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History And Us is a community of passion for people to engage with their history and heritage. Here we provide a space where people can contribute articles and share historical facts and thoughts with others. In this space people and organisations can showcase their own work and inspire others to explore history.

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Classic Architecture
14 May 2020 - Elliott Brown
Did you know?

Before the Library of Birmingham there was Baskerville Basin

Before construction of the Library of Birmingham was begun by Carillion in 2010, archaeologists were on site in the summer of 2009 digging up the former car park, revealing the former Baskerville Basin. Part of the canal network used to stretch into what is now Centenary Square, but was filled in during the 1930s to make way for a proposed Civic Centre. I saw the remains in August 2009.

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Before the Library of Birmingham there was Baskerville Basin





Before construction of the Library of Birmingham was begun by Carillion in 2010, archaeologists were on site in the summer of 2009 digging up the former car park, revealing the former Baskerville Basin. Part of the canal network used to stretch into what is now Centenary Square, but was filled in during the 1930s to make way for a proposed Civic Centre. I saw the remains in August 2009.


For more on John Baskerville check out my post here: John Baskerville: creator of his own typeface.

 

Before Carillion could start building the Library of Birmingham in January 2010, archaeologists had to go on the site in the summer of 2009. For many years the land between Baskerville House and The REP had been used as a car park for the Council. Once the upper layers were dug up, they could start digging up the remains and see what was left below. Intact brick walls of Baskerville Basin were found on the site and many remains and finds. Towards the site of what is now Centenary Square used to be Gibson's Arm which was a private canal built during the 1810s. Baskerville Basin was filled in during 1938 before the proposed Civic Centre was to be built. While Baskerville House and the Hall of Memory were built, the rest of the proposals weren't indirectly due to the outbreak of World War Two.

 

A map printed in 1880, this section showing Baskerville Wharf between Cambridge Street and Broad Street. Old Wharf is below (that was later filled in as well).

I would assume that the original scanner took it from the Library of Birmingham's maps area.

Map below in the Birmingham History Galleries, BM & AG, of the location of Old Wharf. In the 18th Century where John Baskerville's house on what was Easy Row. Baskerville Wharf was located a little further to the north west of here.

Also see my post on the model of the proposed square we never got: The Centenary Square we never got in the 1940s. Had the plans gone ahead there could have been formal gardens on this site.

This model (seen below) is at the Birmingham Museum Collection Centre.

 

The following 8 photos were taken down the service road between Baskerville House and the site of the Library of Birmingham during August 2009. View towards the Hyatt Hotel and The REP.

View towards The REP.

Brick walls were sticking out of the ground. I wonder if they had to dig them up, so there would be room for the basement levels of the Library?

That side of The REP would get demolished during the construction of the Library.

At this point the only hoardings were in Centenary Square.

This would be the only time that I saw the remains of the brick walls in the ground.

This canal basin / arm used to link up to the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal. But now City Centre Gardens and the Civic Centre Towers are built over that end beyond Cambridge Street.

One more view including the Hyatt Hotel and Symphony Hall.

I've got hundreds to thousands of photos of the Library of Birmingham, so any future post will have to be a small highlight of them. Such as during the construction or when it was first opened in 2013.

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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50 passion points
Classic Architecture
12 May 2020 - Elliott Brown
Did you know?

A visit to Blakesley Hall in the summer of 2014

On the first Sunday of the month you can visit Blakesley Hall for free. At the time in 2014 entry was usually £4 each. This visit to Blakesley Hall was during early August 2014. The timber framed house is located in Yardley on Blakesley  Road and was originally a farmhouse. Built in 1590 for Richard Smalbroke, whose family later gave their name to Smallbrook Queensway.

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A visit to Blakesley Hall in the summer of 2014





On the first Sunday of the month you can visit Blakesley Hall for free. At the time in 2014 entry was usually £4 each. This visit to Blakesley Hall was during early August 2014. The timber framed house is located in Yardley on Blakesley  Road and was originally a farmhouse. Built in 1590 for Richard Smalbroke, whose family later gave their name to Smallbrook Queensway.


