Monday, 2 January 2017

Chamberlain & Martin

Gosh wasn’t it noisy last night.  Numerous explosions, the portholes lit up and the sound of wailing sirens.  Later it was the shrieking over-excited revellers passing by on the towpath.  Jan didn’t get much sleep but I snored through all the excitement. Being slightly deaf sometimes has advantages!

Whilst walking around the general area I’ve noticed some interesting old buildings with very similar architectural features.  Much of this is due to Chamberlain and Martin.  The Elementary Education Act of 1870 saw the introduction of universal education in England.  Local authorities were required to make provision for the education of children within their jurisdiction.   The act wasn’t universally popular with influential elements of the population concerned that educating the ‘masses’ would encourage them to ‘think’ and perhaps revolt.  However many industrialist wanted the population to be educated as they believed this would improve the nation’s manufacturing competitiveness. 

Birmingham was obviously an industrial centre and the 1870 Act was strongly supported by the then mayor, Joseph Chamberlain.   Unless they were too poor, parents were required to pay for their children's education.  The city authorities calculated some 40 new schools would be required to met the need.  The contract to design these new schools was awarded to the architectural firm of Chamberlain and Martin whose principals were John Chamberlain and William Martin.  John Chamberlain was not related to the mayor, Joseph Chamberlain.

Chamberlain & Martin preferred to design buildings in a Victorian style from red brick and terracotta.  All those I’ve seen have a central tower with an open spire.  The idea being the tower would create a natural draft (much like a chimney) which would increase the natural circulation of fresh air.   I first noticed this style of building when we last visited Birmingham and I came upon Icknield Street School.

Today I noticed a similar style when I walked to Lidl in Summerfield. 


The building is now the Summerfield Community Centre but after some searching on Google I was able to establish it was built as a school.

A school, designed by John Henry Chamberlain & William Martin for the Birmingham School Board, and built in 1878. The building is of red brick with terracotta and stone dressings and a tiled roof. The northern end of the building is of two and three storeys and the southern end has a single storey, although windows set high in the wall give the impression of an extra floor. The southern section housed the infants' school, with classrooms clustered around three sides of a central hall, and the northern section had the boys' school at ground floor level and the girls' school at first floor level, again with classrooms grouped around a central hall at both level.

On the opposite side of the New Main Line canal is St Patrick’s Catholic Church, also constructed in red brick.


Spring Hill Library beside the large Tesco at Hockley is another example of Chamberlain & Martin’s design.

Spring Hill LibraryThe route back to Waiouru was along the New Main Line towpath and it provided a different perspective of the brick pier we passed by when entering Birmingham.


What intrigues me about this pier is how slender and long it is.  I would have expected it to be thicker and shorter if it was the pier of a former railway bridge.  It also looks to be too long to be part of a road bridge?

I was almost back at Waiouru when a familiar boat went past me.


I couldn’t decide whether it was Andrew at the tiller and decided not to call out.  Jan subsequently informed me it was Andrew so it’s both my hearing and eyesight that’s degrading!


Paul (from Waterway Routes) said...

The pier once supported the bridge for the railway branch line to Harborne.

Tom and Jan said...

I thought you might know! Was it always this narrow?

Paul (from Waterway Routes) said...

As far as I know it was always this narrow. It was only single track for small engines pulling a few coaches so it wouldn't need much strength.

The canal company would insist on the narrowest column possible.

Tom and Jan said...

This would explain why the engineer needed to design a long and skinny pier fora single track rather than wide and short.