Category Archives: News

Group campaigns against the closure of Moseley Road Baths

The historic Moseley Road Baths will be closed before the end of 2015, it has been decided. However, this has not stopped the tireless campaigning of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, a group aiming to retain and restore the building and its original featuresBrumitecture speaks with Steve Beauchampe, a member of the group, about the future of the building.

The History

Moseley Road Baths is located in Balsall Heath. The building was opened in October 1907, with the construction costing around £32,924. The oldest of three Grade II* listed swimming baths still open in Britain, this spectacular building retains much of its original layout, fixtures and fittings. It was given to the community of Balsall Heath when they ‘joined Birmingham’, and it is run by the Birmingham City Council.

Unique Architecture

It is the fixtures and fittings that make this unique building worth saving, according to the Friends of Moseley Baths. The rarity of these features shouldn’t be ignored; the building contains a complete set of 46 pre-war ‘slipper’ baths, which is the only full set of this kind in Britain, however they are currently closed to the public due to disrepair.

“So much of what is in there is now unique throughout the country. The Baths still have so many of its original features – these don’t exist anywhere else.” Steve Beauchampe, Friends of Moseley Road Baths

pool 2 moseley road baths birminghamPool 2 (still in daily use)

The architectural features of the building are astounding. A three-sided spectator gallery and balconettes look over the Gala Pool, while the 98ft frontage of the building is intricately decorated in a Gothic renaissance style.

Building Neglect

Due to continual budget cuts and lack of funding, Moseley Road Baths has fallen into neglect. This isn’t the first time the fate of the building has been uncertain – in 2007 it was included in the Victorian Society’s list of ten most endangered buildings in Britain.

heated towel racks moseley road baths birminghamSteam Heated Drying Racks in the Laundry Room

There is only one pool, the smallest, currently open. The grand Gala Pool, hosting unique balconettes, and the rare ‘slipper’ baths were closed in 2003 and 2004 due to structural safety and maintenance issues.

Closure Plans

Birmingham City Council plans to close Moseley Road Baths before the end of 2015, with the intention to convert much of the building to uses not related to swimming or fitness. This causes many concerns for the community, both for heritage enthusiasts and the welfare of the community has a whole. This troubles the Friends of Moseley Road Baths group, who have stepped in to campaign to raise awareness of the building.

Steve Beauchampe, a member of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, states that

“English heritage always say if a building can be used for its primary purpose it should be. There is a demand within the area for a swimming pool. This community facility its really important.”

gala pool closed moseley road baths birminghamThe Gala Pool (closed since August 31st 2003)

This conversion could put the original features of the building at risk. The Friends of Moseley Baths strive to encourage the council to restore the original features and reopen both pools for the public to enjoy this fine example of the community’s architectural and local heritage. One way of doing this may be to engage with a heritage group, which requires the support of the local council.  However, the problems with some areas of the building are so extensive that it would be costly to repair.

Replacement Baths

Importantly, when Moseley Road Baths close, many believe that the prospect of replacement baths in Balsall Heath is unlikely due to a lack of funding and available land. Instead, residents will have to travel to the ‘replacement’ pool in Sparkhill which is currently being built.

“It is an important loss of community space,” says Steve. “You are taking something away from the community. People won’t go [to the replacement baths]. People need them and can’t make the extra journey, from cost or time.”

Friends of Moseley Road Baths

The future of the pool is uncertain after plans to submit a Heritage Lottery Fund application were dismissed by the council. However, the Friends of Moseley Baths will continue to “keep highlighting the importance of building through events,” although Steve admits that despite engaging with councillors, they have generally been unsupportive, and “we have to be realistic.” Many other community buildings in the area have recently been closed, including the School of Art and the local library. There are also no clear plans for the development of the baths once it is closed to the public.

Steve reflects on what it may be like if the building were fully restored;

“The whole experience of using it would be such a different experience for everyone than anywhere else they are like to go swimming.”