Blakesley Hall

Taking advantage of the first Sunday of the month for free, we went to Blakesley Hall on Sunday 3rd August 2014. Normally entry would be £4. I had a chance to look around the garden as well as explore the house and all the rooms. In this post we will look at the exterior and interior of the hall.

Now for some history. Blakesley Hall is located on Blakesley Road in Yardley, now in Birmingham. It is a Grade II* listed building. At the time when it was built in 1590, Yardley was in Worcestershire. Built for a local Yardley man called Richard Smalbroke, it was built as a farmhouse. In was passed to his descendants until it ended up in the Greswolde family from 1685. They used it as a tenant farm for the next 200 years. Henry Donne bought the hall in 1899 who restored the house before selling it to the Merry family, who was the last family to live in the hall. It became a museum from 1935 onwards. Bomb damage in WW2 in 1941 meant that the hall didn't reopen until 1957. After the 1970s and with research the hall was restored to an authentic appearance as it was in 1684.

The Birmingham Museums Trust took over the running of the hall from Birmingham City Council in 2012.

There was a nearby village (which is today called Old Yardley Village and has a park called Old Yardley Park). For more on Old Yardley Village I have a post here Old Yardley Village: a hidden gem not far from Blakesley Hall.

 

Watercolour painting below of Blakesley Hall c. 1840-60 by A.E. Everitt (from a private collection).

Black and white view below of Blakesley Hall in 1890, when a pond was created by clay extraction, which was in a field opposite the house.

Black and white photo below showing the Merry family in 1910, they were preparing for haymaking. Tom Merry is at the back.

The above photos were taken from the Blakesley Hall Guide Book published by the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, 2003.

 

Before heading into Blakesley Hall I had a look all the way around the house from the gardens.

There was lavender growing on this side of the garden.

The right side of the house facing Blakesley Road. This was the entrance to the hall.

To the back of the house. The gardens were quite large and plenty to see in the summer.

The house has a few wings around the back. The kitchen dates to the mid 17th century. While there was an 18th century brick addition.

One more look around the back before heading inside.

The Hall

The table in the hall dates to around 1620. It was laid out like it could have been during the 1680s.

On this table in The Hall was some old newspapers, probably dating to the First World War, as one mentions British Soldier casualties in France. There was also an old inkwell and desk lamp and a framed black and white photo. Would have to assume of the Merry family who were living here during the 1914-18 War.

Spinning wheel in The Hall. Before mass production in factories, women would sew their own clothes at home for the family. This might be a modern one called an Ashford Spinning Wheel (made in New Zealand). Obviously a spinning wheel in the 17th Century would have been made in England!

The Great Parlour

This room was used for private dining, sitting and entertaining. There was a door from the garden so people could come and go without passing through the main Hall. Their is a set of replica panelled painted hangings on the wall. These depict the story of Joseph and his brothers in the Old Testament. Fireplace to the right of the table and chairs.

The Little Parlour

According to a 1684 inventory this room was a private family dining room. The most comfortable room in the house. Apparently their used to be a fireplace in here but where it is now is a mystery. Hangings were very fashionable in the 17th century, and their were reproductions in the room dyed in similar colours to what may have been used in the 17th century.

The Painted Chamber

One of the main bedrooms in the house. The tester bed dates to the 17th century. The bed curtains are replicas. Wall paintings in this room date from when the house was built and had been covered over, as at one point they were thought to be old fashioned. They were hidden until the 1950s when repairs to the house after WW2 took place.

The Servant's Chamber

Just a simple bed for the servant of the house in this room. While this room is displayed as the Servant's Chamber, the servant's would have actually slept in the attic on the second floor.

The servant had her own Spinning Wheel and bobbin in her room. Like the one on display here.

The Far-Bed Chamber

This room is furnished with replica items and reproduction wall hangings. The tester bed and other furniture in the room are accurate replicas of late 16th and 17th century pieces.

