Wednesday, 14 October 2015

The NEC and Roundhouse

A brisk walk to the Moor Street Railway Station enabled me to catch the 9.30 No 900 bus from Birmingham to Coventry.  My journey only took me as far as Birmingham International Airport which is also the location of the National Exhibition Centre (NEC).  It would have been faster to go by train but by using my bus pass my journey was free.

The NEC is HUGE! It was the first day of the annual caravan and motorhome show.  My reasons for going were curiosity and some of the technology that goes into caravans is applicable to narrowboats.  We have been to the camping and caravan show in Adelaide, South Australia and it wouldn’t have filled 15% of the NEC.

20151013_130249At one stage I was considering purchasing a motorhome to take back to Australia but the income tax doesn’t make it a viable option.  Caravans are not subject to import tax and is financially viable.  However I’ve decided on a rugged outback trailer which should will be cheaper.  One other problem with purchasing in the UK and importing would be spare parts.  Swift and Bailey caravans have a presence but most of the other brands were foreign to me.

The style and range of caravans and motorhomes far exceeds anything I’ve seen in Australia.  Some luxury units.


And some less expensive units based on vans. 


One other fact that was very apparent.  99.9% of the visitors were Anglo-Saxon and my generation!  It was an interesting half day.

Once back in Birmingham I wandered down to the new Sherborne Wharf boater facilities beside the Fiddle & Bone pub.  That’s when I noticed the roundhouse.  Funny how we visited Birmingham last year and I never noticed the roundhouse.


My initial thought was it was some type of circular wharf adjacent to the canal but the layout didn’t make sense.  The openings are too narrow to unload a boat unless it was done vertically.  Moreover the opening would need to be on the inside rather than outside.  The Fiddle & bone website had more information about the building’s history.  The primary use was stables for canal boat horses.  They were stabled on two floors.  Completed in 1893, it could house 80+ horses.  It’s actually horseshoe shaped with the entrance on the opposite side to the canal.  The ground is lower on the non towpath side so the building is actually three storeys high on that side.  It’s Grade II listed and mostly unoccupied.  CRT are currently collaborating with the National Trust on how to best utilise the building.


Hoits said...

I remember my dad telling me that when he worked on a farm in North Birmingham, about 1920 I should think, they used canal boats to move the horse manure from here to farm land along the Tame Valley canal.

Tom and Jan said...

That seems very likely as horses were still being used in towns and cities when I visited the UK in 1957.