Why is it called the Bullring? History behind the Birmingham shopping centre

The bullring, or bullring as it is stylized today, has been an important hub for the city of Birmingham since the Middle Ages.

Located on the edge of the town’s sandstone ridge towards Digeth, the bullring is opposite the neo-Gothic St. Martin’s Church.

It is now home to some of the largest retail brands in the world and is the UK’s largest downtown shopping destination.

Although the goods bought and sold may have changed over the centuries, their role remains important at the heart of the city’s trading activities.

However, how the Bull Ring got its iconic name remains a mystery to much of the public, including locals.

Why is it called a bullring?

The bullring takes its name from its history of bull baiting and slaughter.

Around 1160, a charter granted the Lord of the Manor of Berm, Peter de Bermingham, permission to hold a weekly market in his water-buried manor, where he imposed duties on goods and products sold. This was on what is now the Bull Ring.

First referred to as “Corn Cheaping” in relation to the corn market, the Bull Ring referred to a green in the market.

The “ring” part of the current name of the place refers to an iron hoop to which the bulls were tied for baiting before slaughter.

Bear hunting became a popular “sport” in the 16th century. Bullring bystanders watched dogs attack a defenseless bull, and some mistakenly believed that he was tenderizing the meat.

The bull hunt ended at the Bull Ring in 1798 when the latter moved to Handsworth, but the place retained its now famous name.

Archaeological evidence on the bullring

During the renovation of the bullring in 2000, archaeological excavations were carried out before the work began.

Finds from the 12th century have been discovered at the site where Selfridges are today. It turned out to be a boundary separating the homes from a wildlife park now occupied by Moor Street Station.

Numerous leather tanning pits were uncovered along with failed pottery shards, clay pots and molten metal.

From the bullring to the bullring

The first Bull Ring shopping center stood on the site for 36 years, from 1964 until it was demolished in 2000. The concrete architecture of the much maligned 1960s building had aged quickly.

In its place a listed new shopping center was built and the name Bullring was stylized for the opening in 2003.

The bullring has aged much better than its predecessor, and although it is now 17 years old, it still looks and feels like a modern evolution.


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