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Town Hall circa 1935

 Town Hall from New Street

This image of the Town Hall and surrounding buildings was recorded circa 1935.

The Town Hall, one of Birmingham's best known and loved buildings re-opened in October 2007 after extensive refurbishment. The building today sits on its own pedestrianised island. Back at the time of this photograph the Town Hall had a collar of tarmac, Paradise Street running past the front entrance, Chamberlain Place at the rear, Victoria Square to one side and Ratcliffe Place to the other. The traffic flowed all around the building, though at least the traffic levels were not at all like today.

The Town Hall began its life at the Triennial Music Festival on 7 October 1834, designed by Joseph Hansom, creator of the 'Hansom Cab', in the style of Roman Revival and based upon the Parthenon, and the Roman Temple of Castor and Pollux. The construction costs bankrupted Joseph Hansom, who in his naivete had agreed to underwrite the costs of construction. He had tendered the job at £8,000, the 6,000 pipe Organ alone, built by Hill of London, cost £6,000. The final construction bill was £25,000 and was only realised when three guarantors donated money for the building. The life of the Town Hall has seen various uses, from classical concerts, like the premieres of Mendelssohn's 'Elijah', political rallies and parliamentary elections, comedians and rock concerts.

Across the road in Ratcliffe Place was the Birmingham and Midland Institute (visible in the left of the image) and the municipal Public Library (opened 1866, out of sight, behind the Town Hall). The building was to be the Institute's second home, the first began in Cannon Street in 1813. In December 1853, Charles Dickens raised £227 towards the cost of construction at three readings in the Town Hall of his popular Christmas story, 'A Christmas Carol', first published ten years earlier. The Foundation Stone was laid in Paradise Street by the Prince Consort (Albert) in 1855. The first public museum was opened in the BMI building in January 1860. Birmingham Town Council bought the undeveloped half of the building, used the same exterior facade and remodelled the interior to construct the Municipal library, which unfortunately burnt down during the building of an extension in 1879. The BMI stayed at this site until the area was redeveloped in 1965, they then moved to their current site in Margaret Street.

Birmingham Archives and Heritage Service
Digital Birmingham Photo Archive
Library Services: Photo Archive - 1930s
Town Hall Fantastic Facts!
Town Hall : Politics, Pickwick and Proms