Protection for Birmingham venue could thwart high-rise redevelopment plans

A Birmingham city-centre pub that hosted early shows by heavy-metal legends Black Sabbath has been awarded grade II-listed status.

Government heritage adviser Historic England confirmed that the Crown Hotel, in Station Street, had been granted protected status on Friday last week.

It said the 1870s building, attributed to Thomson Plevins, had architectural interest because of its well-composed facade and “unusually curved” styling; historic interest because it is where Black Sabbath shaped their sound; and group value because of its setting.

The corner pub, which is opposite the south entrance to New Street Station, is a few doors up from the grade II-listed Old Rep Theatre, designed by SN Cooke, and nearer still to the Electric Cinema – which was Britain’s oldest working cinema until last month, when it closed. Historic England is understood to be considering an application to list the cinema.

Concerns have mounted in recent weeks over proposals reportedly being worked up to redevelop Station Street with a 50-storey storey tower featuring in some claims.

The street is just over 100m north of Smallbrook Queensway, where Corstorphine & Wright has now twice received the backing of Birmingham City Council for plans to demolish the 1960s Ringway Centre and replace it with a development featuring towers of up to 56 storeys.

Crown Birmingham 4

Source: Birmingham Open Media

The bar area of the Crown Hotel

While listing for the Crown will make it harder for Station Street to be redeveloped, the building has been disused since 2014 and plans to bring it back into use as a cultural venue recently fell through because of the city council’s ongoing financial crisis.

Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi said the Crown had been instrumental in the band’s development and needed to be preserved.

“Cities all over the UK are protecting their musical heritage, Birmingham shouldn’t be left behind,” he said.

“The Crown has huge significance to us and many other successful acts. It was one of very few venues that supported the emerging rock scene with a blues club and was home to our first ever gig.”

Crown Birmingham 3 KN

Source: Karen Newman

Part of the Crown Hotel in Station Street, Birmingham

Black Sabbath first played at the Crown in September 1968, when the band was named Earth. They performed at the venue more than anywhere else as young band, shaping the material that would go onto their first two albums.

Historic England regional director for the Midlands Louise Brennan described the Crown as a ”one-of-a-kind” building that played an integral role in the creation of heavy-metal music.

Other famous names who played at the Crown include The Who, Led Zeppelin mainstays Robert Plant and John Bonham, Jethro Tull, Judas Priest, Rory Gallagher, Christine McVie, Status Quo and Thin Lizzy.

The venue later hosted punk band GBH, ska act the Beat, and UB40.

Station Street 1

Station Street in Birmingham, with the Old Rep theatre and the Electric Cinema