Birmingham Hall of Memory

From Victoria Square, the visitor naturally turns northward and eastward towards the commercial centre of town. However, a brief diversion can be made west to see one important building with sculpture, the Hall of Memory, which is on Broad Street/Centenary Square, across the misnamed Paradise Circus.

Detail of Queens College frontage

Leading in to Paradise Circus is Paradise Street, where stands Queens College, which is worth a pause. The frontage is a work of Doultons of about 1890, over an original building of some 50 years earlier (architects Drury and Bateman). Above the door is a small but showy ceramic Queen Victoria, surrounded by piled up robes, and seated within a shrinelike throne. To left and right, a heraldic lion and unicorn. Above, somewhat obscurely, a roundel showing a woman in converse with a coiled snake. And around the arch of the large windows, charming, rather whimsical little monsters, including a bat.

Across the circus, then, brings us to Broad Street and Centenary Square, where may be found the Hall of Memory. It is a symmetrical white stone building with four porticoes giving it a cross-shaped plan, and a little dome on top. The whole is an ideal example of a classical building on a modest scale built in the 20th century the date is in fact as late as 1923/4, and the architects were called Cooke and Twist. Each of the truncated corners of the building has a free-standing bronze statue by Albert Toft. They are Navigation, Astronomy, Flight, and the only female one, Peace. The males are muscular and handsome in a rugged, 20th C film star way, the girl much more turn of the century. Note also the stone helmeted head above one portico, a rather sad expression on an unusual version of an ideal face, surrounded by decoration foreshadowing art deco designs.

Peace, by Albert Toft

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