During our married life, AJ and I have moved house ten times and lived in six different parts of the UK. One of our moves was to the Midlands where we lived a few miles from Birmingham. This is a city of great cultural diversity and we have always loved it. Even though we now live in the south west, we often travel up to the city and enjoy visiting some of our old haunts. Things have changed a great deal in the twenty five years since we lived there, but we still love the vibrancy and the energy of the city.
Birmingham has some of the best examples of Victorian architecture in the UK. The Council House, built in the 1870s, is the home of Birmingham City Council and houses the council chamber, the Lord Mayor’s suite, committee rooms and an ornate banqueting suite with minstrels’ gallery. The exterior balcony on the first floor is now often used by winning sports teams to address the celebrating crowds who gather below in Victoria Square.
Victoria square is considered the centre of the city and the point from where road sign distances are measured. The central water feature in the square, The River, was designed by Dhruva Mistry who won an international design competition. It depicts a bronze statue of a reclining woman basking in the surrounding water.This is the largest sculpture in the square, and is now more affectionately known as The Floozie in the Jacuzzi.
But a visit to Birmingham isn’t complete without a little retail therapy and a trip to the commercial centre called The Bull Ring. This has been an important part of Birmingham since the Middle Ages when, in 1159, a local landowner obtained a charter to run a textile market there. Today The Bull Ring shopping centre is one of the busiest in the United Kingdom. At the main entrance stands The Guardian, a nearly two and a half metre tall bronze sculpture of a turning bull, created by Laurence Broderick. The Guardian, or more commonly known as Brummie the Bull, has become a very popular photographic feature for visitors to Birmingham, and every time I visit the Bull Ring there are always hoards of people surrounding the sculpture. It is strangely beautiful and rather cute.
After a busy morning’s shopping, I’m ready for a bit of peace and quiet. One of the nicest places to relax is at the Edwardian Tea Room, housed in the nearby Museum and Art Gallery. The tea room not only offers some delicious cakes to go with a nice refreshing cup of tea, but original paintings adorn the walls and offer some food for the soul. We never visit the city without wandering the hallowed halls of the Art Gallery and taking a look at their wonderful Pre-Raphaelite collection. They have a large collection of works by Edward Burne-Jones, but it’s a painting by another Edward I’m always interested in viewing. Night Leading the Stars Home, by Edward Robert Hughes, is one of my all time favourite paintings and I have a poster of it in my bedroom. Sadly, this trip the painting was in the archives, but I was able to leave my contact details with the information desk who will inform me when the painting is on display again. Ah well, any excuse for another visit 🙂