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The Old Wharf, Birmingham

The Old Wharf, canalboats and buildings, 1890s

The Old Wharf as viewed from Bridge Street, looking towards New Street.

This photograph is difficult to date precisely as there is little in the image which helps put a date to it. The only clues which help narrow down the dating process are the features on the skyline. 'Big Brum' the clock tower of the Museum and Art Gallery and the dome on the top of the Council House were completed in the late 1880s, ChristChurch's spire is still visible on the extreme right of the image which means that the image pre-dates 1898 when the church was demolished. Though difficult to say for certain, it is believed to be dated around 1895.

The Old Wharf, which was situated in the square formed by Broad Street (to its North), Easy Row and Suffolk Street (to the East), Holliday Street (to the South) and Bridge Street (to the West), was originally constructed in about the 1770s and used mainly as a coal depot. The Offices of the Birmingham Canal Company were sited alongside the wharf in 1773.

The canal basin on the right hand edge of the image was one of a pair, similar in size and laid out in the shape of a tuning fork and was originally connected to the Gas Street Basin by a spur which ran under Bridge Street. On the left of the image, nearest to the camera are buildings once occupied by the Cadbury Brothers before their move to Bournville. They were there from 1847 due, at least in part, to the canal network which provided connections to the major ports of Britain, allowing them to get in the raw materials required to make their world famous chocolate and to distribute the finished products. 32 years later, in 1878, Richard and George took their 200 strong workforce to the leafy suburbs where they made the model factory.

Also in the image on the left, are the factories of the Eagle Iron foundry, a company that made metal products, including gear wheels, gates, fire hearths, pots, safes, weights and many other items.

The wharf, like the canals themselves, fell into decline. It was closed and eventually filled in around the end of the 1920s, after the Birmingham Corporation bought the site, with plans for a new shopping street and their municipal centre. The site was used as a municipal car park for a number of years and was eventually built on, becoming home to the Central Television studios, a bank, the Register Office, Alpha Tower and other properties. The site is earmarked for future development as part of the Arena Central Complex.

Digital Birmingham Photo Archive - 1890s