Birmingham Hockley flyover murals get listed status

Artworks by sculptor William Mitchell, designed to encourage public interaction, earn Grade-II accolade

A group of concrete murals on a flyover in Birmingham, known as a “brutalist climbing wall”, have been given listed status.

The three-banked mural walls flanking the entrance to the Hockley flyover underpass feature geometric shapes and abstract patterns and were designed by the sculptor William Mitchell to encourage public interaction.

They recently attracted attention when climbers from the University of Birmingham mountaineering clubs plotted bouldering routes across the structures.

After an application by the Twentieth Century Society, the murals have been listed at Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.

Mitchell, who died in 2020 aged 94, had described Hockley flyover as “one of the greatest things that ever happened in this country because it was the first of its kind and certainly of its scale”.

Louise Brennan, the Midlands regional director at Historic England, said: “The murals at Hockley Circus are among the best examples of William Mitchell’s work and showcase his playful and lively style to great effect.”

Two public artworks in Stevenage have also been given Grade II-listed status.

The first is a colourful tiled mural by the Hungarian-born artist Gyula Bajo at the former Co-operative House, the first large retail premises to open in Stevenage town centre, in June 1958.

It is the earliest of four large, surviving murals by the Co-op group from the 50s and 60s, and depicts the “four cornerstones of a balanced economy – industry, commerce, transport and agriculture”.

A two-part sculptural wall mural at Park Place underpass in Stevenage, called Scenes Of Contemporary Life, has also been given Grade II status.

Designed by Mitchell, it depicts social, political and cultural events of the day, including a US air force space rocket and cosmonauts in a Soviet landing capsule, alongside scenes of everyday life in Stevenage.

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The Twentieth Century Society said it welcomed the mural listings but had concerns that proposed regeneration plans for Stevenage New Town would see a number of important buildings demolished or drastically altered, and would risk “undermining the coherence and integrity of the historic town centre”.

The heritage minister Nigel Huddleston said: “These three iconic public artworks are seen and enjoyed by thousands of people every day, bringing the arts to everyone.

“It is fantastic that these works have been listed in recognition of the important contribution they make to their local area and to protect them for the future.”


Jessica Murray Midlands correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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