Protecting the Consumer and Servicing
the Trade with Independence and Integrity

 A powerful reminder of Birmingham’s proud civic history

assayofficehiddenspaces

The “Hidden Spaces” project undertaken by Associated Architects,  currently showing at the iconic Curzon Street Station is a fascinating  exhibition. It features creative photographs of spaces within some of Birmingham’s most important and distinctive buildings not easily accessible to the general public. Architectural gems and impressive functional facilities which most of the people of Birmingham are totally unaware of are revealed with great creative style. These include the grandeur of the main staircase of The Assay Office, a glimpse of our significant Private Silver Collection and  the very masculine Victorian lavatory and dressing room. Hidden Spaces is  visually engaging from an artistic and architectural point of view  but it is also a powerful reminder of the City’s prominence , entrepreneurial spirit and vision during the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the twentieth.  It is hard to imagine the  level of development that must have been happening almost simultaneously. Just the completion  dates of a clutch of buildings featured here tell the story of a City changing beyond recognition and laying confident foundations for the future. The Assay Office (1877), Council House (1876 with its impressive clock tower added in 1885), Grand Hotel, (1877), Birmingham School of Art (1885) and Steelhouse Lane Police Station with its extensive custody suite (1890’s) all remain as a proud reminder of our position at the forefront of commerce and industry at the turn of the Century. The innovation continued into the twentieth Century with the Alexandra Theatre opening in 1901, Electric Cinema in 1909 and the massive vaults of the Chamberlain inspired Municipal Bank in 1919. In 1935 the Central Fire Station at Lancaster Circus was built as an entire community complete with residential accommodation and an impressive Ballroom on the top floor! Most fascinating of all is the “Anchor” exchange. Codenamed after our hallmark this extraordinary facility , which is apparently still intact, is a fully operating Telephone exchange buried deep in subterranean tunnels under the centre of Birmingham. A stark image of a row of empty telephonist chairs  standing at a switchboard fully equipped for action is quite chilling. Built in 1950 this was part of the national response to the threats of the Cold War; an emergency communications system in case of nuclear attack which has never been disassembled and remains hidden beneath Birmingham. Hidden Spaces is at Curzon Street Station until Sunday 29th June; more information at www.hidden-spaces.co.uk. Information about visits to Assay Office Birmingham can be found at www.theassayoffice.co.uk Download the booking form or T: 0121 236 6951 or E: gem@theassayoffice.co.uk   HIDDEN SPACES - Curzon Street Free entry – no need to book Saturday 21st to Sunday 29th June 2014 as part of the Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) national ‘Love Architecture Week’. Follow @HiddenBrum on Twitter or HiddenBrum on Facebook for regular updates. Visitor Information: Curzon Street Station, New Canal Street, Birmingham B5 5LG Saturday 21st to Sunday 29th June 2014 Open daily from 10am to 3pm info@hidden-spaces.co.uk Assay-Office-Bhamweb1    

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