Vintage Postcards #2- The Great Western Arcade

Postcard #2- The Great Western Arcade

The Great Western Arcade

The Great Western Arcade

There was a time when Birmingham had a large number of Victorian shopping arcades cutting through the city. There are only a few remaining examples I know of which include the Piccadilly and Burlington Arcades off New Street and the Great Western Arcade off Temple Row. The subject of this blog post, the Great Western Arcade, was built in the late 1870s and is probably the most well-known and ornate of the aforementioned. The arcade runs from Colmore Row (opposite Snow Hill Station) to Temple Row (behind House of Fraser).  I believe it continued through to Corporation Street ( North Western Arcade) but this has since been redeveloped. The route through remains but the arcade has been modernised beyond recognition.

Inside the Great Western Arcade there are a row of shops on either side (approx 40 units) with decorative balconies and globe lighting above. It originally had a glazed semi-circular barrel vault which was damaged by the bombing of Birmingham during the Second World War. This roof was replaced with a glazed apex roof which remains today.  Decorative plaster mouldings adorn the balconies and upper level with a series of arched windows running along with pilasters in-between. These have recently been painted in a striking colour scheme of duck egg blue and gold to highlight the details.

There is a rather grand arched entrance off Temple Row with ornate relief carvings in a baroque revival style with classical pilasters on either side. The pilasters are in the Doric and Corinthian orders with a decorative entablature above. This is a contrast to the other entrance on Colmore Row which has been incorporated into the modern façade of the office buildings which now occupy the street frontage. It would be interesting to find out what the original entrance looked like on this side and if it was as grand as the Temple Row entrance.

I’m not quite sure of the orientation of the view shown in the postcard but I’m guessing it is looking towards Temple Row. I love the magnificent central dome with hanging chandelier and the rows of globe oil lamps above each shop frontage. The arcade still looks as impressive and grand today and is worth a visit for its impressive interior and boutique shops.

  • Architect:  W.H Ward
  • Builder: Great Western Company
  • Year: 1876 (Refurnished recently in 2009 and 1984)
  • Use: Shopping Arcade
  • Style: Victorian
  • Status: Grade II Listed

More details at the Great Western Arcade Website

More vintage postcard blog posts: Vintage Postcard #1


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