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The Jewellery Quarter

Follow the canal system into one of Birmingham's most famous areas.

Distance 3 miles (4.8km)

Minimum time 1hr 30min

Ascent/gradient 16ft (5m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Tow paths and street pavements, no stiles

Landscape Canals, historic buildings and manufacturing area

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer 220 Birmingham

Start/finish SP 066865

Dog friendliness On lead at all times

Parking Northwood Street pay-and-display car park

Public toilets Vyse Street

1 From the car park, walk down Northwood Street and go left into Caroline Street. At the end of the street continue ahead into the churchyard of St Paul's Church, the so-called Jeweller's Church, then walk up Ludgate Hill. Proceed over the Birmingham and Frazeley Canal and cross the footbridge over Great Charles Street Queensway. Continue up Church Street and into Colmore Row to see the impressive Birmingham Cathedral (St Philip's). Inside there are magnificent stained-glass windows by Sir Edward Burne-Jones.

2 Walk along Colmore Row into Victoria Square, passing by the Museum and Art Gallery/Town Hall and Council House. Bear right into Paradise Forum past the Central Library, then cross the walkway into Centenary Square to see the Repertory Theatre, the Hall of Memory and the International Convention Centre buildings. In Broad Street, go right and in 100yds (91m), right again to descend to the Worcester and Birmingham Canal and the Gas Street Basin. Cross the canal before going right along the tow path beneath the Bristol Street Tunnel to Water's Edge, passing the National Sea Life Centre in Brindley Place.

3 Continue along the tow path beneath Sheepcote Street Bridge to St Vincent Bridge. Cross it and descend to the tow path on the other side of the Birmingham Main Line Canal. There are usually narrowboats moored by the canal edge as you walk to the Old Turn Junction, where the Worcester and Birmingham, the Birmingham Main Line and the Birmingham and Frazeley canals meet.

4 Bear left at the junction and walk along the left-bank tow path of the Birmingham and Frazeley Canal, passing the National Indoor Arena building - ahead is the British Telecom Tower. Lock gates lead to Canning Walk with its many arches. Climb the steps under the road bridge, signed 'Jewellery Quarter', into Newhall Street.

5 Go left into Graham Street, then right along Frederick Street past the Argent Centre to see the Jewellery Quarter clock tower. The Chamberlain Clock was erected in 1903 to honour one of Birmingham's favourite sons and respected public servants, Joseph Chamberlain, who did much to champion the jewellers' cause. Turn left into Warstone Lane, then just after passing the gateway to the Warstone Lane Cemetery, go right up a pathway into the cemetery past the catacombs to Pitsford Street. Go right to Vyse Street, then left to the main Jewellery Quarter. Continue right, down Spencer Street, bear right into Caroline Street, then go left to return along Northwood Street to the car park.

In the 16th century, Birmingham was merely a market town in the heart of the English countryside, surrounded by forests and common land. The Industrial Revolution changed this for ever and, following huge expansion, Queen Victoria granted Birmingham a city charter in 1889. Expansion continued as it grew into the second largest city in Britain - the cradle of empire.

During this period the city also acquired an amazing network of canals - more even than Venice. These became the transport hub for the whole of England, allowing the economic transportation of manufactured goods far and wide. One of the 1,200 trades which flourished in the city was jewellery manufacturing. Although precious metals had been worked here since the 14th century, following Charles II's return from exile in France in the 17th century, the manufacture of fancy buttons and shoe buckles really took off. The new fashions spread and soon gold and silver were being used to make jewellery and trinket boxes called 'Brummagen toys'. The 18th century saw the development of the now famous Jewellery Quarter, and by the 20th century, some 30,000 people were involved in the business. Today it is still the number one place in the United Kingdom to buy jewellery and the network of streets and craftworkers' shops has even been designated a conservation area.

This walk takes in the Jewellery Quarter, and includes a tour of some of the superb buildings which survive in the city centre, as well as visiting the canal system which formed the transport hub.

Where to eat and drink

As you pass close to St Paul's Square, call in at The Rope Walk for a pint and a snack - look out for the chef's special. Children and guide dogs are welcome. There are numerous eating places around Brindley Place and the Gas Street Basin. If you fancy a steak try The Wharf (children and guide dogs also welcome).

What to look for

Look out for the Birmingham 'Anchor' mark on jewellery. Most of the parliamentary business connected with a Bill for appointing Assay Masters in Birmingham in 1772 was transacted at the Crown and Anchor tavern in the Strand in London, hence the symbol.

While you're there

Visit Birmingham's National Sea Life Centre at Water's Edge, Brindley Place. This is a children's paradise with over 60 displays, including an Otter Sanctuary, The Titanic Adventure and Kingdom of the Seahorses. You can also take a boat trip around the canals on the waterbus.


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