This chest has objects on top of it. They had something to do with the handmaiden cleaning the room.

Another view of the test bed in the Far Chamber. The door out to the first floor corridor.

One more view of the bed in the Far Chamber.

Heading down the stairs to the floor below.

Kitchen

This brick built kitchen was added to the back of the house in 1650. Before it was built, it is likely the Hall's original kitchen would have been in a separate building to reduce the risk of fire. The beams in the kitchen dates to 1350 suggesting that they may have been reused from the house that was previously on this site.

Typical objects in a late 17th century kitchen. Objects on the tables for preparing food. Also some early equipment for cleaning the floor, or washing the clothes.

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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70 passion points
People & community
12 May 2020 - Elliott Brown
Inspiration

Union Jack flags and bunting around suburban Shirley for VE Day 75

While the VE Day 75 Bank Holiday Weekend was never supposed to be like this (on lockdown during a pandemic), locals have still decorated the outside of their homes with Union Jack flags and bunting. Such as in Shirley, Solihull (just over the Metropolitan Borough border from Birmingham in Hall Green). Saw these on my Saturday afternoon daily walk in the warm weather on the 9th May 2020.

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Union Jack flags and bunting around suburban Shirley for VE Day 75





While the VE Day 75 Bank Holiday Weekend was never supposed to be like this (on lockdown during a pandemic), locals have still decorated the outside of their homes with Union Jack flags and bunting. Such as in Shirley, Solihull (just over the Metropolitan Borough border from Birmingham in Hall Green). Saw these on my Saturday afternoon daily walk in the warm weather on the 9th May 2020.


It has been 75 years since World War 2 ended in Europe. Victory in Europe Day was held on the 8th May 1945 (when Germany surrendered). While WW2 in the Far East didn't end until August 1945, when Japan surrendered (VJ Day). While the 75th anniversary commemorations are a bit more muted then they were supposed to be, households all over the country have decorated the front of their houses with Union Jack bunting and flags. Some may have even had tea on their front drives on the 8th May 2020. This daily walk the day later on the 9th May 2020.

 

For my Saturday afternoon daily walk, in the warm weather, walked down Solihull Lane from Robin Hood Island in Hall Green, Birmingham. Crossed the border into Solihull on Streetsbrook Road in Shirley, Solihull. Saw these Union Jack bunting and flags on the way.

We left Streetsbrook Road at Olton Road and walked towards the Stratford Road in Shirley. Then back towards the Robin Hood Island. Saw a Union Jack flag, and one house with Lest We Forget.

 

Earlier saw this Union Jack flag on Shirley Road in Hall Green.

At Robin Hood Island on Solihull Lane was this Union Jack flag and a hat outside of Keith Emery Butchers (while customers were socially distanced 2 Metres apart from each other).

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Thanks for all the followers.

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50 passion points
Classic Architecture
11 May 2020 - Elliott Brown
Did you know?

A tour of Soho House in the summer of 2010

Did you know that before the Birmingham Museums Trust took over from Birmingham City Council, you had to sign a disclaimer when you wanted to take photos around Soho House? My only visit to Soho House was in July 2010. It was the home of Matthew Boulton from 1766 until his death in 1809, so went the year after his bicentenary of his death. The Lunar Society met here in the late 18th C.

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A tour of Soho House in the summer of 2010





Did you know that before the Birmingham Museums Trust took over from Birmingham City Council, you had to sign a disclaimer when you wanted to take photos around Soho House? My only visit to Soho House was in July 2010. It was the home of Matthew Boulton from 1766 until his death in 1809, so went the year after his bicentenary of his death. The Lunar Society met here in the late 18th C.


Soho House

The Birmingham Museums Trust took over from the running of the museum at Soho House which was previously run by Birmingham City Council until 2012. At the time of my visit, I had to sign a form to get permission to take photos inside of the house (which I've not had to do since at other venues). The visit was during July 2010.

Some history.

