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HS2 uncovers world’s oldest railway roundhouse at Curzon Street site

HS2 Ltd has unearthed what is thought to be the world’s oldest railway roundhouse at the construction site of its Birmingham Curzon Street station. The roundhouse was situated

adjacent to the old Curzon Street station, which was the first railway terminus serving the centre of Birmingham and built during a period of great significance and growth for the city. Built to a design by the 19th

Century engineer Robert Stephenson, the roundhouse was operational on 12 November, 1837 – meaning the recently-discovered building is likely to predate the current “titleholder” of world’s oldest in Derby by almost two years. HS2’s initial programme of trial

trenching at Curzon Street revealed the remains of the station’s roundhouse, exposed toward the south-eastern corner of the site. The surviving remains include evidence of the base of the central turntable, the exterior wall and the three-foot deep radial inspection pits which surrounded the turntable. The 19th Century station at

Curzon Street is among the earliest examples of mainline railway termini and the limited later development of the site means that any surviving remains of the early station represents a unique opportunity to investigate a major early railway terminus in its entirety. As the HS2 project heads

History uncovered: The roundhouse and other items of archaeological significance at Curzon Street

‘The 19th Century station at Curzon Street is among the earliest examples of mainline railway termini’

towards Main Works Civils, the final archaeological excavations on the site are imminent. Initially providing passenger

services, Curzon Street consisted of two station termini, servicing the London and Birmingham Railway (L&BR) and the Grand Junction Railway (GJR). It was then converted to a single goods station following the opening of Birmingham New Street Station in 1854. It operated until the 1960s. Beginning at Curzon Street

Station, Birmingham, and finishing

at Euston Station in London, the 112- mile L&BR took 20,000 men nearly five years to build. It has been estimated that to build the railway, construction workers shifted more material than the ancient Egyptians did when they constructed the pyramids. The roundhouse, and specifically the turntable, was used to turn the engines so locomotives could return down the line. Engines were also stored and serviced in these facilities. The L&BR terminus opened to

passengers in 1838 and was fronted

by the grand ‘Principal Building’ which survives in situ (as do elements of the GJR neo-classical screen wall). This Grade I listed building represents the world’s oldest surviving piece of monumental railway architecture. Jon Millward, historic

environment advisor at HS2 Ltd, said: “HS2 is offering us the opportunity to unearth 1,000s of years of British history along the route and learn about our past. The discovery of what could be the world’s oldest railway roundhouse on the site of the new HS2 station in Birmingham city centre is extraordinary and fitting as we build the next generation of Britain’s railways.”

CBSO offers free tickets to NHS workers

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) has announced that it will make up to 5,000 free tickets available to NHS workers, once concerts resume following the coronavirus pandemic. The CBSO, including the CBSO Chorus, Youth Orchestra and Youth

Chorus, serve communities across the West Midlands, and have launched the initiative as a way of thanking the NHS heroes working tirelessly at this time. Tickets will be made available for selected future concerts at venues including Birmingham Symphony Hall and Town Hall and the CBSO Centre, with up to 5,000 tickets set aside. NHS workers can register their interest on the CBSO website. Full details

of available concerts will be announced at a later date. To mark the announcement, members of the CBSO Chorus have released a video performing ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ from their


homes. The CBSO Chorus is one of the world’s great choirs – and around 10 per cent of the Chorus members themselves work for the NHS. CBSO chief executive, Stephen Maddock, said: “While we’re doing

everything we can to keep music alive through online and digital work, we can’t wait to get back to performing for our live audiences once again here

in Birmingham. And when we do, we would like to say a huge thank you to NHS workers by offering them tickets to the next concerts in our centenary season and beyond.”

* Birmingham’s REP is also playing its part in the pandemic crisis. Its wardrobe team, led by Kay Wilton and Caroline Mirfin, is helping the NHS by turning its attention form costumer making to turning out gowns and scrubs for the staff at Heartlands and Solihull Hospitals.

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