Highbury Park Historic Conservation Survey now on-line
The Council have released the recently completely Historic Conservation Survey of Highbury Park, Moseley, Birmingham. I have uploaded the document at www.martinmullaney.co.uk/highbury.pdf . The document is 35Mb in size, so will take a minute or two to download. The document has been watermarked, so as to permit its public distribution.
This document is crucial, since the City Council, through the Highbury Trust, are requesting permission from the Charity Commission to dispose of sections of the Highbury Hall grounds – more on this issue later. Photographs showing which sections they intend to sell off, can be seen at:
This survey will now provide guidelines for any future changes or restoration projects in the park AND will form the basis for a future Heritage Lottery bid for monies to restore the gardens of Highbury Hall.
The report is 116 pages long and goes through in fine detail the history of the park and which landscapes and features are of historic importance. It also puts into a national context the importance of the heritage of the park.
Highbury Park is one of the few parks in Birmingham that is protected by its inclusion on the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.
The report shows that Highbury Park contains two preserved estates that are of historic significance in Birmingham:
1) The southern section of the park contains the early 18th century landscape of the Henburys – it contained landscape gardens and farm land. This is a rare survival from this period, especially in an urban environment.
2) The northern section of the park contains the gardens of Highbury Hall. These were laid out between 1879 and 1914 and were the creation of Joseph Chamberlain – head of Birmingham’s most famous political family. His son Neville was Prime Minister of Britain between 1937 and 1940. His other son, Austin received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1923. Joseph Chamberlain is described by many as the founder of modern Birmingham and after whom Chamberlain Square in central Birmingham is named.
The report also shows that many features survive, that pre-date the opening of the public park in 1921, and these include:
a) Late Neolithic to Bronze Age (2,500BC to 701BC) burnt mounds. Burnt mounds are believed to have been prehistoric saunas
b) Medieval to post-Medieval plough and furrow features. Plough and furrow was a pre-enclosure form of growing crops, which improved the drainage on the land. These are rare to find in an urban environment
c) Many of the paths, trees and hedges in the park originate from either the early 18th Century Henburys estate or the late Victorian Highbury estate.
Highbury Hall and its grounds are owned by the Highbury Trust, which in turn is managed by the City Council. The Highbury Trust consists of: Highbury Hall (statutory listed Grade II*); the Lodge (statutory listed Grade II*) at the corner of Moor Green Lane and Yew Tree Lane; Chamberlain House which was built in the 1950s on the footprint of the former Highbury Hall glass houses; the former kitchens of Highbury Hall – now used by the Four Seasons Project – and the section of park between Highbury Hall and the main pond.
The Highbury Trust was created in the 1920s for the benefit of the citizens of Birmingham, but contained no endowment to maintain the parkland and buildings.
The Charity Commission in the year 2000 criticised the Council for using both Highbury Hall and Chamberlain House for non-charitable uses. Highbury Hall is used for weddings and conferences, while Chamberlain House is used as offices for Social Services.
As a means of raising money to repair the structure of Highbury Hall, the Trust are in the process of asking the Charity Commission for permission to dispose of parts of the grounds of Highbury Hall – namely the former Lodge, the 1950s Chamberlain House and associated car park
Residents have until 21st February 2009 to comment on this disposal to the Charity Commission at http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/supportingcharities/schemes/sch000003.asp?PDFName=90550
From my perspective, I will be objecting to this disposal in light of the information contained within the Highbury Park Conservation Survey. It is important that the entire Highbury Hall grounds are kept as one, OR if sections are disposed of, then there must be strict guidelines are what can be demolished or built on these grounds. I am concerned that selling off Chamberlain House and the attached car park will lead to a small housing estate being built here......this is totally unacceptable.