To find out more, visit: Friends of Moseley Road Baths website

All images property of Friends of Moseley Road Baths

How HS2 will change Curzon Street in photos

The proposed changes for HS2 were announced earlier this year, with Birmingham recently named as the chosen engineering HQ for the project. HS2 sees to redevelop key areas of the country, including many parts of Birmingham city, including Eastside, which has already seen much change as part of the Big City Plan.

This post will explore what further changes are in store for Curzon Street, Eastside, and will show you what some of the changes will look like in before and after slideshows.

Proposed changes

The new HS2 terminus aims to make the journey from London to Birmingham only 49 minutes. Hoping to boost Birmingham’s economy by £1.3 billion every year, and creating over 14,000 jobs and around 600,000 square metres of employment floorspace, it is an ambitious project. The construction is set to begin in phases from 2017, with trains arriving in Birmingham from 2026.

“The Curzon Street Masterplan… shows an exciting vision of how the area around the Curzon Street station can be developed and transformed.” – HS2 Chief Executive Alison Munro

The architectural changes are as dramatic as the figures – the new station – Birmingham Curzon –  will be shrouded in a large glass structure, signifying the new ‘entrance’ to the city. The new station will be the largest built in Birmingham for over 100 years,.

Birmingham Curzon

Birmingham Curzon will be encased in a large glass structure. The station itself will be the main point for trains from London to Birmingham, and will also host retail facilities.

“Their vision for the Curzon HS2 Masterplan demonstrates the transformational value of HS2, not just for rail passengers but for the communities that the railway will serve.” – Lord Deighton, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury and Chair of the HS2 Growth Taskforce

Surrounding the station there will be extensive development, including transforming the derelict and fire-damaged Co-Op Building into a mixed use development. Much new office and creative business space will be created, further pushing the image of Birmingham as a city of enterprise and industry.

Curzon Street Station

 

Curzon Street Station will be incorporated into plans for the new station, although its exact use has not been specified. HS2 assets documents state that there will be:

“Protection of the former Curzon Street station building and the Woodman public house during construction and enhancement of their settings.”

While details of the station’s internal future remain vague, plans for its exterior and surroundings are certainly ambitious. Hopefully, the new development will help to make the historic station a hub of the community once again.

Nearby derelict public house Eagle and Tun will be incorporated into the new glass structure. The locally listed red brick pub will be modified as part of the construction process.

The History

Curzon Street Station

Curzon Street Station has stood proudly in Birmingham Eastside since 1838. It was a grand design by architect Philip Hardwick, which connected London and Birmingham by rail for the first time.

The station closed in 1966 and has successfully evaded demolition several times thanks to its Grade I heritage listing. The building is currently empty, save for an occasional art exhibition, most recently the Hidden Spaces exhibition by Associated Architects.

Curzon Street Station is set to be transformed to its former glory, once again part of the new HS2 terminus hosting trains from London to Birmingham – this time on an innovative high speed network. The station will be at the heart of the development at Birmingham Eastside.

Eagle and Tun public house

Just down the road from Curzon Street Station, the Eagle and Tun public house is a lost local treasure. It was once home to a thriving music scene, hosting the music video for UB40’s ‘Red Red Wine’ and holding live music regularly.

The pub closed in 2008 and has been empty since then. The building has fallen into dereliction and has some structural problems, future thoughts of retaining it in the wake of the new HS2 development uncertain.

The Eagle and Tun public house is a Grade B locally listed building. Although usually afford no legal backing in development decisions, the building will be incorporated into the new station, although its future use is still unclear.

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Eagle and Tun pub to be transformed in HS2 development

Library of Birmingham: From construction to landmark in photos

Opened on 3 September 2013, the Library of Birmingham has fast become one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks. With a build costing around £188 million, the Library has gone on to win a number of design awards. How did the Library transform from a car park to an iconic structure? Here it is in pictures:

birmingham newsroom exterior build library of birmingham

Located in Centenary Square, the Library of Birmingham sits on a site which was once a car park, next to the REP Theatre. This final site was decided after much deliberation by Birmingham City Council in 2006.

