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Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Birmingham, England

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Birmingham, popularly known as "Brum", is Britain's second largest city and one of the biggest industrial centers in the world.

Birmingham makes a good base from which to explore the Cotswolds, the Malvern Hills and the Vale of Evesham. Its numerous canals - there are more in Birmingham than in Venice - are now principally used for pleasure, having in former times carried factory goods and raw materials.

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Town Hall

Detail of the Birmingham Town Hall.
Birmingham's Town Hall (1832-50), a masterpiece of Victorian architecture, takes the form of a Roman temple, with 40 Corinthian columns of Anglesey marble; the large hall can seat 2000. It has been the center of the city's musical life since the first performance of Mendelsohn's "Elijah" here in 1847, and has one of the finest organs in the country.
Adorning the forecourt are two memorials, one to Queen Victoria and another to the inventor James Watt. Both are the work of Alexander Monro and date from 1899.

Council House

Victoria Square and Council House in Birmingham.
The Renaissance style Council House opposite the Birmingham Town Hall was erected between 1874 and 1879, its clock being affectionately known as "Big Brum". Note the arms of the City of Birmingham with their interesting surround of allegoric figures representing art and industry.

Chamberlain Square

In Chamberlain Square (pedestrian precinct), north of Birmingham's Town Hall, a fountain commemorates Joseph Chamberlain, Lord Mayor of Birmingham from 1873 to 1875. There is also a statue of Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen, who was minister of the Unitarian church here from 1680 to 1691.

Central Library

The Birmingham Central Library has what is probably the largest Shakespeare collection outside the United States, (50,000 volumes in 90 languages). The coin and stamp collections and the archaeological section are also outstanding.

City Museum and Art Gallery

The Birmingham City Museum and Art Gallery, designed by H. Yeoville and opened by HRH the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, in 1885, is one of the finest in the country outside London. Its art treasures include a matchless collection of Pre-Raphaelites (Ford Madox Brown, Arthur Hughes, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and others), as well as paintings from the 17th to 19th centuries, among them Canaletto's picture of Warwick Castle (1748), Lely's portrait (1654) of Oliver Cromwell, Victorian works by David Cox, the Birmingham landscape painter, and modern art - pictures by Wendy Ramshaw and sculptures by Henry Moore, Rodin and James Tower.
There are also interesting displays related to the city's history, ranging from medieval coins and historic paintings to Cadbury's chocolate products and turn-of-the-century modes of transport. Other sections are devoted to archaeological finds dating back to the Stone Age and superb 17th to 19th century silver. The Pinto Collection contains 6,000 toys and other items (including "love spoons"), all of them made of wood.
Address: Chamberlain Square, Birmingham B3 3DD, England

Jeweler's District

A short distance north of the Museum of Science and Industry, along Newhall Street, lies an area of Birmingham steeped in tradition. Here more than 200 jewelers' workshops and silversmiths are concentrated, chiefly in the vicinity of the Clock Tower on the corner of Vyse Street and Frederick Street and around the Georgian church of St Paul's.

Hall of Memory

The Hall of Memory opposite Baskerville House (municipal offices) was erected in 1925 to commemorate the 14,000 Birmingham men who lost their lives in the First World War.

Repertory Theater

On the far side of Centenary Square (pedestrian precinct) near the new International Convention Center stands Birmingham's celebrated Repertory Theater with the Studio Theater adjoining.

International Convention Centre

The ultra modern International Convention Center has eleven conference halls (seating from 30 to 3000 people). Incorporated into the complex are the Hyatt Regency Hotel - a palace of glass - and an elegant concert hall.

Symphony Hall

The Symphony Hall concert hall (with 2200 seat auditorium) is the new home of the famous Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with Simon Rattle as principal conductor since 1980.

National Indoor Arena

Birmingham's National Indoor Arena near the canal was opened in 1992 accommodating up to 12,000 spectators.

Brindley Place

The historic canals south west of Brindley Place are destined to become the central feature of a modern leisure complex.

