Archives for category: Heritage buildings

Gone but not forgotten – but will Birmingham ever learn?

Mary Keating, from campaign group Brutiful Birmingham, asks why Birmingham seems to dislike its Brutalist history so much

 Birmingham’s Central Library before demolition

Read on here: https://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/john-madins-central-library-january-2018/

 

 

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‘Visitor Information Centre’ is a name that kept the writer away for many months anticipating only leaflets and the usual memorabilia made in China.

What a delight to find that most of the offerings are skilfully handcrafted treasures made by Friends of the Carillon, local artists recording Bournville village scenes and working in wood, glass metal and wool. Some items are ‘bought in’ but selected with great care. There are also books and recordings of the carillon; DVDs for sale include a Christmas selection and the Summer Concert featuring Frank Steijns and the carillon, transmitted live from Maastricht.

To exhibit and sell their work the Friends of the Carillon agree to serve for two hours each week in the centre and donate a percentage of the sale price to the Carillon. A minimum of 20% of all proceeds goes to supporting carillon activities and promotion.

The Carillon Visitor Centre is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 4.30pm (except for the month of January). It makes a vital contribution to the maintenance of the nearby carillon.

Formerly known as the Rest House, the building was designed by the architect who also drew plans for workers’ housing and two Bournville schools, William Alexander Harvey. He aimed to design a building that “would be in entire harmony with its surroundings”, basing it on a seventeenth-century Yarn Market hall at Dunster in Somerset.

George and Elizabeth Cadbury celebrated their silver wedding anniversary in April 1913 and the Rest House was built to commemorate the occasion.

It was commissioned by the employees of Cadbury Brothers Ltd at Bournville and in all parts of the world as “A lasting memorial of esteem and affection as an expression of gratitude for the unceasing interest in their welfare and in admiration of manifold services to the world at large”.

Above, crowds gathered for the opening of the building designed to be used as a place of rest “providing kind shelter and seating”. More photographs and information here.

The Rest House was closed for many years but protected from vandalism and abuse. It was brought back into use by Bournville Village Trust and the vision and sheer hard work of its manager, Joy Workman, who is married to Trevor, the Bournville Carilloneur  (left).

In November 1997 the building was re-opened by Robin Cadbury as the Carillon Visitor Centre and used as a focal point for the carillon – another valued legacy from the founder of Bournville.

The Carillon Visitor Centre is also the place where tours start to Bournville carillon (left). The carillon, a rare and unusual musical instrument, has been in use since the 15th century and looks like an organ. Carillons have a minimum of 23 bells and played from a ‘baton’ keyboard.

The instrument and the carillon art are most commonly found in Belgium, Holland, France but are a rarity in the UK. Read more on the website and see the photos taken by Amanda Slater.

The tours take place on Saturdays at 12 noon and 3pm. Visits are free of charge but donations are invited in support of the “Friends of Bournville Carillon”, a self-financing Charitable Trust. Booking is advised as numbers on each tour are strictly limited: 07986 552770, email bournvillecarillon@hotmail.co.uk, or book at The Visitor Centre.

 

 

 

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One of the charms of Stirchley is the active community bonding between many of its residents, regardless of age, income or education.

This may be seen by attending its neighbourhood forum, its market, its local history group, its renovated park, its library support group and many more activities housed in the re-opened Stirchley baths community centre (below) and the former Stirchley Institute.

Samuel Clark, development director at Seven Capital, looks forward to the ‘gentrification of this important Birmingham suburb’.

Gentrification (aka more expensive ‘aspirational’ housing) – the influx of more affluent people concentrated in a block on the nine-acre site on the corner of Hazelwell Lane and Pershore Road – would be a retrograde step.

Many who admire this active and creative neighbourhood, hope that developer Seven Capital, with bases in the city, London and Dubai, will really listen to ‘local stakeholders’ and, together with the council, design plans which include affordable, social and more profitable ‘gentrified’ housing for the new ‘mixed-use scheme’.

As one resident said on Stirchley online:

Mr Clark, please note. An appropriate scheme would counteract ‘Which’s designation of Seven Capital’s ‘worst case’ offer of housing as an investment opportunity.

No more empty ‘investment’ flats should be seen in the city; let house-building mean home-building.

 

 

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Bournville Village Trust has agreed to acquire and manage some of the 138 homes at the Manor House site, which is being developed by Crest Nicholson. Work on the site will also include plans to rebuild Northfield Manor House, off Bristol Road South, which was demolished after being severely damaged in an arson attack three years ago.

Northfield Manor House was the residence of the Trust’s founder George, and his wife Elizabeth, until her death in 1951. In 1953 it became a hall of residence for the university, but has been empty since 2007 as the University decided it was too expensive to upgrade.

