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Construction & regeneration
15 May 2019 - Stephen Giles
News & Updates

The Grand Hotel, Birmingham - Update on restoration work (May 2019)

Birmingham’s most iconic hotel is set to be restored to its former glory when it opens next year.

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The Grand Hotel, Birmingham - Update on restoration work (May 2019)





Birmingham’s most iconic hotel is set to be restored to its former glory when it opens next year.


Occupying a prominent position on the city’s grandest address of all, Colmore Row, The Grand Birmingham Hotel is scheduled to open its doors in May 2020.

It follows ten years of extensive renovation works throughout the building, which has seen Hortons’ Estate invest more than £25 million to give this Grade-II listed beauty a well deserved second chance at life.

Developed by the Horton Family themselves between 1879 and 1895, this opulent French Renaissance inspired building has played host to royalty, A-list Hollywood film stars and politicians over the years, as well as staging many dinners, concerts and dances in the picturesque Grosvenor Suite – a suite that will be returning to the public next year.

The Grand Hotel, 1894 - Photo by British Library

The Grand Ballroom - Photo by Birmingham Post

Plush new shops, upmarket restaurants and upgraded new offices now adorn the lower floors fronting onto Colmore Row, with more to come on Barwick Street.

This work has been supported by grants from Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), Birmingham City Council and Historic England.

Photo by 55ColmoreRow

Photo by Tom Grunt

HOTEL OPERATOR

The crowning glory for Hortons' Estate in all of this was securing a hotel operator, however, this has proved to be more difficult than anticipated.

The search for a builder to undergo works, in order to attract an operator, has been painstakingly frustrating at times, with builders put off by the antiquated nature of the interior, with modernising works seemingly too difficult to overcome.

However, a deal was reached and an announcement was duly made midway through 2017 when Principal Hotel Company announced plans to turn the upper floors into a luxury 180-room hotel.

The hotel will include extensive conference and banquet spaces, along with a restaurant, bar, and spa.

Initial plans for a rooftop infinity pool have since been scrapped in favour of five more spacious rooms. The hotel will now contain a total of 185 rooms, with a decision on the star rating yet to be made.

“We have always believed that the restoration of The Grand would not be complete if it did not include a luxury hotel.

After considerable time and effort we have chosen to work with Principal on the project because they share our commitment to creating the city’s finest hotel and because of their impressive track record working on similar buildings in other major cities.” - Tony Green, chief executive of Hortons’ Estate

With the hotel set to open in twelve months time, Graham Construction won the fit-out contract to deliver the hotel late last year, with work inside very much underway.

The Grand Hotel is well on its way to being reborn!

Artists Impressions by Berman Guedes Stretton

For more information on Birmingham's developments, follow @GtrBhamDev on Twitter

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70 passion points
Civic pride
10 May 2019 - Elliott Brown
Inspiration

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit at Sarehole Mill

If you visit Sarehole Mill, inside or out, you may see these signs (if they are still there) of a Bilbo Baggins / The Hobbit trail. The biopic Tolkien was released in UK cinemas in early May 2019. Featuring scenes set in Birmingham and near Sarehole Mill and around Edgbaston and the City Centre. This is a fun trail for Tolkien fans!

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J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit at Sarehole Mill





If you visit Sarehole Mill, inside or out, you may see these signs (if they are still there) of a Bilbo Baggins / The Hobbit trail. The biopic Tolkien was released in UK cinemas in early May 2019. Featuring scenes set in Birmingham and near Sarehole Mill and around Edgbaston and the City Centre. This is a fun trail for Tolkien fans!


These photos below were taken during a free open day at Sarehole Mill in October 2013. Couldn't help but notice these The Hobbit signs. Clearly part of a picture trail round the mill!

Seen in the tea room, when it also used to be the ticket office (that was later moved into a building close to the car park).

Bilbo Baggins - look for his pictures around the mill.

Gandalf the Grey - he is looking for young Bilbo Baggins.

Bilbo Baggins - a Hobbit.

Gandalf A grey wizard.

Thorin Leader of the Dwarves

Gollum A Stoor Hobbit of the River folk.

On the top floor of the mill, Bilbo's house!

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit

When the leaves are gold before they fall, look for Bilbo in the woods of the Shire

During another visit to the gardens of Sarehole Mill (September 2016), I saw these four signs on stones with JRR Tolkien quotes from his books! Only had my (then) smartphone camera on me at the time. So not as detailed as would be on my main camera. I would guess that they were meant to be clues?

One Ring to rule them all One Ring to find them ...

Tall ships and tall rings, Three times three what brought they from the foundered land ...

For Bole and bougo Are burning a bit the furnace We go to War ...

Reeds by the shady pond. Lillies on the water ...

Bonus photos. It was the Summer of 2015. And The Big Hoot's Little Hoot trail was on around Birmingham, along with the bigger The Big Hoot trail. In Kings Heath they had several of them in shop windows. But if you popped into Lloyds Bank between July and August 2015 (may have still been there September 2015), you may have seen Frowldo Baggins!

