Thursday, 27 August 2009

Birmingham Luminaries
There are many things I do not know about Birmingham but this one intrigues me most.

Who was the model for the statue of
The Floosie in the Jacuzzi?
Brumm Sundries -Things we enjoyed in Brum

Tea - that's REAL tea - in Hudson's Coffee House.
Built as the offices of Eagle Insurance this building is almost mathematical in its proportions.

Pen Museum and the Museum of Jewellery Quarter are not far from each other and occupied us for half a day with ease. MJQ opens at 10.30 and tours start at 11. Get there early.

Soho House
where Matthew Boulton lived. About the only remaining building associated with him. This Bank Holiday Monday they are holding a bash. (all free) If you go you must commend the ladies on their Victorian dresses - I have it on good authority they made them theirselves.

We were unable to see inside the College of Art and Design but they are holding an exhibition on September 4. Get in and tell me how much we missed in the Arts and Crafts interior.

St. Philip's Cathedral for the glazing. The elegance and clarity of the side windows contrast the rich stained and painted glass by Burne-Jones at each end.

The architecture of Pugin demonstrated in St. Chad's Cathedral and the 3-D Stages of the Cross.

St. Martin's Church near the Bull Ring and their Burne-Jones window

Hall of Memory

The amazing decoration on some Victorian buildings

And inside some office stairwells

And the boats of course
No Stiff Cat for this
Having received Stiff Cats for
a) Reaching the most northerly point on the BCN
b) Reaching the highest point on the British canal network
I think we deserve one for navigating the only staircase locks on the BCN.

These are Brades Locks on the Gower branch which links the Old (Brindley) Main Line with the New (Telford) Main Line

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Hiddee Treasures
On Sunday we were very fortunate to be in Birmingham.
Twice a year - in May and October - the Birmingham Museums open their reserve collection to the public and this Sunday was October apparently. How we manages this time warp I am unsure unless perhaps Le Medicin Qui was involved This might indeed be the case as we saw Le Tardis outside the Jewellery Quarter station today. In any case we boarded an old bus by the museum on Sunday morning and were whisked off to the Collection Centre. Perhaps whisked is the wrong term for grinding along at 25mph.
On arrival (still in the same year, I believe) we entered a warehouse (90,000 sq ft) with almost 3000 pallets and five miles of shelving full of STUFF. Process machinery, cars, bikes (motor & push), household items, pottery, stuffed animals, textiles, glassware, shoes, cameras, musical instruments, toys, etc. etc. etc. We needed the full five hours to look around before being whisked back to the present - this time in an open-topped bus from the 1950s.
I was particularly pleased to see this example of the Austin A90 Atlantic which was driven for seven days and nights continuously at Indianapolis in 1949 to take 63 American stock-car record. The three drivers covered 11,850 miles at an average speed of 70.54mph with refuelling and tyre change stops of only two minutes duration.
A special mention goes to the gentleman who brought along his A40 Dorset. A rare beast. (the car, not the man). Whilst the four-door Devon sold 300,000 models, the two-door Dorset only sold 15,000 before being discontinued.

Where we boarded the bus in the city centre there was another transport curiosity - these tramlines. Whether they were placed here as a 'heritage' feature or whether they pre-date the pedestrianisation I do not know. No-one around seemed to have noticed them.
Back to Court
I have, as yet, been unable to find any pictures of the interior of the old Law Courts in Birmingham so here is a little about the exterior.
The foundation stone was laid by Queen Victoria in 1887, her golden jubilee year, and the building was opened by the Prince and Princess of Wales four years later. The exterior is beautiful red terracotta from Ruabon in North Wales. This caused some disapproval from the local stonemasons at the time who claimed that it would involve £20,000 of city funds being spent outside the city.The even more attractive interior is a golden terracotta from Tamworth, a town of which I have written on previous occasions.

The sculpture over the main door is elaborate as one would expect from the Victorians and probably equally full of meaning although I am at a loss to understand some of it.
Queen Victoria , St. George and the Dragon, Blind Justice with sword and scales - all these I am OK with. Polar bear, girl with snake and girl grinding corn - what is the signicance of these, I wonder.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Reflections of Birmingham
There is so much to see in Birmingham that we will only scrape the surface during our week here.
In some places the surface is quite shiny...

Monday, 24 August 2009

Blooming Good!
On our wanderings around Brum we keep finding more of these floral decorations.
There are about 20 scattered around but here are the ones we like best.

