Birmingham Council House - A Birmingham Gem!

The Birmingham Council House in Victoria Square is home to Birmingham City Council. The original building was built between 1874 and 1879 and is Grade II* listed.

 


The Council House in Birmingham at B1 1BB is a magnificent building of significant historic and cultural importance to the City. It was designed by architect Yeoville Thomason, was built in the classical style and officially opened in 1879. 

Latest photo, 5th April 2021. Photography by Daniel Sturley 

The Council House

Birmingham Council House (December 2020). Photography by Elliott Brown

Stone to commemorate the opening of the Council House. Photography by Brigid Jones.

Chandelier in dome over Council House main staircase. Photography courtesy Brigid Jones.

Looking down towards the main entrance of the Council House. Photography by Brigid Jones. 

As well as the magnificent exterior of the building, the Council House contains some wonderful gems such as its impressive Chamber, a stunningly ornate banqueting suite, an incredible glass corridor, a lift designed for a King and so much more of historic interest and importance.

 

The Council Chambers

The semi-circular Council Chamber hosts the monthly council meetings, although the space is regularly used for meetings, discussions and consultations.

In 1911, the ornate Chamber was expanded and it increased its capacity from 80 spaces to 117. Formal curved benches were introduced and these are all directed towards the Lord Mayor’s central rostrum, behind which carved oak and walnut panelling depicts ‘Truth’ and ‘Justice’.

At the rear of the room is the public gallery.

Council House Chambers. Photography by Brigid Jones.  

Council House Chambers looking towards Lord Mayor's seat. Photography by Brigid Jones.  

Pictured below is the city crest, which has evolved over time. The motto is Forward. This is the earliest version of the crest and is carved on the end of each row of seats in the Chamber.

Carvings on the end of each row of seats in the Chamber. Photography by Brigid Jones.

Surrounding the Council's Chamber are columns topped with the national flowers of one of the four nations of the UK.

Columns with national flowers of the four nations surround the Council Chamber. Photography by Brigid Jones.

 

Banqueting suite in the Birmingham Council House 

The Council House is full of elaborate reception rooms, none as spectacular as the ornamented banqueting suite.

Council House

Banqueting Suite at the Council House. Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Glass Corridor at the Council House

One of the Council House's little known gems is the glass corridor which used to provide a direct link to the art gallery.

The glass roof is supported by ornate wrought ironwork, complete with floral detail.

Glass Corridor at the Council House. Photography by Elliott Brown. 

 

The King's Lift at the Council House

Inside the main entrance off Victoria Square can be found the King's Lift which was built for Edward VII's visit in 1909 as he had trouble walking. However, on the day of his visit, it is understood the king decided to use the stairs. 

King's Lift at the Council House. Photography by Brigid Jones.

 

Statues and memorials in the Council House 

There are many memorials and statues housed in the Council House.  Here is a small selection.

Two statues are prominently positioned on the main staircase. One is a rare statue of the young Queen Victoria as she was on her wedding day to Prince Albert aged 21. On the opposite side of the staircase is Prince Albert himself. 

Statue of Queen Victoria at Council House. Photography by Brigid Jones.

Statue of Prince Albert at the Council House. Photography by Brigid Jones.

There are many memorials to be found around the building that are dedicated to people from different council departments who have served their country.

"Who fell in the Great War 1914-1919" memorial. Photography by Brigid Jones. 

War memorial in memory of those from the City's Treasury department. Photography by Elliott Brown.

 

History of the Council House

The land on which the Council House now stands was purchased by the Council in 1853.  

A design competition was held prior to the build and a classical entry by Yeoville Thomason won. Construction began in June 1874, and was completed by October 1879. The Council House was extended between 1911 and 1919 with architects Ashley & Newman selected this time. 

The clocktower at the corner is nicknamed "Big Brum".

The council has had many mayors, one of which was Joseph Chamberlain.

