Tag Archives: Birmingham

Barton Arms

The Barton Arms is a pub I pass every time I go into town. I’ve always been interested in it – it’s an absolutely beautiful building. It was built in 1901 and has some of the most beautiful tiles – several of which are claret and blue and have held the myth that the colours for Aston Villa were picked from the tiles in this pub (although it is more likely to be the other way round).

Now if you think the outside is beautiful…the inside is magnificent in comparison. It is full of original and charming features, and those that have had to have been replaced have been restored beautifully – it’s difficult to know what is and is not original in this pub. I love this pub, it reminds my very much of 1912 and it just reminds me of as chic Parisian cafe you’d find on the Titanic. Total elegance.  I have been a couple of times and sit underneath the beautiful stained glass window built into the wall (not it’s original place, it originally sat on the wall on the right which is out of shot of the photo).

Now, I’m going to have to be honest – the location of the pub is far from ideal. It is a bit of an area which is renowned for being rough and even dangerous. It is something that put me off going for a long time. Me and my Mum finally decided to give it a try, because we always read good reviews about it in the paper. We went once and we’ve gone back several times since. The food is simply wonderful. I really enjoy it. It’s so fresh and tasty. Below is some pictures from our latest trip to the pub last week.

 

 

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Vegetarian sharing platter for two.

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Tofu Pad Thai in front, with noodles and Crispy Shredded Beef in the back.

If you’ve not been before, you absolutely have to give it a go. If you want to make a really good evening out of it, I recommend going to the Taste and Tour evening, which you can find on their website. It usually takes place the first Monday on the month – but has been so popular that it has been run twice a month. For £19.95, you get a talk, tour and a two course meal (excluding drinks). Another option is to go on a Tuesday as it’s two courses for £10.


The Old Joint Stock

The Old Joint Stock is a fairly central pub located within the heart of Birmingham. It’s opposite St. Philip’s Cathedral and is about a five minute walk from the Bullring and Grand Central.

It was built in 1864 and was originally designed to be a library. It was later required by the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank, which was were the name of the pub comes from. When the Birmingham Joint Stock Company merged with Llyods Bank in 1889, the building then became a Lloyd’s bank.

It became a pub in 1997, it has a very impressive oval bar which is the focal point of the room. Despite being convert into a pub the building still retains a lot of traditional features and the building feels substitutional and traditional. It doesn’t feel like a modern overly glass and minimalist pub, that lacks a certain charm. This pub has charm in buckets.

The downside to this pub is that it is popular, which is great – but I’m not one for standing in busy grounded pubs. I have been a couple of time on a Saturday afternoon and it is busy but still comfortable enough to move and there is options to find tables.

I’ve not eaten here in a long time, so I cannot comment on the food. When I went several years ago to eat the food was very nice and reasonably priced. It felt less mass produced as some pubs, such as Sizzling pubs. However, pubs do change with different chefs so it is difficult to comment.

Since 2006 the pub has also being a theatre. I have yet to experience it, whenever I have looked nothing has really taken my fancy. I wish I could remember to look more so I could see if there is anything upcoming that I would like to go and see. You can find out about performances here.


The Fiddle and Bone

The Fiddle and Bone forms part of the Round House and is located on Sheepcote Street, just off Broad Street.

It’s a fantastic historical building located next to the canal and has beautiful outside tables so you can enjoy the outdoor atmosphere, although it is getting a little too cold to do that right now.

The food is excellent however at over £11 for a Sunday Roast dinner (vegetarian option is not available on the menu but you can have a meat free one at the same price as a meat one). Whilst the food is lovely and well cooked I think the portion size for the price is not fair able and I still felt hungry after my main meal (and I’m not a big eater). I would have eaten a pudding as well but the venue was just too over price and I didn’t feel like spending more for a pudding because my meal did not satisfy me.

The venue’s best selling feature however is the upstairs music venue which plays live music every Friday and Saturday evening and every Sunday afternoon. It’s an eclectic mix of different styles and bands and there is something to suit everyone. So I really recommend checking out their website and find something that takes your fancy.

