It was the place where they could have filmed the interior scenes for Clint Eastwood’s Escape from Alcatraz movie and nobody would have noticed any difference.

Fletchers Walk was the shopping centre walkway with the capacity to raise the hairs on the back of your neck even in the middle of the day – especially as it even became home to a gun shop called the Birmingham Armoury.

But today, one of the city’s last Brutalist relics of the 1970s, is no more.

The former link from New Street / Paradise Street has now been reduced to rubble by demolition teams working on the £700 million redevelopment of Paradise

All that remains is a pile of rubble ­– with a yellow DSM demolition digger sitting on top of it like a big cat that has got the cream.

A DSM caterpillar digger on top of the rubble of the old Fletchers Walk
A DSM caterpillar digger on top of the rubble of the old Fletchers Walk

Until it was closed in the late autumn of 2015, Fletchers Walk was home to various shops over the years including restaurants like Casa Paco, a vegetarian cafe, and the Body Garden Tattoo parlour.

It was also a way into the Birmingham Conservatoire / Adrian Boult Hall above – hardly the kind of setting to inspire the next generation of musicans and composers.

Because the only other pedestrian route from Victoria Square to Centenary Square was through Paradise Forum at the heart of the old Central Library, Fletchers Walk was a well-used link.

The remains of Fletchers Walk below the former Birmingham Conservatoire building, viewed from Paradise Street
The remains of Fletchers Walk below the former Birmingham Conservatoire building, viewed from Paradise Street

But it rarely felt particularly safe because you wondered why anybody else would be down there with you.

It wasn’t underground, but with the back end of Birmingham Conservatoire weighing down from above it might as well have been just another city subway.

Flatenned - Fletchers Walk
Flatenned - Fletchers Walk

Once Paradise Forum was about to be closed and the demolition of Central Library began two years ago, Fletchers Walk was given a new lease of life.

The shops were cleared out and the space enlarged.

The walls were lined with glossy boards promoting how the £700 million Paradise redevelopment scheme would be ‘History in the making’.

The remains of Fletchers Walk, looking towards Alpha Tower
The remains of Fletchers Walk, looking towards Alpha Tower

Any remaining walls and pillars not being used to advertise Brum’s bright new future, were painted white and better lighting was installed.

For the first time, Fletchers Walk felt safer – but not safe.

Once the Central Library site was closed off, some of the street people who used to sleep there moved into Fletchers Walk.

View towards the Big Brum clock tower beyond the remains of Fletchers Walk
View towards the Big Brum clock tower beyond the remains of Fletchers Walk

Then tragedy struck.

In April, 2017, Damien Deenan died after smoking a synthetic high known as a black mamba, a Class B controlled drug.

Fletchers Walk was then adorned with floral tributes, stones, candles and a rosary necklace in memory of a man who had been known to volunteers at Helping the Homeless in Birmingham.

Two others were left seriously ill, victims of a society that was once content to send its pedestrians into underground tubes across the city to the point that they would be in fear of their own shadows.

A 'Hidden Spaces' view of Fletchers Walk taken from Birmingham Town Hall in 2014
A 'Hidden Spaces' view of Fletchers Walk taken from Birmingham Town Hall in 2014

During November and December 2015 and 2016, Fletchers Walk was used like never before.

By sheer necessity, rather than choice, it had become main link from the Birmingham German Market in Victoria Square through to Centenary Square’s then home to the Christmas Craft Market (cancelled this year because of the £10 million remodelling of the square) and Ice Skate Birmingham’s rink and big wheel (relocated to Eastside Green off Park Street this year).

The entrance to Fletchers Walk in November, 2015
The entrance to Fletchers Walk in November, 2015

First-time visitors would often walk through Fletchers Walk and then turn right along the side of Chamberlain House (1985-87) above, only to then struggle up the steps to Centenary Bridge en rote to Centenary Square. Not idea for those with prams or the elderly.

The easier route was to continue through the subterranean ‘Easy Row’ walkway beneath the A38 Queensway and to walk up a sloping path next to Alpha Tower to reach the former Municipal Bank on the opposite side of Broad Street to Centenary Square.

Pillars and the community - inside Fletchers Walk in November 2015 after the shops had been demolished inside
Pillars and the community - inside Fletchers Walk in November 2015 after the shops had been demolished inside

Whichever route you chose it wasn’t that easy or obvious so we made a video about it.

In mid-November 2017, a new walkway called Centenary Way was opened, which finally reconnected the just off Victoria Square entrance for the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to Centenary Square.

Fletchers Walk was to the left of the old Birmingham Conservatoire block, leading to Alpha Tower
Fletchers Walk was to the left of the old Birmingham Conservatoire block, leading to Alpha Tower

The next part of the demolition will be to knock down the remaining block of the Birmingham Conservatoire offices.

But with the Paradise redevelopment project expecting to take a decade to fully complete from start to finish, it will be some years yet before the city centre has been put fully back together again.

Shops that used to be housed in Fletchers Walk

Brazilian Cesar De Cesaro outside Body Garden Tattoo when it was in Fletchers Walk
Brazilian Cesar De Cesaro outside Body Garden Tattoo before moving from Fletchers Walk to Sheepcote Street

The shopping centre was a chillingly-ugly by-product of the 1960-71 construction of Sir Herbert Manzoni’s inner ring road system and Brutalist city architect John Madin’s Paradise Circus masterplan from 1965 – which saw the

Central Library

officially opened on January 12 1974 by The Right Hon Harold Wilson MP, two months before he became Prime Minister again.

Shops in its later years included Spectrum arts supplies, games and puzzles store Wayland’s Forge and City Dry Cleaners.

Caso Paco, Fletchers Walk in December, 1995
Caso Paco, Fletchers Walk in December, 1995

There was also Theo’s Salon / International Hair, Newsflow, Travel Club Elite and the stytlish Body Garden Tattoo parlour which is now on Sheepcote Street.

Catering establishments included Zagora Restaurant, Chez Amis, French Mustards and Festival.

For rock fans, there was the Xposure Rock Cafe, too.

Chez Amis was at 7 Fletchers Walk
Chez Amis was at 7 Fletchers Walk

Reviewing the walkway on Yelp.co.uk in 2012, Stanley W wrote: “I feel bad for any store that is in Fletchers Walk. It’s like a prison for shops, with it’s dark dank walkway, almost impossible to find or get into.

“In the years I have visited Fletchers Walk I have witnessed various crimes from harmless graffiti (quite nice too) to things George Michael might get arrested for (back when the public toilets were there).

An October 2003 picture of Chez Amis at 7 Fletchers Walk
An October 2003 picture of Chez Amis at 7 Fletchers Walk

“Oh, and I was flashed once too. I was baffled more than anything.”

Adrienne F added: “Fletcher’s Walk is SO dark and dingy, I find myself scurrying through even in the middle of the day as it has an air of ‘crime drama’ about it.”