This owlet was designed by Zac Iman and based on the character Frodo Baggins from The Lord of the Rings. I saw it during August 2015 in the Lloyds Bank in Kings Heath (Alcester Road South next door to Sainsbury's).

There was little owl sculptures at Sarehole Mill, but they weren't really Tolkien related.

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown (over 1000 followers!).

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40 passion points
Modern Architecture
27 Apr 2019 - Daniel Sturley
Gallery

Aston Hall - April 2019

Here's a small gallery from Aston Hall including some interiors.

Photos by Daniel Sturley

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Aston Hall - April 2019





Here's a small gallery from Aston Hall including some interiors.

Photos by Daniel Sturley


Photos by Daniel Sturley

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80 passion points
Transport
24 Apr 2019 - Elliott Brown
Inspiration

Vintage buses seen around the West Midlands

I first started to spot vintage buses around Birmingham and the West Midlands around 2011, and have kept seeing them ever since. Including the buses going between Acocks Green and Yardley Wood bus garage during the October 2013 open days. Sometimes the bus just randomly goes past me when I was least expecting it!

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Vintage buses seen around the West Midlands





I first started to spot vintage buses around Birmingham and the West Midlands around 2011, and have kept seeing them ever since. Including the buses going between Acocks Green and Yardley Wood bus garage during the October 2013 open days. Sometimes the bus just randomly goes past me when I was least expecting it!


Starting with this bus on Edmund Street in Birmingham, I saw it during May 2011, and I think it's the first old bus that I took a photo of in Birmingham! Now owned by what was the Aston Manor Transport Museum (now based in Aldridge). This bus celebrated 100 years of public transport in Walsall. Reg no: JOV 714P, WMPTE 4714, Bristol VRT/SL2/6LX with Metro-Cammell H43/33F body. Dates from 1976.

During my first train trip to Bromsgrove in April 2013, on my walk back from Bromsgrove Town Centre to the old Bromsgrove Station, saw this bus at the lights on the A38. I was crossing over New Road. Reg no: XDH 516G, 116, Walsall Corporation, Daimler Fleetline. Built in 1968, was taken over by WMPTE in 1969.

Sarah's Diner spotted near Amber Way in Halesowen during January 2019. Reg no: TVP 875S, 6875, MCW bodied Leyland Fleetline, WM Travel. Formerly used on the 11 Outer Circle in Birmingham.

Now a look at the former Birmingham City Transport buses used during the October 2013 open days between Acocks Green and Yardley Wood bus garages.

There was at least 3 vintage buses that you could catch a free ride between both bus garages on Saturday 5th October 2013. One of them was this former Birmingham City Transport bus, 3225, MOF 225. Seen at the Summer Road bus stop close to Acocks Green Bus Garage in the Fox Hollies area of Birmingham.

I was going to catch a free bus ride from Acocks Green to Yardley Wood. I think the bus in front with 90 Pheasey Estate via Kingstanding on it, was getting full, so I got on the blue Timesaver bus behind. See this post for more of that Timesaver 900 - vintage bus ride from Acocks Green to Yardley Wood Bus Garages, October 2013.

A bit more close up to both buses on Summer Road, Acocks Green.

One last look before I got on the old Timesaver blue bus behind. This car was parked near the road, so the bus had to park awkwardly next to it, to pick up passengers heading to Yardley Wood Bus Garage.

Later after I had visited my first Yardley Wood Bus Garage open day, I left via School Road in Yardley Wood and saw 3225 heading past me! Still taking bus passengers between both garages.

Seen continuing on it's way towards Yardley Wood Bus Garage on School Road, Yardley Wood. Shortly after this, I would get a no 3 bus back towards Swanshurst Park.

Here 3225 had just arrived on Yardley Wood Road outside of Yardley Wood Bus Garage. I myself had got off the blue Timesaver bus behind (before I went into the bus garage for the first time). The bus was already full.

Sometimes 3225 goes past you unexpectedly like when I was walking up the Warwick Road in Acocks Green, around about the time when National Express West Midlands was going to renumber the 37 as the 4 and 4A, so seeing this old Birmingham City Transport bus going up here was not expected during July 2018!

Forgive the quality of this photo, as it was a mobile phone photo taken on James Watt Queensway during November 2017 (I have also cropped it). 3225, MOF 225 seen passing Aston University and the Law Courts. Another random unexpected sight of this particular heritage bus!

This bus is used every year at the St Patrick's Day Parade in Digbeth. 3225, MOF 225 (I think) seen at the 2015 parade. As the 50 from West Midlands Travel. One of National Express West Midlands green electric hybrid buses was behind (then on the 23 and 24, now on the 61 and 63, repainted red outside).

Saw 3225, MOF 225 again at the 2018 St Patrick's Day Parade in Digbeth. Seen passing the Bull Ring Tavern, from this Moor Street Car Park view, zoomed in. Heading round Digbeth onto St Martin's Lane (one of the shortest roads in the city centre) and then going round onto Moat Lane. This is the reverse of the way buses normally go around Digbeth to the Bullring!