I think this is a fantastic reuse of an historic building…which dates back to 1769 and was constructed by James Brindley. It first appeared on an O.S. map in 1887. This venue was once closed overnight because of complaints of noise by nearby residents. I even heard a story that empty glasses were left on the tables for years before it was allowed to reopen. I am glad it’s still around and I look forward to the next time I attend, although probably not for food.


Hen and Chickens

I’ve walked past this pub many times but I’ve never actually walked in before. I always assumed it was just a drinking pub where people could go and watch sports…and it is. This is not a fancy restaurant. It’s a loud pub where people go to watch sports and cheer. In fact if you’re not into sports it can be a bit off putting especially as people get loud cheering over sport. It’s not a comfortable, relaxing venue where you can sit and relax over food..HOWEVER, saying that it I would really recommend giving it a try. This pub serves Indian food and it would be exactly how I imagined Indian pub food to be. It has a limited menu but covers the basics…poppadoms, samosas, mix grills, various different curries as well as sides of rice, naan and chips. The menu is limited, but surprisingly they have a good variety of vegetarian options.

I’ve been twice and had the Chili paneer both times – this stuff is amazing. It’s £7 which seems quite pricey, but the portion is enough for two and combine that with chips and maybe a naan. You have a very reasonably priced – filling meal. The first time I had the chilli paneer was the day after I’d gone raw vegan for a day. I had never enjoyed cheese as much as I did with the chilli paneer. The second time was just as good as well.

Yes the venue isn’t the grandest or the quietest but you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the food and I really would recommend going – just maybe try to go on a day that has no football, cricket or rugby!


Birmingham’s Archaeology (Birmingham Heritage Week).

I know very little about the early part of Birmingham’s history. I probably know more about Leicestershire’s local history than I do about my home city – which is a shame, but as part of Birmingham Heritage Week, the Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society hosted a lecture about their excavations and what they have discovered and then followed this by a walk, which pinpointed the sites then talked about.

Before we get into the archaeology I have to talk about Birmingham and Midland Institute, where the talk took place…their lecture theatre has to be the best one I have ever been too. Look at the fabulous historic lecture theatre – I love the colour of the seats which I can only describe as puke green! The seats were so comfortable too, unlike most university ones.

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The talk was given by Dr. Mike Hodder and Dr. Stephanie Ratkai. Dr. Mike Hodder was Birmingham Council’s planning Archeologist for twenty years and together with Dr. Stephanie Ratkai has worked on excavations of numerous sights in Birmingham, including the Bullring, Library of Birmingham and Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

The talk itself centred on the archaeological work in Digbeth, which was a historic industrial site, that was prone to flooding. The fact that it was such a damp site has undermined the legend that Beorma and his followers settled here and that is why the city is called Birmingham. If Beorma did exist, he probably didn’t settle in Digbeth.

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Modern Digbeth today is actually compromised of two separate parishes, with Deritend being in the parish of Aston, which was separated by the River Rea. I have walked past the River Rea many times and always thought it was a later canal…but it turns out it was a river! Deritend was home to a pottery industry, which importantly gave it’s name to Deritend ware, which was manufactured in Deritend and in the Bullring area. The pots themselves were made by a orange local Merican mudstone and detailed with a V pattern with a white clay which came from further afield. The busy trade of other industries drew people to the Bull ring to trade, and probably either bought cookware while they were here or bought products within Deritend ware – which made for the successful distribution of Deritend ware throughout the Midlands, and it is found regularly in digs sites. During digs as well pieces of flint were found which indicate that the site was in use in the Stone Age as well. It is also home to the Old Crown Pub with a very impressive sign which claims the pub dates back to 1368, however excavations by Dr. Hodder in the beer garden have suggested that there is no evidence to support the claim that the pub is that old.

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Residents in Digbeth who were actually in the parish of Aston campaigned that the needed their own church because flooding often prevented them from travelling across the river to get to their Parish church in Deritend. It is dubious whether this was true of whether villagers wanted a closer church instead of walking several miles to get to their one in Aston. Whatever the case may be the church was the site of the burning of John Rogers during the reign of Queen Mary I. He is recorded as a Martyr to the protestant faith and was involved in helping to translate the bible into English.

Just up from the Old Crown on the same side, excavations also found evidence of a man-made pool built within the medieval period, the reason behind the creation of the pool was unclear but the area was home to a significantly sized tanning industry which was probably connected in some way to the pool.

