Friday Photo- The National Provincial Bank
Today’s Friday Photo is of a building you have probably walked past and even possibly frequented. It may also look like a recent Friday Photo I shared back in February, which was of the Midland Bank. Well this building actually stands opposite, on Waterloo Street and does strike a similar resemblance. Formally the National Provincial Bank of England and now a popular bar called the Lost and Found, this Grade II-star listed building was built between 1869-1870 by local Castle Bromwich architect, John Gibson. If you look very closely, you will see a sculpture on the rooftop with an early Birmingham coat of arms sandwiched in between- a detail that is mostly likely often missed. Gibson was a prolific architect and designed many notable buildings in Birmingham and also across Britain, and he even famously designed the lay-out of Canon Hill Park, setting a standard for the design of public parks in England. If you walk past this building, and others in the city, remember to look up! You never know what might catch your eye!
Keith Bracey May 7, 2016
Me and me mate Bob Egan went to the Library of Birmingham the other day for the celebrations for William Shakespeare’s 400th Birthday.
We came across some playbills from Victorian Brum, from The Theatre Royal in Birmingham which burnt down in the 20th century and no longer exists. T
he Theatre Royal’s old stalls can still be found in the basement of the magnificent Piccadilly Arcade, a still remaining vestige of Victoriana in Brummagem, near to where the Theatre Royal Birmingham stood in New Street not far from the old Woolworth’s store if older Brummies remember it?
If you look up in Piccadilly Arcade you will see beautifully vibrantly coloured painted ceiling murals, a fantastic feature of this Birmingham Arcade…..
And PIccadilly Arcade has one of Birmingham’s BEST independent shops….a jewellery, art, stationery and card shop…..what I call a ‘Nicky Nacky Noo’ shop…. called ‘Smithsonia’ founded in 1978 in Harborne by my old school friend and sometime Birmingham silversmith Simon Smith….oh and by the way he has had all of the ‘Dancing Bear’ quips….and does NOT hail from #Bearwood like me!
Simon’s Dad Graham Smith is a ‘flat cap and ferrets’ Yorkshireman, now retired to Devon and was the Managing Director of old Birmingham badge and insignia making firm from Frederick Street in the Jewellery Quarter: Thomas Fattorini and Sons Ltd …..
I once did a Rating Survey on their rabbit-warren of a building while working for Lambert, Smith, Hampton, Consultant Surveyors, the former long-established Birmingham firm of Surveyors Neale and Aldridge who manage the Calthorpe Estate for Sir Anthony Gough-Anstruther Calthorpe, an absentee Birmingham landlord now residing at his stately pile in Suffolk….and making a mint out of owning 1500 acres of prime Edgbaston real estate…….!
Smithsonia has been run by Simon’s sister Amanda Smith, another school friend of mine from George Dixon Grammar School in City Road, Edgbaston for over 30 years in Piccadilly Arcade and is one of Birmingham’s great undiscovered gems in my opinion, where you can get such eclectic and artistic gifts for one’s partner for a mere snip…..go there….you will love it I promise!
George Dixon School as my former college is now known ought to feature in Birmingham Conservation Trust’s ‘Friday Photo’ as they are some of the best Edwardian ‘Mock Gothic’ buildings in the city of Birmingham and once featured in an episode of BBC TV’s crime drama: Dalziell and Pascoe’…..I look forward to seeing photos of the tall tower at my old ‘Alma Mater’ on the BCT ‘Friday Photo’ soon…..
One should always look up in urban and city environments as you never know what gems architectural and historical you may see and find: A giant plaster Pelican for instance on the top of a building in Constitution Hill in the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham near the Hockley Flyover!
It’s absolutely stunning and fantastic and probably scares the local pigeon population and the swarming starlings from this part of the Jewellery Quarter far and wide……..
Bob Egan spotted a playbill at the Wolfson Centre in the fantastic Library of Birmingham for Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean’s ‘Hamlet’ at the Theatre Royal in New Street, Birmingham in the late Victorian period.
Looking more closely at the playbill Bob and I spotted the names: ‘Messrs Bracey and Wateley’: Recorders.
This set my creative juices flowing as I must have had a Birmingham antecedent, a Brummie ancestor for ‘Bracey’ is a Birmingham name with me Dad Les and Grandad Wilfred Bracey, being brought up in the back-to-backs in Shadwell Street and Lower Loveday Street in the Gunsmiths Quarter, near to Two Towers Brewery’s ‘Gunmaker’s Arms’ where me Dad Les Bracey drank and carried Birmingham-made shotguns to Birmingham Proof House near Thinktank at Millennium Point as a kid aged 14.
This playbill at the Library of Birmingham revealed to me that my own ancestor from Brum another ‘Mr Bracey’ was a performer in Edmund Kean’s touring theatre company in Birmingham nearly 150 years ago!
This has inspired me to continue my quest to become Birmingham’s own ‘Brum Poet’ AKA the Brummie Bard……read me on Twitter @1truclaretnblu
Yours in Birmingham
Keith Bracey AKA #BrummieBard, #BaronBearwood & #BirminghamBoffin.