library of birmingham harry cock

The facade of the building is clad in metal circles, forming a geometric pattern. A large roof terrace is full of lush planting including a wildflower meadow, encouraging a recent architectural trend for bringing greenery to a city using high rise buildings.

birmingham newsroom exterior scaffold library of birmingham

The public car park functioned until 2009, while in 2008 a shortlist of architects were selected during an international competition. In August, Mecanoo and Buro Happold were selected as the winners.

birmingham newsroom exterior scaffold library of birmingham

In 2009, plans for the Library were were unveiled, and building works began shortly thereafter in 2010.

library of birmingham harry cock

The building was opened in September 2013 by Malala Yousafzi, a young girl who survived a Taliban attempt on her life and now campaigns for women’s rights from Birmingham.

library of birmingham construction newsroom interior

The building is centred around a large, circular stairwell. Higher floors look down into the basement of the library.

library of birmingham harry cock interior stairwell

The futuristic design has large escalators and curved book-cases housing over 400,00 books on the public floors.

library of birmingham construction newsroom interior

The Amphitheatre is a modern interpretation of Roman design, where an amphitheatre was traditionally used for gladiatorial shows and horse racing.

library of birmingham amphitheatre harry cock newsroom

The Amphitheatre of the Library of Birmingham is home to cultural entertainment, ranging from live music to exhibitions.view library of birmingham window harry cock newsroom

The new Library of Birmingham has a wealth of facilities, including over 200 public access computers, spread over 9 floors.

library of birmingham gallery harry cock

 The Gallery, sharing artwork and photography exhibitions cements the Library of Birmingham’s position as a cultural hub. Visitors also benefit from the panoramic city views.

Images of construction property of Birmingham Newsroom. Images of Library of Birmingham property of Harry Cock for Library of Birmingham.

Island House, Birmingham: 100 years of history demolished

Built by architect G.E Pepper in 1913, Grade B locally listed Island House stood proud on the corner of Fazeley Street for almost 100 years. After becoming derelict, the building was bought by company Quintain, and set to be developed. However, it didn’t go to plan.

History

Designed by George E. Pepper in 1909, the building was originally intended as offices and warehouse space for Messrs Churchill & Co, a prominent machine tool company. Island House opened in 1913.

The building was later repurposed as offices, housing Birmingham City Council’s arts teams. After it became unoccupied, the building fell into dereliction, subject to break-ins and antisocial behaviour.

Site of Hotel La Tour at Masshouse island house by elliott brown
Image property of Elliott Brown

Design

It was the historic façade of Island House that captured the community around it. Ornately decorated, it was a grand triangular building which was iconic for many living and working in the Masshouse area.

Its Edwardian Mannerist style demonstrated the reversal of traditional design, with plain Ionic decoration on the ground floor and scrolled Doric decoration on the first floor facades. In contrast, the rear entrance to the property had a much more refined, utilitarian style. It has been noted the Classical building held similarities to the Flatifon Building in New York City.

The majority of the building was originally used as warehouse space. The front area of the first floor was reserved for offices, including the rounded main private office.

The warehouse space was originally open plan, although later alterations to the property included installing partition walls when the building was converted to office use.

Damage to the building had removed some original features. There was once a domed rotunda atop the building that went missing, possibly due to damage in WWII. Similarly, the Island House once had a third floor nestled in the roof believed to have been lost to bombing in WWII.

island house scaffolding elliott brown birmingham demolitionImage property of Elliott Brown

Development

Bought by Quintain, Island house was intended to be incorporated into its City Park Gate development, restoring it to its former glory. However, as new HS2 plans began to surface, the buildings future became increasingly uncertain. Birmingham City Council went on to release their ‘Big City Plan’ in 2011, which pointed towards the demolition of Island House.

Quintain’s application for demolition was successful. It was originally believed that they would have to honour their Section 106 restoration agreement, but it emerged that as building work had not commenced they were not bound by the agreement.