St Philip's Cathedral

The Palladian style St Philip's Cathedral built between 1711 and 1715 by Thomas Archer began life as a parish church, being elevated to its present status in 1905; the pulpit was added in 1897. The church has four stained glass windows by Burne-Jones, manufactured by William Morris in 1884-85.

St Martin's Church

Carving on the wall of St Martin's Church in Birmingham.
St Martin's Church, just beyond Birmingham's New Street Station, dates from the 13th century but was rebuilt in the Decorated style between 1872 and 1875. It has windows by Burne-Jones/William Morris, also tombs of members of the de Bermingham family.

St Chad's Church

St Chad's, north of Birmingham city center, has the distinction of being the first Roman Catholic church built in Great Britain after the Reformation (by Pugin in 1839-41). Now the seat of an archbishop it boasts a 16th century oak pulpit and 15th century choir stalls and lectern from Cologne.

Birmingham University

Birmingham University was founded in 1900, the Chamberlain Tower (325ft/996m) being named after the first Chancellor.

University of Aston

The University of Aston is of more recent origin than Birmingham University, formed when the College of Advanced Technology was granted a charter in 1966. King Edward VI School, east of the University, was established in 1552.

Barber Institute of Fine Arts

Situated close to Birmingham University is the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. Evolving initially from a private bequest by Lady Barber, the Institute now houses the University's excellent collection of art from the Renaissance to the 20th century. It includes works by Botticelli, Bellini, Tintoretto, Rubens, Rembrandt, Watteau, Manet, Monet, Gainsborough, Constable and Degas.

Surroundings

Black Country Museum

The Black Country Museum in Dudley (Tipton Road), about 9mi/14km west of Birmingham, offers a vivid insight into the history of mining. An old mine shaft and reconstructed turn-of-the-century industrial community can be inspected at close hand. Interesting trips are also run on the network of canals, in the type of narrow boat traditionally used for transporting coal.

Walsall Lock Museum

Walsall (12mi/19km north west of Birmingham) boasts a unique Lock Museum, the only such museum in England. The exhibits, some dating from as early as the 16th century, are drawn from all over the world.

Coventry, England

Coventry, a center of the British textiles trade ever since the Middle Ages, also has a long tradition in the motor and aeronautical industries, for which reason it was targeted by the German Luftwaffe early in the Second World War. A massive bombing raid in 1940 left the city center almost completely destroyed. Of the old Cathedral nothing but a few fragments remained. They are now incorporated into the new Cathedral built after the war, an acknowledged masterpiece of modern architecture. The rebuilding of the city itself, with fine open squares, wide streets and pedestrian zones, is an excellent example of contemporary town planning.
Coventry grew up in the 11th century under the protection of a monastic house founded by Leofric, Earl of Mercia. Tradition has it that the Earl's wife, Lady Godiva, interceded with her hard hearted husband on behalf of the people of Coventry, for relief from the heavy taxes he imposed. He in turn agreed to lighten his demands, if she rode naked through the streets of the town. This she did, the grateful citizens steadfastly refusing to peer from their windows, with the single exception of "Peeping Tom" who later recounted the story. By the 14th century Coventry's woolen industry had already established a reputation for its trade fairs; soon it prospered further, developing into a major textile center. In the 17th century however, the economy began to decline, a process which continued until engineering, in the shape of sewing machine, bicycle and motor manufacture, brought about a revival of its fortunes in the mid 19th century.
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Broadgate

The traditional center of Coventry, Broadgate, has been replanned as a spacious square, with a statue of Lady Godiva (by W. Reid Dick) in the center. Broadgate House, at the southwest end of the square, has a clock on which Lady Godiva appears on the stroke of the hour, with Peeping Tom at a window above.

Holy Trinity Church

Holy Trinity Church, at the northeast corner of Broadgate, has one of the three slender spires which are Coventry's best known landmarks. The spire of Holy Trinity, constructed in 1166, is 327ft/99.7m high. The church, in Perpendicular style, has very beautiful windows, a stone pulpit of about 1470 and interesting tapestries woven for the coronation of Elizabeth II. Priory Row, close by, is a charming little street of attractive half timbered houses. Behind Holy Trinity rise the new Cathedral and the ruins of the old.

