New Futures for Birmingham`s Historic Buildings

Art Deco Buildings in Birmingham

Posted November 14th, 2009 by Birmingham Conservation Trust with 14 Comments

Birmingham Conservation Trust joined twitter a few weeks ago.  We’ve been able to have some very enjoyable conversations with people use the service.  This morning Najm Clayton (who’s is doing a photostudy of Art Deco in Birmingham) asked us this question:

Najm's question on twitter

Najm's question on twitter

The most obvious help we an give is to ask for any suggestions and point you in the direction of two places:

1  Flickr has loads of photos of Birmingham Buildings – this search is for Art Deco and Birmingham UK.

2 Wikipedia can help – start with:

We quickly got a couple of responses. Julia Larden of the Acocks Green Focus Group suggested Lee Longland and shopping areas in Acocks Green:

Julia's message on twitter.

Julia's message on twitter.

While Paul Hannah suggested the Cincinnati building (which I think was more 1950’s?):

Paul's tweet

Paul's tweet

My personal favourite (I’m Nick Booth – one of the volunteer trustees) is the former Odeon in Kingstanding which was the first  built in this style.

Good luck and any further tips please add below.

14 Responses to “Art Deco Buildings in Birmingham”

  1. Andy Mabbett December 5, 2010

    I recently discovered three blocks of deco-style flats, on the corner of Grosvenor Road and Lyndon Close, Handsworth. see:


    • Stephen FREESTAINTON March 1, 2012

      Those flats are a great spot, Andy.
      My retired architect father sometimes took me past those Art-Deco blocks, back in the sixties. That would have been while I was off school; and spending the day at his Edgbaston Architects’ office: Norrish and Stainton on Highfield Rd, opposite St Mary’s church.

      Although designed post-WW2, by the partners themselves, their old office is very much in the brash Art-Deco style: which they knew as ‘Style Moderne’: all bold shapes and modern materials. The original build included a floor-to-ceiling-glass-walled reception, including a wholly-glass door, which gave the illusion of being open to the street. It was raised three feet to avoid people walking into the glass; with general success; but being (at least) a city-first it took a little getting used to!
      Sadly, shortly after the partnership sold the property, its iconic avante-garde design attracted the attentions of an IRA bomb. The blown-out reception frontage was then replaced by more conventional part-bricked shop-style frontage. However, I believe the apparently-floating first floor offices remain unspoilt: must make a point of revisiting…

      Dad used to have sardine sandwiches for lunch, bird-watching by Edgbaston Reservoir, or at the Botanical Gardens: where he managed the bird-care awhile, even keeping newly imported birds quarantined at our home. The partners were also very involved with the City’s Christmas Lights; designing and making many in (something-like) Art-Deco style for New Street, around 1959-1961, if I remember correctly. Photos of these are kept safe somewhere.

      Father’s partner Ken Norrish sadly died many years ago, after long working as a City Architect at Portsmouth. Dad retired to a self-built dwelling the Cotswolds Conservation Area, where he and Mum now match H.M.t. Queen in marital longevity, as they approach their 90s.


      • Elizabeth Perkins March 23, 2012

        Thanks so much for these great memories. Sorry we haven’t got back to you before.


  2. Andy Mabbett November 20, 2009

    Not to mention:



  3. Andy Mabbett November 20, 2009

    Oops! I forgot the URLs:



  4. Andy Mabbett November 20, 2009

    I think Lucie refers to this document , which some kind soul has just had published on the BCC website 😉

    There are 1950s, 60s and 70s equivalents, too.


  5. Lucie Thacker November 16, 2009

    I have spoken to our knowledgeable friends in the Conservation Department of the City Council – here’s a few they cited:
    Heathfield Road, Handsworth
    South Road, Northfields
    ‘Mallory’ on the border between Birmingham and Lichfield D.C. – Four Oaks Conservation Area finishes on one side of the road and Lichfield DC look after the other side
    Hill Wood Common Road, Four Oaks
    Icknield Port Road – the former refuse disposal building
    Odeon Cinemas at Kingstanding and Sutton Coldfield
    There is a wonderful leaflet called ‘Discovering Deco’ produced by BCC which we can post to you (as the links are broken on their website!) if you ring us and let us know your address.
    Happy photography!


    • Stephen FREESTAINTON March 1, 2012

      I am dismayed by the adulteration of the wonderful Art Deco frontage of the
      Baldwin pub in Hall Green; despite it being locally listed by the City Council
      for its local and historical interest. As I write, contractors are fixing cedar
      wood cladding to it: destroying the historical merit of the original
      Queen-Mary liner’s silhouette profile. It beggars belief that the
      professed conservation-friendly policies of Companies, Council
      Planners and Conservation Organisations: have all failed to protect
      this historical building, by combining pure ignorance with a lack of interest!

      New owners Greene King have employed INTERIOR design consultants
      Concept IDL, who replied to my comments on their PlanApp by saying
      they thought “cedar cladding and render will ENHANCE the appearance of
      this historic building’s” EXTERIOR. So, NO relevant architectural
      knowledge there; which may seem surprising, as they claim Greene-King
      has exemplary record of architectural conservation. Shame on them,
      for not even checking what Art-Deco means on wikipedia!

