Birmingham Town Hall is a Grade I listed concert and meeting venue in Victoria Square England.
It was created as a home for the Birmingham Triennial Music Festival established in 1784, the purpose of which was to raise funds for the General Hospital, after St Philip’s Church (later to become a Cathedral) became too small to hold the festival, and for public meetings.
Between 2002 and 2008, it was refurbished into a concert hall and is now used for performances as diverse as organ recitals, rock, pop and classical concerts and events such as graduation ceremonies for Aston University.
Joseph Hansom, of Hansom cab fame, and Edward Welch were chosen as the architects and they expressed that they expected the construction cost to be £8,000. Hill of London was hired to build the 6,000 pipe organ for Â£6,000.
Construction began on April 27, 1832 with an expected completion date of 1833. However, Hansom went bankrupt during construction, having tendered too low. The contractors were also losing money. Three guarantors donated money for the building;W. P. Lloyd, John Welch and Edward Tench.
With the injection of this money, the building was successfully opened for the delayed Music Festival
on October 7,1834, despite the building still being unfinished.
During construction, on January 26, 1833, two workers were killed when a 70 foot crane constructed to install the roof trusses broke and the pulley block failed. John Heap died instantly and Win Badger died a few days later from his injuries. They were buried in St Philip’s churchyard and a memorial, consisting of a pillar base made by one of the workmen for the Town Hall,was dedicated to them. Architect Charles Edge was commissioned in 1835 to repair weaknesses to the design of the building.He was also commissioned for the extension of the building in 1837 and again in 1850. Built in brick, created in Selly Oak, and faced with Penmon Anglesey Marble presented to the town by Sir R. Bulkeley, proprietor of the Penmon quarries, the hall is modelled on the Temple of Castor and Pollux in Rome. Some limestone was used in its construction and fossils of plants and animals are visible. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the front arches were glazed to create an entrance foyer.
Charles Dickens gave public readings here to raise money for the Birmingham and Midland Institute, and Mendelssohn’s Elijah and Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius were both premiered.
Sir Arthur Sullivan’s “Overture di Ballo” was also premiered here in August 1870, as part of the Triennial Musical Festival
which commissioned new works for every season. The hall was the home venue for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra from 1918 until 1991 when they moved to Symphony Hall.
In November 1880, the Hall was filled to capacity for a Birmingham public protest meeting in support of Revd.
Richard Enraght, Vicar of Holy Trinity, Bordesley, who was imprisoned in Warwick Prison under the Disraeli Government’s
Public Worship Regulation Act.
On August 9, 1902, the town hall, along with the council house, was illuminated in celebration of the coronation of King Edward VII.
It was illuminated again on June 22, 1911 for the coronation of King George V. In 1901, it was the scene of rioting on the occasion
of a visit by Lloyd George.
It featured prominently in the 1967 Peter Watkins film Privilege and doubled for the Royal Albert Hall in 1996s Brassed Off.
In 1937, as part of the celebrations for the Coronation of George VI, the Town Hall was regaled in the various Arms of the Lord of the Manor of Birmingham since 1166 and each column festooned with garlands. The pediment also had images of Britannia, supported by mermaids, which were sculpted by William Bloye. This decorative scheme for the Town Hall and the whole of the city
was devised by William Haywood, Secretary of The Birmingham Civic Society.
The Hall closed in 1996 for a £35 million refurbishment, undertaken by Wates Construction, that has seen the
Town Hall brought back to its original glory with its 6,000-pipe organ still in place.
The Hall was used for many pop shows, and unlike the Odeon and The Hippodrome, it tended to steer toward a headline acts and just
a couple of support acts.
Many great stars appeared here, in the 1960s and 1970s, such as
The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan
I saw many shows here, including,Traffic and Buffy Saint Marie.
Compiled by Keith Law
Ken Jones of Bright Eyes has sent an incredible list of gigs he attended at the Town Hall (and other venues) from 1964 to 1974, so a huge thanks to Ken.
