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Birmingham

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The Custard Factory, Digbeth
February 2014

Hemmed in by the 1960s ring road, Birmingham can be a difficult city to escape as a pedestrian but it holds a multitude of interesting areas to explore. On a recent trip in March, I ventured to the east lands of Digbeth and around the canal system to the west and the north ending up in the Jewellery Quarter.

Digbeth is probably not every ones idea of a walking tour, but it does have some gems. The old industrial buildings still used are mainly storage or car repair workshops bisected by tall railway viaducts and sullen canals. The remainder are imaginatively converted into studios or commercial units (the appropriately named Custard Factory was converted out of the old Birds Custard factory). The age of the buildings are more early to mid 20th Century and the townscape is quite low level.

To the west of the city centre, the Gas Street Basin has been gentrified like other dockland areas, but it retains a sense of traffic and journeys and this extends out along the tow paths throughout the city. The Birmingham and Fazeley Canel runs across the top portion of the city centre and separates if from the Jewellery Quarter. Again, similar to Digbeth, the townscape is quite low and sprawling but more on an incline, with a general age of Victorian and Edwardian architecture, although there are some quite perfect 1930's buildings. The quarter is still a hub of jewellery design, manufacturer and selling. The other industries now declined include the manufacturing of pens (although the excellent Pen Museum still keeps this alive) and other metal works such as the manufacturing of enamel badges. Why these smaller industries had to die in the face of cheaper imports is a sad and unnecessary situation.

Screen prints of the walks and the buildings encountered will be uploaded shortly