Our plans to restore Highbury have been featured in the Birmingham Mail! Neil Elkes tells the story:
An £8 million fundraising campaign is being launched to breathe new life into historic Highbury Hall.
The bold plans would see the Grade II* listed Victorian Gothic mansion in Moseley, once home of the Chamberlain family, not only restored but revamped with a coffee shop, museum exhibition and 30 acres of grounds restored.
Exhibitions will focus on the history of the Chamberlain family – including Joseph.
As mayor of Birmingham, he transformed the city during the 1870s and his son Neville was Prime Minister at the outbreak of the Second World War.
There will also be community meeting rooms and business conference facilities.
Currently only a fraction of the Hall, in Highbury Park, is open and mostly used for civic weddings and meetings.
Highbury is on the Heritage England at risk register after years of neglect under city council stewardship .
But now the Highbury Trust has taken over the Hall on a long lease from the authority.
It will submit a major bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), as well as seek donations from funds and generous individuals to bring the hall back to life.
The campaign is due to be launched by one the Trust’s patrons, historian, former MP and director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Tristram Hunt, at the Hall on Tuesday, February 13.
It will be followed by a public open day on Wednesday, February 28.
“We want it to be an active and vibrant place.
“Highbury was left to the citizens of Birmingham by the Chamberlain family, but it has never been open to the public.”
The Trust had its first bid to the HLF rejected last year but said it had learned lessons.
The inspiration for the campaign is Joseph Chamberlain himself, who was famous for modernising Birmingham with clean water and gas supplies, better sewers, roads and pavements and public buildings like the Council House.
Mr Sparkes said: “We want to use Highbury as a place to think about the future of the city, just as Joseph Chamberlain thought about it in the 19th century.
“This includes a programme of activities for young people themed on leadership and citizenship.
“We will also work with schools on elements of the curriculum.”
Vice-Chairman Paul Richards said the Trust was also responsible for 30 acres of grounds, a large part of Highbury Park.
As well as tending the gardens, including rhododendrons imported to Britain by the Chamberlains, a caretaker’s cottage is scheduled to be removed and the original driveway reinstated.
“We’re not going to put a fence around it and charge for entry,” he said.
Instead a coffee shop, as well as toilet facilities, will be created to generate income for the Trust.