the jets of water came up. There wasn’t much other entertainment so probably that’s why it was so popular!

    Ginos was our regular lunchstop. My mum said she started going there because it was the only place where she could easily get the buggy in when I was a baby. Gino’s had self service rail to shuffle along and glass cabinets full of sandwiches. I remember it being emerald green decor with plastic seats screwed to the floor. As you came up the ramp from New Street, the fountain was to the left in the first corner where you entered and Gino’s was in the right hand corner of the centre outside a big branch of Habitat and some weird Japanese shop that I’ve forgotten the name of. My mother bought a kimono in there that she used as a dressing gown for many years!

    I definitely remember that 80s TV ad too!

    • Mark Warrick says:

      The fountain is as you describe. Gino’s was, as shown in my photo, on the left side of the passageway through to the Bull Ring Centre, so the back last-hand side if you entered the Birmingham Shopping Centre from the ramp from New Street. I remember Habitat, near Asda in the back corner the other side. I fantasised about furnishing a future home with Habitat tat but three wine glasses is about as far as it got.

      PS I don’t get why my pic of Snow Hill is no longer available. Pity.

  11. Jim Faust says:

    I remember it all so well, I worked as a manager for Jonathan Silver Clothes in both the amazing Art Deco shop in the Pallisades and then in the 2 floor store on New St, does anyone have any pictures of either of the stores I have searched in vain but found none.

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