It is not legally listed with English Heritage, but has an informal grade A status on Birmingham City Council’s local advisory list of historic buildings. The English Heritage website (no general access) records that a farm house, part of the Manor of Northfield belonging to the Jervoise family, was recorded as being on the site circa 1750. In 1809 the estate was purchased by Daniel Ledsam, a London merchant. It is believed that he made alterations to the house and was responsible for the current main building.

This picture came from coverage on this site in 2014.

Local historian Dr Carl Chinn urged the university to stop the demolition of the fire-damaged building and consult local people through community groups and their elected representatives over the future of this building. He advocated restoration of the building, in partnership with the community.

The University’s vice-principal, Professor Adam Tickell, said that the planning application had been revived and now included provision for the rebuilding of the manor house, despite the demolition of most of the structure.

The Manor House is to be rebuilt in the original style with Georgian and Arts & Crafts facades and the decorative details of the exterior of the building in stone and brickwork, render and timber. The form and proportions of the 18th century manor will be retained but the interior will be divided into apartments.

 

 

 

 

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People passing the illuminated Bournville factory buildings late at night will have noted its 24-hour operation – evidence of a thriving enterprise.

The factory buildings in 1932: unchanged exterior

The FT’s John Murray Brown (paywall) reports from Bournville that Mondelez has completed a two-year modernisation programme, investing £75m in the chocolate maker’s flagship factory: “Shiny new production equipment has been installed at the “factory in a garden” built by Quaker George Cadbury in 1879 alongside houses for its workers who had relocated from Birmingham’s industrial belt.

Under the agreement, 1,300 workers at Bournville and two other Cadbury factories in the UK will receive a pay rise of 3.2% in 2017-18, and an increase in line with inflation in 2018-19. Joe Clarke of Unite says this is considerably higher than other recent settlements in the food and drinks industry, which have been about 2.4%.

Mr Clarke highlighted the chocolate maker’s “strong ethical traditions: “Cadbury has a long history of good industrial relations. We’ve got records which go back to the tea break agreement of 1922.” Cadbury established works councils, with management and employee representative meeting to discuss company plans, back in the 1930s. It was also one of the first companies to offer sick pay and pension rights for women.

The improvement in industrial relations at Cadbury came after controversy when the company was bought by Kraft Foods of the US in 2010. The Takeover Panel, the custodian of UK rules on mergers and acquisitions, after reneging on a promise not to shut Cadbury’s Somerdale plant at Keynsham near Bristol but it was made clear that the original decision had been made by Cadbury in 2007.

There have been 200 voluntary redundancies at Bournville under the modernisation programme, bringing the manufacturing workforce down to about 800. The four new production lines have led to ‘dramatic’ productivity improvements closing the gap with Mondelez’ German plant. In an embedded video, David Bailey, professor of industrial strategy at Aston University business school, said, “We hadn’t seen significant investment at Bournville for a long time. It was pretty dilapidated. Old plant and equipment. The focus on productivity is the only way any company manufacturing in a relatively high-cost economy can survive in the long run”.

The changes at Bournville mean manufacturing is assured “for a generation not just for the short term”, according to Glenn Caton, president of Mondelez’s northern Europe operations.  

 

 

 

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Moseley Road Baths is one of the nation’s most significant heritage swimming pools – it is the oldest Grade II* Listed baths still open for public swimming. Last year nearly 80,000 people swam in this community pool.

The Baths were earmarked for closure last July but a community campaign and the support of heritage organisations led to Birmingham City Council granting a reprieve.

Next April Moseley Road Baths action group, who have formed a Community Interest Company (CIC), will take over the running of the baths from Council. The company’s business plan shows that MRBCIC can break even within three years but in the first year it needs to raise £75,000 to help to pay for essentials like staffing, heat, light and water. The company is seeking grant funding for some of this, but the group is also calling on support from anyone reading this appeal to add to this, helping us to meet two critical costs (swim trainers and lifeguard volunteers).

MRBCIC has nine months to develop a workable model for swimming, with the aim of taking over operational responsibility for water activity from April 2018. Since then it has been working hard – liaising with heritage partners, bringing in advisers, understanding the community swimming need and producing a business plan which shows that MRBCIC can break even within three years.  Click here to read the business plan.

Our initial target is to raise £13,552 to train 8 volunteers in lifeguarding and teaching as well as in customer service skills, health and safety, etc. Each volunteer must be trained so that  safe swimming can be offered at all times.  Crowdfunding is the first stage in raising the funds needed to ensure they have a fully trained team ready to go. Read more on their website.

Please spread the word – and if willing and able – donate by following the link.

 

 

 

 

 

Steve Beauchampé recalls the Cadbury Barn, a little known but once much-loved Birmingham building destroyed by fire last week.

