Birmingham City Council

Corporation Street 1899

Corporation Street Birmingham, in 1899

This view of Corporation Street was taken in 1899 when Birmingham's newest and most exclusive shopping street was still young and, in parts, still under construction. Work began in 1878, but it was not until 1903 that the last part was completed.

It was Joseph Chamberlain's grand 'Improvement Scheme' of 1876 which saw the end of a large number of Birmingham's worst slum dwellings and some well known landmarks. The 66 foot wide Avenue was envisioned as being like the 'Boulevards of Paris'. The creation of Corporation Street was seen to be the costliest street in Birmingham due mainly to the large amount of ornamentation applied to the face of each building. The scheme was in the newspapers for many reasons during its construction, on one occasion for a number of bodies found during excavations, foul play was at first suspected, as the skeletons came from the basement of a chemists on the site. Further investigation discovered that they turned out to be displaced from a former church burial ground, which had closed 160 years before.

The scene doesn't look much different from what we might see today. There is less traffic maybe and the shop fronts are different, but most of the buildings above street level have changed little and it is still one of Birmingham's grandest shopping streets.


Photographic and other Special Collections in Central Library
Birmingham Archives and Heritage Service
Digital Birmingham Photo Archive
Digital Birmingham Photo Archive - 1890s