ND – The Golden Hour, not Blue
From twinned council blocks of flats to unique, listed and historic structures, Birmingham has a range of towers from the city centre out to the suburbs.
The Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, or Old Joe for short, stands proud at Birmingham University’s Edgbaston Campus and is one of the oldest standing towers in Birmingham today. Completed in 1908 at over 300 feet tall (even the university can’t agree as to its exact height) Old Joe was Birmingham’s tallest structure until the completion of Birmingham’s BT Tower in 1969.
Standing proud close to the A38, Old Joe is a must-visit, but parking is a problem. A much better way to “discover” Old Joe is to walk the 2 miles of canal tow path from the back of the Mailbox in the city centre to the University train station, crossing the bridge over the canal and walking down through the university grounds. There are great views of Old Joe from the canal as you get closer.
Heading back into the city centre along the A38 you will arrive at Holloway Circus, containing a roundabout junction with Holloway Head and Smallbrook Queensway, above the A38 underpass. With a well-kept (but traffic-induced noisy) garden, mosaic art, ornamental statues and the Chinese Pagoda centrepiece, this can be a great location to get some shots on a sunny day.
Despite using a wide-angle lens on my DSLR to modify the perspective between the pagoda and the neighbouring residential towers, you end up lying down on the ground to take this shot. In comparison to the towers, the pagoda is really quite small. You can see the real size relationship between the pagoda and Beetham Tower here.
On the right is the (green) 399 foot tall 10 Holloway Circus, otherwise known as Beetham Tower, Birmingham which was completed in 2006. With its lower 19 floors holding a 5 star Radisson Blu hotel, and the upper 20 floors holding 158 luxury apartments it is one of the very tallest buildings in Birmingham to date.
On the left is Cleveland Tower, which neighbours its (out of shot) twin, Clydesdale Tower. Together these council housing tower blocks are known as The Sentinels as their style, size, twin status and locations (almost as gate posts) either side of Holloway Head as it meets Holloway Circus give the impression of Sentinels standing tall and proud to view those that approach and guard the “entrance” to the roundabout. Their impact has been lost a little since the completion of the taller Beetham Tower, as previously they stood alone together and were the dominant features surrounding Holloway Circus.
If you have walked from Old Joe, along the A38 to Holloway Circus, then turn left, up Holloway Head, between the Sentinels and at the top of the hill as it meets Bath Row, on the right you will find the memorial peace gardens. In one corner, alongside Bath Row is the remaining tower of St Thomas’s church. The church was heavily damaged from a bomb strike during World War 2, and only the tower was left standing. Left derelict for some time, it was eventually converted into the peace gardens you can see today which are well-kept and well worth the visit. In 1998, US President Bill Clinton, along with many other world leaders, visited the gardens to unveil new plaques that hope for world peace and unity.
The clock tower itself can be beautiful to photograph against a deep blue sky, and especially in the setting evening sun which can cast a golden-yellow glow on its stonework.
This map shows Holloway Circus, Beetham Tower and The Sentinels in the top right corner, and Holloway Head running down to the bottom left corner where the peace gardens and St Thomas’s church tower can be seen.