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Hortons’ Estate presented with Birmingham & West Midlands Group Conservation Award

Hortons’ Estate presented with inaugural Conservation Award for its work restoring the façade of the Grade II*-listed Grand, on Birmingham’s Colmore Row.

From left to right: Tony Green, CEO, Hortons' Estate Ltd, Stephen Hartland, West Midlands Group Chairman, Peter Horton, Chairman, Hortons' Estate Ltd, Henry Horton

The Victorian Society’s Birmingham & West Midlands Group has presented Hortons’ Estate with its inaugural Conservation Award for its work restoring the façade of the Grade II*-listed Grand, on Birmingham’s Colmore Row.

The award was presented to Peter Horton, company chairman, on 17th May by Stephen Hartland, Chairman of the Victorian Society’s Birmingham & West Midlands Group at a ceremony in the newly refurbished office suites at The Grand. Around 50 guests attended including The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Councillor Raymond Hassall. Pictures of the event can be viewed here.

The award comprises a bronze plaque, cast by Leander Architectural, which traces its history back to 1874, in Buxton, Derbyshire, and an illuminated scroll hand-written on parchment by the local firm of Fattorini, which expanded and flourished in Birmingham in the 19th century.

The Birmingham & West Midlands branch of the Victorian Society established the award last year, to recognise high quality conservation work on buildings across the region erected between 1837 and 1914. Entries were judged on the retention of the original fabric of the building, conservation of fragile aspects and adaption for re-use.

Hortons’ has invested over £14million in restoring The Grand’s facades, installing a new roof, remodelling the first and second floor offices and the ten ground floor retail units along Colmore Row. The next phase of the restoration is expected to cost around £5million and to be completed in late 2016. Hortons’ work at The Grand has also been acknowledged by Historic England which has provided £400,000 in grant funding for the project.

On receiving the award Tony Green, Chief Executive of Hortons’ Estate said: ‘It is a great honour to have our endeavour and investment recognised by the Victorian Society. We are indebted to the many people who have contributed to this project, in particular the highly talented and dedicated team of stonemasons from MCL without whose skills the project could not have been executed.’

An extract from Stephen Hartland’s speech is below:

‘The restoration of the façade of The Grand has been a triumph over adversity. When the Grand Hotel closed in 2002 the talk surrounding the building was how it had reached the end of its life and that it was inevitable that it had to be demolished. 

However, The Victorian Society was confident it could be saved, and successfully applied to English Heritage to have the building listed at II* in February 2004.  After the listing, a more enlightened view emerged, that ways to safeguard the building should be sought.

In 2009 Hortons’ was advised that the stonework could not be salvaged and it is a great credit to them that they eschewed expert opinion, exploring every avenue to not only save but to enhance this landmark building.

The works included expert re-carving of lost stonework and exposing marble columns obscured under render and paint for decades. It has been fantastic to observe the mix of traditional skills and new methods deployed on this exceptional project, with the bonus of bringing one of the city’s most prominent buildings back to life.

This award is a way of acknowledging commendable projects that have secured the future of a Victorian or Edwardian building and, hopefully, encouraging conservation and restoration as a first option, not a last option, after all else has failed. We received a number of very high-quality nominations.  However, I am delighted that the restoration of the facade of the Grand Hotel is the first winner of our new Conservation Award and it sets the bar at a suitably high level, against which all subsequent awards can be judged.

Hortons’ approach of engaging with stakeholders in discussing possibilities and proposals and arriving at a consensus in moving forward has been the bedrock and mainstay to the success of this project. I hope that other owners and developers will emulate it. This partnership approach much reduces the chances of an adversarial response when we are presented with a proposal that has had no input from stakeholders and then, not unsurprisingly, is criticised.  The view of the Society is that these buildings belong to all of us and that their owners are really only custodians for future generations. 

I finish by once again saying thank you to Hortons’ Estate for having the courage and tenacity to see this project through.  The facade makes a fine contribution to the heritage stock of Birmingham’s Victorian buildings.’

Tuesday 17 May, 2016

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