Birmingham Town Hall – the focus of an engaging and handsome hardback to be launched on 16th September – by Anthony Peers:
Having started searching in the Library’s Archives and Heritage department way back in 1999 – my new book now brings to light a wealth of new facts about the Town Hall; its origins, design, and historic evolution. For instance the study of Joseph Moore’s papers (MS 1292/8/6) alerted me to this philanthropist’s lofty goal of securing for Birmingham a public concert hall equal to any in Europe. Further broader research has enabled me to establish the fact that at the time of the Town Hall’s construction (1832-34) there did exist a handful of public concert halls elsewhere in Britain. However, the largest of these had capacity for a maximum of only 800 concertgoers. Designed to seat 3,000 and capable of accommodating 10-12,000, the book confirms Birmingham Town Hall’s standing as the country’s first great purpose built concert hall.
In a discussion of the building’s origins the book looks at the factors and pressures which prompted the commissioning of the building and identifies the various places considered as potential sites for the Town Hall. One such was on the east side of the High Street on a plot which looked down New Street. The book features a copy of an illustration (see above) – published in the Birmingham Independent in 1827 – of the building envisaged for this plot. This design for the Town Hall is of interest not least because it was penned more than three years before the architectural competition was held to establish which architect would win the opportunity to see their designs for this prestigious commission realised.
The Library’s remarkable collection of Town Hall drawings (MS 1703/15) have proven a mainstay of evidence. Findings of studies in the Library have been combined with the ‘on site’ discoveries made whilst the Town Hall was being worked upon. For example, a detail from a Charles Edge drawing of 1848 (MS 1703/15/18) shows the proposed form of the new floor for the main auditorium. The structural timbers were exposed to view when the floor was lifted in 2005 – so too were the substantial steels installed in the early 1980s as a direct response to the concern at the oscillation caused by hundreds of pogoing punks.
You can find out more about this impressive hardback, and the free event to be held on Sunday 16th September in celebration of the Town Hall, at www.anthonypeers.com
At this event the book will be available at a special launch day price.