BBC Screen Victoria Square
We have objected to another application by the City Council for this highly unsuitable addition to the fine city street scene in Victoria Square. It would seem that the setting, with listed Victorian buildings in the conservation area, which will provide the high quality of the backdrop to be shown during the broadcast of live events, constitutes the fundamental reason for continuing to consider this venue over Centenary Square. In our opinion it would be much better located there. Something about geese and golden eggs comes to mind!
Four Oaks, Sutton Coldfield
Despite the economic downturn, we have recently commented on several individual proposals for new large homes within this conservation area of significant Arts and Crafts houses, many in expansive grounds. We have generally felt that the new developments would have a negative impact on both the conservation area and the setting of listed buildings. These new homes would, on the whole, extend across plots, display large garage facilities to the frontages, and have doors, windows and other features designed “in the spirit of the Arts and Crafts Movement”, yet which in our opinion are poorly detailed and unworthy of their beautifully designed early twentieth century neighbours. We hope our objections to such developments in Luttrell Road, Bracebridge Road, Ladywood Road and Barker Road will continue to be supported by refusal of planning permission by the City Council.
Red Lion, Soho Road
An update. One of our top ten threatened buildings for 2008, this wonderful grade II* listed pub by James and Lister Lea remains closed and vulnerable after over a year since time was last called. Vital repairs are still necessary to the staircase, and high levels of security must be kept in place to ensure that this pub does not go the catastrophic way of other listed Victorian pubs in Birmingham such as the Bellefield or the Duke of York. We would like to see a new occupier continue to run the Red Lion as a pub or establish a restaurant. The Barton Arms in Aston makes an excellent and highly successful model. A solution is needed urgently!
Beorma Quarter, Digbeth
We have been consulted informally for some months on proposals for this significant site opposite the east end of St Martin’s Church. The planning application has now been submitted for a 30 storey tower on the site together with a new square and redevelopment of the cold store, a listed building of 1899 by Ernest Bewlay. Some of our thoughts have been incorporated into the current scheme, but a number of objections still remain. The impact of such a high tower on the church, and on an area with buildings of generally less than four storeys in height, is of great concern. We are opposed to the loss of a rare though unlisted music hall building, and the partial demolition of the cold store itself. Economic pressure for development in Birmingham at present is playing a strong role in the debate over this site.
Although we had many objections to this mixed use scheme, now approved, next to the canal at the north end of the Warwick Bar Conservation Area, we have welcomed proposals to restore the locally listed Belmont Works. The works will remain as a key Victorian building in an otherwise almost totally redeveloped part of Birmingham. The building was badly damaged by fire two years ago, and the surviving ruinous structure remains a source of concern, and we urge all parties to proceed as quickly as possible with restoration. It is a shame that the proposed surrounding new buildings with their canyon like streetscapes with timber and copper clad facades are unlikely to form more complementary neighbours to this traditional brick and terracotta Birmingham factory.
St Barnabas, Erdington
We are being consulted in pre-application discussions on the rebuilding of this grade II* listed church by Thomas Rickman of 1822 with an east end by J. A. Chatwin of 1883, following the devastating fire in October 2007. Sadly, all the interior fittings including the stone font have been extremely badly damaged or totally destroyed, though the reredos on the chancel east wall has largely survived. Whilst this is an exciting opportunity to enhance the potential of this church in Erdington’s main street, we wish to see as much of the existing fabric as possible retained to preserve the character of Rickman and Chatwin’s building. Just one of the Victorian stained glass windows, depicting the Good Shepherd, is left. It was saved because it was located behind the concrete and steel of the meeting rooms built into the west end of the nave in the 1970s. We understand that this glass is to be restored and relocated to another window in the restored body of the church, which will be very welcome.
Holy Trinity, Sutton Coldfield
We are also being consulted at the pre-application stage on plans for a wide-ranging reordering of the interior of this grade I listed medieval church, which has a complex history reflected in its architecture and remarkable furnishings. These include much important Victorian work. The north aisle is of 1875 by Yeoville Thomason and the west vestry is of 1900 by W.H. Bidlake. Much of the fine woodwork at the east end is seventeenth century from Worcester Cathedral, but was brought to Holy Trinity in 1874 when the Cathedral was restored by Sir George Gilbert Scott.
