Focus on ... the Great Western Arcade

Here is the first of what I hope will be many, Focus On... articles which will provide a bit of history, background or information on something to do with Birmingham or of interest.

The Great Western Arcade, of 1874-6 by W.H.Ward is the best example of Birmingham's many 19th century arcades.

The arcade was built on iron supporting arches over the Great Western Railway line cutting. Originally the Paddington line ran through a tunnel which stopped at Temple row and then continued in an open cutting into Snow Hill Station. The cutting was roofed over with the line of this covering offset slightly to the north of the centre of the arcade.

The top floor was lost in the Second World War depriving us of it's great glazed semi-circular barrel vault with glazed central dome, similar to the Gallerio Vittoria Emmanuele in Milan which was constructed at the same time. The roof was replaced post-war by a simple steel structure.

The entrance to the arcade on Temple Row is a rich renaissance facade with paired columns and a giant arch with figures of Art and Industry in the squandrels. This is in contrast to the Colmore Row entrance which is a 1988 replacement by Douglas Hickman which Andy Foster describes in the 2005 Pevsner Guide as showing his 'elegant and austere style moving towards Postmodernism'.

Pevsner Architectural Guides - Birmingham, Andy Foster, 2005, ISBN 0-300-10731-5

Great Western Arcade Website -


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