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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 September, 2003, 05:55 GMT 06:55 UK
Historian says Bullring lacks heart
Bullring
Carl Chinn says old markets are Bullring's poor relations
Birmingham's newest landmark, Bullring, throws open its doors on Thursday boasting the biggest and best shopping experience the city has ever seen.

But while the 24 acre site has changed the face of the city it has also built on about 800 years of trading history.

One of the city's leading historians says the excitement greeting Birmingham's latest shopping destination is tinged with bitterness from those who remember its predecessor.

Professor Carl Chinn, a Birmingham historian, claims the redevelopment has neglected those who traditionally shopped and made their living in the Bull Ring.

He said traders and barrow boys from the historic markets, part of Birmingham since a charter was awarded in 1166, had to sacrifice their street pitches when the first indoor shopping centre opened in the 60s.

He said although the old street pattern was felt to be more organic, encouraging entertainers, the new design was then accepted as the way forward.

"When the new Bull Ring opened in 1964 it was greeted with huge optimism, as the most advanced shopping centre, the finest in Europe," he said.

"Following the second world war in Britain there was a great desire to move forward and there was one country which symbolised the future: America.

Photo: Birmingham Lives
The Bull Ring centre was opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1964

"Some people have told me they even turned up in top hats for the opening, they were so determined to celebrate."

Professor Chinn said the optimism did not last and was replaced by disillusionment in the following decade.

"It became the symbol of the worst aspects of 1960s architecture and by the 80s something needed to be done."

He said the revolutionary underpasses had become frightening and the inner ring road had pushed working class Birmingham into the periphery of the city.

A number of schemes were considered before Birmingham Alliance's current 500m project became a reality but Professor Chinn believes the 2003 redevelopment has not helped the working classes.

"There is a great sense of excitement again about the Bullring. It is a cracking addition to the new centre especially with the restoration of the old street names and the Nelson statue coming back.

"But it is so obvious the investment in the Bullring centre has not been applied to the markets."

He said there were concerns the high-profile shopping centre would not benefit those on lower incomes and the traders who have yet again been moved.

"The Bull Ring has always been the heart of Birmingham but what makes it so is the shoppers and traders not the shops.

"They are the ones paying the price for the redevelopment."




SEE ALSO:
Changing faces of Bullring
03 Sep 03  |  Photo Gallery
New Bullring but same old problems?
03 Sep 03  |  West Midlands
First glimpse at city's future
13 Aug 02  |  England
Famous market rings the changes
31 May 02  |  England
Ugly shades of grey
30 May 02  |  UK News
Bulldozing the Bull Ring
25 Feb 99  |  UK News


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