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Friday, 28 October 2011

#028 James Brindley, Birmingham : 1986 to 2011

This is something of a sad tale. When Birmingham woke up to the potential of the canals in the city in the 1980's Gas Street Basin was one of the first parts to be opened up and developed. Part of this development was the James Brindley, a brand new pub on two levels with a nice airy feel. It was named after the first of Britain's great canal engineers.

James Brindley built the very first British canal, the Bridgewater Canal in 1761. He then went on to the Trent & Mersey Canal including the feat of constructing Harecastle Tunnel which opened in 1777. In all he was responsible for building 365 miles of canals and also for the design of the narrow lock that is the feature of many canals. He also built the original main line canal from Birmingham to Wolverhampton. The pub was built at the staring point of this canal. I'm not sure exactly when it opened, but our first canal visit was in 1986.
This photo was taken on Thursday 31st July 1986 near the end of our journey from Earlswood to Nottingham and back.

We were back again in 1987 on our summer trip that took us to Worcester, Market Drayton, Middlewich and back to Earlswood.
This was taken on Thursday 16th July 1987 and shows the view from Bridge Street rather than the canalside perspective.

Our next visit to the James Brindley was in 1995 as we passed through Birmingham near the end our trip from Winkwell on the Grand Union canal to Emma Jane's new (and current) home at Lapworth.
This was from Wednesday 6th September 1995 and best shows what a great canalside setting the James Brindley has. At this time the pub was still thriving, but soon the competition from the Broad Street area would take its toll.

This again shows the street entry view and was taken on Saturday 26th May 2001. I remember being surprised by how quiet it was on a Saturday night when the 'pubs' along Broad Street were so busy. Obviously the revellers want loud music and cheap 'shots' rather than a normal pub!

EDIT - 12th Feb 2012.

As I was searching through my photos for more pubs I came across this photo from 2006 that I'd missed in my collection!
This was taken on Thursday 7th September 2006 and the pub appears to be thriving at that time!

And so we move on to 2011 and this is the scene that presented itself on Tuesday 6th September 2011.
I'm not sure how long it has been boarded up, but it is sad to see a pub that has been open less than 30 years in such a state. Unless it turns itself into a 'nightclub' style venue I don't see too much hope for it judging by the way Broad Street has gone!


  1. How sad... I spent many great times in the James Brindley as I used to work neraby on Broad Street. Went back to Birmingham for the first time in 15 years in 2010 - only to find it closed, shuttered up and the basin completely deserted... Such a waste.

  2. I was on a boat in the basin the night it opened, i can remember a young male being so drunk he decided to go for a swim. Canal water isnt the best for swimming in, when you realise male boaters have always topped the leval up when they need to go. Hope he wasn't to ill.

  3. It's still boarded up, but...

    June 2015; Living Ventures chief executive Tim Bacon says: “We opened bars in Brindley Place and Broad Street in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but found it a very tough city to trade in. Broad Street was particularly rough and we bypassed Birmingham from then on to focus on the likes of Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds.”

    He adds: “When the Temple Street opportunity came up I looked again at the demographics and decided I had dismissed Birmingham for too long. The city has changed so much and it astounds me this part of the market has not been catered for.”

    So impressed is Bacon that he is looking to spend £7m extending Living Ventures’ reach to four other sites across the city. The group has purchased the James Brindley canalside pub between Brindleyplace and The Mailbox. It is on the verge of signing deals to bring Alchemist and Gusto to Birmingham, with the potential for Australasia and Grand Pacific to follow suit.

    1. That's very interesting, thank you. I'll keep my eye open for developments.

      It's been five years since I started this blog and I'll be revisiting all of the Birmingham pubs to produce an update on each so, perhaps, the James Brindley might be open again (in whatever guise!).

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  5. I spoke with a boatman at the basin yesterday who told me that work will be starting on the James Brindley before Christmas and should be ready for opening around April 2017.

  6. The refurbished pub opens officially this coming Monday, transformed into 'The Canal House'. So great to see such an ugly, dated building reinvented instead of demolished!