Old Square - A Birmingham Gem!

Old Square is the gateway to the Steelhouse Conservation Area from the Retail BID, between Corporation Street and The Priory Queensway. One of the oldest squares in the City Centre.


Old Square is located between Corporation Street and The Priory Queensway. 

Old Square

Old Square (December 2019). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Figure of Justice

The gateway to the Steelhouse Conservation Area, the Courts and Aston University. There is a Figure of Justice scupture on the pavement in Old Square. With a map of Europe and Africa, looking in the direction of The Minories.

Old Square

Figure of Justice at Old Square (December 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Corporation Street

There is a Tesco Express at Maple House and was a Sainsbury's Local at Cannon House.

Cannon House Maple House

Corporation Street from Old Square (February 2010). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Maple House

To the north east corner of  Old Square on Corporation Street and The Priory Queensway is Maple House. This is a re-casting of 1996 - 1997 by Level Seven Architects of a 1966 block by Cotton, Ballard & Blow. Tesco Express is the main retailer here, offices above.

Maple House Old Square

Maple House at Old Square (February 2010). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Cannon House

To the north west corner of Old Square on Corporation Street and The Priory Queensway is Cannon House. Cannon House and Priory House (also now known as No 2 Colmore Square) were refurbished in 2006 into Grade A offices.Tenants include Cross Country Trains. There used to be a Post Office here. More recently a Sainsbury's Local since 2014 (but it has been closed temporarily since 2020 during the pandemic). This was previously the Bell Nicholson and Lunt building of 1961 to 1964 by Essex, Goodman & Suggitt with J. Alfred Harpet & Son. It runs around to Steelhouse Lane.

Cannon House - Old Square

Cannon House at Old Square (February 2010). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

The Priory Queensway

These days, only buses, taxis, delivery vehicles and emergency services vehicles are allowed to access the roads around Old Square, from The Priory Queensway and Corporation Street.

The Priory Queensway to Old Square

The Priory Queensway to Old Square (March 2020). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

History of Old Square

Old Square was the site of the Priory of St Thomas of Canterbury which was here until 1536, and demolished by 1547 (during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII). The site was in ruins for 150 years until it was purchased by John Pemberton in 1697. He levelled the land to create the Priory estate. The square dates from 1713. Various Georgian town houses were built around the square. The inventor of the English Dictionary, Dr Samuel Johnson visited his friend who lived in Old Square, a Surgeon and Doctor - Edmund Hector (who lived at No 1 Old Square), before he died in December 1784. Lloyd the Banker lived at 13 Old Square in 1770. Later Samuel Galton Jr lived at no 13 Old Square. One of the members of the Lunar Society. Many of the Georgian buildings were demolished in the 19th Century when Corporation Street was built, while Joseph Chamberlain was mayor. By the 1960s, the area was being transformed for the building of the Inner Ring Road, when the car was king, and pedestrians forced to go down into subways, which by the 1990s were not very safe (graffiti and anti social behaviour). The subways were demolished and the square raised to road level in 1998. Eight festival lamp-standards had been moved from Colmore Row.

The mural by Kenneth Budd dates to 1967 and depicts the history of Old Square. It was restored and respositioned in 1998 by the artist. It was cast in iron and brass and moulded fiberglass.

Old Square

Old Square mural by Kenneth Budd (May 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

The Lewis Building

This building is the gateway to the Colmore and Retail BID's (to Bull Street) via The Minories. The Lewis Building was opened in 1885 on Corporation Street as Lewis's Department Store (as the personnel suggestion of Joseph Chamberlain). The current building was built  from 1924 to 1925 and designed by Gerald de Courcy Fraser of Liverpool. Another block was built in 1931 to 1932, with Doric Columns. The Minories was built over in 1971. Sadly Lewis's closed for good around 1991. The Minories was refurbished and roofed in 1993 by Peter Hing & Jones, and was reopened with shops inside during 1994. While the rest of the building was converted into offices, including a court. The Lewis Building was refurbished in 2017 to 2018.

Lewis Building

The Lewis Building from Old Square (December 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Tony Hancock statue

In the centre of Old Square is a memorial dedicated to Tony Hancock, who was born in the Hall Green area of the city in 1924. The memorial, by Bruce Williams, was unveiled by Sir Harry Secombe on 13 May 1996.

Tony Hancock statue

Tony Hancock statue in Old Square (May 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Events at Old Square

Old Square sometimes has the Floral Trail here, plus The Big Hoot in 2015 and The Big Sleuth in 2017. At one point there was a Christmas tree in the square, but not in recent years.

 

Christmas tree at Old Square

The Christmas tree in Old Square during November and December 2009 the Macmillan Tree of Support. It is rare to find a Christmas tree in the square in the decade that followed.

Xmas tree Old Square

Christmas Tree at Old Square (December 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Birmingham City Centre Floral Trail

The Paralympian Blade Runner was in Old Square during the summer of 2012, during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. It was sponsored by the Colmore Business District. It represented Richard Whitehead from Nottinghamshire.

Floral Trail Old Square

Paralympian Blade Runner in Old Square (August 2012). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

The Big Hoot Birmingham 2015

A trail of painted owls around Birmingham during the summer of 2015 for 10 weeks, before being sold off at an auction for the Birmingham Children's Hospital Charity.

Dotty by the artist David Graham. The sponsor was Cross Country Trains.

Dotty Old Square

Dotty (by artist David Graham) in Old Square (July 2015). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

The Big Sleuth Birmingham 2017

A trail of painted nearss around Birmingham during the summer of 2017 for 10 weeks, before being sold off at an auction for the Birmingham Children's Hospital Charity.

Vincent the Bipolar Bear. Designed and created by mental health patients at St Andrew's Healthcare (Birmingham) facilitated by Marcela Stenson. Funded by St Andrew's Healthcare.

Vincent the Bipolar Bear Old Square

Vincent the Bipolar Bear (designed and created at patients at St Andrew's Healthcare) in Old Square (July 2017). Photography by Elliott Brown

Project dates

04 Nov 2019 - On-going

Passions

History & heritage, Photography, People & community
Green open spaces, Squares and public spaces

Contact

Your Place Your Space

Jonathan Bostock

0121 410 5520
jonathan.bostock@ yourplaceyourspace.com