The winner of the Victorian Society’s 2017 Birmingham & West Midlands Conservation Award has been named as the former Green Lane Public Library and Baths, now the Green Lane Masjid and Community Centre.
Those familiar with the area of Small Heath in south-east Birmingham will no doubt immediately recognise the striking terracotta clock tower of the former Green Lane Public Library and Baths, though perhaps more in its former derelict state with foliage creeping out from the barely visible clock face. This year an ambitious restoration project going back over 40 years has finally restored the building, with the Victorian exteriors repaired and the interiors transformed from bathhouse and library to Masjid and Community Centre.
Originally built as a Public Library building in 1893, a suite of First and Second Class Plunge Pools, Washing Baths and a Manager’s flat opened in 1902. The red brick and terracotta style building was designed by the relatively unknown Birmingham architect Henry Martin and was listed as Grade II in 1982.
Sadly, the City Council closed the buildings in 1976 and as they were not appropriately secured they were quickly stripped by scrap metal merchants and left to fall into a derelict state. Just three years later the site was purchased by the Markazi Jamiat Ahle-Hadith, a voluntary not-for-profit Islamic organisation, to be transformed into a community centre mosque for the local Muslim community.
Stephen Hartland, Chairman of the Victorian Society Birmingham and West Midlands group, said: “This was such an impressive restoration of a particularly striking local Victorian building, it is highly deserving of this year’s award. It stood out among other applicants in so many ways, but what most impressed the judges was the seamless fusion of the building’s history with its new use as a mosque.
“Islamic architecture normally shuns such naturalistic ornamentation as is present on the building, but its gothic-style exterior was so respected in the restoration process that all the historic fabric has been restored to how it once appeared, only the interiors have been adapted to its new use. It now looks the same today as it did when it was built over 100 years ago, and is back in use as a part of the community.”
Tony Green, CEO of Hortons’ Estate who generously sponsor the Conservation Award, said, ““We are delighted to continue our sponsorship of the Victorian Society’s Conservation Award as we believe that it has an important role to play in encouraging the restoration and re-use of the West Midlands stock of wonderful Victorian buildings. Our congratulations go to the 2017 winner for their persistence over many years which has been rewarded by such a successful outcome judged from both a restoration and community asset perspective.”