England travel guide




Birmingham Travel Guide

Victoria and Chamberlain squares

At its west end, New Street opens out into the handsomely refurbished Victoria Square, whose centrepiece is a large and particularly engaging water fountain designed by Dhruva Mistry. The waterfall out-does poor old Queen Victoria, whose statue is glum and uninspired, though the thrusting self-confidence of her bourgeoisie is very apparent in the flamboyant buildings that frame the adjacent Chamberlain Square . Amongst the assorted ornate gables and cupolas, columns and towers, the Council House is the most impressive edifice, opened in 1879 and complete with a pair of proud lions.

Very different is Chamberlain Square's Town Hall of 1834, whose classical design - by Joseph Hansom, who went on to design Hansom cabs - was based on the Roman temple in NÓmes. The building's simple, flowing lines contrast with much of its surroundings, but it's an appealing structure all the same, erected to house public meetings and musical events in a flush of municipal pride. It's currently undergoing a long-term refurbishment, but you can pop inside for a peek (Mon-Fri 10am-4pm; free), though at present there's nothing much to see. In the middle of the square is a dinky Neo-Gothic memorial in honour of Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914), who made himself immensely popular by taking the city's gas and water supplies into public ownership.

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