The house located in Handsworth, was built for Matthew Boulton one of the 18th century's major entrepeneurs. Who ran the Soho Manufactory (taking over Soho Mill in 1761). Originally a cottage was on this site which he had expanded, making several changes. Boulton moved in during 1766 and he became one of the founding members of the Lunar Society. He hired Samuel Wyatt in 1789 to landscape the garden and extend the buildings. In 1796 his brother James Wyatt, made additions to the main front. It is now a Grade II* listed building.

When Matthew Boulton died in 1809, the house passed to his son, Matthew Robinson Boulton and later grandson Matthew Piers Watt Boulton who later sold the property in 1850. Over the years the house had a variety of owners. At one point it was a residential hostel for police officers. Birmingham City Council acquired the house in 1990 and opened it as a museum in 1995. In 2012 the Birmingham Museums Trust took over from the Council for running Soho House.

A map of the Soho area which was taken from Matthew Boulton's Notebook no. 27 dating to 1793 to 1799.

This view of the Soho Manufactory was taken from J. Bissett's Magnificent Directory, dating to 1800.

Below is a watercolour of Soho House painted by Paul Braddon.

The above images were taken from a guide book called "Matthew Boulton Bicentenary Celebrations", published by Birmingham City Council in 2009 (when Matthew Boulton has been dead for 200 years).

 

Plan of Soho, this map from when Matthew Robinon Boulton owned the estate from 1809 (death of his father) until 1842 (his own death). Including the Soho Manufactory. Soho House is to the right. Below used to be Soho Pool.

The above Public Domain Dedication image taken from the Birmingham Museums Trust Digital Image Resource. Which are Public Domain images free to download.

 

You can find my full Flickr album on Soho House here: Soho House, Handsworth.

Arriving at Soho House for the July 2010 visit.

There is a blue plaque on the wall for Matthew Boulton from the Birmingham Civic Society, stating that he lived here from 1766 to 1809.

This photo came out a bit blurry, despite some attempts to edit it. Also the man that worked here for the Council came out and sat on the bench. I think I had to sign the form for him.

View from the back of the garden. These garden views were taken after the look around the house.

Same photo as above but a different crop. There is a tea room on the right.

Now for a look around the rooms inside of Soho House.

Breakfast Room

This room would probably have been used by the Boulton family as an informal sitting room as well as a breakfast room. The marble chimney-piece is one of a number that survive throughout the house and dates from the late 1790s.

Drawing Room

The Drawing Room was one of the principal rooms in the house and would generally have been used only for entertaining guests or on other special occasions. Matthew Boulton purchased the japanned chairs for this room in 1798 from the cabinet maker James Newton.

To the left there was a bust of Matthew Boulton.

And to the right was a bust of James Watt.

Dining Room

The Dining Room of Soho House has come to be known as the Lunar Room, named after the Lunar Society who often met here. This eminent group of scientists and manufacturers met at Boulton's home to dine together, and to exchange ideas, discuss their inventions or entertain each other with scientific experiments.

The mirror and fireplace in the Dining Room aka the Lunar Room.

Entrance Hall

This portrait of Matthew Boulton was in the entrance hall.

Matthew Boulton's Study

Matthew Boulton filled his home with scientific instruments, equipment and books. to the left of the fireplace is a diagonal barometer by John Whitehurst of Derby, c. 1775. Above the chimneypiece is a pastel drawing "The Face of the Moon" by John Russell, c. 1795.

Fossilry

This room contains Matthew Boulton's large collection of geological specimens. In 1782 he created a "fossilry at his Manufactory to house his collection, and by 1803 it has been moved to this room, so that he could keep and study his specimens in his house. The mahogany cabinet contains drawers for storing geological specimens and is one of a pair formerly owned by Matthew Boulton.

Housekeeper's Room

This room was the kitchen of the house where the housekeeper would cook for the Boulton family.

They would prepare food on this table.

They would also do other tasks such as cleaning the house and the chimney.

Wine Cellar

Under the house was the extensive cellars at Soho House. They were used for the storage of wine, beer, ale, oil lamps, and some foodstuffs. This area was the wine cellar and still has it's original slate shelving.

