31 May 2008

Travel West Midlands

Travel West Midlands (West Midlands Travel Ltd.) are part of the National Express Group and are the largest bus operator in the West Midlands, carrying nearly one million passengers per day on over 1800 buses. They have recently changed their name to National Express West Midlands and are gradually applying new livery to their vehicles. This caused problems for a while as many people mistook them for buses belonging to Diamond Bus as the new livery was very similar to the existing livery of the other company. To make matters worse, the company apparently ran out of branding stickers, so to show that the buses belonged to Travel West Midlands, they set the destination display screens to intermittently display the company name and logo.

The company has recently scrapped several of their old buses, in particular the MCW Metrobuses which caused a bit of a stir amongst bus and transport enthusiasts and lovers of the old and retro. Enviro 400s seem to be a favourite with the company at the moment and after trialling one since around 2005, they have purchased fifty-nine more.

The remaining Metrobuses still sport the old livery of blue at the top, a narrow red stripe*, white in the middle, a narrow blue stripe, a red stripe*, a narrow white stripe and blue at the bottom. The Envrios are completely red. Most of the buses are painted blue, red* and white, but some have a diagonally red front, with two thirds of the rear in white and some are white with blue, silver, blue, silver, blue and red stripes running along the bottom and curving up towards the front.
*Sky blue for Coventry

The company operates from eleven garages across the West Midlands: Acocks Green, Bordesley Green, Birmingham Central, Lea Hall, Perry Barr and Yardley Wood (Birmingham); Pensnett, Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton (Black Country); Coventry (Coventry). Travel West Midlands's Coventry services are operated by Travel Coventry buses.

At the time of writing, a full single adult ticket costs £1.50 and child's (5-15) ticket costs 75p. Day tickets can be purchased for £3 (adult rate) or £2 (child rate) and can be used on Travel Coventry services.

The buses in the photo are on Moor Street. The bus front left is not a Travel West Midlands bus, but is owned by Diamond bus.

Front left to right: Dennis Dart/Plaxton Pointer (Diamond Bus; fleet number 487), Mercedes 0405N (fleet number 1643)
Back left to right: Enviro 400, Dennis Trident 2, Volvo B7/Plaxton President (possibly)

30 May 2008

Symphony Hall and the ICC

Symphony Hall is siuated inside the International Convention Centre (ICC), although the Hall is a big part of it, as can be seen from its more prominent lettering on the front.

The building took just under four and a half years to complete and was opened in 1991. The venue was used for the 1998 G8 summit.

Symphony Hall seats 2262 people and was very carefully designed so that quiet solos and full-strength orchestras could be heard equally well by all members of the audience. This is achieved using highly accurate shaping of the walls and ceiling, moveable curtains and adjustable reverberation chambers. Above the stage there is also a thirty-two tonne counter-balanced canopy which can be raised and lowered; this too alters the acoustics. The ventilation system uses large, slow ducts to minimise noise and both the building and nearby railway line are laid on rubber cushions, to the same effect.

The hall is the base of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra but is not only used for concerts, but also for conferences, graduation ceremonies and other similar events (about 270 per year).

Previously, the site was the location of Bingley Hall (before that, Bingley House) which was built in 1850 but damaged by fire in January 1984 during a Midland Caravan, Camping and Leisure Exhibition and subsequently demolished.

Bingley Hall was used for the Birmingham Dog Show, various other shows, for circuses, boxing, theatre, cinema, competitions and conferences.

Also on the site was the Prince of Wales Theatre, some houses, an in and a brewery.

In front of the bulding on one side is Centenary Square which is also the location of the Hall of Memory, the Flame of Hope and the Boulton, Watt and Murdoch statue, Birmingham Repertory theatre, the Industry and Genius sculpture and the Spirit & Enterprise fountain.

On the other side is the Birmingham and Worcester canal and Brindleyplace; an 'award-winning leisure and business destination' with various attractions.

29 May 2008

Hall of Memory: Navy

In Centenary Square behind Paradise Forum and the Central Library is the Hall of Memory. This is a small domed building surrounded by four bronze statues by Albert Toft representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Women's Services. Depicted here is the statue of the Navy.

