The walk at  www.jquarter.org.uk

15. VYSE STREET & HOCKLEY STREET


Explore the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter

THE WALK

THE INFO

Walk away from the catacombs, turn sharp right and walk up the path that climbs past the catacombs. When you reach a transverse path (1), turn right and then left, and walk towards Vyse Street (2). Cross over Vyse Street, turn left, and then go first right into Hockley Street (3). Do not go beyond the traffic island.

The location of the former St Michael's Church is shown on this map of 1903, with the catacombs to the left

This drawing shows the former St Michael's with the catacombs in front. The cemetery lodge in Warstone Lane, which survives, is on the extreme right

B. No 94 Vyse Street

C. Shopping to the rear of 94 Vyse Street, built at the same time as the house

ESSENTIALS

There are public toilets in Vyse Street, opposite the cemetery. The next toilets are at the Museum (Walk 16).

 

 (1) St Michael's Church

Just to the east (ie, the Vyse Street side) of the transverse path that runs across the cemetery, there used to be a large mortuary chapel known as St Michael's Church, which having been badly damaged by bombing during World War 2, was demolished in 1958. As the lower map shows, it was situated in the area that is still clear of gravestones, towards the left hand side of the cemetery and on the Vyse Street side of the catacombs.

(2) The ugly side of Vyse Street

A. The ugly side of Vyse Street

Just look at this! Isn't it absolutely hideous! This is part of the 1960s development that gave us the Big Peg, and even allowing for the fact that the Jewellery Quarter was purely an industrial area at the time, there is no excuse for this. As we have seen in several places, the Georgians and the Victorians often thought that factories should look good, and they were right. These windowless workshops, now shops, are not only ugly (despite all the jewellers' best efforts to brighten them up with colourful signs), they seem to have been built with scant regard for user friendliness, some of them having their floor levels several feet below street level. 

(3) No 94 Vyse Street

Built around 1860 and now used entirely for manufacturing, like the premises of Pickering & Mayell which we saw earlier, No 94 Vyse Street (B, on the corner of Hockley Street) was built as a house with shopping attached at the rear. In this case the shopping borders Hockley Street (C). 

In some ways this house is more interesting than the one we saw in Caroline Street, since it was clearly built for a prosperous family. Such was the assiduousness with which masters liked to supervise their works in those days that even the well to do would tolerate the dust and noise which living next the workshop entailed. For example, the Clewley family at 111 Vyse Street had a big house with a huge billiards room, a horse and trap, a stableman, cook and housekeeper, and they dressed in fine clothes. But they still had their shopping built out at the back of the house.

 

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VYSE STREET

Vyse Street is named after the former landowner, one Colonel Vyse, who owned the land on the side of Vyse Street opposite the cemetery. The name is pronounced to rhyme with 'tries'.

2001, 2004 Bob Miles