Joseph ChamberlainPortrait of Joseph Chamberlain at the Council House (January 2020). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Some of the upper floors of the building are now occupied by Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, which first opened in 1885.

The square in front of The Council House was originally known as Council House Square. It was renamed to Victoria Square in 1901 (on the unveiling of the Statue of Queen Victoria). 

The building became a Grade II* listed building from April 1952 onwards, being listed as Council House, City Museum and Art Gallery and Council House extension. The listing was amended in 1982 and in 2018 as part of the centenary commemorations of the 1918 Representation of the People Act.

 

Contacts and further details

View Birmingham Council House on our Birmingham map HERE.

www.birmingham.gov.uk 

B1 1BB

Project dates

08 Jun 2019 - On-going

Passions

History & heritage, Civic pride, Art; Culture & creativity
Photography, Travel & tourism, Squares and public spaces, Classic Architecture

Contact

Your Place Your Space

Jonathan Bostock

0121 410 5520
jonathan.bostock@ yourplaceyourspace.com

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09 Nov 2018 - Elliott Brown
Introducing

Birmingham Council House - the seat of local Government in Birmingham

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After the recent Birmingham We Are event at the Council House, thought I'd do a post about the building itself! The original building was built from 1874 until 1879 from a design by Yeoville Thomason in the classical style. A Grade II* listed building where the Councillors meet.

Related

Birmingham Council House - the seat of local Government in Birmingham





After the recent Birmingham We Are event at the Council House, thought I'd do a post about the building itself! The original building was built from 1874 until 1879 from a design by Yeoville Thomason in the classical style. A Grade II* listed building where the Councillors meet.


Birmingham Council House

Located in what is now Victoria Square (formerly the Council House Square until 1901). Seen below in 2009 when the previous 103 Colmore Row was still standing. It was built between 1874 and 1879. The first extension was later built from 1881 until 1885 (including the Museum & Art Gallery). Yeoville Thomason was the architect for that extension as well as the original building.

The second extension was built between 1911 and 1919 by the architects Ashley & Newman (including the Museum & Art Gallery extension and the Gas Hall). Here we are mostly concentrating on the original building.

dndimg alt="Birmingham Council House" dndsrc="../uploadedfiles/Birmingham Council House Victoria Square (April 2009).jpg" style="width: 100%;" />

The seat of local government where the councillors of Birmingham City Council debate things, consider what buildings to be built or what needs to be demolished, and various other matters, including the waste service and local parks. View below from 2010.

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Seen in 2017 was French Nationals (that live in the West Midlands) queuing to vote in the French Presidential election (later won by Emmanuel Macron). The Council House can also be used as a polling station for British General or Local Elections.

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Every year from October to December, there are poppies placed below the balcony of the Council House, as well as the Happy Christmas Birmingham sign. The Remembrance service in 2017 was held in front of the Council House (in 2018 it's moved to Birmingham Cathedral). The Birmingham Frankfurt Christmas Market is usually in Victoria Square from November to December each year.

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The clock tower at the Council House is nicknamed Big Brum, and can be seen mainly from Chamberlain Square. It is close to the main entrance of the Museum & Art Gallery. It was built in 1885 as part of the first extension to the Council House. The clock was donated by A. Follett Osler. The name is similar to Big Ben (at the Palace of Westminster in London) which it alluded to.

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When the 1974 - 2013 Birmingham Central Library stood, it wasn't possible to see Big Brum from Centenary Square and the Library of Birmingham. After the old library was demolished in 2016 the Museum and Council House was visible from this side for the first time in a long time. One and Two Chamberlain Square are currently being built at Paradise Birmingham, and Centenary Way was extended towards Chamberlain Square. It is now possible to see Big Brum from Centenary Square!

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The side of the Council House on Eden Place between 125 Colmore Row. There is four unused red phone boxes down here. At one point the box closest to Colmore Row was used by Jake's Coffee Box, but I think that closed down a while ago now. All the phone boxes are available to let. All four are of K6 type and are Grade II listed. Designed in 1935 by Sir Giles Gilbert
Scott.

