Local man offers insight to potential tunnel naming blunder

Queen Elizabeth II in Birmingham, opening the Queensway tunnel in Birmingham on April 7, 1971

Queen Elizabeth II in Birmingham, opening the Queensway tunnel in Birmingham on April 7, 1971

A Warwickshire octogenarian has offered what could be a conclusive insight into an episode that allegedly led to all of Birmingham’s inner ring road being mistakenly named after the Queen – claiming it was a civic rather than a Royal blunder.

Peter Rimmell said he was in no doubt there was a mix-up over the naming of the Queensway tunnel and the details of what happened were revealed by a close friend of his, the then Lord Mayor Stan Bleyer.

Mr Rimmell’s claims back those made recently by retired police officer Val Bradin, who told how Her Majesty renamed several miles of inner ring road in her own honour by mistake.

Legend has persisted for more than 40 years that instead of naming the Queensway tunnel under Birmingham in her honour, Her Majesty named the entire ring road around the city centre as the ‘Queensway’.

It has been said the mix-up prompted red-faced council chiefs to quickly rename all the parts that made up Birmingham’s inner ring road, based on the fact that once the Queen had named the road it couldn’t be altered.

It meant a long list of ‘Queensway’ rather than ‘Ringway’ locations came to make up the inner ring road including St Chad’s, Lancaster Street, Paradise Circus, Great Charles, Suffolk Street, Holloway Circus, Smallbrook, St Martin’s, Moor Street, James Watt and Masshouse Circus.

Mr Rimmell, aged 85, who lives in Tanworth-in-Arden, said what actually happened on April 7 1971 was revealed in an off-the-cuff conversation at the Lord Mayor’s home in Kings Heath, later the same day.

“Stan Bleyer, who was the Lord Mayor of Birmingham was a personal friend of mine,” said Mr Rimmell. “I first met him when he was a councillor and he asked me to run a youth club. We were friends for many years.

“On this particular day after the visit I had called round to see him and he said ‘what do you think Pete old lad – the town clerk came in today and said Lord Mayor we have to rename the whole of the Ringway’.

“The town clerk said the Queen had said she had been for an inaugural drive around the Queensway, ‘so we have had to go and rename the whole bloody lot’.”

Although Mr Rimmell did not have the chance to speak to the then town clerk, TH Parkinson, he said he had no doubt Coun Bleyer had offered an accurate version of events, particularly as he had been in the company of the Queen during her visit.

“They had a platform on Ludgate Hill as it comes out of Great Charles Street and the Queen and the Lord Mayor were sat on the platform,” added Mr Rimmell.

“When they had finished that business they went and had a chat with people.

“They took her for an inaugural drive and they took her all around the Ringway and she said ‘I’ve been for an inaugural drive around the Queensway’.

“The fact they took her around the whole of the town centre meant they came to the conclusion they had to rename the whole lot.”

Mr Rimmell said Coun Bleyer remained unfazed by the blunder and clearly saw the funny side.

“He was a wonderful man and on this occasion he was highly amused.

“The papers recently said it was a Royal blunder, but it wasn’t a Royal blunder, if anything it was the civic authorities in Birmingham.”

Mr Bradin, who is originally from County Wexford and spent 26 years in the Midlands police force said he had tried to find further evidence on the Queensway legend but his quest had thus far proved fruitless.

A traffic patrol sergeant at the time, he said after it had happened no one wanted to draw attention to the fact and the name was retained.

He told how he remembered the Queen was due to have been driven through the Queensway tunnel as part of the naming ceremony, but her route ended up being longer than planned.

“We went through the tunnel to make sure it was clear and that it was safe,” he said. “Whoever was driving the Queen took her around the whole lot – instead of just driving through the tunnel.

“The rest of it was meant to be the ‘Ringway’ but they took her around the whole lot.