• Community Initiatives,  Heritage Under Threat,  Listed Building Spotlight,  News Update

    Modern Doors Meet Grand Architecture

    Birmingham is notable for having over 200 listed buildings…

    Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter is full of grand listed buildings. Credit: Brian Clift [https://www.flickr.com/photos/42129133@N06/8216172261] License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode
    …whilst also being a thriving multi-cultural metropolis that has grown to be the home to well over 1 million people.

    Some buildings in the city can be dated as far back as the 18th Century and, as such, have been protected and listed. Birmingham has always been one of the most populous parts of the country. As far back as the 14th century the then town was classed as the third-largest in Warwickshire.

    Manufacture and industry has been a key to the city’s success, with huge development taking place from the 18th century to the Industrial Revolution taking us right through to present day. However, this success and relentless pace of progress has proved to be as much a blessing as a curse. In the years before the preservation of buildings was considered a serious matter, many unique structures were demolished in favour of building new factories. Although the boost that this industrial change brought to the city is undeniably positive and (some might say) necessary for its progress, it lead to Birmingham becoming a main target during the Second World War.

    The city suffered significant damage during this time, which led to a spate of new buildings rising throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Thankfully, many of Birmingham most prestigious and important buildings have survived to this day, despite many of them remaining empty or disused for years on end:

    Birmingham Moor Street Railway Station

    Birmingham Moor Street Station has been rebuilt to reflect its 20th Century heritage. [Credit: Geof Sheppard License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode]
    Although visitors from outside the city are more likely to arrive through the recently renovated Birmingham New Street station, Moor Street is the unsung hero of the three that, ironically, remains the least changed out of all them, thanks to a number of recent renovations made which combined the original with the newer station (built in 1987) restoring both buildings to a 1930s style.

    Victoria Law Court

    Birmingham’s Law Courts are still in regular use today. Credit: Tony Hisgett [https://www.flickr.com/photos/37804979@N00] License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode
    The iconic red brick that was used to build the Victoria Law Courts can be spied in public buildings all across the city and was chosen to encourage pride amongst the city’s inhabitants for the spate of changes that were taking place during the late 1800s. The building has maintained its austere Victorian feel, whilst managing to keep up to date with the times (the ‘Digital Court’ concept is currently being tested there).

    Cornwall Building

    Credit: Robin Stott [https://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/34609] License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode
    The Grade-II listed Cornwall Building can hardly go unnoticed with its impressive brick and terracotta fronting placing it firmly in the late 19th century. Although the building was unloved for a number of years, it gained its listed status in 1982 and has since been through a number of hands. Its currents owners have transformed its lofty spaces into a hub for creative minds and businesses, satisfying the demand for new office space in Birmingham. The renovation has been a careful one, with the designers ensuring that the building retains it’s original spirit whilst also adhering to proper safety regulations. Wall to ceiling glass must be properly marked out with glass manifestations and fire exit signs must be properly installed in order for this handsome building to meet modern standards.

    Perrott’s Folly

    Perrott’s Folly is said to have influenced J.R.R. Tolkien in writing The Lord of the Rings. Credit: Oosoom [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Oosoom] License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode
    There aren’t many buildings in Birmingham that are surrounded by as many myths as the eye-catching Perrott’s Folly. The 18th century tower stands 29 metres tall in Rotton Park, towering over the mostly residential properties in the nearest vicinity.

    Only rumours remain to explain why John Perrott commissioned the building. Some suggest that it was built to entertain guests, or for Perrott to survey his lands, where as other (rather romantically) hold that it offered him a view of his wife’s grave, 15 miles away.

  • Community Initiatives,  Heritage Under Threat,  Listed Building Spotlight

    Manchester’s Interesting Listed Buildings

    This Northern city has some truly impressive heritage!

    Manchester’s Central Library is one of many listed buildings in the city. Credit: G-Man [https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:G-Man]
    The city of Manchester is home to hundreds of listed buildings, ranging from charming little cottages tucked away on suburban side streets to huge landmarks that are simply impossible to miss. We’ve collected together the listed buildings that we believe are worth seeing, whether it’s due to their heritage or their sheer beauty.