Proposed interior and exterior alterations to the church have been developed over many years, and we have also commented on previous designs. Current plans affect the pews, galleries, organ, pulpit and chancel furnishings, along with the Thomason north aisle and Bidlake vestry. Together with other heritage organisations, we continue to welcome dialogue with the parish on this scheme through the Diocesan Advisory Committee.
Hidden from view from main roads, Moor Pool remains a little known but charming residential area by the Chad Brook in Harborne. The estate was laid out from 1907 following the principles of a garden suburb, to provide better quality housing by the Harborne Tenants. The initiative came from John Nettlefold, then Chairman of Birmingham’s Housing Committee. Moor Pool is a fine surviving example of such a suburb.
The estate is now a conservation area and some of the houses and the central community buildings are statutorily listed. However, we are concerned with plans to build new houses on sites currently occupied by garages, which were previously allotments. There are flooding issues on one site and current plans show overdevelopment of all three. Any new development here must be of a sufficiently high quality design to be worthy of this special location.
The Grove, 47 Wollescote Road, Pedmore, Stourbridge
An update! Since the last newsletter, we can report that permission for demolition of this fine Arts and Crafts house of 1908-9 by W.J.H.Weller of Wolverhampton has been refused by Dudley Borough Council, and English Heritage have listed the building at grade II with special reference to its unusual part timber framed architecture, as well as the completeness of the interior with its good quality woodwork. We understand that the property is now on the market again, and hope that it will soon be acquired by sympathetic new owners.
Ladypool Junior and Infants School, Stratford Road. Since the tower of this grade II* listed board school of 1885 by Martin and Chamberlain was damaged during the tornado in, the rubble and materials have been in storage. We are concerned that despite receiving planning permission for reinstatement a year ago, no action has been taken, and so far our attempts to press councillors and officers of the relevant departments of Birmingham City Council for a commitment to the works have proved unsuccessful. We will persevere.
Red Lion Public House, Soho Road, Handsworth
A possible sale by auction of this remarkable grade II* listed pub of 1901-2 by James and Lister Lea in December did not take place, and the building with its fantastic interiors stands empty and vulnerable. We have urged Birmingham City Council to take action, and a full record of the building is currently being made. Efforts are also underway to resolve structural problems, negotiate new tenants and find a suitable use. We are particularly concerned that this building should not suffer a similar fate to other local pubs, as was highlighted through the Society’s “Crawl to Save our Pubs” last August, and resulted in some positive media coverage, including a short piece in the Guardian. Last year the grade II listed Duke of York, Hockley was lost, though its fittings and those of the now derelict but also grade II listed George and Dragon, Albion Street had been stolen some years ago. The grade II listed Wharf Inn, Cradley Heath is about to be demolished following several fires, and the interior of the grade II* listed Bellefield Inn in Winson Green was destroyed in a fire three years ago, and is now being converted to housing. Across the region unlisted, but nevertheless often interesting pubs of the 19th and 20th centuries are being closed at an accelerating rate and stand boarded up, many of them awaiting almost certain demolition or less than suitable conversion to other uses. We take action to help prevent this and raise the profile where we can.
Wellington Road, Edgbaston
We have objected to the demolition of the boundary wall and its unsuitable replacement at 68 Wellington Road. This fine Georgian style house of 1913 was designed by Birmingham architect E.C Bewlay for himself, and although unlisted stands within the Egbaston Conservation Area. This episode has highlighted the problem of inappropriate alterations to buildings within this and other conservation areas, which are often not discovered until after they have been done. The necessary consents are then sought, but even if reinstatement is successfully enforced, the original features have often been lost for ever. Other unsuitable alterations might include the addition of satellite receivers and excessive cabling or the replacement of doors and windows. If you are aware of such works to buildings in a conservation area which may be unauthorised please let me know.
