Bull Ring

Birmingham U.K.

Demolished 2003

The Disappointed Tourist: Bull Ring, Ellen Harvey, 2021. Oil and acrylic on Gessoboard, 18 x 24″ (46 x 61 cm). Photograph: Etienne Frossard.

The first Bull Ring Shopping Centre in central Birmingham opened in 1964 and operated until its demolition in 2003 to make way for the current Bullring (styled as one word) Shopping Centre. There have been markets on the Bull Ring site since 1154 when Peter de Bermingham received a charter of marketing rights from King Henry II.  The name Bull Ring originally referred only to the Corn Cheaping Green which was used for bull-baiting, but came to refer to the entire site. In the nineteenth century, the market was an important meeting place for working class political demonstrations. The 1960s Bull Ring covered 23 acres (93,000 sq.m) and replaced the old Market Hall and New Street area which had been largely destroyed by bombing. The site was designed in the Brutalist style by John Laing & Sons and James A. Roberts and included the first indoor shopping centre in the UK housing over 140 shops, traditional open market stalls, a bus station, office buildings, a car park and the Manzoni Gardens with a statue of King Kong. There were calls for its redevelopment from the 1980s onward as the shopping centre became increasingly dilapidated. The four bull sculptures designed by Trewin Copplestone, which you can see in the painting were lost or destroyed during the demolition. I couldn’t find any information about the photograph on which the painting is based.

The old Bull Ring market brings back very fond memories of visiting Birmingham every weekend with my Dad. We use to go and have a wander around the outside and inside the rag market. I know we have to go with the times and appreciate development but the charm of the old 60’s development is very sentimental to me. Sophie H.