New Futures for Birmingham`s Historic Buildings

Haunted Heritage – Birmingham Council House & Town Hall

Posted October 12th, 2012 by Birmingham Conservation Trust with 5 Comments

Birmingham Council House

Following on from my visit to The Old Crown, my next stops for Birmingham’s haunted heritage are the dramatic Council House and Town Hall buildings.

Birmingham Council House is a Grade II* listed building situated in Victoria Square, and was built in 1875. The first stone was laid by Joseph Chamberlain, who was mayor of Birmingham 3 times, and then later became an MP. He was a very important political figure of the time, and the father of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. He did a great deal for Birmingham’s poor, working tirelessly to alleviate their situation and in doing so cleared slum areas and had better houses built for those that worked in the city. He died in 1914, and it is said that his ghost haunts his old office in the Council house, in the corner of the building on the first floor. His ghost has been seen walking the corridors, and sometimes standing behind his old desk. A strong smell of fresh cut flowers is said to accompany sightings of “Brummagem Joe” as he insisted upon having these in his office. As soon as he is seen, he vanishes.

The building is also said to be built on an old monastery, and as a result, there have been some sightings of a ghostly monk wandering the corridors.

There is also another story of the suicide of a council worker within the building, who hanged himself in the entrance hall. His ghost is said to be seen hanging at the top of the great staircase directly inside the main doors. Others claim to hear the quiet tapping of keyboard keys coming from the room where the man was said to have worked, and have entered only to find the room empty…

Council House haunted staircaseRainy dusk view of the Town HallBridge link at the back of the museum & art gallery







The Town Hall just next to the the Council House also has it’s fair share of spooky stories. Opened in 1834, it is a Grade I Listed building, being more architecturally significant than the Council House. It was built to become the home of the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival, the purpose of which was to raise funds for the General Hospital, and also to be used for public meetings. It was recently refurbished into a concert hall, which is what it is mainly used for today. Charles Dickens even gave public readings here to raise funds for the Birmingham and Midland institute. He gave his first reading of “A Christmas Carol” at the Town Hall on Boxing Day of 1852.

Back of Town Hall from Chamberlain SquareClock Tower at back of Council HouseBack of Council House







As for ghostly goings on, the building is said to be the home of several apparitions, mainly Victorian gentleman in full Victorian attire. Two of those gentleman are said to be John Heap and William Badger, who were stonemasons hired to work on the building in 1833. They were tragically killed as they worked on the carving of the external pillars from a wooden scaffold, when a rope snapped causing a large piece of masonry to fall on them. A monument to them stands in St. Philips graveyard, where they are also buried. Many claim to have heard the quiet tapping of metal tools against stone late at night when the square is quiet. Are the ghosts of these two unfortunate gentlemen carrying on the work they never got to finish?

Memorial to victims of the Town Hall accident


This area has many tales of paranormal activity, and my particular favourite is that of Christ Church, which was built in 1805 and demolished in 1899. It stood a little way down from where the “Floozy in the jacuzzi” water fountain now stands, and the only reminder it was ever there is “Christ Church passage” which leads from Waterloo street to New Street. The Church was never used for burials, except for a select few inside the church itself, and when the decision was made to demolish the church, a new resting place had to be found for the poor souls interred there. Many were taken to nearby Key Hill and Warstone Lane cemeteries, and it is said that a spectral horse and cart like the one used to take the bodies at the time, can sometimes be seen carrying it’s ghostly cargo all the way to the entrance of Warstone Lane cemetery. There is a grizzly story about John Baskerville (creator of the Baskerville Typeface), but that is a story for another time!

View from Victoria square of Christ Church


All in all, Victoria square and the surrounding area have seen a great deal of Birmingham’s past, and i hope they survive to see it’s future.

5 Responses to “Haunted Heritage – Birmingham Council House & Town Hall”

  1. Sarah Ashley November 8, 2012

    Hi Sue, i can’t find any exact records of stonemasons who worked on the buildings, but maybe if you contacted the folks at the Town Hall they may be able to find out for you!


  2. Sue Richards November 8, 2012

    Could you tell me please if there is a way of finding out any other stonemasons who worked on these buildings as one of my ancesters did and story has it they had to fetch him from a near by pub to finish his work before Queen Victoria came to open the building


    • Suzanne Carter November 8, 2012

      Hi Sue, great story. Personally I don’t know how would you go about finding out names – others may do, so please reply if you can help Sue with this research!, Suzanne


  3. Sarah Ashley October 13, 2012

    Thanks for your comment Noreen, i would like to investigate more about this area in the future, so maybe early mornings are a good time to visit!


  4. Noreen Evans October 13, 2012

    Interesting to read that Council House was believed to have been built on the site of an old monastery. Around 50 years ago I worked at a firm of solicitors in Edmund Street, just past the old Ear Nose and Throat Hospital. I used to get in early and on many occasions, I thought I could hear the slap, slap of feet as if someone was walking in sandals. I also thought I could hear chanting. I was never frightened and never found out what caused the noises.


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