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Bull Ring, Birmingham circa 1950

 Bull Ring and St. Martin

This photograph taken around 1950 bears little resemblance to the same view of the area today. In fact the historical 'Heart' of the city is probably one of the areas of Birmingham which has changed the most in the last fifty or sixty years.

The photograph was taken from a first storey window of number 104 High Street, at the junction with Bell Street. Number 104 High Street was one of the buildings which made up part of Market Hall, the building in the right hand edge of the picture was the front of the Fish Market.

Rear Admiral Nelson, National Hero, visited the town with the Lady Nelson and their son on 29 August 1802 and was given a welcome akin to a visiting pop star. They stayed overnight at the Styles Hotel after being given a tour of the best manufactories in the area. A few years later, a month after Nelson's death at the Battle of Trafalgar, a public meeting in Birmingham decided that a statue should be erected in his honour and well over 000 was raised by public subscription. William Westmacott was commissioned to design the statue and the work was unveiled on the Jubilee Day of George III in 1809. It was the first statue of Nelson to be erected in England as well as Birmingham's first public statue. The area in which the statue stood was regularly used for sales of all manner of goods, public meetings and the preaching of 'Soap Box' orators. The statue remained in place for nearly 150 years, it was put into a crate for protection during the Second World War, then removed into storage in 1959, re-sited on Moor St in 1961, surrounded by roads around the time of the first Bull Ring Shopping centre, it was removed again in the late 1990s before it made a reappearance near its original location for the redevelopment of the present Bull Ring shopping centre in 2003.

One of Birmingham's well known and historic company names, one which still survives today, can be seen on a shop front at the left side of the image. Oswald Bailey's Army and Navy stores arrived in Birmingham in 1906 when Mr Bailey opened his shop on Newtown Row selling miscellaneous second hand goods, the company grew, opened new stores in other towns and moved around near High Street as the area around St Martin's was re-developed, never moving far from its founding site. Eventually they moved to the Pallasades, where you'll find them today, when the area around the first Bull Ring shopping centre and St Martins Circus was cleared. Oswald Bailey's celebrated their centenary in 2006.

The view as seen in the image above is currently located in the central walkway of the Bull Ring Shopping Centre, the main route between New Street and St Martin's church.


Libraries Photo Archive 1950s
Digital Birmingham Photo Archive
Birmingham Archives and Heritage Service
Memories of The Bull Ring
The Bull Ring and St. Martin's, 1820s