Campus History

Standing proudly at the heart of our historic campus is the Joseph Chamberlain Memorial clock tower, or Old Joe, as you will probably know him. Based on the Torre del Mangia in Siena, and built in 1908, the tower is the tallest free standing clock tower in the world. Today Old Joe is flanked by our main library and other exciting campus developments.

When Sir Aston Webb envisaged the buildings which formed the earliest part of the campus during the early years of the 20th Century, his striking clock tower formed the centrepiece, as it does today. The first redbrick buildings at the heart of campus were designed to express pride and confidence. Viewed from the Bristol Road and the University’s pitches below, the buildings have been likened to both a hilltop town or a Byzantine monastery. These first buildings were completed in 1909, some nine years after the University was established and given its Royal charter by Queen Victoria. The University’s founder Joseph Chamberlain remarked: “When these buildings are complete, they will be the best of their kind in Europe and perhaps the world.”


University of Birmingham in the 1930s

In the 1920s, architect William Haywood paid careful attention to these views when he created walkways of tree-lined boulevards from the ornate gates at the north of campus to the clock tower; the space which will become the Green Heart. However, in the late 1950s, the views were curtailed with the completion of the former library across the boulevard. This was followed by a car park at the northern most tip of the route.

Fast forward to 2017, and a range of architectural styles can be seen across campus, reflecting the eras of expansion as the University has grown to its current size. The new Library is one of our newest landmarks and it will eventually border the Green Heart. The space will once again open up those views, once thought to be lost forever.

Be part of the Green Heart journey here.

UoB Green Heart team