Author Archives: charris

Hams Hall Power Station

During the 1920s, the City of Birmingham began constructing the first of three giant power stations at Hams Hall.

When completed, the Hams Hall site was the largest power station in Europe, with a combined generating capacity of over 900MW. Together the three power stations burned around 1.25 million tonnes of coal a year.

Watch a British Pathé news reel of the opening of Hams Hall power station in 1929.


The site was nationalised in the 1940s and continued generating electricity up until the 1990s.

By 1993 all three power stations had been closed and demolished, and the site was sold for redevelopment. The only building to escape demolition is the sub-station control building, with its magnificent domed ceiling. The building has a new purpose as a bat roost and is home to brown long-eared bats.

The site is now the Hams Hall Distribution Park and is home to many large companies, including E.ON, Sainsbury’s and BMW.

In one corner of the park, in the old walled garden of the long-gone Hams Hall, is the Hams Hall Environmental Studies Centre, the current home of the Tame Valley Wetlands team.


▸ Visit the Britain from above website to see more aerial pictures of the Hams Hall power station.

▸ Visit the Power Stations Revisited website for a comprehensive range of photographs showing all aspects of the power station, from construction to demolition.

▸ Visit the 360cities website to see a fascinating 360° panorama of the inside of the Hams Hall substation control room, the only remaining power station building.

Where is it?

The Hams Hall Power Station was demolished in the 1990s and is now the location of the Hams Hall Distribution Park.

Drayton Turret Footbridge

This unusual Gothic-style footbridge was probably built in the 1830s by the celebrated architect Sir Robert Smirke, while constructing nearby Drayton Manor for local MP Sir Robert Peel (later to become Prime Minister). The manor house was demolished in 1929 and later became the site of the Drayton Manor Theme Park.

The Grade II listed footbridge is located near to the entrance of the Drayton Manor theme park and is among the most ornate bridges anywhere on Britain’s canals.

The bridge has been restored by the Canal & Rivers Trust as part of the Tame Valley Wetlands Scheme. Read more…


Where is it?

Whitacre Heath Pumping Station

The pumping station at Whitacre Heath waterworks was built around 1860 to supply fresh water to Birmingham.

The magnificent red-brick building was built in a Venetian Gothic-style and supplied up to six million gallons of fresh water per day, extracted from the River Blythe and the River Bourne. The building originally contained two large beam engines, designed by James Watt.

In 1904 Birmingham’s water supply was switched to the Elan Valley reservoir. The pumping station was then used to supply Coventry and Nuneaton.

The site is now operated by Severn Trent Water.


Where is it?

Birmingham & Fazeley Canal

The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal runs from central Birmingham to Fazeley Junction, just south of Tamworth, where it joins the Coventry Canal.

It is 15 miles long, has 38 locks and was completed in 1789 by chief engineer John Smeaton.

Curdworth Tunnel is the only purpose-built tunnel along the canal. It is 50 metres long and is an early example of tunnel engineering.

At Tameside, near Tamworth, the canal crosses over the River Tame on a short viaduct.

For more information about the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, visit the Canal & Rivers Trust website:


Where is it?

For Curdworth Tunnel, access the canal towpath from Wishaw Lane and head north.

Tamworth Castle

Tamworth Castle perches above the confluence of the River Anker and the River Tame, guarding the river crossing. It is one of the best preserved Norman motte and bailey castles in England.

The stone castle was built in the 12th century, replacing an earlier wooden structure.

During the English Civil War (1642 – 51) the castle was captured by Parliamentary forces after a short two-day siege and luckily avoided being demolished.

In 1891 the castle was purchased by Tamworth Corporation to mark Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.

For more information about the castle, and opening times, visit:


Where is it?

Middleton Hall

Middleton Hall is a Grade II moated manor house, parts of which date back to medieval times.

The estate was originally owned by the de Freville family until it passed to the Willoughbys in 1418. During the 17th century it was the home of the naturalist and mathematician Francis Willughby.

By the 20th century the house had fallen into disrepair, but was rescued in 1980 by a charitable trust. The trust has been restoring the buildings and grounds, including the 16th century jettied building (pictured), which was close to collapse.