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This side of the Council House seen on what was once a part of Edmund Street that stretched as far as the old Victorian Central Library building. The Water Hall gallery is on this side. It is opposite the Gas Hall and Council House Extension (where the rest of the Museum & Art Gallery can be accessed). Entrance on this side of the Council House is for pass holders only. Signs direct you around to the Victoria Square entrance.

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While at the Birmingham We Are event, gave me an opportunity to have a quick look around at the interior. Sure that there is more to see, but this was what I got.

The ceiling and chandeliers in the Banqueting Suite. This was the main room that we were in for those 3 hours. The sculptures on the ceiling looked especially fascinating to me! So many columns in here. The balcony is outside of this room, where visitors could stand up there including winning sports teams.

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Sitting in the Drawing Room during the talks / videos, I noticed this mural behind the chandelier. In the middle looks like a person sitting on a chair / throne in a doric column temple.

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The Glass Corridor.

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Another corridor on the 1st floor. Was a series of portraits down here.

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The dome and chandelier above the Grand Staircase. They don't build them like this any more!

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The Grand Staircase from the top. Halfway up was a statue of Prince Albert (left) and Queen Victoria (right).

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The Grand Staircase heading back down to the Victoria Square entrance / exit. There was several busts down here and plaques.

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Photos by Elliott Brown

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Did you know?

Busts, statues and portraits in the Birmingham Council House

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Inside of the Birmingham Council House you can find several busts, statues and portraits that belong now to the Birmingham Museums Trust. Seen near the main staircase from the double doors, and portraits in the corridor outside of the Banqueting Suite. Seen during the Birmingham We Are events of November 2018 and January 2020.

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Busts, statues and portraits in the Birmingham Council House





Inside of the Birmingham Council House you can find several busts, statues and portraits that belong now to the Birmingham Museums Trust. Seen near the main staircase from the double doors, and portraits in the corridor outside of the Banqueting Suite. Seen during the Birmingham We Are events of November 2018 and January 2020.


There is many civic artworks to see in the Birmingham Council House. As you enter the giant double doors from Victoria Square, you will pass several busts. Head up the main staircase, and there is a pair of statues halfway up. Then on the corridor on the first floor landing, you will find several portraits of important people in Birmingham's history, as detailed below.


 

Busts in the Council House

There is three busts near the bottom of the main staircase from the entraJesse Collings nce from Victoria Square. Including Joseph Gillott, Jesse Collings and John Skirrow Wright.

Joseph Gillott

This is a marble bust of Joseph Gillott (1799 - 1873) by Peter Hollins (1800 - 1886).
Gillott was a Birmingham pen manufacturer and patron of the arts. He made pens at the Victoria Works on Graham Street and Frederick Street in the Jewellery Quarter. You can see an exhibition of his works at The Pen Museum at The Argent Centre on Frederick Street.

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Jesse Collings

A marble bust of The Rt. Hon. Jesse Collings PC (1831 - 1920) by Albert Toft (1862 - 1949). Collings was a Liberal (later Liberal Unionist), and later served as Mayor of Birmingham, 1878-9, MP for Ipswich (1882 - 86) and Bordesley, Birmingham (1886 - 1918). There is also a portrait painted in 1885 in the Council House, by Jonahtan Pratt (1835 - 1911), but it is not it a public area to view.

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John Skirrow Wright

This is a bronze bust of John Skirrow Wright. It was cast by William Bloye, from a marble statue by Francis John Williamson. The original statue was made in 1883 and unveiled by John Bright MP in the Council House Square. The statue was joined by the statue of Joseph Priestley, and from 1901 that of Queen Victoria. In 1913, Priestley and Wright were moved to Chamberlain Place (now Chamberlain Square), so that Victoria could be joined by a statue of her son King Edward VII (by the sculptor Albert Toft). The statue remained in Chamberlain Place until 1951, when it was moved to storage (a new site was never found, the statue is now lost). However in 1956, a bronze copy of the bust was made by William Bloye, and was unveiled in the Council House in 1957, where it remains today.

