I love buildings. Fancy modern structures with their dramatic lines and artistic angles. The magnificent ancient architecture of Cathedrals and Churches and Castles. And the glorious gothic designs of the towering Victorian red brick edifices.
I love perfect buildings, immaculately looked after, pristine. But beyond that, I love buildings that have very much seen better days. They tell stories; you can feel the history in each cracked window pane, each step with a rounded nosing, each chair with ripped upholstery.
There’s a sad air of neglect to these places too – a longing to make it well again, give it a use, bring it back to life.
In Birmingham there are a lot of these buildings, unloved and forgotten, but intriguing non-the-less, and thanks to the wonderful team behind “Hidden Spaces” these wonderful places are getting the attention they deserve. Throughout June they ran loads of events across the city that let the public into buildings that are rarely accessible to the public. On June 26th we headed to the last day of their event at the Methodist Central Hall on Corporation Street. This post is image heavy – you have been warned!
For years, I’ve looked up at the impressive tower of the terracotta hall wondering what it was, intrigued by the plants growing out of the top! From the outside it is an amazing structure, but oddly easy to miss amongst the mismatch of modern and Victorian era buildings that surround it. Getting the chance to go in and have a nose around made me feel like a kid in a toy shop!
Originally built in 1903-4, it was a centre for Mission activity for Methodists until 1991, when due to dwindling church members and a lot of the needs of the population being met by other means, the mission closed and the building was turned into a nightclub! You can read a great post on this on the Birmingham History Forum if you’re interested in learning more.
Since 2002 the place has been empty save a few other re-openings as short lived nightclubs – there have been planning applications for it to be turned into apartments, but nothing has come to fruition. As we walked around today there are still bits of the floor sticky from spilt drinks, the ticket booth is still there, and signs for the Cloakroom. There are band stickers and bits of tape from when the stage was in use.
But there are also the magnificent rows of chairs, the amazing organ that towers up to the ceiling of the vast hall, and beautiful tile mosaics in the corridors.
I’m glad we got the chance to look around the place today – it’s pretty eerie to be honest, but mostly it needs some love. It would make an amazing performance venue, and should definitely not be wasted space as it is now. A big thank you to my SIL Rach for helping to keep X under control throughout as well – I would not have managed to get any photos taken if she hadn’t have been there!