The hall itself, now a Grade II listed bulding, was designed by SN Cooke and WN Twist and built by John Barnsley and Son in the 1920s to commemorate the many thousands of Birmingham citizens who died or were injured in World War I, then known as the Great War.

The hall is open to the public at certain times during the week.

28 May 2008

South American/American Indian performers

Many city daily photo bloggers seems to have photos of this group, so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and post one too.

Although this group is dressed in stereotypical American Indian clothes, have cloths depicting American Indians draped over their CD display stands and perform American Indian dances, their music and instruments are South American.

The group travels around the country, playing in various towns and cities. I have also seen them in Solihull, but here one of the group is depicted playing outside Marks & Spencer in High Street.

27 May 2008

Impromptu beakdancing at the Bullring

A crowd was gathering and as a newly self-appointed amateur photographic reporter for Birmingham, I decided to see what photos I could get from whatever was going on. Three or four boys had started breakdancing on the wide precinct between two parts of the Bullring. They had no music - they made an attempt at rhythmic oral sounds. It didn't seem to be organised and they didn't seem to be working to any choreography and kept stopping and starting. The crowd, soon realising this, began to slowly disperse. I wonder what that was all about!

26 May 2008

Graffiti on Holloway Head

Is this something to do with the Chinese-Tibeten protests?

25 May 2008

Holloway Circus pagoda

This seven-story granite pagoda was donated to Birmingham by the Wing Yip Group and was erected on Holoway Circus in 1998, causing the roundabout to be known as Pagoda Island.

24 May 2008

China Court

Somewhere to the right of the Mapstone building on Ladywell Walk is a (badly photographed, in this case!) Cantonese restaurant called China Court.

23 May 2008


The mystery of Mapstone

If anyone can shed any light on what this building was before or the meaning of 'Mapstone', I'd be ever so grateful.

This building is on Ladywell Walk in the Chinese Quarter. The businesses at the bottom of the photo are Thai and Cantonese restaurants.

Officially recognised in the 1980s, the Chinese Quarter is an unofficial section of Birmingham with a large number of Chinese restaurants, clubs and organisations. The Chinese population was initially due to immigrants after the Second World War. Birmingham's first Chinese restaurant, Tong Kung, opened in 1956 at Holloway Head.

22 May 2008

Birmingham coat of arms - Council House gate

Back to the Council House - this time for Birmingham's coat of arms displayed on the gate. This gate is located on the same side as the Museum & Art Gallery.

Birmingham's first coat of arms was more of a seal and comprised the shield of the de Bermingham family within a wreath, with the motto 'Forward' underneath.

When Birmingham gained city status in 1889, it celebrated by applying for a grant applied for at the College of Arms for supporters (the figures either side of a coat of arms). It was pointed out that as Birmingham's coat of arms had never been officially granted, so in April 1889, the College of Arms granted the city a full, though altered coat of arms.

The alterations included an ermine fess (central horizontal band), taken from the Calthorpe family arms and a mural crown made of bricks which represented local government.

A man's right arm holding a hammer, protruding from another brick-formed mural crown was assigned for the crest to represent industry.

The supporter on the left, representing industry, was a man clad as a blacksmith and holding a hammer, the end of which was resting on an anvil. The supporter on the right symbolised art and was a woman clothed in a white dress and was holding brushes and an artist's pallet in one hand and a red book in the other.

The motto 'Forward' was kept.

This was altered again in between 1930 and 1936 - this time the supporters stood upon a grassy compartment (the area the supporters stand on) and a helm (helmet) with blue and yellow mantling (decorative fabric around the helm) was added underneath the wreath.

In 1974, the old Birmingham corporation changed, this time including the Borough of Sutton Coldfield. This change necessitated yet another alteration of the coat of arms. The fess was exchanged with a cross and the mural crown in the centre of the sheild was replaced by a bishop's mitre (hat). A Tudor rose was added to the mural crown on the crest and the supporters moved to opposite sides of the sheild and the man given a cupel to hold as well as his hammer. A cupel is a tool used in the making of jewellery which is a big part of Birmingham's history. The grassy compartment was removed.

