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4. NEWHALL STREET & NEW HALL 


Explore the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter

THE WALK

THE INFO

Turn right into Newhall Street (1), (2) and keep straight on, crossing the dual carriageway at Great Charles Street. Stop about a hundred yards beyond Great Charles Street (3), (4). Continue down Newhall Street, crossing over to the left hand side. Go straight across Lionel Street and just beyond, turn left onto the boardwalk above the canal. 

A1. The top of Newhall Street as it is now ...

A1. ... and then. Whilst first generation buildings remain in Newhall Street, Colmore Row has already been redeveloped, the corner of Bamford's Trust House being visible on the right of the photo

A. The gorgeous former telephone exchange on the corner of Edmund Street

B. Arts & Crafts buildings in Newhall Street

C. Newhall Street, midway between Great Charles Street and Lionel Street, site of former New Hall

D. Entrance to the boardwalk on the site of the former Elkingtons' manufactory.

ESSENTIALS

In Newhall Street there are several wine bars selling food and drink. All have toilet facilities.

(1) The way it used to be

Newhall Street follows the line of the old drive to the New Hall. There were iron gates at the top of the drive on what is now Colmore Row and then the drive swept down between an avenue of elms, with fields on either side. As you look down Newhall Street from the top, you will see that it first dips and then rises slightly to the junction with Great Charles Street, where there are traffic lights. New Hall was just beyond that junction, and according to a map of 1778 it would have exactly filled the space between the buildings either side of the modern street. So it wasn't a huge house, but there would still have been too much hoovering for my liking.

(2) Upper Newhall Street

There are several good buildings in upper Newhall Street, the best being the superb former Bell Edison telephone exchange on the corner of Edmund Street (A). This gorgeous terracotta building by the local architect Frederick Martin dates from 1896 and is Grade I listed. The building apart, note the beautifully decorated gates. Lower down on the opposite side are several good red-brick buildings in the Arts & Crafts style (B), all dating from around 1900. These are all Grade II. If you have time to look around, there are several Grade II* Arts & Crafts buildings, all from around 1900, to be enjoyed in upper Cornwall Street and, round the corner to the left at the top of the street, the Grade I School of Art (1893).

(3) New Hall 

A map of 1778 shows the house situated in a rather odd spot, down the slope half way between Great Charles Street and Lionel Street and exactly the same width as the space between the buildings that are here now - so although a big house, it was not huge. I don't know when it was built, although I think it may have been in the 1600s. Nor do I know what it looked like, though if it was roughly contemporary with Aston Hall, it might have been built in a similar style (though it was not nearly so big, of course and Westley  - see right-hand panel - suggests it might have been plainer). The map reveals that by 1778 the area was already quite heavily built up, and in 1787 the Colmores put the hall up for demolition, with the unsentimental stipulation that ‘The whole to be pulled down and the materials carried away within one month from the time of sale.’ By that time it had long ceased to be the family home, and had been used as a warehouse by Matthew Boulton for a number of years.

(4) The Newhall wharf

When the Birmingham Canal was built in 1769 it forked, as it still does, by the NIA. One branch went off towards Gas Street and the big inland port that existed in the Broad Street area in the heyday of the canals (and which has almost entirely vanished), while the other, so called Newhall branch, went via what is now known as the Cambrian Wharf to the main coal wharf, which was at the corner of Newhall Street and Great Charles Street. This branch was on the level, unlike the later Birmingham to Fazeley Canal, which descends through locks to cross Newhall Street lower down. The Newhall branch was largely abandoned in 1901.

B. A none-too-accurate bird's eye view of the Newhall Wharf, indicated by 1. Newhall Street is marked; Great Charles Street is indicated by 2.

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CAN YOU HELP?

I have found the Colmores elusive.  I been unable to find an accurate date for the building of New Hall or any credible pictures of New Hall (I am aware of the thumbnail on Westley's map of 1731, but that does not conform to plans of the house shown on other maps.) It would also be nice to have some portraits of the Colmores, particularly Ann or Charles. If you know of any appropriate sources, please use the 'Get in touch' page to let me know.

DEATH IN NEWHALL STREET

Across Edmund Street from the Bell Edison building is No 29, now the Hogshead pub. In a previous No 29, on 21 November 1846, Mr John Wellington Starr, of Cincinnatti, Ohio, died penniless at the age of 21. A year earlier, and 30 years before Thomas Edison, Starr had patented an electric light bulb. But it seems he had problems in manufacturing a bulb in which a perfect vacuum could be sustained - and without the vacuum the bulb was useless, because the carbon filament oxidised and blackened the glass. So John Starr naturally headed for the great centre of manufacturing expertise, Brum, where he tried to persuade a lamp maker, John Bolton, to take up his invention. He took up lodgings at 29 Newhall Street while negotiations with Mr Bolton took place, but sadly for John Starr - and, perhaps, for Birmingham! - he died before talks were concluded. He was buried in a pauper's grave in Key Hill Cemetery.

© 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006 Bob Miles