Digbeth is an area of
The street named Digbeth
leading up to Selfridges
is also the name of the main road through the area.
The modern site of Digbeth was first settled upon in the 7th
century by Beorma
, founder of Birmingham
for Beorma's Home).
where there is a crossing on the River Rea was the birthplace of what became the city.
Historically the land to the west of the river was in the Parish of
Birmingham. This is Digbeth. The land to the east was in the more
significant Parish of Aston, and is
The area around Digbeth and Deritend was the first centre of
industry in Birmingham and became one of the most heavily
industrialised areas in the town. This may have been due to Henry
Bradford who in 1767 donated land on Bradford Street to anyone
willing to establish a trade there. The street soon prospered and
there were over twenty public houses on it catering to its workers.
there are just three; the Adam & Eve, The White
Swan and The Anchor.
The amount of manufacturing in Digbeth made it of national
importance. Industry was attracted to the area as a result of the
supply of water from the River Rea and from the natural springs
in the area. Digbeth was accessed
by the Grand Union
Canal and the Digbeth
Branch Canal in the 18th and early 19th centuries.
also arrived in Digbeth in the 19th century, stopping at Moor Street
The line passed through Digbeth via a
railway viaduct built out of Staffordshire blue brick
border with Bordesley, the railway viaduct meets another viaduct, which
This was never used and the bridges over the
roads have been removed.
Industry that settled in Digbeth include Typhoo Tea
who had a factory on Bordesley Street
which was in use from 1896 till 1978. The now-disused factory has
its own canal
basin connected to the Digbeth
Branch Canal. The Typhoo Tea building, also known as the S Rose
& Co Building, is a four storey building, blue brick at the
front (Bordesley Street) and red brick to the rear. Currently
vacant, it was previously used as a warehouse. Another food
industry that settled in Digbeth was Alfred Frederick Bird
's custard company
that produced a form of
that did not use eggs. This was
invented by his father, Alfred Bird
factory was set up in the Devonshire Works in 1902 on the High Street.
expanded and is now an arts centre. The Devonshire Works themselves
are to be refurbished.
Part of the Custard Factory complex is the Deritend Library
, Birmingham's oldest
building. The library
opened on October 26, 1866 and was the third free district library
to open in Birmingham. The library re-opened in 1898 following
enlargement as a result of its popularity. Deritend Library closed
on November 16, 1940. In 2003, it was opened as a conference centre
and exhibition space. It
is the only building of the original five free Birmingham libraries
The library building is located on Heath Mill Lane, which, along
with Floodgate Street, provide information on the character of
pre-industrial Digbeth. The River Rea once flowed unaffected by
human development through Digbeth, cutting both the High Street and
Floodgate Street in two. The 'Floodgates' were used when the river
flooded. Heath Mill Lane meanwhile was named after the watermill
used for grinding corn which had stood
there since the 16th century. The River Rea is now hidden from
view. Digbeth also had an abundance of natural springs
which were gradually built
upon as industry moved into the area. The existence of these
springs and wells in the area are reflected in the street names
such as Well Street.
The former Bonser & Co. warehouse
at 85 Digbeth
One of Digbeth's most recognisable buildings, the former Bonser
& Co. warehouse at 85 Digbeth, was built around 1860. It was
built for the Bonser & Co. firm of iron merchants and consists
of a short entrance tower fronting onto Digbeth High Street. The
tower, being small, was designed to take up as little shop frontage
space on the street as possible but also to break the monotony of
the small buildings around it. On the ground floor is a
semi-circular arch and a segmental arch on the first floor. In the
pitched roof is a slight upward curve.
notable building in Digbeth is the now-defunct The Clothing Mart
operated by George Makepeace at
135-6 Digbeth which was designed by James
Patchett of Ombersley.
Built in 1913, it is a steel framed
structure with a mixture of façade materials. The façade consists
of bright red brick
and orange terracotta
. The building is no longer used by
George Makepeace and has changed hands, undergoing a variety of
uses. Several aspects of its original architecture have been lost
including a first floor iron balcony, above which electric lanterns
with hooded lenses from two iron holders that remain. Either side
of these were iron and glass lamps resembling Medici goblets. The
orange pilasters sit on a key stone and pedimented blocks set with
round pink granite stones and the parapet is of green glazed
The Digbeth Cold Storage building
Digbeth was also of importance in 19th century transport with many
coaches and carriers terminating at inns there. Inns that were
particularly popular as such locations were The White Hart, the Red
Lion, and The Bull's Head. This transport history is reflected in the
creation of Digbeth
Coach Station, which was built in 1929 by Midland Red.
These days Digbeth is often considered to include Deritend.
The name Digbeth is derived from "dyke path". However, Digbeth is
also believed to have originally been called 'Duck's bath' in
reflection of the water supply in the area. It has also been
suggested that it comes from “dragon’s breath”, referring to air
pollution during the industrial revolution.