The Birmingham coat of arms is now blazoned thus:

Quarterly first and fourth Azure, a Bend of five Lozenges conjoined Or, second and third per Pale indented Or and Gules overall a Cross Ermine thereon a Mitre Proper. On a Wreath Or and Azure issuant from a Mural Crown Or charged with a Rose Gules charged with another Argent barbed and seeded Proper, a dexter Arm embowed the hand holding a Hammer all Proper Mantled Azure doubled Or. For the Supporters, on the dexter side a Female Figure Proper vested Argent wreathed round the temples with a Laurel Vert tied by a Riband Gules holding in the sinister hand resting on the Shield a Book bound also Gules and in the dexter a Painter's Palette Or with two Brushes Proper and on the sinister side a Man habited as a Smith holding in the dexter hand resting on the Shield a Cupel and in the sinister a Hammer resting on an Anvil all Proper.

Birmingham City Council's website has a short list of heraldic terms used in this blazon, but have a couple of inaccuracies. Here is a more (I hope) accurate list:

argent - silver or white
azure - blue
bend - a band crossing the shield diagonally from dexter chief to sinister base
dexter - the right-hand side (of the wearer, i.e. the spectator's left)
embowed - bent (like a bow)
gules - red
lozenge - a diamond (as on a playing card)
mural - like a wall
or - gold or yellow
per pale - a pale is a vertical band down the middle of a shield. A per pale is a pale consisting only of a line, thus dividing the shield
proper - in natural colours
quarterly - by quarters of the shield in the following order:-
1st - Dexter chief (spectator's top left)
2nd - sinister chief (spectator's top right)
3rd -dexter base (spectator's bottom left)
4th -sinister base (spectator's bottom right)
sinister - the left-hand side (of the wearer, ie. the spectator's right)
vert - green

The gate in the photograph shows the shield from the coat of arms used between 1889-1977.

21 May 2008

Waterstones, 128 New Street (Midland Bank)

Built in 1867-69 and originally the head office of the Midland Bank, 128 New Street is now a branch of Waterstones.

The building was designed in a classical style by Edward Holmes and a five-story office extension was added in 1875. It is now a Grade II listed building.

I'd be grateful for further information.

20 May 2008

Needless Alley

There's no need!

Leading away from the Bullring is New Street which runs to Victoria Square, joined by many other small roads. One such road is Needless Alley.

The first record of Needless Alley was in 1731 but other than that, there isn't a great deal of information available.

19 May 2008

Bullring: lower Selfridges balcony

You ain't see no Brumies yet!

...So here are two standing on the lower balcony of the Selfridges section of the Bullring.

18 May 2008

Bullring: upper Selfridges balcony

Ask any 'Brummie' what the Bullring looks like and they'll probably say 'it's covered in discs'. In actual fact, that's only the Selfridges section and most of it is discless.

There was a lot of hype over the new Bull Ring centre. It had been 'about to be changed' for years but no one saw any difference due to lengthy planning procedures starting in 1987. Until 2000 that is, when demolition of the 1960s Bull Ring Shopping Centre began. In September 2003, the Bullring was finally opened and attracted 276 600 people on its first day.

The Bullring takes its name comes from the sixteenth century when a man named John Cooper was given the right to bait bulls there and therefore the historical spelling is Bull Ring, but the name was changed for the new centre, not without angry protest.

Birmingham has held markets on the site since 1166. The baiting of bulls in this country nowadays is illegal and has been since 1835 but the name still remains and the new Bullring shopping centre is apparently becoming very well known in Europe.

The photograph shows the entrance from the upper balcony which overlooks St. Martin's church.

17 May 2008

Anticipation of The Cube

Next to The Mailbox, work is underway for the building of yet another mixed-use building: The Cube.

The Cube, actually part of the Mailbox development, will be a seventeen-storey tower containing apartments, offices, shops, a rooftop restaurant and a hotel.