Island_House_Hotel_La_Tour
Image property of Bs0u10e01

Campaign

In January 2012, a campaign to save Island House launched, including a protest demonstration outside of the building to try and halt demolition. Protestors included members of local groups such as the Victorian Society and Birmingham Friends of the Earth. Due to the building’s Local Listing status and it’s much loved façade, it was felt that Island House had a prominent place in the community and many opposed its demolition.

Cranes at the Hotel La Tour site, Island House by Elliott Brown

Post demolition Island House site by elliott brown
Images property of Elliott Brown

Demolition

The Building Heritage Assessment deemed Island House ‘a generic value and is not supported to any significant degree’ although its ‘communal value as part of a shared public history’ was noted. The building was eventually demolished in 2012 amidst fervent campaigning, a little under 100 years after its construction was completed. The site has remained empty since the removal of Island House.

Featured image property of BrianaC37

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Kent House, Birmingham: From bath house to car park (updated)

Once a Grade B Locally Listed bath house, Kent House lay derelict for many years before it was demolished to become a car park.

Bath House building boom

Kent House was an extension of Kent Street Baths, which was the first baths constructed by the Birmingham Baths Committee, a council-run organisation, following the Act ‘to encourage the establishment of baths and wash-houses’ was passed. The site of the baths was chosen in 1849, while the foundation stone was laid when building work began on the 29th October 1849 by the Mayor.

Opening day!

Designed by D.H. Hill, they were opened in 1851, before their completion in 1852, after a three year build costing around 23,000. The baths housed a variety of facilities. In 1915, Kent Street Baths were the first in Birmingham to introduce mixed family bathing, for three days a week initially. The idea was so popular it became common across bathing houses in the city. A separate women’s’ swimming baths were opened in 1914 in the next building.

A new addition

The original Kent Street Baths were closed in 1927, and come 1930, the most of the baths were demolished, leaving the women’s baths still standing.

The womens baths were be incorporated into a new art deco building designed by Hurley Robinson, opening in 1933. This building was known as Kent House. The new building notably contained a spectator gallery and a diving stage set in a Proscenium arch.

World War II

During World War II, Kent House was bombed in 1940, damaging the gala bath and its surrounding buildings. The structure was repaired, and continued use until it closed in 1977, following a sale to the current owners, Benacre Estates, around 1970.

Dereliction and demolition

After a long an interesting history, the Grace B Locally Listed Kent House was demolished in 2009 after becoming derelict, despite local dispute. The owner of the property was Benacre Property, and the site is now a surface car park.

Featured image property of Erebus55

Eagle and Tun pub to be transformed in HS2 development

In new plans unveiled by Birmingham City Council this May, it has been revealed that the Eagle and Tun public house would be transformed and incorporated into the new Curzon Street Gateway as part of the proposed HS2 developement.

The Eagle and Tun, on the corner of Banbury Street, has a quirkier history than most. The location for UB40’s ‘Red Red Wine’ video and a once thriving music venue, the pub now sits derelict. With a local listing status of Grade B, the building has been unused since its closure in 2008.

6686591145_bd248f0885_bImage by Brianac37

“HS2 will be an important catalyst for this ongoing development and regeneration activity.”

– Waheed Nazir, Birmingham City Council

The new HS2 network is proposed as part of Birmingham’s Big City Plan, which will see changes to 141 hectres of the city centre, stretching from Eastside to New Street. The Curzon Street Gateway would restore the Grade I listed Curzon Street Station, making it the new hub of the HS2 network.

hs2 artists impression new canal street 3d birmingham newsroomNew Canal Street 3D render – image property of Birmingham Newsroom

Fears that the pub would be demolished during these works have been set to rest, as new plans state that

‘there will be modifications to the locally listed Eagle and Tun public house on New Canal Street to integrate the building within the proposed Curzon Street station structure’.

Nearby pub, the Fox and Grapes which is Grade 2 listed, would be demolished during the new development.

Waheed Nazir, Director for Planning and Regeneration at Birmingham City Council sates “The Masterplan sets out the City Council’s aspirations for the new HS2 terminus station and the huge regeneration potential that surrounds it.”

Works on the HS2 development across the route are expected to start in 2017, following formal consultations and environmental surveys.