Birmingham Bullring, West Midlands - Framed Picture - 11" x 14"
Birmingham Bullring West Midlands - Framed Picture - 11" x 14"
The Bullring is a major commercial area of central Birmingham. It has been an important feature of Birmingham since the Middle Ages, when its market was first held. Two shopping centres have been built in the area; in the 1960s, and then in 2003; the latter is styled as one word, Bullring.
The current shopping centre was the busiest in the United Kingdom in 2004 with 36.5 million visitors. It houses one of only four Selfridges department stores, the fourth largest Debenhams and Forever 21.
The area was first known as Corn Cheaping in reference to the corn market on the site. The name Bull Ring referred to the green within Corn Cheaping that was used for bullbaiting. The 'ring' was a hoop of iron in Corn Cheaping to which bulls were tied for baiting before slaughter. The joining of the two words in the 21st-century development of the area to form Bullring caused controversy amongst some residents and other people who were angry at the change of what was described as an "historic spelling."
The market legally began in 1154 when Peter de Bermingham, a local landowner, obtained a Charter of Marketing Rights from King Henry II. Initially, a textile trade began developing in the area and it was first mentioned in 1232 in a document, in which one merchant is described as a business partner to William de Bermingham and being in the ownership of four weavers, a smith, a tailor and a purveyor. Seven years later, another document described another mercer in the area. Within the next ten years, the area developed into a leading market town and a major cloth trade was established.
The name Mercer Street is first mentioned in the Survey of Birmingham of 1553. This was a result of the prominence of the area in the cloth trade. In the 16th century and 17th century, Mercer Street rapidly developed and became cramped. In the early 18th century Mercer Street was known as Spicer Street, reflecting the growing grocery and meat trade that had begun to take over from the cloth trade. By the end of the century the street was known as Spiceal Street. Despite being overcrowded and cramped, many houses on the street had gardens as indicated by an advertisement for a residential property in 1798. Houses were constructed close to St Martin's Church, eventually encircling it.
On a map produced by Westley in 1731, other markets had developed nearby including food, cattle and corn markets with other markets located nearby on the High Street. This corn market was moved to the Corn Exchange on Carrs Lane in 1848. The Bull Ring developed into the main retail market area for Birmingham as the town grew into a modern industrial city.
A series of events in Birmingham's political history saw the area become a popular meeting place for demonstrations and speeches from leaders of working class movements during the 1830s and 1840s.
In 1839, the Bull Ring was the location of the Bull Ring Riots, which resulted in widespread vandalism and destruction of property. It prompted fears amongst the town's residents at the council's inability to prevent or control the riots and led to speculation that the council was tolerant of lawlessness. Because of disorderly behaviour at fairs, in 1861 the area, along with Smithfield and Digbeth, became the only place in central Birmingham where fairs were permitted. In 1875, all fairs were banned from the town.
The area around the market site developed and, by the Victorian era, a large number of shops were operating there. Immigrants set up businesses such as flower-sellers and umbrella vendors. The Lord Nelson statue became the location for preaching and political protests. Well-known preachers of the time were nicknamed Holy Joe and Jimmy Jesus.
In the late 18th century, street commissioners were authorised to buy and demolish houses in the town centre, including houses surrounding the Bull Ring, and to centre all market activity in the area. This was a result of new markets being established across the city in scattered locations creating severe congestion. Demolition of these properties began slowly; however, after the Act of 1801, the speed of demolition increased and by 1810 all properties in the area had been cleared as according to the 1810 Map of Birmingham by Kempson. During the clearance, small streets such as The Shambles, Cock (or Well) Street and Corn Cheaping, which had existed before the Bull Ring, were removed. The Shambles was originally a row of butchers' stores, situated close to the road leading from the location where bulls were slaughtered.