16 May 2008

The Mailbox

Originally the site of the Royal Mail's main Birmingham sorting office, built in 1970, this is now Birmingham's largest multi-use building.

The original building was designed by RH Ousman of the Ministry of Public Building and Works, who worked with architects HAE Giddings, E Winters and R Lee. When it was finally ready to use, it was the largest electronic sorting office in the country and, with a floor area of 20 acres, the largest building in Birmingham. The building was connected to New Street station by a tunnel to that letters could be delivered directly to the office.

In 1997, the bulding was bought for £3 million by Alan Chatham who also bought some of the surrounding buildings for £1 million. Three years and £150 million later, The Mailbox, containing offices, apartments, shops, restaurants and bars, was opened to the public.

In 2004, the BBC moved to The Mailbox from their Pebble Mill Studios in Edgebaston. They are located on level 7.

The photograph shows The Mailbox as viewed from the Birmingham and Worcester Canal.

15 May 2008

Birmingham Muesum & Art Gallery

Moving on to Chamberlain Square...

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery was opened in 1885. Its collection is of international importance and covers fine art, ceramics, jewellery, metalwork, archaeology, ethnography and local and industrial history.

The building itself is an extension of the Council House which was built less than a decade before. A footbridge connects the museum to the 1911-1919 Council House Extension block (now also part of the Museum and Art Gallery).

There is no entrance fee as it is funded by Birmingham City Council, although donations are very welcome.

14 May 2008

Statue of Queen Victoria

Still in Victoria Square - this time it's a statue of Queen Victoria whom the square was named after shortly after her death in 1901. During her reign it was still called Council House Square. It used to be a busy junction of three main roads: Colmore Row, New Street and Paradise Street.

The square is often considered to be the centre of Birmingham, and is apparently the point from where local road sign distances are measured.

The statue you see in the photo is a 1951 bronze recast by William Bloye of Thomas Brock's original 1901 marble figure. It is located next to the town on the left of the square, when facing the Council House.

13 May 2008

Youth of the 'The River'

The water feature I introduced yesterday was installed in 1993 when Victoria square was pedestrianised and remodelled.

The feature contains four works by Dhruva Mistry, although I don't know whether or not he designed the rest.

Around the rim of the upper pool is a quotation from Burnt Norton, one of the Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot:

And the pool was filled with water out of sunlight,
And the lotos rose, quietly, quietly,
The surface glittered out of heart of light,
And they were behind us, reflected in the pool.
Then a cloud passed, and the pool was empty.

The four works by Dhruva Mistry are as follows:

The River
This is a large 1.75 tonne figure of a woman which is supposed to represent the life force and is located in the upper pool. This is the part which has been nicknamed The Floozie in the Jacuzzi. The River is also a fountain - one of the largest in Europe - with a flow of 3,000 gallons per minute.

The two figures shown in the photo represent youth.

The Guardians
Also part of the installation are two sphinx-like animals made from the same Darley Dale stone as the Council House and carved by the carving workshop in Cambridge.

Finally, there are two abstract pillars with lamps which were also designed by Dhruva Mistry's design but he has declined to comment on their meaning.

12 May 2008

Birmingham City Council House

Quite unsurprisingly, this is the centre for Birmingham City Council. It is a Grade II listed building and has offices for employed and elected council members, a council chamber, Lord Mayor's Suite, committee rooms and a large and ornate banqueting suite, complete with minstrels' gallery. The balcony you see in the photo is apparently used by visiting dignitaries and victorious sports teams to address crowds assembled below, although I've never seen it being used!

The Council House has its own postcode, B1 1BB.

Outside at the front is Victoria Square and on the left side (when facing the bulding) is Chamberlain Square. The left side of the building has a large entrance which leads into Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, the admission into which is free and is well worth a visit.

The water feature statue in the photo is part of a larger water feature out of shot. The design, by Dhruva Mistry is called The River but is nicknamed and has become more commonly known as The Floozie in the Jacuzzi. It isn't part of the council house and I'll go into more detail in another post.

A little light history

Before I start, I want to make it clear to everyone form the start...I don't like Birmingham.

Shock, horror!