There is some ambiguity surrounding the origins of the Cadbury Barn, burnt down in a suspected arson attack last week. Whilst the Birmingham Conservation Trust website states that it was erected in 1894 in the grounds of George Cadbury’s home at Northfield Manor House, set in Manor (formerly New House) Farm, the Bournville Works Magazine suggests otherwise (as does an 1893 Ordnance Survey map), indicating that the Barn, the work of company architect Alexander Harvey, was originally sited in Laurel Grove, where it was known as the Girls’ Gymnasium, and was relocated and re-assembled at Manor Farm in 1903 (a not uncommon practice, stands at both St Andrews and The Hawthorns were similarly relocated from their respective clubs’ earlier grounds around this time).

A wooden structure with a metal framework held in places by chains, and seating up to 700, the Barn became the focus of regular summer parties for Cadbury employees, their families and perhaps most famously poor children from throughout Birmingham and the Black Country. Speaking of these often joyous gatherings George Cadbury remarked: There could never be too many and they could never be too noisy. Children – up to fifty at a time – would be invited to swim in the nearby fish pond, girls before tea, boys after. The Barn was also used by Sunday School groups, the Mothers Union and members of Men’s and Women’s Adult Schools, as well as Scout Jamborees and Brownie Revels, with as many as 25,000 people using the facility each year. During the Second World War the Friends Ambulance Unit used the Barn as a training camp.

The Barn’s unusual rusticated timber detailing was a style seemingly specific to Cadbury’s with similar decoration also found on an original exposed section of the Cadbury Club (formerly the Girl’s Pavilion) on Bournville Lane. Its floor was tiled in red and grey terracotta with a single entrance at the rear (facing the main road) and a wider entrance and wide windows overlooking the park.

Following the death in 1951 of George’s wife, Dame Elizabeth Cadbury, the family donated Manor Farm and its buildings to the city of Birmingham with the Barn continuing to be used by park visitors and other groups.

In recent years the Barn had served as a storage facility for the Parks Department but had become semi-derelict and partially boarded up.

In 2014 Birmingham Conservation Trust, in conjunction with Bournville Village Trust and the Friends of Manor Farm Park, began drawing up plans for a restoration of the Barn as part of plans for a multi-use community space including a cafe and involving several adjacent buildings. Sadly, following the fire which destroyed the Barn on the night of July 31st, should those plans come to fruition, it will not be part of them. 

The BirminghamPress.com

Steve Beauchampé

August 7th 2017

 

 

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MARGARET FAIRHEAD RBSA: Exhibition in Reception Foyer

Canal views – Farmer’s Bridge Flight, Birmingham & Fazeley Canal

Until Friday 7 July

Margaret’s remarkable exhibition of works featuring manipulated machine stitching incorporating a variety of fabrics, threads and techniques, is inspired by a walk along the Farmer’s Bridge Flight section of the canal towpath. This journey took Margaret through both old and new Birmingham, passing thirteen locks in all.

At ​the BIRMINGHAM & MIDLAND INSTITUTE ​9 Margaret Street, Birmingham. B3 3BS

 

 

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The Powergen building, in Shirley Solihull, was vacated in 1995, when the council refused planning permission for the CEGB to extend this striking Madin building. It employed 1000 people and many shops closed due to this loss of trade.

Explore the remarkable interior of this building, immortalised unofficially by a group of young explorers who made a fascinating video, recorded on site. Here are three of the most striking photographs taken from that film: 

catering

 entrance

ceiling

And last Thursday accomplished amateur photographers, Shirley’s Ann & Malcolm Turner, sent this photograph of the demolition process.

After years of neglect, demolition started, due to a decision taken by Solihull council, commercial partners of Asda.

 

 

 

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BFOE’s community share offer closes on June 2nd

Birmingham Friends of the Earth own The Warehouse in Digbeth, operating it as a not-for-profit business whilst campaigning for the improvement of the local environment. They want to raise investment capital to refurbish their building, which will lead to an increase in the financial, social and environmental value of that space:

  • there will be more space to let that is of a higher quality; this will allow them to increase the amount of space they provide and to maintain or increase the amount they charge per square foot for that space;
  • they will be looking to exceed the legal requirements (Building Regulations Part L) for conserving energy in their building by installing more insulation and more efficient glazing;
  • and they will be more accessible to wheelchair users and people with limited mobility and offer more community meeting facilities. The work will also allow them to reduce administration costs and focus more on meeting their social goals.

See the video and read the well-produced share offer summary complete with plans. Then:

  1. Invest! If you are able to please invest whatever you can between £250 and £10,000. If you have some money in an ISA earning 0.5% interest it could be doing a lot of good. If you know you are going to invest, please do so as soon as possible as this helps them to demonstrate it’s a viable prospect with gathering momentum
  2. Tell everybody you can about it – when you’re campaigning and in your everyday life. Friends, relatives, colleagues, rich uncles – there are a lot of people that would like the chance to make an ethical investment, the challenge they have is getting the word out to enough people. It’s not a donation so they’re not asking people to give them their money, it’s an investment
  3. Support the social media campaignshare, like, retweet anything you see about the share offer – this will help them to reach as many people as possible.

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