From 1920 until 1958 nowhere in the country welcomed more visitors than Castle Bromwich. The British Industries Fair in Castle Bromwich was the busiest exhibition centre in Britain.
(Like Castle Bromwich Station and Castle Bromwich aerodrome, the British Industries Fair was not actually in Castle Bromwich. It lay just north of the River Tame which marks the boundary. But what's a few hundred metres between friends?!)
Beginnings in London
The first British Industries Fair was held in London in 1915 following the outbreak of the First World War. Before the war many goods had been imported to Britain from Germany; the Fair was designed encourage British businesses to produce and sell the goods themselves.
The Fair at Castle Bromwich opened in 1920 in an old aircraft hangar at Castle Bromwich Aerodrome and was aimed at engineering companies. Castle Bromwich was chosen because it was in the centre of the country. Manufacturers of heavy goods from the Midlands and North of England could get here easily and there were rail and air services to the South of England.
The Fair was open for two weeks every year and each year it grew bigger. By the 1930s more than a thousand exhibitors showed off their goods at Castle Bromwich.
More and more buildings were put up alongside of the Birmingham-to-Derby railway line with an entrance on the Chester Road. Exhibitions were held at Castle Bromwich and in London for two weeks in Spring every year from 1920 until 1957 (except during World War 2) and were very popular with the general public.
The fair was known across the globe. An Australian newspaper described it as 'the greatest trade fair in the world.’
Special trains were run to the Fair from London as well as air services to Castle Bromwich Aerodrome. Many important guests came, including King George V and Queen Mary in 1928, and many stayed at Castle Bromwich Hall with Lord and Lady Bradford.
The purpose of the BIF was said to show the word what the words 'British Made' meant, 'showing the world the strength of British industry, the craftsmanship, the design and the
quality.' You could buy anything from a teddy bear to a needle to a piece of heavy machinery weighing many tonnes. And there were visitors from almost every country in the world.
Click the images below to enlarge them and read their captions.
Two of these are Castle Bromwich FIRSTS!
In the 1950s British firms began to take their goods to exhibitions abroad instead of expecting foreign visitors to come to Britain. Fewer companies wanted to exhibit at the BIF.
The last exhibition was held at Castle Bromwich in 1957.
In 1960 the land of the Castle Bromwich BIF was sold to Birmingham City Council in 1960 who began to build the Castle Vale housing estate, which was the largest in the country at the time.
But plans were already being made for a new exhibition centre in Birmingham. The National Exhibition Centre next to Birmingham Airport was opened by the Queen in 1976.
'A History of Castle Bromwich for Young People' written by William Dargue 2016 for the Castle Bromwich Bellringers.
We’ve been ringing here for 500 years and are keen to involve local people in our ancient art. Contact us via our church website, if you want learn to ring or visit the tower or have one of us talk to your group about the history of Castle Bromwich, our church or bellringing. Material on this site may be reused only for non-commercial purposes providing appropriate attribution is given (Creative Commons Licence Attribution NonCommercial 4.0) - details on the Contact page.