We decided to take a day trip, and rode the train to Birmingham New Street Station. The Birmingham's modern Bullring city had been nearly flattened during World War II but reconstruction began in the 1950s and continues to this day. This leads to odd sights such as the old fashioned monument to Queen Victoria on Milennium Square near the public library, and the facade of Selfridges in the huge Bullring shopping center, sensuously curving and studded with circles. The Bullring actually was a bull ring built in the 18th century; only the name remains.
As we found in many places, the main shopping streets are pedestrian-only, at least during the day. This makes a pleasant walk, and Birmingham's diverse culture was apparent in the market and food stands all along the street.
It was a chilly, windy day, ideal for visiting a large art museum. The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is big and confusing. It has high DeMorgan's art vases Victorian architecture with galleries spinning out like spokes from a central lobby. We concentrated on the art, and tired before even attempting the industrial galleries, which we probably should have seen because Birmingham's glory days were when the city was the center of the Industrial Revolution. Nevertheless, we were delighted with the ceramic work of William De Morgan (son of mathematician Augustus De Morgan).
The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery has a large collection of Pre-Raphaelite art, which disappointed Elsa, who had had a wild fascination with the movement in college; here (fifty years later) the paintings seemed sentimental, crudely finished and amateurish. The bulk of the museum's art appears to be early works by major painters, and artists of the region.
One small special exhibit featured the life of Cardinal John Henry Newman, whose conversion to Roman Catholicism encouraged a growth in interest in Statue of Joseph Chamberlain the Catholic church. He was to be beatified only a few days after our visit, when the Pope was to come to Birmingham.
We had lunch in the Edwardian Tea Room, under a beautifully elaborate upper gallery and ceilling featuring Birmingham wrought iron.
In one large civic plaza is a delightful piece of civic art. Joseph Chamberlain, who was mayor of Birmingham, 1873-6, went on to a distinguished career as a British statesman. Never elected prime minister (unfortunately his son Neville was), Chamberlain served in Parliament until his death in 1914. St. Martin's Church A Unitarian, a fiery orator and a successful businessman as well, Chamberlain was a radical in domestic politics but a conservative in foreign policy. He is beloved as the founder of the University of Birmingham. Now to the art: In Chamberlain Square in Birmingham is a bronze statue of Chamberlain, reclining on the steps, a piece of paper in his hand. Nearby are signs on the steps, a concrete soap box, and additional bronze papers "scattered around" the display.
Before leaving Birmingham we walked around past Moor Street Station, down the hill and into St. Martin's church, where Bob's eighth-great grandfather Brian Pendleton was married in 1619. The church has been rebuilt many times since, but we choose to think it must be similar to its appearance in the 17th century.
Returning to the station we passed an outdoor market that was closing up, and were happy to get out of the chilling breeze and back into a nice warm train car.