Youth Research Project

Chamberlain Highbury Trust: Joseph Chamberlain and Colonial History Youth Research Project

Background to the Research Project Since the Chamberlain Highbury Trust was formed in April 2016 trustees have been committed to preserving Highbury ‘for the benefit of the citizens of Birmingham’ as originally intended by the Chamberlain family in 1919.

Highbury comprises a Grade II* listed mansion and 33 acres of Grade II registered historic gardens set in a valued public park. The mansion and ground were designed for Joseph Chamberlain and his family and they lived there from 1880 until Joseph’s death in 1914. Highbury was the Chamberlains’ power base, from which the political dynasty was formed. The Trust has a vision to use Highbury as a place from which we can explore what it is to be an active citizen and a leader in the world.

One hundred years after the Chamberlain’s gave Highbury to the people of Birmingham our commitments to this much more diverse city are to:

– ensure that Highbury is an inclusive place, reflecting the diversity and culture of our city

– be welcoming to visitors from around the UK and internationally

– be a place to learn about the history of Highbury, home of the Chamberlain family from 1880 to 1914 and the way this place shaped the world

The Chamberlain Highbury Trust is still some years away from realising its vision and opening up a revitalised Highbury estate. There is still a large £8m pound restoration, refurbishment and activities programme to start delivering before it can embark upon some of the actions it wishes to take. The CHT has been encouraged to submit a major application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund probably in March 2021. At present CHT runs some activities at Highbury and is in partnership with Birmingham City Council (which is the sole trustee of the freehold entity) to deliver a £300k restoration of part of the formal gardens.

Colonial History & Heritage

Whilst living at Highbury, Joseph Chamberlain was Colonial Secretary from 1895 to 1903 and actively promoted British imperialism and British exceptionalism claiming, “The British race is the greatest of the governing races the world has ever seen”. His agenda was to drive Britain’s economy through its Imperial policy and the exploitation of subject territories. This aspect of the Chamberlain story, including anti-colonial movements, and the local and global impacts of his vision of Empire has not received as much attention as Radical Joe’s achievements in shaping the city of Birmingham. More information on Chamberlain’s role as Colonial Secretary can be found here.

The Trust is committed to exploring colonialism and its legacies through our permanent interpretation – such as exhibitions and tours, our activities and events, our educational programmes, and youth leadership programme. As an initial step in achieving this objective are in the process of establishing a Colonial History and Heritage Working Group made up of academic historians, museums and heritage, the educational sector, and activists with experience of policy and practice and the theory of change.

The Brief

We would like to work with a young person of colour to undertake a specific piece of research that relates to gaps in CHT’s understanding of Chamberlain’s role and impact as Colonial Secretary which members of that Board may work on over the next 6 months.

The several topics that might form the area of research which CHT have identified are:

· Legacy effects of the South African War

· Neville Chamberlain’s sisal plantation venture in the Bahamas

· What Chamberlain’s policy of ‘constructive imperialism’ meant in the Gold Coast and Serra Leone.

· The veracity of Lloyd George’s accusation that the Chamberlain family profited from the South African War

· What Joseph Chamberlain meant by ‘kindred race’ – research quotes and the context in which they were said.

CHT would be happy to negotiate with the young person commissioned, on the focus of the chosen research area. The research will need to investigate secondary sources – books, articles and web resources as well as some archival sources held at the Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham.

The piece of research will form part of the CHT’s overall interpretation planning as part of CHT’s commitment to involving people of colour in creating an interpretative “voice” that represents the makeup of contemporary Birmingham. The research will be put to practical use in helping to underpin the permanent offer to the public be that the core house tour, educational programme or leadership sessions.

The research will also feed into the CHT’s potential role in the Commonwealth Connections project.

There will be the opportunity for the appointed person to produce other creative outputs which showcase their research; this might be poetry, an event, visual art or writing, working with within the parameters of CHT’s pilot activities programme, managed by the CHT Activities Planner, Lucy Bailey Wright.

The research will be publicly available on the CHT website.

Outcomes for the young person:

Skills development outcomes envisaged are:

· Enhanced research skills;

· Skills in writing for a public audience e.g. reading age of 12, language and terminology, text length for different outputs;

· Skills in presenting content for pilot sessions and event delivery, communication and confidence;

· Improved knowledge to feed into Youth Board’s view of Commonwealth Connections Project; and

· Enhanced understanding of approaches to exploring and debating Colonial History though the opportunity to shadow the CHT’s Colonial History and Heritage Working Group.


We expect the research piece to be conducted between October 2020 and February 2021 (5 months) with any subsequent pilot activities taking place after that.


There is a £500 fee available for this work. This will cover time spent researching and planning for associated engagement activities. The appointed person will be expected to commit 60 hours overall, and the working pattern is flexible and to be agreed. We anticipate that 50 hours will be spent on research and 10 hours on pilot events and activities.

An additional time commitment of about 10 hours would be needed if the young person wished to take up the chance to shadow the work of CHT’s Colonial History and Heritage Working Group. Supervision

The research process would be managed jointly by Katie Norgrove, CHT’s Project Development Manager and Lucy Bailey Wright, CHT’s Activities Planner and Administrator. There will be contact also with Sarah Edwards, CHT Board member that leads on Youth Leadership and Phillada Ballard, CHT Board member that leads on historical research.

Additional information

There is another research piece being commissioned by the Jewellery Quarter Development Trust (JQDT) for the interpretation of the Chamberlain Clock. This focuses on the Boer, or South African War which ended in 1902. The person appointed for CHT will be expected to work to a degree in collaboration with the person appointed by the JQDT, especially if the topic area chosen is the impact of Joseph’s policies in South Africa.

How to apply

As a first preference the first instance, CHT is offering this opportunity to members of its Youth Board. Should this route be unsuccessful, CHT will recruit via the Beetfreeks Don’t Settle programme.

If you are a young person of colour who is interested in this project, please send your CV (one side A4) and an outline of how you would approach the research including a topic area that interests you (one side of A4).

Application :


Lucy Bailey Wright, CHT Activities Planner and Administrator. E:

T: 07816 582541

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