We have submitted our plans to funders and to Birmingham City Council Planning. We would really appreciate your support with the application, so please look at our plans and ask us questions to best inform your support.
Chamberlain Highbury Trust (CHT) have run a number of consultation sessions and open days across evenings and weekends throughout the project. Our major partners, stakeholders, gardens protocol group and youth board have all been involved as part of our consultation and our continued dialogue through this project.
Please click here to see the full plans as submitted to Birmingham City Council Planning Department. We would really appreciate supportive comments on the form here. If you have any questions to help you feel totally confident in our plans and ability to deliver a project that balances Highbury’s Heritage, Ecology and brings this community asset to life.
In September 2021 the Trust was awarded £368,000 by the National Lottery Heritage Fund towards costs of £619,000 to develop the plans to restore Highbury as a community Heritage asset. This award is known as ‘Round 1 Funding’.
The Trust intends to submit its application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for Round 2 Funding this August.
Plans will change as more information about the state of the Mansion and its Grounds emerges through surveys and investigative works. We also have to adapt our plans to potential financial constraints. What is presented here is part of the process of refining the plans ahead of our submission in August.
In October 2022 the Trust set out its redrafted Vision and objectives for the project. These inform the brief given to our specialist consultant team to help us to make the vision a reality. The CHT Vision is:
“Inspired and informed by the story of the Chamberlain Family and the history and heritage of the house and grounds, the restored Highbury estate will be a vibrant, well used place. Young people will come to develop leadership and governance skills, local people will be able to participate in an inclusive and diverse programme of activities, and visitors to the City will be welcome to enjoy a unique heritage attraction. Its green space will be open year-round, will be free to visit and will provide a relaxed learning space with nature and conservation at its heart. Highbury will contribute to the economic vitality of the local area by providing space and facilities for local people to build businesses and nurture community organisations.”
So what is the project encompassing at present?
As a brief run down here are some of the key functions that Highbury needs to fulfill:
· Visitor heritage attraction
· Wedding and events hire venue
· Leadership training
· Education activities for groups and schools
· Small Business and enterprise spaces
· Rooms for hire for the community
· Grounds with activities and nature conservation in listed heritage grounds
· Café kiosk outdoors and courtyard seating
· Toilet facilities
Please note that there are other activities and plans for the project but the above have formed the greatest challenges to design plans and cross-function planning. Each group and purpose above has its own set of needs that need to balance against the others. Not including an activity does not mean the trust do not commit to it, we are trying to provide a more concise set of factors to aid in viewing the plans and the drawings to help with identifying any point for improvement.
The plans have to manage multiple needs of different activities and audiences. A huge challenge is the layout of the house. Our plans include the establishment of a heritage visitor offer with rooms that have displays and interactive information points across the ground and first floor using the rooms that we currently have open on our open days. We will be adding a few rooms to this proposal. But essentially those who have visited before that know the current spatial layout will see only small changes to the access to this space.
- two accessible lifts
- an external fire escape
- adding 3 new door openings
- creating a new entrance
- adding a cafe Kiosk opening
- restoring key features
- adding accessible toilets
- adding a family room
- creating offices in empty spaces
The magnificent hall is a major asset and is also one of the largest challenges to scheduling activity within the house because it is part of the main circulation route and cannot easily be bypassed. Several spaces will be dual function for visitor offer and hire the interpretative narrative and story telling we will be doing needs to be flexible and work for event hire and tackle some complex and evocative stories.
So what does this mean in practice?
A wedding hire for example would mean that the heritage visitor offer (similar to a National Trust property) would not be available to the public because a wedding cannot take place in the hall whilst visitors are also present. So we would need to have set days for visitors and wedding hire. The furniture for the visitor offer needs to be designed so it can be moved away easily and information boards have to be considered in the context of a hire. The café internally would only be open to the public on visitor days. This we know would not suit many of our current supporters or park users, so we have included in our plans an outside kiosk with accessible toilet facilities and baby changing. We have placed this in the courtyard area that can be accessed from the formal lawns on the South of the house. This, we hope, will help to keep the gardens accessible year round with facilities that are important to our supporters and the community more widely.
For education and school groups our consultants have identified circulation routes using the service areas of the house (the kitchen and its rooms on the north side of the house). This section can be accessed by creating new access through the bar area. It can be used without interfering with visitor days or wedding hire. We can also animate the spaces on the first and second floor of the North wing by adding an entrance on Yew Tree road to enable the micro business spaces to be self-contained and for staff and volunteers to enter and exit.
The grounds have real heritage value and are Grade 2 listed on Historic England’s Register of Park and Gardens as of national importance but ‘at risk’ of loss. The grounds have been neglected over time and are in a poor state requiring specialist planning and designs in multiple parts of the grounds. The plans will balance the needs to restore some of the elements within the grounds such as the Dutch and Italian Gardens, whilst maintaining the nature value of the grounds as part of the wider park. The grounds plans include additional interventions to support biodiversity. Our plans present a net-gain in nature conservation value with for example, the additions of natural drainage and ‘wet-meadow’ areas near to the current reedbed area.
- unified path network
- reinstated Italian Garden
- restored pond edging and planing
- clear views and improved sight lines
- manage drainage and water bodies
- historic planting
- improved drive access and parking
The Mansion was visually more connected to the park in Chamberlain’s time and 10 sight lines have been identified out of around 42 documented views and vistas in the original plans. 3 of those sight lines have already been re-established. 7 more have been identified that will help the park users and visitors to see aspects of the intended experience of both viewing the grounds from the house and seeing how it is connected to the park from different points throughout the grounds. Some tree and vegetation clearance is planned for this but will be compensated for in other areas of the grounds and park. The grounds have a lot of self-seeded vegetation.
The programme of activities that CHT runs are varied and cover a wide variety of experiences that different groups of people can be involved in.
Our activities will take place both in the Mansion and in the grounds:
· We have a youth board learning about leadership and governance
· Schools group activities based on the history of the Chamberlain Family and life at Highbury
· Leadership training and events with multiple partners across age ranges 16-30
· Volunteering opportunities from tour guiding to gardening roles
· Open days with activities and family friendly spaces
· Events with English lessons and refugee integration
· Festivals including on sustainability and food
· Grounds activity with nature and conservation
We have also been looking at ways we tell Highbury’s Story and the story of the Chamberlains on a local national and global stage.
Now click here to tell us what you think.
Thank you for your time and ongoing interest in Highbury