Finally, the bit of archaeology I did know about was located on the site of the Bullring, which was the site of the old manor house with had a moat (this is reflected in street signage with Moat Lane). During excavations they found that the medieval manor’s walls were remarkably well preserved. Just up was the corner of Moat Lane is a very tired looking building, which use to be a music hall and was frequented by the Peaky Blinders, this building is scheduled for demolition and area to be rejuvenated.

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Hidden Spaces (Birmingham Heritage Week)

I’m a little behind with writing some posts. I went to this event last Saturday and I am only getting round to writing about it!

I am a history fanatic and it is safe to say that the study of the past takes up a lot of my time. I am very fortunate to be a Co-organiser of the Birmingham History Network (BHN). The BHN is a meetup group which is designed to bring like minded people together and organise events. Hidden Spaces was my second organised tour for the BHN and it formed part of Birmingham Heritage Week 2015. There was so many events to pick from over the week, and it was very difficult to filter through and pick something to do. In my opinion there was too much choice. Although if I run this event next year I think from experience I will be able to plan and organise the event a little better. I decided to pick a selection of venues that are normally closed to public viewing (which the exception of a few days each year). Often I walk past their buildings and always wonder what lies behind the closed door.

Birmingham Municipal Bank
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First up with the old Municipal Bank, which was first suggestion by Neville Chamberlain (who is perhaps more famous for being Prime Minster during the Outbreak of World War Two) in 1915. The idea of the Bank was to courage workers to deposit their savings which would generate a 3.5% interest which would be used by the Government, predominately to help the war effort. The Bank was created by Act of Parliament in 1916. After the war the Bank survived and it moved to it’s current position in 1933. This building located on Broad Street was the headquarters of the Bank.

This is a big and very beautiful building. There are many safes behind this bank, and the building has a spooky element of being a ghost shell. I am not sure when the bank stopped being operational, but it closed because it was too big and too costly to maintain. I was fortunate enough to meet a woman who used to work here in the 1960s and she talked about the beautiful cashier’s desk that used to be in the main room as soon as you walk in…alas it has now gone and the building is just an empty shell. Another lovely bonus was that someone else in the group knew one of the people in charge of the Heritage Open Day and he very kindly gave us a tour around the other safes. The big empty vaults hold a silent history of what was once a very busy bank.

I think it’s an absolute shame that this building is not in use today. I can understand why it is too costly for a bank, but I was thinking that it is right next to the Registry Office. I think this building would be fantastic to be reused as a wedding venue…it has beautiful charm and room to be able to have a wedding and a catering/dance facility within it. Some of the former managerial offices could also be turned into Hotel rooms. Although there would be a problem with toilet and washroom facilities which are at present would be limiting. Nevertheless I think it would work really well as a wedding venue.

Curzon Street Station

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I am quite clearly not a photographer, so my photos are appalling. Curzon Street Station was opened in 1838…but what is interesting is that this building was only partially built. There were meant to be two wings to the building, which appear in drawing plans but were never built. That’s why this building has the appearance that something is not quite right…almost missing. People often think that something has been removed from the building, in fact, the opposite was true – it was never added.

I was a little more disappointed with Curzon Street Station – it was lovely to see round the building…but there was no one really giving tours around and as we did not have someone in the group who knew someone to give a private tour, nor someone who worked here there wasn’t much more to do than walk around. There were a few informative boards on one wall – but it was mostly empty. I thought it would have been better to see if there were any photographs of Curzon Street within the archive and perhaps of used one of these empty rooms to display that. I loved a collection of old keys that had been left in one of the rooms, it was like it had been left there on Friday night ready for Monday morning and it never opened that Monday, the cobwebs in the place gave it a fantastic touch. There was talk that this building was going to become a Museum, but I overheard someone discussing with someone else that it would have cost millions to comply with health and safety and they just couldn’t afford to make it a museum.