    Not all of these buildings are open at all times, so it’s best to check their respective websites before you make any plans:

    Town Hall

    Manchester’s Town Hall will be closed for refurbishment until 2026. Credit: Mark Andrew [https://www.flickr.com/people/90950116@N06] License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/uk/legalcode
    Celebrating its 140th anniversary this year, Manchester’s iconic Town Hall was completed in 1877. The building has remained largely unchanged for most of this time, which is why it has closed for refurbishment. Over a period of six years, the Town Hall will be lovingly restored and updated, preserving the features that make it so iconic in addition to ensuring that it is completely accessible and safe for all that choose to visit.

    The Coupland Buildings

    The Blue Plaque marks Turing’s residence within the Coupland Building. Credit: Ben Green License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode

    Although hardly the grandest of structures, the Coupland Building played a vital role in harbouring one of Britain’s great scientific minds, Alan Turing. After achieving notoriety with his 1937 paper, Turing was recruited during World War II to help decode enemy messages. Later, in 1948, he was brought to Manchester Univeristy to create a computer with the help of Max Newman, the Professor of Pure Mathematics. Turing worked in the Coupling building from 1951, helping with programming and developing the ‘Turing test’ during his time in the city.

    Manchester Cathedral


    Manchester’s Cathedral might appear fairly modern from the outside, but looks can truly be deceiving…Step inside this majestic space to discover more about the city’s history, whilst you’re there you can check out the Angel Stone. This remnant was discovered whilst work was being undertaken on the South Porch of the Cathedral during the 19th Century. The tablet is thought to have originated from a Saxon church that might have been the first religious settlement in the UK, and has been dated to the 8th Century.

    Elizabeth Gaskell’s House

    The Gaskell House, where Elizabeth Gaskell penned many of her books. Credit: EDempsey License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode]

    A visit to Gaskell House offers literature and history lovers alike the chance to delve into the life of one of Britain’s most loved female writer. Elizabeth Gaskell’s writing, which includes Cranford and North and South, was not full appreciated during her time, in fact her influence was almost completely distinguished by (mostly male) critics. Thankfully, she found fans posthumously amongst writers in the 1960s, who saw her writing as prevailing against patriarchal views of the time. Head to the site to find out more about opening times and prices.

    Grand Hotel, Aytoun Street

    The recently converted Grand Hotel on Aytoun Street. Credit: Stephen Richards [https://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/34784] License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]
    The Grand Hotel (now known simply as ‘The Grand’) is in spitting distance of Picadilly Gardens and, although you can’t enter the building to take a look around, it’s well worth a look from the pavement. Once a warehouse, the hotel was redesigned by the same architects in 1883 and soon became one of the most popular in the city. Demand waned for the hotel over the years, until it eventually closed. Today ‘The Grand’ exists as a collection of flats, but the building is protected from any further alterations as it was listed in 1987.

  • Community Initiatives,  Heritage Under Threat,  Listed Building Spotlight

    Further Research: Resources & Link

    Have you taken an interest in the work that Amenity Societies do?

    The Chapel at King’s College London is an example of a Grade I listed building. Credit: Diliff [https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Diliff] License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode
    Every year these societies work tirelessly to protect precious pockets of English Heritage, through a variety of different tactics and stratagems.

    Although many of these groups benefit from donations, they are always in need of more help whether that’s in the form of more money, a signature on a petition or an able body at a protest or rally. Whether you’re interested in having an impact on your local area, or you fancy casting your net a little further afield, then you can always help out one of these groups.

    Find out more about these groups & societies below and head to their websites to see what you can do to make a positive impact on this country:

    Campaign for Better Transport

    The Campaign for Better Transport has spent over 40 years actively promoting new ways of transport that improves the quality of life for people living in the community, in addition to rallying the government for changes. The charity is completely independent and spends its funds providing well-researched, practical solutions (such as monitoring survey and track monitoring) to transport problems in addition to appealing to the government to refrain from building more roads and expanding airports.