Former Chances Glassworks, Smethwick
This threat of inappropriate alterations is not confined to domestic property in conservation areas. We have objected to the retrospective applications for partial demolition of a turret and other structures at this remarkable grade II factory building which dates back to the 1840s, where the glass for Crystal Palace was manufactured, and which is a well known landmark by the M5 near junction 1. Unfortunately retrospective means just that; too late! However, we have been told that in this case safety issues were paramount, and have been assured that the materials have been retained on site for reinstatement. We await further information.
Handsworth Wood Road
We are working with the residents’ association on compiling information for an application to Birmingham City Council for the designation of part of Handsworth Wood with its fine Victorian and Arts and Crafts houses as a conservation area. The area is mentioned in the Council’s Conservation Strategy as a potential area for designation, and we are pleased to see that approval of a similar area of Harborne is currently in progress. In order to present a convincing case to the Council, we are seeking any useful relevant information on the buildings along Handsworth Wood Road between Brown’s Green and Selborne Road, as well as those on Somerset and Devonshire Road. If you have any useful information on architects, dates, or interesting occupants of buildings in this area which may strengthen the case for a conservation area, please contact me.
Barclays Bank, 35 Frederick Street, Jewellery Quarter
We objected to proposals for new advertising on this grade II listed building of 1905 by Cossins, Peacock and Bewlay, which stands opposite the clock at the heart of the Quarter. Internally illuminated corporate style fascia signs are not appropriate for a listed building in the conservation area. Birmingham City Council agreed with us and permission was refused. An amended scheme has now been submitted for individual lettering with seperate lighting, which should be far more suitable. Poor quality advertising is becoming a significant problem on historic buildings and in conservation areas, so it was particularly important to take a stand on this prominent example. We hope other potential applicants will take note.
187 Highfield Road, Hall Green
We were shocked to learn of the application to demolish this locally listed house dating from about 1850, which is a landmark at the corner of Highfield Road and Robin Hood Lane. It is one of few Victorian buildings amongst the mainly twentieth century developments of Hall Green. There was much local opposition to the proposal and we also objected strongly, expressing a wish that the building be retained and restored as part of the new residential development of the site. Whilst we are aware that local listing does not afford buildings the protection of those on the statutory list, Birmingham City Council states that locally listed buildings such as this are “important in the city wide architectural or local scene context, warranting positive efforts to ensure protection.” However, in certain quarters retention was deemed not to be cost effective and permission to demolish was granted. We are thus very concerned at the status of other buildings on Birmingham’s local list.
14 Clarendon Road, Edgbaston
One of three grade II listed white stucco villas close to the Hagley Road end of this street is undergoing conversion back from flats to single occupancy. Whilst this is a praiseworthy objective, the proposals included large rear extensions and an unsuitable design for a new garage. We objected to these features, and are pleased that amended proposals for a lower extension on a smaller footprint have now been approved by the City Council. Appropriate conditions have also been applied to the materials and designs for the details on the new work, all of which will we hope enhance rather than detract from the appearance of these listed buildings.
Here is some of the casework from August 2007:
St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Aston
The church is listed grade II*, and stands across the park from Aston Hall within a conservation area. The medieval tower remains with its landmark spire, but attached is J. A. Chatwin’s finest church. Work started in 1879, but was not completed until 1908. Inside, at the east end is a fine ensemble of fittings by Chatwin including the choir stalls, sedilia, reredos, pulpit and low chancel screen walls, set beneath important stained glass by Hardman in the east windows. Although they were installed at different dates in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, these fittings form part of a unified scheme by Chatwin which was carried out as funds permitted.
The Society has been very concerned about a faculty application for a new phase of internal reordering to this church. This includes the replacement of the present timber dais at the east end of the nave with an enlarged masonry structure, which will incorporate a cruciform full immersion font, along with the provision of ramped access from the south aisle to the Erdington Chapel.
The church has a growing multicultural congregation and there is a requirement for a larger dais for worship and performances. We have acknowledged this, and understand that plans for altering the seating in the nave together with replacement of the heating and raising the level of the nave floor will be forthcoming. There has been considerable discussion within the parish over the proposed location of the immersion font. We have been shown plans with alternative proposals for its location, but although we would prefer to see it towards the west end, we have been informed that inclusion of the font in the dais is the only practical solution. We are concerned at the permanent nature of the scheme and its apparent lack of reversibility.