This is also near the area used for the Furnace & Heating System. This cardboard cut out of a man showing the kind of tasks that were done down here. I'm not sure if he was carrying a bag of coal or disposing of the household waste?

The stairs from the different levels of the house. We were heading back up into the house.

Ladies Room

At the time I wasn't able to make out what this room was called or used for. There was a chair for a lady to sit on, and a dress on display. The chair was called a Day Bed and was made in 1805, probably for Miss Boulton (Matthew's daughter).

Miss Boulton's Sitting Room

This room was used by Matthew Boulton's daughter, Anne as a small sitting room. Anne Boulton who was born in 1768, spent most of her life at Soho House. She never married, and only moved to a house of her own in 1818 after her brother's marriage, when Soho House became his family home.

A portrait of Ann Boulton in the Sitting Room.

Matthew Boulton's Bedroom

This room became Matthew Boulton's bedroom c 1803, before this it was his library. The house was remodelled in the late 18th century and the handsome marble chimneypiece was probably put in as part of this work. The mahogany bed dates from the 18th century.

There was a portrait of Matthew Boulton in his bedroom. By Carl Frederick von Breda. There is a similar one at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (or it is the same one in their collection).

Miss Boulton's Bedroom

This room is displayed as Miss Boulton's Bedroom, although c 1800 she probably had a bedroom across the passage. By the 1780s, fashionable homes had begun to have highly co-ordinated interiors. There is a mahogany side table and japanned chairs, all by James Newton.

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Now at more than 1,130 followers. Thank you.

Birmingham We Are People with Passion award winner 2020

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80 passion points
Classic Architecture
07 May 2020 - Elliott Brown
Inspiration

A look around Aston Hall during the Heritage Open Day in September 2017

During the September 2017 Birmingham Heritage Week event the Civil War Siege 1643, I had a chance to have a look around all the rooms at Aston Hall, while it was not too busy. Come with me as we look around these rooms dating back to the 17th century while we are in self isolation. Some interiors may date the 18th century. From Sir Thomas Holte to James Watt Jr.

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A look around Aston Hall during the Heritage Open Day in September 2017





During the September 2017 Birmingham Heritage Week event the Civil War Siege 1643, I had a chance to have a look around all the rooms at Aston Hall, while it was not too busy. Come with me as we look around these rooms dating back to the 17th century while we are in self isolation. Some interiors may date the 18th century. From Sir Thomas Holte to James Watt Jr.


My visit to Aston Hall was on the 16th September 2017.

For my previous Aston Hall or Aston Park posts check out my previous posts here:

Quick history recap: Aston Hall was built between 1618 and 1635 by John Thorpe for Sir Thomas Holte, who moved into the hall in 1631 (before it was complete). The house was damaged by Parliamentary troops during the Civil War in 1643 (it still has visible scars). The house was sold and leased to James Watt Jr. in 1817. It became a museum after 1858. The Birmingham Corporation bought the house in 1864. Now run by the Birmingham Museums Trust, who took over from Birmingham City Council in 2012.

Aston Hall The East Front painted in 1854 by John Joseph Hughes. Public Domain.

Isometric View of Aston Hall, painted in 1860 by Allen Edward Everitt. Public Domain.

Public Domain Dedication images above from the collection of the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. Which are free to download from this link.

View below of Aston Hall in September 2017 before the Civil War Siege 1643 event began.

Rear view of Aston Hall from the back in Aston Park. Pan sculpture in the middle.

Now for a tour around Aston Hall.

The Great Hall

Seen during the Civil War Siege re-enactment. The actor on the left was playing Sir Thomas Holte. The portrait of the real Sir Thomas Holte was on the wall in the middle.

The portrait of Sir Thomas Holte in the Great Hall.

Great Drawing Room

Bit like a lounge with chairs around a fireplace, and somewhere to have tea. Furnished in the 18th century style for James Watt Jr.

