Sounds of the City



There has been an upsurge of interest in the history of Birmingham’s music scene following the recent successful Home of Metal project and exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and also a Music Heritage Award to honour UB40’s first gig at the Hare and Hounds pub in Kings Heath.

Alongside this we had a very enthusiastic first-time user come to us hoping to find out more about a well known local Birmingham band* and about the venue where they played their first gigs.

The venue he was interested in was a city centre site which had been a nightclub in the 1970s and 1980s.  We were able to suggest newscuttings, trades directories, photographs and also some useful secondary material including an excellent book on Birmingham’s music scene called “Brum Rocked On!” by Laurie Hornsby (1988) – you can find it at Birmingham Archives and Heritage shelved at L55.5

What our researcher had not expected to find out was the age of the building; in fact most city buildings have long lives in a variety of guises.  This one had been a nightclub, a casino, a warehouse and originally a factory making light fittings in the late nineteenth century.  We were really pleased to see our researcher follow the trail through trades directories to see what kind of manufacturing had taken place there and then track down an original plan of the factory and hunt around for trades catalogues for the firm to see if he could see the kind of things they made.  It made for an interesting social study of the area showing how the character of that part of the city had changed and reflecting the decline in Birmingham of manufacturing industry.

Sometimes you don’t know what you are looking for until you find it.

Rachel MacGregor

*it wasn’t UB40 or Black Sabbath


3 responses to “Sounds of the City

  1. What was the venue in the city centre? And is the floor plan image of the venue? Interested to hear more!

    • macgregorrachel

      Thank you for your comments and I’m glad found the blog interesting. This was based on a genuine researcher who visited us but unfortunately the researcher had gone before I had a chance to check if it was OK to use their story. So for that reason I am obliged to anonymise this piece of work so that I do not compromise their original research aims. I have learnt from this lesson however and since then we have been collaring people to give permission to use their story or even write their own blog entry…

      I can confirm that the venue was City Centre – there are probably a number of old venues which have had a variety of uses – I think this could make an interesting project or even heritage trail for the city – the resources for further research are probably here at Birmingham Archives and heritage if anyone is looking for a research project.

      The image is not the floor plan of the actual building which was researched, partly for the same reasons of anonymisation and also because it was easier to illustrate the article with a plan that we had previously digitised. The building plan featured is of “4 dwelling houses with shopping attached” built by William T Foulkes in Legge Lane and the plans were submitted on 10th July 1888. The phrase “shopping” refers to a space used probably as a workshop not necessarily in a retail sense. This is only one of a quarter of a million building plans we have at Birmingham Archives and Heritage of buildings across the city.

      Hope this is helpful and hope it encourages you to come and do some research of your own!

  2. Rum Runner. Duran Duran. That’s my guess.

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