Tag Archives: Arts

Gothic Forever!

Advertisement for John Hardman & Co

Advertisement from The Catholic Directory, 1859 (Ref: MS 175a/printed)

Augustus Northmore Welby Pugin was born on the 1st March, so this year marks the 200th anniversary of his birth. Architect, artist and creative genius he is best known for his development and promotion of the ‘Gothic revival’ – a style of art which looked back to the art of the middle ages for its inspiration. His work can be seen in London at the Houses of Parliament which were rebuilt following a fire in 1834. The architect of the new Houses of Parliament was Charles Barry who had also worked with Pugin in Birmingham on the new King Edward Grammar School building on New Street and  Birmingham Archives & Heritage has drawings for this scheme and other works by Barry in its collections. For this project Pugin worked closely with his friend and collaborator John Hardman, a Birmingham-based metal worker. Pugin inspired Hardman to extend his business from metal-work to produce high quality stained glass, inspired by the medieval glass which represented Pugin’s artistic ideals. In Birmingham their most famous and visible project together is St Chad’s Cathedral which was the first Roman Catholic Cathedral built in England since the Reformation. 

The records of the firm of John Hardman are held at Birmingham Archives & Heritage and include correspondence with Pugin, Charles Barry (architect of the Houses of Parliament). The cartoons and illustrations produced by the firm are at Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery.

More events and information about the bicentenary celebrations are available on the Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery’s website.

Rachel MacGregor


Further reading:

Michael Fisher, Hardman of Birmingham – Goldsmith and Glasspainter (2008)

Rosemary Hill, God’s Architect: Pugin and the building of Romantic Britain (2007)

Andy Foster, Pevsner Architectural Guide to Birmingham (2005)


Birmingham Theatre Royal

An etching of the Theatre Royal circa 1800

Theatre Royal, c.1800

For centuries people in Birmingham have enjoyed going to the theatre. Some readers may remember the Theatre Royal which used to be in New Street, just below Ethel Street. The site was sold to Woolworths and the theatre was demolished in December 1956, because it was not making a profit for the company that owned it, Moss Empires.

The theatre had been there from 1774. At that time strict control was exercised by the government, and theatres were not permitted to put on plays unless they had been granted the royal patent. Musical entertainments could still take place.

It was not uncommon for theatres to advertise and sell tickets for a concert, but add a dramatic performance as a free event. Once a theatre gained a licence, it was usually called ‘the Theatre Royal’, and there is a Theatre Royal in many towns across the British Isles. Birmingham was granted its license in 1807.

The theatre was already being used for musical entertainment. Sometimes there would also be a play – but that part of the show would be free, a bonus to the music. The theatre had been used frequently for the Birmingham Triennial Festival, as it and St Phillips were the only two buildings inBirminghamable to house a large audience before the Town Hall opened in 1834. When the theatre burnt down in 1820 a committee was rapidly formed so that it could be rebuilt for the Triennial Festival, which was the main way of raising money for the General Hospital. This was necessary as there was no National Health. Continue reading