Old Cathedral

Remains of the old Cathedral in Coventry.
The Old Coventry Cathedral, originally one of the largest parish churches in England (Perpendicular; 1373-1433), was elevated to cathedral status only in 1918. After the bombing only parts of the external walls survived, together with the slender, 303ft/92m-high spire, still a glorious example of Late Gothic embellishment. At the east end, a cross fashioned from two charred beams is a poignant symbol and reminder of the devastation. The sacristies were rebuilt after the war with the help of young German volunteers.
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St Michael's Cathedral

A tall, canopied porch on the north side links the old cathedral ruins with the modern St Michael's Cathedral, designed by Sir Basil Spence and erected between 1956 and 1962. At the southeast end, on the outer wall of the nave, to the right of the entrance, is a bronze by Jacob Epstein, "St Michael subduing the Devil". The nave itself, 420ft/128m long and orientated north-south, can seat a congregation of 2,000. The walls are built in zigzag fashion, the offset concrete panels alternating with windows facing towards the altar. The vast concrete ceiling is broken up by the diamond pattern of its ribs.
Taking the place of the usual west end is a huge glass screen, engraved with figures of angels, saints and patriarchs by John Hutton. Its effect is to create a striking visual link both with the old cathedral ruins and the people going about their business in the streets of the town. Another most impressive feature of the interior is the baptistery, with a font hewn from a rough stone block brought from Bethlehem, and a great stained glass window, the Sunburst Window, by John Piper, centered on the radiant sun which symbolizes the Holy Ghost. The ten stained glass panels in the walls of the nave, designed by Lawrence Lee, Geoffrey Clark and Keith New, are set at an angle so as to be fully visible only from the Choir. In their spectrum of colors, from yellow through red to blue and violet, they symbolize the journey of man from birth through death to resurrection. Geoffrey Clarke's "Cross of Nails" behind the altar is made out of three medieval nails from the ruined cathedral, yet another powerful symbol, this time of reconciliation. At the north end hangs a huge tapestry (75 x 38ft/23m x 11.6m) in glowing color showing Christ in Glory surrounded by four beasts mentioned in the Revelation of St John. Designed by Graham Sutherland, it was woven near Aubusson in France.
The Chapel of Unity is intended to represent accord between the Church of England and the Free Churches. The mosaic floor was a gift from the Church of Sweden; the stained glass windows came from Germany.

St Mary's Hall

One building fortunate enough to survive the bombing of Coventry was the 15th century St Mary's Hall immediately south of the cathedral, headquarters of the Merchants' Guild since 1342. The Great Hall (1394-1414) has impressive oak vaulting and a tapestry believed to depict Henry VII's visit to Coventry in 1500.
Caesar's Tower in Coventry (13th century; adjoining St Mary's Hall) was rebuilt after war damage.

Ford's Hospital

The most interesting of Coventry's surviving half timbered buildings is Ford's Hospital in Grayfriars Lane, an almshouse for five poor married couples. Founded in 1509 it was restored in 1953.

Greyfriars Abbey

Of Coventry's Grayfriars Monastery, destroyed in 1539, there survives only the beautiful steeple, now incorporated in Christ Church. The dormitory and cloister of the Whitefriars Monastery have been restored and house a local museum. Bablake Old School (1560) is also worth seeing.

Bond's Hospital

The picturesque Bond's Hospital, a half timbered almshouse for elderly men was founded in 1506.

Town Walls

A small section of the town walls of 1356 has been preserved between Cook Street Gate and Swanswell Gate, the only two of the town's original twelve gates which survive.