      The Planning Officers’ report to the 9th February 2012 Planning
      Committee meeting, claimed: “we await a report from our Conservation
      Officers”; but no Conservation report was presented to Committee, nor
      even referred to in the meeting. The Planning Officer’s only
      reference to the building’s appearance was to echo Concept’s view that
      “the addition of cedar wood cladding and rendering will not adversely
      affect the appearance of this historical landmark”.
      As Planning Officers have NO training in Art and Architecture, they
      should NEVER use their own untrained OPINION to recommend Approval of
      plans which may adversely affect a locally-listed building’s
      historical frontage! Shame on them!

      The MOST BASIC FACT (not mere opinion) ABOUT ART DECO (originally
      known by another French term: Style Moderne) IS its EXCLUSIVE USE of
      MAN-MADE MATERIALS. This means NO WOOD is USED in or on ANY
      ART DECO building DESIGN.

      The Planning Committee also failed to question the effect of Proposed
      alterations on the historic frontage. No surprise: no relevant
      knowledge there either. Cllr Clancy firstly extolled the virtue of a
      re-opening pub; and then elicited a vote to ask Greene-King to install
      a dartboard: for his dart-throwing friends! I hear he has since been
      reprimanded for this flippant self-interest. But the PlannApp was
      insensitively Approved by the Committee. Shame on them!
      Committee chairman Cllr Osborn later told me: “the Planning Committee
      HAS TO ACCEPT THE OPINION of its employee Planning Officers”, even if
      IN THE WAY of the new owners Greene-King”
      This means the Planning Committee put the new owner’s interests ahead
      of the local community’s visual, historical, and cultural amenity!
      More shame on them!

      English Heritage also showed a complete lack of interest: refused to
      even write to Greene-King asking for a reprieve of the historic
      frontage. Not really surprising: this is consistent with their
      failure to Grade2-list the Baldwin, when they did Grade2-list its
      sister building, the Maggies (formerly Three Magpies) in nearby
      Acock’s Green.

      Baldwin owners Greene King have NOT EVEN RESPONDED to my subsequent
      explicit email to Company Secretary Lindsay Keswick, in which I
      politely urged them to reconsider the cedar cladding abomination of
      this historic Art-Deco landmark.

      I sent emails to both principal contacts at B’ham Conservation Trust,
      attaching copies of my explanatory correspondence to Greene-King. No
      answer from them either; although hopefully some knowledge

      We must conclude that Concept Interior Design Ltd, Greene-King (Brewery &
      Pub Group), Birmingham City Council Planners (both P.Officers &
      P.Committee), and even English Heritage and Birmingham Conservation Trust
      have singly and collectively failed to protect our architectural heritage.
      ALL are talking the TALK; but NONE walk the WALK! Shame on them all!

      In 2002 Birmingham Council published a leaflet series (now available online),
      which lists buildings from each decade of last century,including one leaflet
      for the 1930s. Therein are shown only a number of municipal neo-classical
      ( pre-Deco ) buildings in the city centre; one example of Art-Deco sculpture;
      but no purely Art-Deco architecture. I know only of a handful unspoiled
      truly Art-Deco buildings remaining around all of Birmingham; which were listed
      by local conservators A.Mabbett and L.Thacker on BhamConservationTrust
      forum in Nov 2009. Now, over two years later, are there perhaps six
      or seven left?

      How can we all make sure that these remaining half-dozen truly
      Art-Deco buildings,
      might be afforded some REAL protection from inappropiate or
      downright destructive alterations in the future?

      I suggest that Art & Architecture training should be a COMPULSORY requirement
      for Planning Officers permitted to consider ANY alterations to an older building.
      At the very least, plans should NEVER be recommended for approval by Committee,
      WITHOUT first taking EXPERT advice.
      Planning Reform is IMPERATIVE or wave bye-bye to Brum’s Art-Deco,
      except perhaps the massive municipal neo-classical buildings.


  6. Andy Mabbett November 15, 2009

    …not to mention our lost Art Deco heritage, such as the lamented Golden Eagle on Hill Street.


  7. Alex Hughes November 14, 2009

    Almost, but not quite, Jon. The two pubs are the Three Magpies (a grade II listed building locally known as the Maggies) and the Baldwin, in Hall Green. The ship in question was the Queen Mary, and the two pubs portray a stylized representation of the bow & stern of that ship.

    pics: The Three Magpies

    The Baldwin

    There’s also the Barleycorn (currently closed & undergoing refurbishment) in Bearwood


    • Stephen FREESTAINTON March 1, 2012

      Sorry to say, the wonderful redbrick, Art-Deco Barleycorn is now a hideously-painted ,Blue Chip casino: dominating its surroundings like a giant plastic toy. Another one bites the dust: how few left now !!


      • Elizabeth Perkins March 23, 2012

        Sorry to hear this. So many of Birmingham’s superb Art deco pubs don’t have any protection from listing and this is what can happen!


  8. Andy Mabbett November 14, 2009

    There’s so much! The work of William Bloye is certainly worth looking up:

    There are some fantastic – if not well maintained – moderne houses around West Drive in Handsworth (on the site of James Watt’s former home, trivia fans!)

    @Jon – I don’t think the Clifton (my childhood local cinema) was ever an Odeon.


  9. Jon Bounds November 14, 2009

    There’s a pair of pubs — the Maggies & one other (name escapes me, sorry) in Acock’s Green/Fox Hollies that are a great example of the “nautical” art-deco style. It’s rumoured that together (they are mirror images of each other) they match the funnels on the Titanic.

    The Clifton Bingo hall in Great Barr — another ex ODEON – is a huge imposing version too.


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