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A brief historical approach on heritage in birmingham

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									Local heritage Case Study

“Fazeley Street”


Today we will be looking at a local heritage case study on Fazeley street.
Saeeda will start by talking about the main focal point which is the canals.
Kuldeep and Nazia will then go onto provide an insight into some of the businesses
that existed here and how they have changed over the 19th and 20th centuries.
Finally I will go on to conclude by summarising the main points from our findings.


Fazeley Street got its name from the canal which runs adjacent to it.
The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal runs from Farmers Bridge lock (near the
National Indoor Arena) to the Fazeley Junction, just outside Tamworth. It runs 15
miles through 38 locks, with a 1 mile branch known as The Digbeth Branch, with 6
locks. It forms a part of The Warwickshire Canal ring (The Grand Union Canal and
the Birmingham-Fazeley Canal).
Canals began to be built in the late 18th century to link manufacturing centres in the
midlands to others across the country. Canals were the first technology to allow easy
transport of bulk material. A single canal horse could pull a load many times heavier
than a cart, at a faster speed. By the 1820‟s, a national network was established, with
its construction and organisation later serving as a model for the railways, which
superseded the canals, by way of profit and efficiency from the 1840‟s onwards.

The development by men such as James Brindley of an extensive canal
improvement scheme in the late 18th century increased Birmingham‟s potential as an
inland town and enabled its worldwide development as an industrial centre.
The turnpike roads which till now were the main mode of transport, along the length
and breadth of the country were in a poor state in the winter months, and slow at the
best of times. Engineer James Brindley had been busy organising an alternative that
would enable Birmingham to ship heavy goods to London and the ports. After some
initial problems with pumping the water required, the canals began to branch out
across Birmingham, and transporting materials was no longer expensive. The brass
and coal industries were amongst others to seize the opportunity.
 James Brindley was showered with offers to build canals. He was (in 1772) advisor
to 10 different canal companies, but he was more than just a canal builder. He
understood that canals would only realise their potential if linked to a national
network. He had a vision of the „silver cross of canals‟ that would link the river Trent,
Mersey, Severn and Thames. With others, like Josiah Wedgwood,(a pottery business
owner who needed raw materials for pottery making and coal for kilns as well as
smoother/safer transportation of products), he was supported and helped in the
completion of the Staffordshire and Worcester Canal, which linked Birmingham,
Bristol and Wolverhampton with the northwest. Soon, the network was near
completion, barges could travel from the Mersey to the Thames without having to
unload onto land transport.

The first Act for the construction or‟ cut‟ of the canal connected to Birmingham was
passed in 1761. James Brindley in 1768, planned out the Birmingham and
Wolverhampton canal, proposing it to be 22 miles long, but he didn‟t live to see it
finished. The work was taken on by Smeaton and Telford. Telford is said to have
called it “a crooked ditch”, and struck out a straight cut, thus, reducing the length to
14 miles, increasing the width to 40 feet, with each bridge having a span of 52 feet.
The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal was completed in 1783, and it was so
successful that in only 9 years its shares were worth £1,170. In 1785, the
Birmingham, the Fazeley and the Grand Junction Companies completed an
extension to Coventry.
The Birmingham and Fazeley canal, Worcester and Birmingham and Warwick and
Birmingham joined with others, and by the turn of the 1800‟s, over a 100 boats a day
were shipping cargo in and out of the town. Thomas Telford solved the problem of
the need for more water, with the construction of the Edgbaston Reservoir. This
development now allowed Birmingham goods to be shipped around the world without
The canal infrastructure was of the greatest importance to Birmingham because it
provided a transport system for products and raw materials, for industrial centres or
markets. The added attraction was the volume of materials that could be transported
on a narrow boat, carrying the same load as 200 pack horse‟s .Industry and
commerce flocked to use the carrier boats, canal branches, warehouses and
factories which were close by.

