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24 September 2014

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Bullring memories
by Dr Carl Chinn MBE
Carl Chinn MBE

Take a Bullring history lesson with local historian and BBC WM presenter Carl Chinn. Find out when the shopping centre first opened and how the market areas came about.

videoAlso watch Carl Chinn's history tour of the Bullring.


Bullring Index

Watch Carl Chinn's history tour of the Bullring.

10 facts about the new Bullring

About the new Bullring

Take a 360 tour of the new Bullring

Browse through pictures of the new Bullring

New Bullring art


Official Bullring website

How to get to Bullring

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About Carl Chin

Professor of Community History at the University of Birmingham

Carl writes a weekly local history column in the Birmingham Evening Mail and edits the popular Carl Chinn's Brummagem Magazine

Carl has written twenty books about Birmingham and working-class life in general

In 2001 Carl was awarded the MBE for his services to local history and charity.

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How it all began...

Birmingham was first given the right to hold a market in 1166. Most of the market people were gathered close to the church walls and in Spiceal Street. Although not named today this street still runs from the inner ring road.

In the 16th century a man called John Cooper was given the right to bait bulls at a site opposite St Martins Church, this became known as the Bull Ring.

The statue of Lord Nelson

Lord Nelson statue

The great triangle of space with St. Martins as its base, gathered all the outdoor traders of Birmingham.

From 1809 the Bullring was made more distinctive by the first statue of Lord Nelson to be put up in Britain. By the 1830's a magnificent market hall overlooked the barrow boys and other dealers.

The early 19th century...

By the early 19th century the area around St. Martins had become crowded with old buildings, narrow streets and traders stalls.

It was decide to open up the area by knocking down the buildings on the east side of Spiceal Street and on the west side of the Bullring. This led to the emergence of the Bullring of memory.

The original market Hall

The old Bullring

The original Market Hall, with room for 600 stalls and an ornamental fountain, was built in 1835, again designed by Charles Edge, the man who finished the Town Hall.

In 1940 it was gutted after being hit by a German incendiary bomb. It was still in use although roofless until the redevelopment of Birmingham swept it away in the early 1960's.

The 1960's redevelopment

Work began to redevelop the Bullring in 1961, and eight million pounds later the new Bull Ring opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in May 1964.

Linked by escalators and stairs was a 23 acre air-conditioned shopping centre and 350,000 feet of retail trading area. It was meant to be the ultimate shopping experience,and was declared to be the biggest indoor shopping mall outside the USA, but many said the feel of the old market had been lost.

The Rotunda

Designed in 1964 by James A Roberts, the Rotunda is the most visible symbol of the city centre redevelopment that transformed the Bull ring area in that decade.

For many Brummies the Rotunda is a symbol of Birmingham, and stands out as a popular landmark.

It was originally planned to be 12 storeys high with a roof top restaurant. There was also talk of a cinema and a crèche. The finished Rotunda is bigger - 25 storeys - but less glamorous. No food, no films, no babies, just offices.

The view from the top of the Rotunda is spectacular.

Watch & listen

Carl Chinn talks about the history of the Birmingham Bullring.

audioPart One

audioPart Two

audioPart Three

videoWatch Carl Chinn as he takes you on a historical tour of the Bullring Shopping Centre.

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