I make no secret of it: I've never really liked Birmingham, preferring instead the countryside. I live in hope...

So anyway, I'm a 'Brummie' born and bred (although I have only a hint of the usually strong accent). For those of you not in the know, and I think even many Brummies aren't in the know, people from Birmingham are called 'Brummies' as opposed to 'Birmies' because Birmingham was originally Bromwicham which is why in the north-west of Birmingham you will find West Bromwich.

Over the centuries Birmingham has grown from a tiny village on the banks of the River Rea to become the second city in England. The name probably dates from Anglo-Saxon times:

Brem or Berm = an Anglo-Saxon name
ingas = descendants
ham = the home
Thus: The home of the descendants of Brem/Berm

In the 1300s, Peter de Bermingham (his surname being derived from the name of the city - 'Peter of Birmingham') was the lord of the manor. His name was spelt in various ways even in his lifetime. The spelling 'Birmingham' was not used consistently until the 1700s. Today Birmingham is still sometimes referred to as Brummagem or Brum, and likewise the people are known as Brummies.

Here are 144 different historical spellings of Birmingham:

Brumwycham Bermyngeham Bromwycham Burmyngham Bermyngham Byrmyngham Bromicham Brimingham Bermingham Bermicham Brymyncham Bremisham Bremischam Bermengeham Byrmincham Bermicham Bermyncham Bermingeham Burmyncham Bermingham Bremingham Birmincham Bromycham Byrmicham Birmyngeham Bourmyneham Bermynghem Berkmyngham Birmygam Brimicham Bremicham Bremmencham Brimcham Burmingham Bromidgham Brinningham Brimingeham Bermingham Berningham Brummigham Bermecham Brimidgham Burmyngeham Bermynehelham Byrmegham Bormingham Birmyngham Burymyngham Brymyngeham Bremichem Brymyccham Brunningham Bruinidgham Bromwicham Byrmingham Byrmyncham Birmyncham Brumingham Brumingam Brummingham Birmicham Brinnicham Brymegham Birmingham Bromincham Birminchan Bromisham Brimmingham Byrmyngeham Barmegam Burmedgeham Birmingeham Byrmingeham Burmegham Burmygham Burmigham Bormyngeham Bremyngham Burmincham Byrmycham Brymmyngeham Birminghame Birmyngehame Brymicham Bermengham Birmingecham Bermicheham Byrmingecham Brymyncham Byrminham Brimisham Burmigam Brimigam Birmingcham Buringham Beringham Burmicham Brammingham Brumigham Burmyngcham Bremecham Brimechame Bermyngam Brymysham Burmycham Birmyngcham Burmicheham Bermgham Berrmgham Byrmigeham Brimmigham Brymingham Brymyngham Birymincham Brymincham Byrmyngcham Byrmingcham Birmingcham Burmucham Brimmidgham Burmegam Burmycham Brumegume Brummidgham Bromidgome Bremingem Burmegum Brumigam Brumicham Brummingsham Burningham Bermingaham Bremingam Brymynham Brymygeham Bormycham Brymyngiam Bremyngeham Brimyncham Brymmyngham Brymycham Brymyham Brymyscham Brummagem

According to Wikipedia, Birmingham is also known as the 'Second City', 'Workshop of the World' and 'City of a Thousand Trades', the first being a reference to the fact that Birmingham is the second largest city of the UK and the latter two referring to Birmingham's successful industry.

Birmingham, Alabama, USA is named after Birmingham, UK.

Naturally, there's a huge amount of history, but I won't bore you with it all here - I'll try to bore you a bit more with each photo instead!

I hope you enjoy Birmingham Daily Photo (and I hope I can keep it going long enough!)

04 May 2008

New blog!

I'm just starting this blog, so posting might be a bit sporadic to begin with.

I'm still not entirely sure what is expected of a city daily photo blog, but it seems that the photos are less artistic-based and more documentary-based. For more artistic photos, please visit my main blog Shutterspy. The two blogs may share some of the photos from time to time or have similar pictures of the same subjects.

All in all, I hope you enjoy Birmingham Daily Photo :)

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