The period between 1770‟s and 1830 is called the „Golden Age „of British canals.
During this time of „canal mania‟ massive sums of money were invested in canal
building and the canal system expanded to some 4000 miles. Many different, rival
canal companies were formed, usually competing bitterly, and for each canal an act
of parliament was needed.
Canals attracted investors for 2 reasons- an efficient transport system and to profit
from the canal. In 1767, the Birmingham Canal Company was formed with its first
shares selling at £140 each. The investors were largely midland businessmen. In
1769, the canal reached the coal mines of Staffordshire, and the price of coal in
Birmingham fell from 15 to 4 shillings per ton. The midlands industry was kick started
as mine owners increased production, so, industry gained access to cheaper fuel,
and canals made a huge profit. The original £140 shares were £370 in 1782 and
£1,170 in 1792. At its peak the Birmingham Canal Company carried 8.5 million tons
of cargo per year. The profits of the canal company attracted other investors, so, to
pay the initial costs, the canal company had to be formed and shares sold to
investors. When the canal was up and running the shareholders received their share
of the profits made by the canal. There were 42 canals financed this way between
1791 and 1794, with an estimated cost of about £6 million. Canals were being built in
some places just for the sake of it and in many cases were very ill advised (in rural
areas in southern England away from industrial development with little chance of
making a profit.). The better canals reached the network around Birmingham and the
midlands, this in turn promoted further development of heavy industry-where ever
coal was needed, the canals were likely to succeed. The most enthusiastic investors
in canals were usually colliery and iron works owners. In 1805 the Grand Junction
Canal was completed providing a direct link from the midlands to London.
The total length of what may be called Birmingham canals is about 130 miles. Due
constraints of economy and technology, early canals were quite narrow. This limited
the size of the boats, hence became known as narrow boats, this limited the quantity
of cargo they could carry, and so, later they could not compete in terms of freight with
railways. The majority of British canal owning companies did not own or run a fleet of
boats. They charged tolls from private operators to use their canals. From this
income they would try to pay the initial loans and share the profits with investors. In
the winter special ice breaker boats with reinforced hulls would be used to break the
ice. The fleets themselves would travel at nights( before lighting) only when there
was adequate moonlight and would even cancel if it was clouded over ,resuming at
earliest light.
 The first iron boat appeared on canal waters on July 24, 1787, with the first steam
propelled boat arriving from London, September29, 1826. This however, was not
taken up any further due to the damage caused to the banks by the „wash „from the
paddles and screws. During the hey day of the canal boat carrier companies, other
attempts were made to increase business such as running a „stage boat‟ doing daily
runs with passengers and goods in 16 hours. The Birmingham and Liverpool Canal
company introduced steam tugs in 1843. On Saturday, November 11th they sent 16
boats with a combined load of 380 tons drawn by a small vessel of 16 horse power.
At one time „fly boats‟ for passengers ran a close contest with the coaches and
omnibuses between here and Wolverhampton. There were also many accidents
associated with the canals. For instance, the banks of the Birmingham and
Worcester canal near Wheely‟s road, gave way on May 26, 1872, causing
considerable damage to the properties close by. A similar thing happened at Aston,
July 20, 1875, and a third occurred at Solihull Lodge valley, October 27, 1880, when
about 80 ft of the embankment which was 30 ft high collapsed.

The powerhouse behind building the canals were the Navvies. The term „Navy‟
comes from „navigator‟, and they first appeared in the improving of the waterways or
„navigations‟. They worked in gangs and were a strong labour force. As members of
a gang, they had strong bonds of loyalty. Many were migrant workers from Ireland or
Scotland. They are said to have lived on the edge of society, and as they travelled,
they built their own shanty towns, and their women folk and families also travelled
with them. Others were local men from the midlands, or around about, who came for
work. In Victorian society, they were at times shown as terrifying savages, but they
were more highly paid than ordinary labourers, as they faced greater risks due to
accidents and deaths being more common. There is also said to be evidence of
crime and trouble whenever navvies were in the area. This may have been due to
them, or excessive drinking at the many local pubs and taverns in the Digbeth area
such as „The Forge Tavern‟, or the attitude of others towards them.

Modern day Digbeth is currently dominated by old factories and the blackened
Victorian railway viaduct, however, much of Birmingham‟s Eastside is being
redeveloped. As industry in the area subsided the area fell into decline and many of
the original factory buildings became derelict. The old Victorian buildings were never
maintained and the canals became dirty and clogged with only small stretches being
cleaned. The Digbeth branch canal bisects the area as well as the Grand Union
canal. The River Rea remains largely hidden due to the high brick walls surrounding
it built in Victorian times also flow to the east of the area.
In 1970 the Birmingham and Fazeley canal became the first inner city canal to have
restoration work completed. This was at Farmers Bridge lock and Cambrian wharf
where the towpath was relayed, lighting installed buildings restored or redeveloped.
The pubs and bars followed along with the tourists and visitors. The interest in the
canal network was reborn with the huge numbers of pleasure boats coming to the
city led to the rebirth of the Birmingham canal navigation company, and the canals
along the country. Today Britain‟s canal network with its surviving mill and factory
buildings is one of the most enduring features of the Industrial revolution to be seen
in Britain.
In 1987, Warwick Bar and the Digbeth Branch Canals became Birmingham‟s only
canal based conservation area, containing many important buildings from
Birmingham‟s canal heritage.
Unitarian Chapel

      On the maps from 1889- 1905, the church on Fazeley Street is written down
       as the Unitarian Chapel but the full name of the church is; “Birmingham Free
       Christian Church & Sunday School.”

