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BUILDING SIGHTS

28-03-2007

With a survey to find Birmingham's most iconic buildings underway, Steve Beauchampé speaks up for one that he's certain nobody else will nominate: The Wreck of Hockley

The Dark Side of the Jewellery Quarter, that rarely traversed mosaic of streets, alleys and passageways beyond Newhall Hill, Frederick Street and Warstone Lane.

Here, no jewellers shops and attendant courting couples, and few traces of omnipresent Birmingham contemporania. Residential uses are scarce, for now it's mainly just workshops, craftsmen and the city of a thousand trades extant.

Oh, and then there's The Wreck of Hockley.

Wreck of Hockley Wreck of Hockley

This long dead industrial hulk, a sprawling carcass of brick and iron, blackened by fire, its windows shot through like eyeball-less sockets, rises from beyond the right angle of Camden Drive to the Quarter's plateau at Legge Lane, bringing a little bit of Mogadishu to the heart of Birmingham.

Staring down onto the gentrified Qube, Lexington Heights and Westgate developments with silent menace, these are truly buildings on the outer circle, their history and downfall, indeed their presence, barely referenced in the expanding archive of Hockley's past.

The centrepiece, a brass foundry for Walker and Woodward, opened in 1860,vacated around 1970; also, the former premises of Barrowclift Spinnings and a church or school hall.

The whole site dormant for decades, the homeless sought refuge, but a series of fires wrought dereliction. Current owners Birmingham College of Food and Tourism have plans to convert the partially Grade Two listed site into accommodation, but not just yet.

Meanwhile, nature reigns on the Camden Drive fascia, unkempt bushes and now even trees mangle, tangle and strangle each other, battling for light and air. One body has already been found on site, and the foliage sufficiently impenetrable to hide more secrets.

Know any other great wrecks and ruins around and about? Leave a comment in the Miscellaneous section of our messageboard.

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