29 June 2012

Study of a Photograph, New Street

New Street in 1901 by George White

I was wondering whether these buildings were designed together as they have a symmetrical aesthetic, and the answer came from William West's book of 1830. West notes the newly modernised house and offices of John Fallows, architect and builder, adjoining the Theatre Royal (which is just in the distance).

West describes the premises;
'[t]he drawing of the entire front consists of a centre and two wings, the right wing next [to the] theatre is the residence, and the left the offices of the architect, the centre forms a screen to the back premises, and consists of a carriage entrance with folding gates, piers rusticated with frise [sic], supported by enriched trusses, cornice and blocking terminating with elegant tripods or lamps. On each side is a continued screen wall having at each end a doorway which forms the access to the house, offices and premises; these walls are also rusticated in the most peculiar manner, the openings of the doorways are finished with enriched keystones, and the whole is of such novel and elegant design that it does credit to the architect, who has displayed such a cultivated taste'.*

You can see what the building looked like when John Fallows first built it here.

By the time the above photograph was taken much of what is described here is hidden by the shop fronts, the advertising or has been removed. Little is left to tell us of its previous, more elaborate life, but it is an interesting testament to an architect who worked in Birmingham for only a short time. Fallows perhaps over-stretched himself with this extravagant self-advertising building project, as he only occupied the premises for a year or two, before moving away to Northfield and then going bankrupt in 1832.

*William West, The History, Topography and Directory of Warwickshire (Birmingham: 1830), p. 210.
Image courtesy of Birmingham Library and Archive Services (665).
Find out more about John Fallows here
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