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Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

Heading up or down the main staircase in the Council House, you would see statues of a young looking Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

 

Queen Victoria

Victoria was born in 1819, and reigned from 1837 until her death in 1901. A marble statue by Thomas Brock was unveiled in Victoria Square (formerly Council House Square), 12 days before her death. It was later cast in bronze in 1951 by William Bloye. A new Sceptre was installed in 2011, to replace the old one that was lost.

In Birmingham, Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for the Victoria Law Courts, during her Golden Jubilee year of 1887. There was a Queen's College on Paradise Street named in her honour, which gained this status by Royal Charter (it was the original Birmingham Medical School founded in 1828). Now just a façade built in 1904 (the rear building demolished and rebuilt now offices).

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Prince Albert

Albert was born in 1819, and married Queen Victoria in 1840. He was Prince Consort until his untimely death in 1861.

In Birmingham, Prince Albert laid the foundation stone of the Birmingham & Midland Institute, on Paradise Street in 1855. It was moved from there in 1974 to Cornwall Street, where the Birmingham & Midland Institute is now based on Margaret Street. The old building was demolished to make way for Paradise Circus Queensway, Fletchers Walk and the Birmingham Conservatoire (which itself was later demolished in 2018). You can find a Grade II listed equestrian statue of Prince Albert in Queen Square, Wolverhampton, dated 1866 by Thomas Thorneycroft.

dndimg alt="Victoria and Albert" dndsrc="../uploadedfiles/QV CC (Nov 2018) (2).jpg" style="width: 100%;" />

 

 

Portraits in the Council House

There is five portraits to see in the corridor, just outside of the Banquetin Suite at the Council House. Including portraits of Peter Hollins, James Watt, Sir Josiah Mason, George Dawson and Joseph Chamberlain.

 

Peter Hollins

This is a portrait of Peter Hollins, Sculptor (1800 - 1886) by William Thomas Roden (1800 - 1886). Oil on canvas. He was an English sculptor who operated throughout the 19th Century. He was Vice-President of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists for 37 years. In Birmingham, he is known for sculpting the busts of Charles Lloyd (1831) for the Birmingham General Hospital, Felix Mendelssohn (1850) for Birmingham Town Hall and of William Congreve Russell (1853) exhibited at Birmingham Society of Arts. He also sculpted statues that used to be in Calthorpe Park of Robert Peel (1855) (now outside of Tally Ho!) and Thomas Attwood (1859) (currently in storage). Also a statue of Rowland Hill (1869) originally at the Birmingham Exchange, moved to the Birmingham GPO in 1874, and GPO HQ in 1891 (it was lost in storage during WW2).

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James Watt

This is a portrait said to be of James Watt (1736 - 1819) by Sir William Beechley (1753 - 1839) attributed. A Scottish engineer who partnered with Matthew Boulton to improve the steam engine.  He lived at Watts House, 17 Regent Place in the Jewellery Quarter from 1777 to 1790. He moved to Heathfield Hall in Handsworth where he lived until his death in 1819. His statue by Alexander Munro (1868) was in Chamberlain Square until 2015. The Boulton, Watt & Murdoch statue by William Bloye (1956), gilded in 2006, was on Broad Street until 2017.

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Sir Josiah Mason

This is a black and white photograph of Sir Josiah Mason (1795 - 1881). He was a Non-Conformist from a Kiddermister family. He established his first Almshouses in 1858 and an Orphanage in Erdington in 1868. He founded Mason Science College in 1880, which was in Chamberlain Place (later Chamberlain Square), next to the Birmingham Reference Library. This later became the University of Birmingham (which was founded in Edgbaston in 1900). He was knighted in 1872.