Getting back to the October 2013 open day, another vintage bus was taking passengers between Acocks Green and Yardley Wood bus garages. While I didn't see it at either bus garage, I did see it on the School Road in Yardley Wood. 3472, BON 472C, as the 4 to Pool Farm and Cotteridge, Birmingham City Transport.

Here it would pass over a bridge near the Stratford-on-Avon Canal. I think this was the only single decker bus that they were using that day!

In November 2018, I saw this old Birmingham City Transport bus heading off Highfield Road and onto Fox Hollies Road in Hall Green. Seen here crossing over the Stratford Road. Reg no: JOJ 548, 2548, Birmingham City Transport, built in 1950. It was a few days before the Yardley Wood Bus Garage open day that would be held on Saturday 10th November 2018, and I was wondering if it was heading towards Acocks Green Bus Garage?

Seen on the Fox Hollies Road in Hall Green. It's route number was the 9 to Quinton.

One last look at this bus passing me on the Fox Hollies Road in Hall Green. Advert at the back: "Avoid the race for car park space Take a Bus to any place".

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown (over 1000 followers!).

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50 passion points
History & heritage
23 Apr 2019 - Elliott Brown
Inspiration

Objects that used to be at Centenary Square

Here we will look at some sculptures that used to be in Centenary Square, and also a strucuture that was removed before it opened in 1991! The Colonnade was moved to the Peace Garden in 1990. The Flame of Hope and the Spirit of Enterprise fountain were removed in 2009 before the Library of Birmingham was built. The Forward sculpture burnt in an arson attack during 2003.

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Objects that used to be at Centenary Square





Here we will look at some sculptures that used to be in Centenary Square, and also a strucuture that was removed before it opened in 1991! The Colonnade was moved to the Peace Garden in 1990. The Flame of Hope and the Spirit of Enterprise fountain were removed in 2009 before the Library of Birmingham was built. The Forward sculpture burnt in an arson attack during 2003.


The Colonnade at the Peace Garden

Seen at the Peace Garden in 2009, it is now near Ridley Street and Washington Street. Originally built near Broad Street in 1925, it was a Doric Loggia designed by S.N. Cooke and W.N. Twist. It was originally part of the Hall of Memory scheme. It was moved stone by stone to the site of the ruined St Thomas's Church in 1990. The Peace Garden opened in 1992. Work to layout the original Centenary Square started in 1989 and was completed by 1991.

Inside the Colonnade a plaques with messages from peace from different communities and faiths from around the world.

The leaders of the G8 came here during 1998, and a plaque commemorating them planting 8 trees to represent each of the 8 nations. The Birmingham Summit was held between the 15th to 17th May 1998.

The Peace Garden is somewhere to sit for a bit of peace and relaxation, to get away from the stresses of life. Is also flowers planted around.

This plaque on the ground recalls when it was built in Broad Street in 1925, and moved here in 1990.

The Forward statue

This maquette of Raymond Mason's lost Forward statue was seen during a September 2018 open day at the Birmingham Museum Collection Centre. The original statue was installed around 1991, but was destroyed by a arson attack in 2003 (it's remains were removed).

The maquette is probably the only survival of the statue also known as the Lurpac statue. The full sized statue was made of fibreglass. I don't really recall seeing it myself.

Centenary Square in April 2009, with the Symphony Hall, The ICC and The REP. At this point the raised area of the square was still there, where once the Forward statue stood. But by 2010 the area in the middle was hoarded off for the construction of the Library of Birmingham. And when that opened, the paving was flattened, with grass around the new library amphitheatre (that grass is now gone with the new 2019 Centenary Square, still to be finished).

The Flame of Hope

Around the start of the new Millennium in 2000, Cliff Richard turned on the Flame of Hope. It was lit for about 2 years before it was turned off. It was still there in April 2009, before the Library of Birmingham was built. I would assume it went to storage where it probably remains today.

The Spirit of Enterprise Fountain

This was by the artist Tom Lomax, made in 1991. Seen here in April 2009. I went all the way around having a look at the Spirit of Enterprise fountain. What a sight to see!

There was three different sides with water coming out of the mouths. This side towards Symphony Hall. There used to be benches around this area too!

The fountain was removed to storage later in 2009, before construction started on the new Library of Birmingham, which opened in 2013. It remains in storage to this day!

The first time I saw it again, was during a May 2012 free open day at the Birmingham Museum Collection Centre and this was the condition that it was in!

The only water in it now was rain water! Looking a bit unloved left outside near the shipping containers and old statue plinths with graffiti nearby.

Doesn't seem likely that it will be returning to Centenary Square any time soon. While Industry & Genius and A Real Birmingham Family recently returned, it's doesn't look like this fountain will be coming back! Even the Boulton, Watt & Murdoch statue should be coming back soon!

Lighting grille

Seen in February 2018 was one of the lighting grilles installed in 1991. This one was outside of The REP. It was on of the items designed by Tess Jaray, with the City Architects Design Team and Tom Lomax. Similar items such as benches and railings have all now been removed. This Centenary Square lasted just over 25 years before the City Council decided to change it all over again!

 

Photos taken by Elliott Brown

Follow me on Twitter here ellrbrown (over 1000 followers!).

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