Tudor Grange wins 2023 West Midlands Conservation Award

Tudor Grange in Solihull has been awarded a prestigious conservation award for a restoration fit for Solihull kings and queens.

Photo: PCPT Architects Ltd 10/02/2024

The Birmingham & West Midlands Group of the The Victorian Society has announced its ninth annual conservation award made to Tudor Grange in Solihull, in recognition of MACC Group’s exemplary restoration of the fine Jacobethan house. The transformation enabled tired and at-risk empty Victorian buildings to find a new sustainable use as a 64-bed care home. The house had faced possible demolition until MACC Group purchased the building.

Tudor Grange are the most significant buildings of their period in a parkland setting close to the centre of present-day Solihull. The large, elegant Grade II* suburban house, with coach house and stables, was designed and built in 1887 by Thomas Henry Mansell of Birmingham as the home of industrialist silversmith Alfred Lovekin. Lovekin used the local train to travel to his factory in Birmingham. Later in 1900 another significant industrialist moved in, the son of the Birds’ Custard empire, Sir Alfred Bird MP, who also commuted from the rural fringes to the family business. Tudor Grange is an example of the new sort of late-C19 house built for a generation of confident, affluent Victorian businessmen who did not take on the mantle of the country gentlemen but preferred to build their new substantial homes to be within easy reach of their business concerns, but with all the trappings of modernised country house life. Lovekin turned to a local architect and craftspeople to create his house, with panelling by Plunketts of Smith Street, Warwick. The house featured in the life of the area. When Sir Alfred was made MP for Wolverhampton West in 1910 he celebrated by having a boiler chimney built in the manner of the Houses of Parliament, and he invited his constituents to a garden party at Tudor Grange, laying on free railway transport from Wolverhampton.

The design of the house is loosely Jacobethan, a term coined and popularised by the The Victorian Society’s own co-founder and original secretary Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman. Jacobethan architecture took inspiration from the English Renaissance (1550–1625), mixing elements of Elizabethan and Jacobean building design. The Renaissance revival style as it formerly became known was in vogue in England from the late 1820s. Tudor Grange is a two-storey house of red brick with elaborate stone carving and a tiled roof with gabled wings. The stable block is T-shaped and attached to the west side of the house. At the top of the building is a row of statues of figures including Hercules, Brutus and William the Conqueror some of which were carved by renowned architectural sculptors White & Sons of Yardley, and the overall scheme for the carvings is based on late C16 and early-C17 English engravings of heroes from Greek mythology, Roman Emperors and characters from English legend, some of which were added by Sir Alfred Bird who employed Robert Bridgeman of Lichfield, another notable company of sculptors and masons. The interior is as fine, with a dining room, morning room, drawing room, study and music room with fireplaces with the lastest design in tiles by the De Morgan or Ruskin of Smethwick potteries. The decorative plaster ceilings have strapwork, fruit and flowers. Many windows include panels of quality stained glass showing coats of arms or mottoes. Several windows also have panels of historic Flemish or German C16 or C17 glass.

Tudor Grange was used as a Red Cross auxiliary hospital during World War II, after which it was brought by Warwickshire County Council in 1946 and became a school for children with special needs until 1976, when it became part of Solihull Technical College. Despite its rich history in the early 2000s Solihull College considered demolishing the building due to repair and maintenance costs. The Victorian Society concerned for the buildings’ future called for a Building Preservation Notice to be issued, and the Society and the council applied for the property to be listed, and it was protected in 2008. The house was left empty and at risk, then put on the market in 2016 and brought by MACC Group in 2018.

Working with third-generation, Birmingham-based PCPT Architects and DC Construction, the new owners set about a sympathetic restoration which allowed the house to find a new purpose as a care home. The scheme uses the ground floors of Tudor Grange as communal areas, with separate access created for Solihull College and housing a reception in the old stable block and coach house. A 64-bed facility, alongside 12 assisted living units was built in the grounds.

The Conservation Award, sponsored by Hortons’ Estate Limited, recognises an outstanding renovation or conservation project on a building that dates (or has had substantial alteration/additions) from between 1837-1914, within the geographical remit of the Birmingham & West Midlands Group of the The Victorian Society. The winner was announced, at a ceremony at 12 midday on Saturday 10th February 2024. An illuminated certificate and a 19” bronze disc recording the name of the winner and the year, for display, on or in the building, will be presented later. Hortons’ Estate have also confirmed they will continue to sponsor the annual conservation award for another 3 years.

Stephen Hartland, West Midlands Group of the The Victorian Society Regional Chairman said,
“That Tudor Grange has won the 2023 Conservation Award gives me a great deal of satisfaction. The Society was instrumental in getting the building listed back in 2008 and we were subsequently involved in discussions with Solihull MBC about conservation and development some five years ago. It is very pleasing that this dialogue and involvement has helped the owners navigate to this pleasing outcome. The project embodies all that the award seeks to recognise, preserving high-quality Victorian architecture, re-purposing it to modern-day needs and promoting the inherent sustainability of the repair and reuse of historic buildings. Well done to MACC Group for realising this project.”

Dr Naz Nathani, Director, MACC Group, said,
“MACC Group are delighted to accept this prestigious award. It is a tribute to the enthusiasm and design skills of the Conservation Architects, PCPT, who worked up our ideas and to DC Construction and their team who have together saved what was a very damaged building. The work the The Victorian Society put in over the years to highlight the plight of this building, so emblematic of wealthy Brummies building their ‘palaces’ in the suburbs, shows what a positive role the society can play.”

Stephen Benson, Chief Executive, Hortons’ Estate Limited, the award’s sponsor, said,
“Hortons’ Estate Ltd are delighted to continue our sponsorship of The Victorian Society’s West Midlands Conservation Award and to support their important work promoting the restoration of historic buildings in the region. The restoration of Tudor Grange House by Macc Group is a good example of ensuring valuable, historic buildings are brought back into modern economic life and maintained for future generations.”

The origins of the term ‘Jacobethan’
Sir John Betjeman invented the term “Jacobethan” in 1933 as follows:
“The style in which the Gothic predominates may be called, inaccurately enough, Elizabethan, and the style in which the classical predominates over the Gothic, equally inaccurately, may be called Jacobean. To save the time of those who do not wish to distinguish between these periods of architectural uncertainty, I will henceforward use the term ‘Jacobethan’.”
John Betjeman, Ghastly Good Taste, 1933; Thomas Burns McArthur, Feri McArthur, editors. The Oxford Companion to the English Language, 1992

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