The proposal for the replacement of the dais included the truncation of the low chancel walls, retaining just one bay with a single quatrefoil design of the northern section, and the complete removal of the southern section. We have objected to this proposal as it would necessitate breaking up the group of significant chancel fittings, which we feel should remain intact and in their current position. The pulpit adjoins the northern section of the two walls and all are in alabaster and marble. The pulpit and walls were, it seems, conceived as a piece when installed in 1885, to enhance the demarcation between nave and chancel, which is otherwise not indicated by a structural division such as an arch, but merely marked by a pair of slender shafts on the walls and hammerbeam trusses in the roof. To truncate these low walls would have a detrimental effect on the internal appearance of the building as a whole and the chancel in particular. The area of floorspace taken by the walls has been given as a further reason for their removal, along with safety considerations of their height when the dais is in use, which we find difficult to understand. We have expressed a preference for the dais to be extended to the front allowing the walls to remain undisturbed to the rear next to the stalls if it is necessary to create more space . We have also suggested as alternative solutions the use of furnishings, or well-designed portable rails, which could be positioned in front of the walls for the duration of the use of the dais.
We also felt that this proposed truncation of the walls and creation of the dais result in the awkward treatment of the pulpit with a drop in floor level by its side, which has then to be protected by a new metal balustrade railing. The proposal to reuse the remaining sections of the low chancel wall in the construction of the ramp to the Erdington chapel creates an awkward feature in the south aisle and we considered that the reused section of the wall would look out of place. We would find the loss of any sections of the wall unacceptable, as any works undertaken should have the potential to be reversible.
Nevertheless the faculty was recommended for approval in June for the truncation of the walls back to the line of the clergy stalls. The scheme including our objection has been passed to the Chancellor for judgement, which is expected in the near future.
Duke of York Public House, Hockley Hill
This grade II listed Georgian and Victorian building in the Jewellery Quarter Conservation Area has been all but destroyed over the last ten years. We wrote to English Heritage to object to an application to remove this building from the statutory list. We made clear our dismay at this, and asked that every effort should be now made to reinstate the building using as many of the original materials as possible, so that it could remain on the list in its restored state, especially given its landmark position at the corner of Hockley Hill and Key Hill. We questioned how the building has been allowed to come to be in its present condition, a decline which started with the theft of its important Victorian interior fittings in the mid 1990s. The fabric of the building behind the facade seems to have subsequently been removed, and now the facade itself taken down. We have questioned whether any of these works to the listed building were properly authorised, but we have not yet received a satisfactory response.
100 Sampson Road, Sparkbrook
This attractive grade II* listed building of 1901 by W. H. Bidlake is the former vicarage to St Agatha’s church, although it is located a few streets away. Currently boarded up and in a poor state of repair awaiting restoration, it is ironic that the building is situated opposite the now cleared site of Christ Church, Sparkbrook, which the Society fought to try to save from demolition last year. The house is divided into flats, and we supported a proposal for internal alterations to change the number of units from seven to five and the removal of the later internal partitions to the landing. However, we questioned the treatment of the brick wall to the side elevation, requesting that as much surviving original material as possible be reused, particularly the coping bricks. The application has now been approved taking our comments into account.
Flatted Factory Building at the Site of the Museum of Science and Industry, Charlotte Street
We have objected to the erection of an office block and hotel at this important location close to Victorian buildings within the Jewellery Quarter Conservation Area. We considered that the scheme does not form an adequate replacement for the unlisted 1930’s flatted factory and that the relationship of the proposed new build with the adjacent listed Queen’s Arms of 1901 is no improvement on the present square design which seems to take little account of the rooflines of its neighbour. We noted with concern that yet again there seems to be little reference in the proposals to the guidance in the Jewellery Quarter Design Guide, in terms of the architectural detail of the Charlotte Street facade and particularly regarding the section with copper cladding to accommodate offices. We were also disappointed at the apparent failure to take advantage of views through the building from the street to the water feature which is to be created on the line of part of the vanished Whitmore Arm of the canal. The demolition of the factory has now been approved, but permission has yet to be granted for the new buildings.
