A year ago today we were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary but there was no sign of tin anywhere! Instead we enjoyed a rather unusual walk through the city of Birmingham. We began in the Bullring Rag Market. There’s been a market here since the Middle ages, today’s building though is only 17years old. There are 350 traders here, selling everything from curtains to leather jackets to wedding hats.
Leaving the Bull Ring behind we headed for another Birmingham landmark – The Custard factory. Bird’s custard was originally created in 1837 by Albert Bird for his wife as she was allergic to eggs, but he soon discovered that everyone thought it was delicious. So he decided to make it commercially, and the rest as you say is history. As well as custard, Bird’s also made blancmange powders, baking powders and egg substitutes. In the 1960s for various reasons Bird’s left Birmingham city centre and the factories were left derelict until the 1990s when the 15 acre site was redeveloped into offices and creative spaces. The site went through a second redevelopment at the beginning of this century, but even now part of the site still feels like work in progress. Perhaps though that is why it is so popular with Birmingham’s creative community.
After a brief pitstop we were off to our next destination – the Thinktank. It is not a long walk but you do need to keep a close eye on a map as you wind your way under and alongside Birmingham’s many railways and roads. There was the occasional green moment but most of the time we were surrounded by concrete. Eventually though we found ourselves at the Thinktank, Birmingham’s science museum. As you might expect most of the museum is targeted at schools and families, and so it can be rather overwhelming with noise and kids having fun. We though had walked here for a specific purpose, MrB wanted to see their steam engines. The Thinktank in Birmingham houses one of the most comprehensive steam engine collections in the world.
One of the highlights within the collection is the Boulton & Watt steam engine built in Birmingham by businessman Matthew Boulton and engineer James Watt. Their engine was revolutionary and influenced the design of every steam engine that came after it. It wasn’t just engines they influenced though, these two men were also members of The Lunar Society, the 18th century equivalent of an influential modern day think tank.
The main highlight in the steam rooms is the Smethwick Engine, the World’s oldest working steam engine, dating from 1779. Unfortunately it wasn’t working on the day we visited and my photographs of it have not even made it to this post! So instead here’s a short video of another steam engine. I find them mesmerising.
MrB is fascinated by steam engines and I do enjoy photographing them, which is why this part of our walk lasted quite a while. Eventually though I called time on our steam walk as there was only so much this girl could take on her wedding anniversary. Leaving the Thinktank we headed back through Birmingham’s concrete jungle for our hotel. There was though a a short concrete break when we detoured into Moor Street, one of Birmingham’s many railway stations, to enjoy its 1930’s glory.
I do hope the Monday Walk gang have enjoyed my rather unusual anniversary stroll, rather different to my previous Birmingham walk I know. As I write this in early October I am not sure what we have planned for today, but hopefully it will include a walk!