Birmingham pub where heavy metal music was born given listed status

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The Brummie pub where Ozzy Osbourne’s Black Sabbath played their first gig has been listed

A Birmingham pub dubbed the "birthplace of heavy metal" - as it is where Ozzy Osbourne's Black Sabbath played their first gig - has been given Grade-II listed status following advice from Historic England.

The Crown Inn, on Station Street in Birmingham city centre, hosted local bands which went on to become household names including Led Zeppelin and UB40. The historic pub also welcomed the likes of The Who, Status Quo, Duran Duran, Thin Lizzy, Marc Bolan, Supertramp and Judas Priest during its heyday.

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It is best known for being the venue where Ozzy’s Black Sabbath - called 'Earth' at the time - performed their first-ever gig at Henry’s Blueshouse upstairs. There have been fears for the building's future as it has laid vacant near Birmingham's New Street for almost a decade since 2014.

But the site is now Grade II listed having been granted the status by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England. Louise Brennan, Historic England regional director for the Midlands said: “The Crown is a one-of-a-kind building with history written in its walls.

"It’s a Birmingham cultural landmark that, fittingly is almost within sight of Ozzy the bull in New Street Station, and I’m really pleased it’s being recognised with Grade II Listed status. Heavy metal is a gift Birmingham gave to the world and The Crown is an integral part of that story.”

The Crown pub on Station Street in Birmingham city centre - where heavy metal was born as Black Sabbath played their first gig thereThe Crown pub on Station Street in Birmingham city centre - where heavy metal was born as Black Sabbath played their first gig there
The Crown pub on Station Street in Birmingham city centre - where heavy metal was born as Black Sabbath played their first gig there | SWNS

Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi said: "Cities all over the UK are protecting their musical heritage, Birmingham shouldn’t be left behind. 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."

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Last month, it emerged that plans to restore the pub on Station Street as a live music venue by an arts organisation had fallen apart. Birmingham Open Media (BOM) had been looking to give a new lease of life to the heritage pub, first built in 1881, after being bought by a Japanese development company.

But the pub's current owner would only sell it alongside a nearby car park and apartments, making it a high-value transaction "requiring public sector funding." Originally named the General Elliott and thought to have opened its doors in 1876, it was likely designed by the architect, Thomson Plevins.

Best known for Birmingham's Grade II-listed Grand Hotel, Plevins also designed the two other public houses on Station Street - the Market Hotel and the Victoria. As well as quenching the thirst of Brummies and showcasing rock stars from across the world, the building has had some other fascinating alternative uses. Local legend has it that the Crown’s cellars stored the remains of fallen soldiers during the First World War, which were then taken through a tunnel to St Martin’s Church.

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Its upper rooms are thought to have been accommodation for judges visiting Birmingham’s law courts. Ian Campbell – father of Ali, Duncan and Robin Campbell of UB40 – recorded the country’s first live folk album there in 1962.

As one of the few places with a license for live music in the city at the time, Henry’s Blueshouse, set up at the Crown in the late 1960s, established the venue as one of Birmingham’s most important cultural landmarks.

Jez Collins, music historian and founder of the Birmingham Music Archive, said: "The Crown holds a special place internationally for the music industry. It is the venue that Black Sabbath, then called Earth, first played the songs that would appear on their classic first two albums. In fact, the stage Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill first stood on is still there. This is a venue that deserves its place on Historic England’s listings.

"But we need more. We need to ensure The Crown re-opens, we need to bring it back to life as a cultural venue, a music venue and a place people will want to visit. This brilliant news is just the beginning in the renaissance of The Crown."

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