Birmingham Hippodrome

20150912_12233220150912_125323I thought the Birmingham Hippodrome did a fantastic job for Heritage Week. I loved the two women in traditional Victorian dress singing traditional turn of the last century songs, including ‘My Old Man’, although there is a photo of me singing this song somewhere (I am praying it doesn’t end up in the Birmingham Mail or something like that…), they were brilliant and great fun. I’m sad I did not get a picture of them. There was also a lovely guide who talked a bit about the posters which you can see on the left and briefly about the origins of the Hippodrome. He suggested that often Hippodromes were created to make a loss, and I know that often venues today make a lost. I thought they would have been more popular prior to the onset of Cinemas, Radios and Tvs; but apparently even back then they were build by wealthy people as a status symbol, but not designed to be a money spinner. Another great thing about the Hippodrome was the Historical Talk, one of the guides gave, which was an hour long sit down presentation about the History of the Hippodrome. I really enjoyed it and it was very informative.

Museum Collections

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20150912_145703This was around about 2 O’Clock and having started at 10 O’Clock, a large part of the group decided to call it a day. A few hard corers stayed on a braced themselves for a 30 minute walk across town to go to the Museum Collections building. The Museum Collections building is like a big warehouse that houses the artefacts the museum has
which are currently not on, or never go on display. It was like an Aladdin’s Cave of Historical Goodies. It also answered a 20150912_152715question I have often wondered. I look around and see some beautiful sculptures and busts of people and sometimes during refurbishments these disappear and never come back. I often wondered where they go and if they are destroyed. Turns out a lot of them are stored in the Museum Collections and they have a fantastic collection of random things. It was great looking through them. Although it was nearing the end of the event and the building was getting ready to close, so it was rather a rushed look through.

 

 

An expected bonus

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By this point it had been a long and tiring day, the group had done a lot of walking and exploring and it was safe to say we were looking forward to going home. The prospects of a long walk back into town was not appealing, however as luck would have it a man stopped me and said there were two vintage buses which were talking people back into Town. We decided to leave on the second to last bus and travelled on the London Red Bus. We were speaking to the ‘Conductor’ who was organising the stops, he said we’d turn right and stop outside Snow Hill Station, unfortunately we didn’t and the Conductor had no way of talking to the Driver, as unlike modern buses the Driver was completely isolated from the passengers on the bus. We ended up going back to Museum collections and we were about to go and get the train, when the Conductor said he was making one final trip into town and would not be coming back to Museum Collections. So we got a second trip round on the bus…which was fantastic and a perfect end to a very historical day.


Digbeth Dining Club

My blog is now branching out into food – I’m not much of a foodie and I am vegetarian but I thought Digbeth Dining Club was worth a mention!

Digbeth Dining Club is located near the Custard Factory, and is in fact a small industrial warehouse located near the railway arches in Digbeth. It’s open every Friday and is situated in a part of Birmingham I never really take the time to travel to – but the trip to Digbeth Dining Club is well worth it, even if all you do is catch the stunning historical scenery as you walk to it. It’s very urban.

Once you get there – it’s a small commerial unit…mostly black and abandoned. It looks a bit weird, and to be honest, if it was a winter’s night. I could see this being the set of some low budget local horror film – deserted, no one can hear you scream type scenario.

Inside the venue…it’s painted black and looks almost like an illegal nightclub. There’s a DJ booth, some comfy chairs and a bar. Outside there is a old industrial forecourt that has food stalls. This had about five. These food stalls alternate so you are not likely to get the same stalls each time you go.

When I visited there was a Beef Burger stall, a Greek kebab style stall, a waffle stall, a Caribbean stall, and finally an Asian stall.  Vegetarian options wise – there was probably about two (excluding the waffle stall – as I didn’t really check that out), which you know if fairly limited for a vegi – but we kinda expect this right?

I had a grilled Halloumi pitta bread which was served with salad and tzatziki, which cost £5.50. I then had a portion of Pancit Canton which I shared and cost £5. The food was very nice and I couldn’t fault it. I really enjoyed it and I am very full. I did feel it was a little overpriced – the noodles were lovely but for £5 and the portion size, even if I had that as my main meal I would feel slightly disappointed. The Halloumi pitta bread was again very nice, but I think to spend £8 for my meal, it was great overpriced. Drop this to about £6.50 and I would think it was more value for money.

It’s a different venue and I would suggest it is worth visiting once; but you probably won’t see me going there every Friday night.