Modern-day Digbeth is currently dominated by old industrial
buildings and the blue-brick Victorian
is also home to Birmingham's coach station which is operated by National Express, Britain's largest express
coach network. As part of the Eastside district, Digbeth is undergoing a large
redevelopment scheme that will regenerate the old industrial
buildings into apartments, retail premises, offices and arts
There is still however much industrial activity
in the south of the area. The coach station itself is also due to
be redeveloped to a new design by MAKE
developments include the Irish Quarter, the Arts and Media Annexe
Birmingham College and the Custard Factory, a development designed to represent modern arts
Work to the Custard Factory has already seen the
renovation of a number of buildings. Devonshire House, a Grade II listed building
, is to be
refurbished by S. B. Gray into studio and gallery space. The
windows are to be replaced and a sculptural bridge will be
installed in the building. The scheme has been designed by Weedon Partnership Architects
The Grade C locally listed former
Typhoo Tea factory
The disused Typhoo Tea factory complex, which is Grade C locally listed
, is to be renovated into a
mixed-use complex named Typhoo Wharf to a design by Glenn Howells Architects
. Much of the Typhoo
building is to be demolished, although the front, rear and one of
the side façades would be retained with the internal structure
removed and replaced with new build based upon the original pattern
of the internal wings. The development would consist of a three
storey build up to the top of the front façade, a four storey build
to the rear façade and a six storey build on the internal wings set
back from both the front and the rear. It will consist of 342
dwellings (including 230 one bed flats, 112 two bed flats), seven
units, 800 m2
of commercial space and a gym for the
residents. The site area is 1.12ha and lies within the Warwick Bar Conservation Area.
The masterplan includes
reference to the heights of the proposed building and shows to be
between three and eight storeys on parts of the site. The proposals
also include the reinstatement of the third arm of the canal basin
to full standard and allows for the mooring of houseboats
. The overall cost of all developments
in the area is expected to be £400 million by 2009.
Digbeth is affected by two conservation areas
: Digbeth, Deritend, and
Bordesley High Streets Conservation Area and the Warwick Bar
Conservation Area. Both conservation areas are alongside each
other. The Digbeth, Deritend, and Bordesley High Streets
Conservation Area was designated on May 31, 2000 and has an area of
28.68 Ha (70.86 acres), covering all of Digbeth. The Warwick Bar
Conservation Area was designated on June 25, 1987 and has an area
of 16.19 Ha (40.00 acres). It extends outside of Digbeth, along the
Digbeth Branch Canal through Eastside.
is associated with the development of the British electronic music scene. As well as the
Factory, Digbeth is home to The Sanctuary nightclub
(formerly The Digbeth
Institute) which was a prominent venue during the early days
of the rave music scene and underwent a revival
in 1998 when superclub Godskitchen began to promote a weekly event
Godskitchen is now based at its own venue, AIR
(formerly CODE). All three venues are within a stones throw of each
Ikon Eastside, a branch of the Ikon Gallery is based in Digbeth.
has very close links with the Irish community of Birmingham. It is increasingly also known as the
The traditional St Patrick's Day parade
held in and around Digbeth, usually attracting crowds at times
estimated to be one hundred thousand strong, making it the largest
in the country.
A number of Irish theme pubs are resident, with the most notable
being "The Dubliner
" which was severely damaged by fire in
July 2006. Immediately after the fire, there was a large swell of
support for the pub to be rebuilt. The pub reopened 18 months later
in January 2008.
The Irish Centre, facing Digbeth High Street, is to be rebuilt as
part of a large regeneration project named Connaught Square.
scheme has been submitted for planning approval to Birmingham City Council and was
designed by RG+P of Leicester. The 4.544 acre/1.839 hectare site is to be
developed by Dublin-based
Naus Group at a cost of £150
The scheme will consist of 631 new apartments, a
180-bed four star hotel incorporating 36 serviced apartments,
shops, offices, bars, restaurants in six buildings of between 4-7
storeys rising to 10 storeys. There will also be more than 1,000
underground car parking spaces, two new public squares and public
amenity space. Around 800 jobs are expected to be created.
of water are to be created above the course of the River Rea which flows below the site.
The White Swan
will be retained and
incorporated into the development. Demolition work has already
commenced and construction is anticipated to begin in early 2008.
The hotel will be ready for occupation by 2009, with the scheme as
a whole complete by 2011.
- Bradford Street
- Birmingham City Council: Heritage -
- Heritage: Digbeth Tuck Trail
- Committee Report: Typhoo Wharf
- Birmingham City Council: Deritend Library
- Deritend library staff, 1910
- Heritage: Digbeth Slice of Life Trail
- Birmingham City Council: Heritage -
- Green light for coach station rebuild -
Birmingham Mail (June 16, 2006)
- Committee Report: Devonshire House
- Digbeth, Deritend, and Bordesley High Streets
Conservation Area map
- Warwick Bar Conservation Area map