    You can find out more about their mission and how you can help them by heading to their site here: http://bettertransport.org.uk/

    Empty Homes

    Every year thousands of planning applications are submitted to local councils by large building firms looking to erect new housing estates and flat complexes, despite there already being thousands of vacant homes that could easily accommodate new dwellers. Empty homes was established in 1992 and aims to bring as many of these vacant dwelling back into use as possible, in addition to encourage community-based regeneration in areas with high levels of vacant homes.

    Learn about Empty Homes here: https://www.emptyhomes.com/

    Ancient Monuments Society

    Founded in 1924, the AMS promotes ‘the study and conservation of ancient monuments, historic buildings and fine old craftmanship’. Consulted on by councils up and down the country, the society is comprised of a number of historical and architectural experts, all of whom have are dedicated to the preservation and conservation of buildings in England. In conjunction with the work done with the Friends of Friendless Churches, AMS work tirelessly to protect the heritage of some of our oldest buildings.

    Discover about their work here: http://www.ancientmonumentssociety.org.uk/our-work/

    Joint Committee of the National Amenity Societies

    This Committee brings together members from the seven most established historical amenity societies, specifically, the groups that have been described in Acts of Parliament and that have become so important that they are frequently consulted upon before the demolition, alteration or extension of historical buildings take place. They are composed of the Ancient Monument Society, the Council for British Archaeology, the Garden History Society, the Georgian Group, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Twentieth Century Society and the Victorian Society.

    Find out more about them here: http://www.jcnas.org.uk/

  • Community Initiatives,  Heritage Under Threat,  Listed Building Spotlight,  News Update

    Listed Buildings: How They Work

    Is there a building that you’re particularly worried about?

    Buckingham Palace, a Grade I-listed building that is certainly not under threat. Credit: Wikipedia [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode]
    If you’re worried that a certain historical building is under threat of being altered, extended or demolished then you can nominate it to be listed by the National Heritage Trust. Nominations aren’t always accepted and listing is subject to a number of principles that have been put in place by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

    Before you make your nomination to save your building it’s a good idea to check to see if the building is not already listed. Despite your fears for this particular place, if this building satisfies the principles laid down and adjudicated upon by the Secretary of State then there’s a good chance that the site has either already been listed or is in the process of being assessed. Head to Historic England’s complete list to find out if the building that you’re looking to save hasn’t already been listed.

    There are a number of factors that affect the Secretary of State’s decision to list or not list a building and although it might seem like some of these factors are somewhat arbitrary, it’s worth considering them from a dispassionate point view, in order not to waste your time, or that of the Amenity Societies that will be looking into the case.

    It might sound a little redundant, but your building needs to be important should you wish it to be saved. ‘Important’ can be interpreted in a number of ways, but in the terms laid out by the ‘Principles of selection for listing buildings’ this can either be via Architectural interest or Historic interest.

    Architectural Interest

    Leeds General Infirmary, a Grade I listed building that is still in constant public use. Credit: Wikipedia [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode]
    A building may be considered important based on its architectural interest if its design, decoration or craftsmanship is of particular note. For example, perhaps your building features a particular style of period decoration that is no longer practised, or maybe it displays a certain innovation of that time that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

    Historic Interest

    The Royal Oak in East London, a pub, was recently listed due to its characteristic 20th century architectural design. Credit: The Kray Twins Wikia [Credit: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]
    In order for your building to be considered of historical interest it must illustrate ‘important aspects of the nation’s social, economic, cultural, or military history’. If it can’t be deemed important on these grounds then it might have a historical association with a nationally important persons such as a writer, politician or artist.

    Age and Rarity

    Holy Trinity Church in Colchester is the oldest church in the town, with parts dating back to 1020. Credit: Wikipedia [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]
    The older a building is, the more likely it is that it will be the last of its kind, and therefore of note. Buildings that have been built before 1700 and contain a significant section of their original structure are automatically listed. Most buildings from between 1700 to 1840 are listed, however due to the boom in construction, during this time greater selection is required. Generally speaking, no building is considered for listing that is less than thirty years old, whilst a great amount of care is needed to decide if any structure built from 1945 onwards is worthy of being listed.

    For more information on the listing process you can head to Historic England’s site.