Looking at Buildings

, printed from the Looking at Buildings website on Saturday 24th August 2019

The Showrooms

A city which made motors also used them. Birmingham businessmen were enthusiastic converts to cars, and "motor houses" started appearing in wealthy residential districts like Four Oaks in Sutton Coldfield in about 1900. The most enduring and unexpected survivals of the early industry in the city are the places where they bought them: car showrooms. From the start of the C20 they grew up mostly in areas just outside the city centre where land and rents were relatively cheap. The usual building form is a ground floor showroom and office, combined with offices for commercial letting on the floors above.

The greatest concentrations were in two places. John Bright Street [1], cut in 1882 as part of Chamberlain's municipal improvements, developed slowly because it was cut off from the centre by New Street Station and its railway lines. Broad Street was also on the fringe of the centre but as it was the road to Edgbaston, it attracted the most expensive car showrooms, firms such as Flewitt's and Reeve and Stedeford, specialising in limousines and sports cars. The redevelopment of Broad Street has destroyed all the evidence there, but there are several survivals in John Bright Street [2] and the surrounding area. As buildings they are full of character, and as might be expected, show off a bit.

Last updated: Monday, 26th January 2009