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12th February 2015

Stratford Road’s Hidden Heritage

Volunteers and researchers have been busily working alongside the My Route team to uncover the hidden architectural heritage around Stratford Road. The resulting information and photographs will be used by Sampad as it develops an exhibition and archive of the heritage of Stratford Road,  to be unveiled in May 2015.

Sampad’s project manager for My Route Urmala Jassal says

“We know that Stratford Road has been home to many different communities over the past 70 years. By scratching at the history of its buildings we gain a unique insight into the people’s history – of people from Ireland, Pakistan, the Middle East and India as well as native Brummies, and how they lived.”

You can find out more about the heritage of some of the buildings around Stratford Road below!

Little Aden restaurant

(featured above right)

Corner of Stratford Road and Kyotts Lake Road

Used to be: The Black Horse Pub

If you look carefully at the entrance to this restaurant, you’ll see the intricate plaque for the Black Horse Pub. The Black Horse was re-built in 1880 and was one of Sparkbrook’s many Irish pubs, originally home to the local brewers Edkins and Guy. A1967 study into Sparkbrook by the sociologists John Rex and Robert Moore called the Irishness at the Black Horse “overwhelming…A notice tells of a cheap weekend trip to Dublin arranged by the pub’s own social club and it is not uncommon for someone to come round selling Irish political newspapers or tracts.”

It is rumoured that the Black Horse derived its name from the symbol for Lloyd’s Bank, as the Lloyd family owned a house in Farm Park nearby. The pub is now home to a restaurant championing Adeni (South Yemeni) cuisine.

Hidden Heritage-shree mandir

 Shree Ram Mandir

Walford Road

Used to be: The Waldorf Cinema

When the Shree Ram Mandir opened in 1986 it became only Birmingham’s second Hindu temple (the first was in Handsworth). But the building has a far longer history, serving as one of the Stratford Road’s many cinemas. The Waldorf Picture Theatre opened in November 1913, was forced to close after suffering bomb damage in World War II and then reopened as the Waldorf Cinema – with a swanky Modernist façade – in April 1950. During the 1970s it became famous for showing Bollywood films for the emerging Pakistani and Indian communities. Forced to close when cinemagoers dropped in numbers, the building was quickly transformed into a temple and community centre, serving many of the same people who had previously enjoyed watching films there.

Hidden Heritage mughal e azam

 Mughal e Azam restaurant

Stratford Road

Used to be: United Reform Church

Now a grand Pakistani restaurant, this imposing building used to be home to the Sparkhill United Reform Church. Built in 1933 in the Romanesque style, it was designed by W H Bidlake, a Birmingham-based architect known for the prominent role he played in the Arts and Craft movement. The bold design includes the striking entrance porch, influenced by Italian traditions.

The church was originally home to the area’s strong Methodist congregation and from the 1960s also offered services to Moravians arriving from the Caribbean. (The relationship between the Sparkhill United Reformed Church and the Birmingham Moravian Church remains strong to this day.) Yet church attendance fell and the costs of maintaining a listed building grew, so in 2007 the congregation moved out, and eventually the building was left derelict and vandalised. Happily it was bought in 2009, renovated and finally re-opened in 2011 as the splendid Mughal e Azam restaurant.

Hidden Heritage Al Sultan

 Al Sultan restaurant

Stratford Road

Used to be: Lloyd’s Bank and Ty’s Jazz and Spice

This Grade II-listed building used to be the Sparkbrook branch of Lloyd’s Bank, but the most colourful time of its history fell between 1999 and 2004 when it was home to Ty’s Jazz and Spice. Owner Ty Mahmood had dreamed of opening a jazz venue which was unique to Birmingham, lamenting that many of the city’s jazz performers move to London to forge their careers. In 2002 The Independent named it as one of the UK’s best jazz venues, “the only Kashmiri jazz bar and restaurant in the UK”. Sadly Ty Jazz and Space closed in 2004 but the building has remained a restaurant, now home to Al Sultan’s which offers authentic Arabian food.

Hidden Heritage-Shama

 Shama’s Banqueting

Walford Road

Used to be: Masque Ballroom and the Harp Club

The enormous Shama’s Banqueting Suite is a popular venue for Hindu, Muslim and Sikh weddings, and so has probably seen a good few parties in its time. So it seems apt that before it became Shama’s, it was home to the Masque Ballroom and then became the Harp Club, a popular centre for the Irish community. As well as hosting dances, boxing and other such events, Mass was celebrated here, presumably because the ballroom was one of the only spaces large enough to accommodate the enormous post-war congregation.

We would love to hear from anyone who has memories of life on and around the Stratford Road from 1940 to the present day. Contact us on T: 0121 446 3260 or E: info@myroute.org.uk

Hidden Heritage little aden

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