Narrowboat in a lock.
Not the best but had to be included

High-heeled shoe

The Lunar Society who used to meet on Sunday afternoons nearest the full moon (so they could find their way home) and discuss scientific topics. Wedgewood, Darwin, Boulton etc were some of the leading lights.

After the battle of Trafalgar, Matthew Boulton struck a special commemorative medal for all those who participated. At his own expense he distributed over 14,000 medals.

Wallace & Grommit are not Brummies!!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Out of Africa
As we set off on foot to visit some of the delights of Birmingham this morning nb Chileka arrived and moored opposite us. As it was on the BCNS Explorer cruise with us we know that Chileka is a town in Malawi (Nyasaland in Imperial measures)
As we made our way around the city we discovered more of these floral displays. I particularly like this one.

The Old Square was, to quote a tourist leaflet, "the finest Georgian square in Birmingham. It was swept away as part of the slum clearance in the 1870s" To my mind those statements do not sit well together. I think some information must have been omitted. In any case the square has been commemorated by this rather interesting sculpture depicting famous people and events from the square.

Of course the most important one is this section.
The inscription reads : Lloyd the banker lived at number 13 in 1770. An early bank motif was a beehive.

Of all the building we visited today the most impressive by far was the old law courts. No photography is permitted and no leaflets or postcards are available so you will have to make your own visit. Try to get into court number 5 or 6 which are particularly interesting. I will try to get some more information for a future post.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

50 not out
We moored up on the 7 day moorings between the two entries to Oozells Street loop and then took the train over to Derby. My cousin, Jenny, was celebrating her **th birthday and we had nothing on the boat for lunch anyway. On our return we found Free Spirit just up from us and so stopped for a chat with Adrian. They had planned to go to Chester but because of the breach at Shebden were diverting to Stratford-on-Avon. This morning Roman Lady from Aylesbury moored opposite us. Yesterday we entrusted our travel to the rail service again despite having to wait an hour the previous night because of a failed unit. This time we took the train to Bicester to meet up with the grand children (and their parents) on their way back from various visits in the south of England. This is certainly becoming a very social year.

She who must be obeyed went off for a walk today and came across this floral tribute commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Mini.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Dead Moggies
The Crow was a hive of activity this morning. Everyone seems to be on the move.
Taking the Old Main Line, we crossed the Telford Line and approached the Semthwick locks to take us down to the same level.

Last year we came up these locks and were pleased to find a replica toll office which was being used by the BCNS as an information point.

In the intervening 11 months someone has decided that it was more suited to be an incinerator. It has been completely burnt out and is no longer safe to use.

We are staying in Birmingham City Centre for a few days. We had planned to head up the Shroppie from here but the breach at Shebden may mean we have to divert via the Trent & Mersey.
At the final BBQ last night we received two Stiff Cats -

Monday, 17 August 2009

Explorer Day 7 - The End
Despite many requests one Viking remained resolutely on the water point from 4pm until morning and still had all the curtains closed when we left just after 8am. I am sure we are not the first to find the Vikings difficult to remove. At least they were not raping and pillaging as far as we know.The run along to Titford was fairly uneventful. I do prefer Brindley's Old Line to the brash Telford New Line. As we entered the bottom lock of the Crow we received word that H on Jjinad was at the top which confirmed our calculations that he would be the first to arrive again today.
There are some rather handsome buildings up here -

The pumphouse which I believe is in working order but not in regular use Part of this is used as the BCN Society HQ and meeting room.

A little further up the arm is this rather grand old maltings which closed down about three years ago. What future it has I do not know but it would be a shame it it joined the piles of rubble which seem to inhabit much of Birmingham's industrial areas

At the end of the arm are Titford Pools which you may not recognise as Birmingham if it were not for the incessant noise from the M5.

On our route back to the boat we discovered Langley Village. This may not be in the same league as the discoveries of Captain Cook or Christopher Columbus but we were rather impressed. This corner of Oldbury has a definite community feel about it. We must revisit it sometime . By the Cross Wells pub is a village sign with four sides illustrated here.

It is reassuring that the village envisages a future however bizarre.

And so we foregathered in the BCNS clubroom; made more burnt offerings to the great lock keeper in the sky; had a sing-song and said our goodbyes. What a grand week we have had and perhaps we will be able to go again next year.