      Before the Unitarian Chapel, churches concerned themselves with
       evangelical Bible study and with the aim of creating new congregations and
       new churches.

      However, the Unitarians and the Quakers soon placed the emphasis of
       chapels on social reclamation (helping the poor) and educational work. As a
       result of this, many chapels opened in many areas of the City Centre
       including Carrs Lane, Hurst St, Hill St and Fazeley St.

      The new churches were concerned with many activities as well as religious
       services. Extra services included hosting a library, a savings club and even a
       cricket team.

      Voluntary work by these chapels took place in the poorest districts and such
       missions were led by ordinary men.

      Eventually in 1865, the volunteers moved to the specially built Sunday school
       on Fazeley Street. This Sunday school at its peak provided education for
       some hundreds of boys and girls.

      The Chapel on Fazeley St, next to the Sunday school was opened in 1877 &
       it was designed by J. Ingall to seat up to 350 people. Richard Chamberlain,
       brother of Joseph Chamberlain was the Councillor & Lord Mayor of
       Birmingham at this time. Richard Chamberlain was born in 1841 & died in
       1899. He was originally a Brass founder and became a prominent Unitarian.
       In1876 he placed the plaque on this building, which can still be seen today.

      The cost of this Chapel was £1,300 and it was used largely by the Unitarian
       Christian Society.

      The congregation at this Chapel in the 1870‟s was between 150 & 200 but it
       had declined to less than 50 in 1883 and declined further to 12 in 1888. Due
       to this decline, the Chapel was closed in 1888.

           In 1889, next to the Chapel, we had the Iron Foundry, which was
            owned by Graham William & Co. By 1905, the Iron Foundry no longer
            existed & was replaced by the City Rolling Mills.
Fellows, Morton & Clayton Canal Carriers.

      Fellows, Morton & Clayton were railway & canal carriers.

      As you can see, the original Company sign is still here on Fazeley Street

      This Company was in existence on Fazeley St as early as 1886.

      As you can see from the picture, Fellows, Morton & Co were narrow boat
       makers & were still going strong in 1905.

      The name of the Company suggests to us that with the introduction of the
       railway system towards the end of the 19th century, the Company also
       branched out as railway as well as canal carriers.

            Further up, near the canal we have what used to be Warwick Wharf
             during the late 19th Century. In 1889 at Warwick Wharf, there were
             many Coal Merchant Businesses, owned by Coal Merchants such as
             Bingley Edwin, Bloore Charles, Aston thos & John Williams Charles.

The Ice House

In 1889 the Bond was known as a company called the “Patent Transport Ice Co” as
the name suggests they were an ice manufacturer.

Ice houses were buildings used to store ice throughout the year before the invention
of the refrigerator. In the winter time ice and snow would have been taken into the ice
house and packed with insulation, often straw or sawdust. It remained frozen for
many months, often until the following winter, and could be used as a source of ice
during the summer months. Ice could be used simply to cool drinks or to allow ice
cream and desserts to be prepared. Ice houses were also used to preserve
perishable goods before the age of refrigeration.

By the end of the 19th century and rapid advances in technology in particular the
transport network and refrigeration saw the disappearance of ice houses.

The Bond

Today this complex is known as The Bond. The centre piece of the complex is the
Ice house which is the largest building of the Bond complex. As an outstanding 19th
century warehouse it has maintained its fine cobbled court entrance surrounded by
the original canal buildings. Also on this site are the Toll House and the Gate house
which have also maintained their original features.

The Bond was created in 1988 with the purpose of undertaking innovative and
creative regeneration. It now provides managed accommodation for all types of
businesses in one of Europe‟s leading regeneration areas. The Bond has benefited
from government grants when it first started and has now developed to meet the
expectations of its clients and customers.
The Bond retains the wharf with moorings for residential narrow boats and has
attracted much interest, support and publicity. The major aim for the Bond Company
is to continue to create a community of interest for this historic site which is a major
and attractive part of Birmingham‟s history.


To conclude I will briefly go through some of the points that have been discussed

Fazeley Street got its name from the canal which runs adjacent to it.

James Brindley played a major part in the development of the canals.

The canals were and still are a focal point of Fazeley Street.

There were a lot of business on this street and many of them are now listed buildings
for example, Fellows, Morton & Clayton, The Bond, The Sunday School and the
Chapel.This gives us an insight into how this place may have looked many years ago.

Due to time constraints we were unable to look at all the businesses especially the one
at the other end of Fazeley Street.

I hope you have enjoyed our presentation and found it interesting.

Any questions!

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