The site now features a restored Tudor barn complex, with craft shops, a walled garden and the largest man-made lake in Warwickshire.

For more information about Middleton Hall, and opening times, visit:

Where is it?

Hams Hall

The Hams Hall Estate was owned by the Adderley family for over 260 years. The name of the estate was derived from the fact that the land lay in a great hook, or “ham”, of the River Tame.

Hams Hall was built in the late 1700s for Charles Adderley by Joseph Pickford, one of the leading architects of the 18th Century, on the site of an earlier Tudor mansion. It was described as “a charming country house”, three stories high and with seven bays.

Following Charles’ death in 1826, the house passed to his great nephew, also called Charles Adderley, who later became the 1st Baron Norton.

Charles Bowyer Adderley was a wealthy philanthropist. In 1848, he donated eight acres of land to Birmingham City Council to create Adderley Park in Saltley, Birmingham’s oldest public park. He also built a school, church and a housing estate for workers  He was MP for North Staffordshire for 37 years and pioneered self-government for parts of the British Empire, drafting the New Zealand constitution. He was also famed as an “agreeable host” and the house entertained many prominent guests, including four-times Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone.

The house was gutted by a devastating fire in 1894 but was rebuilt the following year as an exact replica of the original.

Did you know?
In 1852, Charles Adderley successfully sued the City of Birmingham over the poor state of the River Tame, which was dreadfully polluted by sewage and industrial waste. Despite winning his case, it took almost 150 years for the river to recover.

Following the death of Lord Norton in 1905, at the age of ninety one, the estate was sold at public auction to pay death duties. The estate was purchased by the City of Birmingham, who sold on the house to an American shipping magnate, Oswald Harrison. He demolished the building, sending the lower floors to America and using the front facade at Coates Manor, near Cirencester in Gloucestershire. It is now known as Bledisloe Lodge, a private residence in the grounds of the Royal Agricultural College.

The Hams Hall Estate

Move the slider to see how Hams Hall has changed between 1905 and 2016:
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Sir Robert Peel (1788 – 1850)

Sir Robert Peel was the MP for Tamworth from 1830 until his death in 1850. He twice became British Prime Minister and his period in government saw landmark social reforms and the repeal of the Corn Laws.

He was born in Bury, Lancashire, in 1788, the son of a wealthy cotton mill owner. In 1809 he entered parliament as a Tory MP and in 1822 became Home Secretary. He created the Metropolitan Police Force – the terms ‘bobbies’ and ‘peelers’ come from his name. He was Prime Minister from 1834 – 35 and again from 1841 – 1846.

From 1830, Peel lived at Drayton Manor, near Tamworth, which he inherited from his father. He demolished an earlier manor house and built a grand mansion, which was visited by Queen Victoria in 1849. The house was demolished in 1929 and is now the site of the Drayton Manor Theme Park.

Robert Peel died in 1850 after he sustained a serious injury falling from his horse.

John Seaton (1724 – 1792)

John Smeaton was chief engineer during the construction of the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal, which opened in 1789. He has been called ‘the father of civil engineering’ and is credited with the development of concrete as a modern building material.

He was born and educated in Leeds and briefly joined his father’s law firm before leaving to become a mathematical instrument maker. His passion for engineering saw him elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1753.

During a long and distinguished career, he designed and built canals, bridges, harbours and the third Eddystone Lighthouse. The Birmingham and Fazeley Canal was one of his last projects.

Francis Willughby (1635 – 1672)

Francis Willughby (or Willoughy) was a pioneering ornithologist who championed a scientific approach to the study of birds. Between 1663 and 1666, along with the naturalist John Ray, he travelled through Europe recording birds and organising species according to their physical characteristics.

He was born at Middleton Hall and educated at Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School in Sutton Coldfield and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he met John Ray. Sadly, on his return from Europe and before his ground breaking study could be published, he died from pleurisy at the age of 36.

Willughby is also famous for producing a scientific study of games, which includes one of the earliest accounts of football.