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George Dawson

This is a portrait of George Dawson (1821 - 1876). He was a preacher. He called for radical and social and politcal reform in Birmingham. In 1866 he gave a speech at the opening of the first Birmingham Central Library. His statue was in Chamberlain Square, which was sculpted in 1880 by Thomas Woolner. It is now in storage. At least one other statue was made of him at the time. There is also several busts, now at the Library of Birmingham and at the Birmingham Museum Collection Centre.

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Joseph Chamberlain

This is a portrait of Joseph Chamberlain (1836 - 1914) by Sir Oswald Joseph Birley (1880 - 1952). Oil on canvas. The great statesman was the Mayor of Birmingham (1873 to 1876), a Birmingham MP (from 1876). He served as the Leader of the Opposition (1906-07), Secretary of State for the Colonies (1895 to 1903). The Chamberlain Memorial was unveiled in his lifetime in 1880 in Chamberlain Square. The Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower was completed in 1908 at the University of Birmingham. There is also a Chamberlain Clock in the Jewellery Quarter from 1903 (removed for repairs in 2020, due to be returned fully restored soon). He lived at Highbury Hall on the Highbury Estate from 1880 until his death in 1914.

dndimg alt="Council House portrait" dndsrc="../uploadedfiles/Prt CC (Jan 2020) (5).jpg" style="width: 100%;" />

Photos taken by Elliott Brown. Can be found on Twitter: ellrbrown

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02 Feb 2019 - Elliott Brown
Gallery

City of Birmingham 130 years a City

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On the 14th January 2019 the City of Birmingham celebrated being a city for 130 years. A visual display outside the Council House after dark from 4pm to 6pm that day. Brum 130 Beyond Bricks and Mortar was a film projected onto the side of the Council House by the graffiti artist Mohammed Ali (also known as Aerosol Ali). In this post is photo gallery from that evening as I passed through!

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City of Birmingham 130 years a City





On the 14th January 2019 the City of Birmingham celebrated being a city for 130 years. A visual display outside the Council House after dark from 4pm to 6pm that day. Brum 130 Beyond Bricks and Mortar was a film projected onto the side of the Council House by the graffiti artist Mohammed Ali (also known as Aerosol Ali). In this post is photo gallery from that evening as I passed through!


The full title of this projected film was Brum 130 Beyond Bricks and Mortar .

Birmingham received City Status on the 14th January 1889. On the 14th January 2019 there was an event held in Victoria Square between 4pm and 6pm. It was still getting dark by 4.30pm to 5pm. I went to check it out briefly on the day after 5pm. The film was by Mohammed Ali also known as Aerosol Ali.

This digital billboard seen on the Council House balcony on the 13th January 2019 (a day before the anniversary).

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I actually took these photos from the top of Victoria Square starting at Colmore Row, going down the steps. But it actually looks better seeing the photos in reverse!

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Some bonus photos commemorating the last major anniversary of Birmingham's City Status which was back in 1989 (30 years ago).

City of Birmingham Centenary Festival 1889 1989

Saw this plaque in the Council House while I was at Birmingham We Are's event back in early November 2018. On Maundy Thursday 23rd March 1989 this plaque was unveiled to commemorate the visit of Her Majesty the Queen during the City of Birmingham's Centenary Year.

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I've had this medallion souvenir for around 30 years (so have had it since sometime in 1989). It was an Official Souvenir Medallion for the City of Birmingham Centenary. On this side showing a version of Birmingham's famous Forward coat of arms.

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On the reverse it says City of Birmingham Centenary Festival 1889 1989. Has anyone thought of making a souvenir for 2019? City of Birmingham 130th Birthday 1889 2019!

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Photos taken by Elliott Brown in Victoria Square in mid January 2019.

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Construction & regeneration
31 Dec 2016 - Daniel Sturley
Gallery

Birmingham flag flies proud over historic Council House

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The flag of Birmingham flies proud over some of Birmingham's great history and heritage.

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