Herbert Art Gallery and Museum

As well as works by native British painters, the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum has sections on local social and folk history, the early stages of industrialization in the Coventry area, and documents on the history of Coventry itself.
Address: Jordan Well, Coventry CV1 5QP, England

Museum of British Road Transport

The British Road Transport Museum provides a fascinating account of the history of road transport in Britain.
Collections include Edwardian landaulettes, royal limousines, cars of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and the world famous Tiatsa model series.
Address: Hales Street, Coventry CV1 1PN, England

Lichfield, England

Lichfield, about 25mi/40km north of the City of Birmingham, is a quiet and attractive town. Its main attractions are the superb cathedral and its associations with Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the English writer who published his two-volume "Dictionary of the English Language" 1746-1755. Until the publication of the "Oxford English Dictionary" (1884) it was the definitive work on vocabulary and pronunciation.
Lichfield is an ideal location for country walks and cycling, a visit to the nature reserve or a place to watch the boats going through the locks.

Cathedral

Built of red sandstone Lichfield Cathedral is dedicated to St Mary and St Chad. This "queen of English minsters" was built on the site of two earlier churches between 1198 and 1325; the first was built by Bishop Hedda around 700, the second probably around the turn of the century. The oldest part is the lower section of the west end of the choir (c. 1198) and the sacristy completed in 1208. The Early English style transepts date from 1220-1240, the nave from about 1250 and the Early Gothic west front from about 1280.
The Lady Chapel and presbytery are from the first half of the 14th century. The church received severe damage during two sieges in 1643 and 1646, restoration began in 1660 and was completed in 1950 with the restoration of the cross on the central tower.
The three elegant spires - a feature unique in England - are known as the "Ladies of the Vale". The west front, notable for the splendid harmony of its composition, is particularly beautiful, with four galleries of niches containing 113 statues of saints; because of the effects of weathering most are modern reproductions. The central door has intricate wrought-iron work by Thomas of Leighton. The entrance to the north aisle, a delicate piece of Early English work, is also very fine.
The interior is notable for its beautiful proportions and the play of color. The capitals in the nave and the triforium are splendid examples of Early-Gothic. In the aisles are numerous monuments, including a tablet commemorating Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762), a pioneer of modern smallpox inoculation. The choir was built in the early English period but partly rebuilt in Decorated style in 1325. The stalls were carved c. 1860 by Samuel Evans of Ellastone, a cousin of George Eliot. In the south aisle is the famous monument of the "Sleeping Children" (1817) by Chantry, the Holy Trinity window above is the original Flemish glass. A medallion commemorates Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), the botanist, grandfather of Charles Darwin.
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Lady Chapel

The Lady Chapel was built in 1324 probably after plans by William of Eyton in Decorated style. The nine beautiful stained glass windows depict scenes from the Passion. Seven of them were brought to Lichfield in 1802 from the Cistercian abbey of Herkenrode near Liège. The two most westerly windows are also Flemish work.

Chapterhouse Library

Above the elegant chapterhouse of 1240 is the library, whose greatest treasures are the Irish manuscript gospel "St Chad's Gospel" of 721 and a manuscript of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales".

Samuel Johnson Birthplace Museum

The Johnson Birthplace Museum is opposite the market square in Breadmarket Street. The house in which the famous lexicographer was born the son of a bookseller contains personal memorabilia, books and secondary literature.
Address: Breadmarket Street, Lichfield WS13 6LG, England

Heritage Exhibition & Treasury

Opened in 1981 in St Mary's church the Lichfield Heritage and Treasury Center illustrates the history of the town (costumes, silver, audio-visual display).
A viewing platform offers spectacular views over the city and countryside.

Lichfield Festival

This annual 10-day festival takes place in mid-July. Events include jazz and classical concerts, film screenings, plays, recitals, show jumping competitions, exhibitions and discussions.
The repertoire also ranges from classical and traditional to contemporary.
Discussion groups are usually led by a different international composer every year.
The highlight is a spectacular fireworks display that lights up the city.
There are at least four events held every day, in venues ranging from the cathedral and civic hall to Beacon Park.
Address: The Close, Lichfield WS13 7LD, England

Wall (Letocetum) Roman Site

Wall (Letocetum) Roman Site, near Lichfield, is a National Trust site in the guardianship of English Heritage. It features remains of a Roman staging post, including foundations of an inn and bath house. There is also a museum.
Address: Watling Street, Wall, Lichfield WS14 0AW, England

Darwin Walk

A 10mile walk demonstrating the local flora and fauna of the past 200 years has been set up.

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