The Woodman Public House, Albert Street
The regeneration of Birmingham’s Eastside has recently drawn attention once again to the plight of the famous Curzon Street Station, for which a new sustainable use has been sought over many years. However, the Society is also very concerned as to how any plans for the station and the creation of a park in front of it may affect the grade II listed Woodman public house on Albert Street. The brick and terracotta façade of 1896 by James and Lister Lea faces the imposing station building across New Canal Street. Inside the original public bar and smoking room remain largely intact. It is a good example of such a Victorian pub, but today the blind facades face the open space away from the street, and the building appears vulnerable in its current setting. What will its future be? Preservation is essential. It is still a functioning pub business. The opportunity could be taken to enhance its situation with sensitive landscaping of the surroundings and including its use in any plans for the park. So many pubs like this are in areas where there is no longer a need for a place to eat and drink, and so to develop the role of the Woodman to serve refreshment to park users would secure its future doing what the building was designed to do.
A press release was issued in June by the Society highlighting the potential threat to the Woodman along with the plight of other significant listed pubs in the city. Subsequently Birmingham City Council has stated that it is unaware of any current plans to demolish the Woodman, but that “the sites adjacent to the pub are subject to further planning applications…. which we may anticipate will alter the broader setting of the pub”. Further news is now awaited, but it must not suffer the fate of so many Birmingham public houses in recent years. The Woodman will feature in the planned Victorian Society Protest Pub Crawl during August.
111-120 Icknield Street
We have objected to the demolition of 111-120 Icknield Street on the north west side of the Jewellery Quarter Conservation Area. These unlisted mid 19th century properties are in a key position at the junction of Carver Street, Warstone Lane and Icknield Street and form an interesting terrace of two and three storey houses with shops to the ground floor frontage. They are brick built with slate roofs with an interesting variety of rooflines and details such as shopfronts, doors, windows and chimneys. Numbers 113-116 are of particular interest as examples of back-to-back houses, once common throughout the Jewellery Quarter, but now rare survivals.
The site is part of the large Chord Deeley development which will dramatically change the appearance of this part of the Quarter. There is to be extensive demolition of buildings across the site for the proposed redevelopment, but some of the unlisted 19th and 20th century buildings reflect the smaller scale industrial development of the area. Their loss will contribute further to the erosion of the character of the Quarter, especially when they are to be replaced by such large scale developments as this. The part refurbishment for residential use of the Kettleworks of c1900 between Pope Street and Camden Street represents the sole reuse of an existing Victorian building in the development. The properties at 111-120 Icknield Street would be replaced by a hotel.
We do not accept that the poor state of repair of 111-120 Icknield Street can be a justifiable reason for demolition. If restored and incorporated into the proposed development, they could make a most attractive landmark on Icknield Street reflecting and introducing the historic character, scale and grain of other buildings in the Quarter. There should in any case be a presumption against their demolition within the conservation area.
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
The main entrance to the Museum in Chamberlain Square is on the west facade of the grade II* listed Council House of 1881-5 by Yeoville Thomason, whilst the northern extension containing the Gas Hall is by Ashley and Newman of 1908-17. We objected to the proposals for new banners and signage on these buildings within a conservation area. Whilst we acknowledged the need for the Museum and Art Gallery to attract visitors, publicise exhibitions and provide details of opening hours, we felt that in general these proposals were overwhelming for these magnificent buildings.
We were surprised by the number and size of wall plaques, information panels and freestanding “totems” which were proposed for around the entrances. The design of the signage generally appeared too corporate in terms of style and colour, and did not complement the features of the buildings. We were concerned at the number of banners being considered particularly on the Edmund Street facade. The proposed banners matched the corporate image of the signs in style and colour and there were similar reservations. We were very concerned to note that the high level banners proposed for the recess behind the portico above the main entrance would have concealed the sculpture on the back wall and we were not convinced that any fixing to the building would avoid damage to stonework or sculpture. However, following much adverse comment and features in the press, the City Council have now withdrawn their application for this inappropriate scheme.