Yesterday I reviewed the book ‘Beauty in Decay’. I mentioned in that review I was interested in this as a subject myself. I have very little work to show in this genre, despite being involved in urban renewal myself, which inevitably meant the destruction of these buildings. Way back then, sadly, I didn’t carry a camera wherever I went. That’s a great regret to me – and should be a lesson to us all.
However, in the mid to late 70’s I did get the occasional frame which indicated my leanings in this direction. I post three here. I hope they interest you.
At an exhibition of some of my work back in the 70’s a critic said I was from the “dustbin school”. I was offended back then, I would take that as a compliment today.
The image at the top of the page shows a Victorian, cast iron, men’s urinal in central Birmingham. It was placed underneath the railway arches on the approaches to New St Station, near to the Bullring. I returned a few years back. The structure had been boarded up. Birmingham has a few of these edifices still in existence. The remaining ones are usually smaller and freestanding. They were once dotted all over the city.
After the war, many buildings were left derelict, mainly in planning blighted ‘urban renewal’ areas of the city.
In 60’s Birmingham, it was said, “what Hitler failed to achieve, the planners did for him”. Whole areas of Victorian houses were scheduled to fall under the demolition man’s wrecking ball.
On the left is one such house in the Hockley area of the city.
Back in the 70’s the unoccupied houses were used by those sleeping rough, much as today I suppose. This house was occupied by a few such unfortunates.
I returned a few years later. It had been demolished.
The picture below shows the old wash-house at the rear of a *back to back house in the city. This was a type of build where a group of houses was arranged in a block. The houses, arranged around a communal yard, were ‘back to back’ as it were.
The wash house had a coal fired ‘copper’ in the corner in which the washing was done. You can see what remains of that in the picture.
Birmingham still has many Victorian – and earlier – houses which are in various states of disrepair though venturing into them today, single-handed, may be more precarious than it was back in the 70’s. Even back then people thought me crazy to do so.
*Should you wish to discover more about this typical Victorian inner city Birmingham type of house you can see an existing block refurbished by the National Trust here. I was born in a back to back but I have no recollection of it as my family moved out to the suburbs at the start of the City-wide modernisation in the 50’s.