Saturday May 2nd : The American Folk, Blues & Gospel Caravan featuring Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee, Muddy Waters, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Mississippi John Hurt, Rev. Gary Davies, Cousin Joe Pleasants & Otis Span
November : Tom Paxton, Judy Collins, Incredible String Band (12th)
January : Dave Dee, Dozy, Beak, Mick & Tich (26th)
February : Sam Gopal Dream (3rd), Plastic Penny (11th)
March : Simon Dupree & The Big Sound (8th), Fairport Convention (14th)
Manfred Mann, Moody Blues, Spencer Davis Group, Picadilly Line (13th)
A Mystical Pantomine with The Incredible String Band and their Dancers! (Saturday 16th)
May : Carl Perkins (13th) Blossom Toes (15th), Blonde On Blonde (16th)
July : Marmalade (12th)
August : The Frame (31st)
October : Incredible String Band (Friday 25th), The American Folk Blues Festival (Monday 28th)
November : Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera (24th) Chris Farlowe (23rd), Colosseum (29th), Mike Stuart Span (30th)
December : Gun (14th)
February : Tyrannosaurus Rex, David Bowie mime artist, Vytas Serelis sitar rectal, John Peel catalyst (15th)
April : Pink Floyd & John Peel (Sunday, 27th) B.B. King, Fleetwood Mac, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Duster Bennett (28th)
May : John Mayall’s Blues Breakers (9th) Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Clouds (Thursday 15th) The Mothers Of Invention (Friday 30th)
June : Led Zeppelin, Liverpool Scene, Blodwyn Pig (Friday 13th), Pink Floyd (20th)
October : Tom Paxton (Friday 3rd), Jethro Tull, Terry Reid, Savoy Brown (8th), Changes ‘69 : featuring Humble Pie & Their Friends incl. David Bowie (Friday 10th), Ravi Shankar (Monday 20th), Incredible String Band (24th)
November : Deep Purple (24th)
December : Delaney and Bonnie & Friends with Eric Clapton & George Harrison (3rd), Ten Years After, Blodwyn Pig, Stone The Crows (10th)
January : Led Zeppelin (Wednesday 7th), Ginger Baker’s Airforce (Monday 12th), Al Stewart, Third Ear Band (Saturday 24th
February : Pink Floyd (11th), The Nice (25th)
March: Love, Colosseum (10th) Fotheringay, Nick Drake (16th)
April : Viv Stanshall’s Big Grunt, Tea & Symphony (1st), Keef Hartley Big Band (Thursday 9th), Roy Harper (10th), Jeff Beck (13th), Johnny Winter, Heavy Jelly, Stackridge (Wednesday 15th) Flock, Edgar Broughton Band (20th), Black Sabbath, Egg (21st)
May : Taj Mahal & Rare Bird (Friday 1st), The Spinners (Saturday 2nd), John Mayall featuring Duster Bennett (Tuesday 5th), Ten Years After, Matthews Southern Comfort, Writing On The Wall (Monday 11th), Deep Purple (16th), Family, Emily Muff (Wednesday 20th), Colosseum (22nd), Roy Harper, Strawbs (28th), Traffic, If (Friday 29th)
June : Soft Machine (11th), Edgar Broughton Band (Monday 15th), Pentangle (29th)
July : Barclay James Harvest (17th), Incredible String Band (Friday 24th)
September : Manfred Mann Chapter III, East Of Eden (12th), Groundhogs (22nd), Jethro Tull, Procol Harum, Tir Na Nog (Friday 25th)
October : The Pentangle (Saturday 3rd), Derek & The Dominoes (5th) Free, Mott The Hoople, If (Tuesday 6th), Tyrannosaurus Rex (not as T-Rex yet!) (Wednesday 14th), Emerson Lake & Palmer (Wednesday 21st), Van Der Graaf Generator (27th), Incredible String Band (31st)
November : Jack Bruce (10th), Fotheringay (13th), Al Stewart (21st), Family (27th)
December : Strawbs, Hard Meat (8th), Pink Floyd (18th) Mott The Hoople, Bronco, D.J. Andy Dunkley (Saturday 26th)
January : Black Sabbath, Freedom, Curved Air (8th), Yes, Iron Butterfly, Dada (19th), Van Der Graff Generater, Lindisfarne, Genesis (Monday 25th), Faces (27th)
February : Alexis Korner, Karakorum (3rd), Deep Purple, Hardin-York (12th), T Rex (Tuesday 16th), Every Which Way, Rare Bird, Jackson Heights, Audience (Monday 22nd), Free, Amazing Blondel (Wednesday 24th)
March : Brinsley Schwarz, Eclection (13th), Atomic Rooster, Audience, Stray (20th), Van Der Graaf Generator, Dog That Bit People (27th)March : Yes, Jonathan Swift (9th), Incredible String Band nb. Malcolm Le Maistre debut (13th), Humble Pie, Comus (15th), Quintessence (Saturday 20th)
April : Electric Light Orchestra (5th), Emerson Lake & Palmer (9th), Steeleye Span, Principal Edwards Magic Theatre, Tir Na Nog (12th), Groundhogs, Mick Abrahams, Wild Turkey (13th), Strawbs (20th), Mott the Hoople, Bronco (Thursday 22nd)