The Green Library

A desk in the middle of the room with old books all around. Probably where James Watt Jr sat to work in the 19th century.

Small Dining Room

Furnished in the 18th century style. Called the Dining Parlour in 1771, this room remained a family breakfast and dining room until 1848. The 18th century fireplace was installed in 1960.

Portrait of James Watt (1736 - 1819) in the Small Dining Room. He was the famous father of James Watt Jr. 

The Johnson Room

In the 1760s this was a dressing room also used by Sir Lister Holte as an estate office. In 1817 it was known as the Little Blue Room and in James Watt's time it was the Study or Yellow Library.

In 1882 it was lined with panelling taken from a house in Old Square which belonged to Dr Hector, a friend of Samuel Johnson, hence it's modern name. It now contains displays on the Hall's history as a public museum.

There was a stuffed tiger in this room.

The Great Parlour

When Aston Hall was built this was the family's principal living room. Around 1700 it was converted into a chapel. The room's Jacobean panelling survives and it is furnished with oak furniture from the same period.

The Orange Chamber

Bedroom on the first floor. More in the 17th century style up here. These rooms were in the West Range.

King Charles Room

Known as the Best Lodging Chamber in 1654, this was one of the rooms used by King Charles I when he spent the night of the 18th October 1642 at Aston, shortly before the Battle of Edgehill.

Featuring artefacts from the English Civil War period. Civil War armour and an open cabinet.

Great Dining Room

In this room King Charles I dined here in 1642, on his way to Kenilworth during the English Civil War. (you can see the table from both sides).

Withdrawing Room

A small room with a table and chairs, with an old tapestry to the back of the room.

Long Gallery

The most impressive room at Aston Hall! I was lucky enough to get the whole room to myself at one point. Amazing that this has survived the centuries.

The World Room

An exhibition gallery of small objects in this room. In the 1650s this room was the Chamber over the Scullery, the anteroom to Sir Thomas Holte's bedchamber. After 1700 it became Sir Lister Holte's library. Heneage Legge  (who came to live at Aston Hall in 1794) turned it into his new bedroom and inserted large sash windows. The room now contains displays which explore the global influences on fashionable living and the design and decoration of furniture and furnishings during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Passage Room

This is the corridor between the rooms on the first floor.

Dressing Room

This was originally part of Sir Thomas Holte's bedchamber, this room was formed in about 1700. It was transformed by Sir Lister Holte in the 1750s who installed the fine fireplace. By 1771 it had become the Dressing Room to the Best Chamber. After 1794 it became the Dressing Room to Heneage Legge's Blue Room next door. By 1819 it was known as the Chinese Room.

Best Bedchamber

This room is not mentioned in the 1654 inventories, but it may have been Lady Holte's chamber. Around 1700 it was panelled and extended to the north, creating a large recess for a bed. It replaced the Chamber over the Kitchen as the principal family bedroom and was occupied by Sir Lister Holte and later by his widow, Sarah Newton. It is now furnished with pieces that would have decorated the bedchamber of a wealthy Georgian lady such as Lady Holte.

Oak Staircase

Up to Dick's Garret or down to exit. You can head up to the attic where the servants lived.

Dick's Garret

Replica 17th century servant's bed. Up here was where the servant's of Aston Hall slept for the night. Probably as it was during the 18th century.

Servants Hall

Probably the kitchen where the servants prepared food for the Holte family. The following rooms are in the basement of Aston Hall.

The Pantry

This room was formed during the alterations to the kitchen around 1700. In 1771 it was the Butler's Room, where he kept the silver and his trays. After 1819 it was used by James Watt's footmen who cleaned the oil lamps here.

Kitchen

Servants seen preparing food in the kitchen during the Civil War Siege 1643 event (actors during the Birmingham Heritage Week re-enactment). It looks like there was breads and pastries on the tables. As well as butter and eggs. And a boars head!

Photos taken by Elliott Brown.

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown. Now at more than 1,130 followers. Thank you.

Birmingham We Are People with Passion award winner 2020

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