May : Head Hands & Feet (12th), Faces (18th), Rory Gallagher (21st), King Crimson (Saturday 22nd), Marmalade (28th)
June : Wishbone Ash, Renaissance, Stackridge (18th), Curved Air, Marc Ellington, Mick Abrahams Band (Wednesday 23rd)
July : The Bronze Summer Outing : featuring Uriah Heep, Paladin (Friday 2nd), Quintessence (23rd)
October : John Mayall, Eggs Over Easy (5th) Incredible String Band (8th), Pink Floyd (Monday 11th), King Crimson (Wednesday 13th), Yes, Jonathan Swift (18th), Steeleye Span, Andy Roberts (19th), Supertramp (20th), Van Der Graaf Generator, Genesis, Bell+Arc, Lindisfarne (Wednesday 27th) The Pentangle (Saturday 30th)
November : Mott The Hoople, Peace (Monday 1st) T Rex (5th), Family (12th), Fairport Convention (Friday 19th), Groundhogs, Egg, Quicksand (Saturday 27th), Lindisfarne (Tuesday 30th)
December : Soft Machine (6th), Amazing Blondel, Sutherland Brothers, Claire Hamill (8th), Curved Air, Skid Row, Nick Pickett (17th), Ralph McTell (22nd) ,
1972 Birmingham Town Hall
January : Trapeze, Brinsley Schwarz (7th), Procol Harum, Amazing Blondel (19th), Black Sabbath, Wild Turkey (24th, 25th), Wishbone Ash (Friday 28th) ,
Barclay James Harvest, Wonderwheel (21st), Dando Shaft (22nd)
February : Audience, Stackridge (1st), Free (2nd), Savoy Brown, Chicken Shack (10th), Third Ear Band (12th), Strawbs (15th), Hardin & York (22nd), Mungo Jerry (29th)
March : Roy Harper (3rd), Jethro Tull (6th), Rory Gallagher, Nazareth (8th), David Bowie (17th), Head Hands & Feet, Patto (22nd), Groundhogs (Monday 27th), Edgar Broughton Band (28th), Curved Air, Gary Moore Band (29th)
May : Hawkwind (12th)
October : Deep Purple (2nd), Jackson Heights, Magna Carta (6th), ELO (10th), Stone The Crows (15th), Steeleye Span, Amazing Blondel (Tuesday 17th), Kinks, Blackfoot Sue (18th), Ten Years After (28th)
November : The Pentangle, Clive Palmers C.O.B, Wizz Jones (Wednesday 1st), Nazareth (4th), Humble Pie (6th), Incredible String Band (10th), Focus, Fruupp (Monday 13th) , Groundhogs, Stray, Gentle Giant (17th), Slade, Thin Lizzy (19th), Ralph McTell, Natural Acoustic Band (20th), Wishbone Ash, Curtiss-Maldoon (Wednesday 29th),
December : Cat Stevens (2nd), Family (6th), King Crimson (Sunday 10th), Quintessence (22nd)
January: Trapeze (12th), Badger (17th), Roberta Flack Friday (Friday 19th question date?), Roy Harper (23rd), Uriah Heep (26th), Al Stewart (27th)
February : Mott The Hoople, Sensational Alex Harvey Band (Monday 19th),
Magna Carta (3rd), Deep Purple, Nazareth (21st) , Can (Tuesday 27th)
March : The Strawbs (Friday 2nd), Procol Harum
April : Arthur Brown (21st)
May : Procol Harum (25th)
June : Captain Beefheart, Henry Cow (3rd) Edgar Broughton Band, Manchild (Monday 4th) Faust, Gong with Daevid Allen (Wednesday 13th) David Bowie & The Spiders From Mars (Thursday 21st & Friday 22nd) Fairport Convention, Kreeds (Saturday 23rd)
September : Family : A Farewell Tour (Wednesday 5th)
October : Faust, Henry Cow (5th) Incredible String Band (19th)
November : Al Stewart (Tuesday 13th) Groundhogs (21st) Mott The Hoople, Queen (Tuesday 27th)
January : Argent (Friday 25th)
February : Ralph McTell (Monday 11th), Neil Sedaka (Tuesday 19th)
March : Incredible String Band (29th)
April : Gong, Hatfield & The North (24th)
September : Procol Harum (Wednesday 11th)
October : Lindisfarne (Saturday 26th)
November : The Spinners (Sunday 3rd), Queen (16th), Ralph McTell (Monday 18th), Captain Beefheart (18th) Bert Jansch (Tuesday 19th) Mott The Hoople, Sailor (27th)December : Rory Gallagher (Monday 16th)
Ron Brinsdon is a very active gig goer! Ron has sent in a bunch of ticket stubs from a range of venues and I’ll be adding these to the site in due course but I wanted to add the Town Hall gigs Ron saw to this page. I have to say that I’m pretty jealous of who Ron saw at the Town Hall. As always, please keep sending in your memories!
Syd Wall has an amazing archive of concert posters and other Birmingham music memorabilia and this is a poster of the Tyrannosaurus Rex gig of the 15th February 1969, with John Peel hosting and featuring a David Bowie mime artist. It’s a stunningly beautiful poster. If you know who designed it, or if you were there, we’d love to hear more! Thanks to Syd for sending in the picture.
Uriah Heap onstage at Birmingham Town Hall, 26th January 1973.