Update on possible restoration of former Golden Lion pub in Cannon Hill Park
Visitors to Cannon Hill Park will not have missed the timber framed building, known as the Golden Lion pub, that has been permanently covered in scaffolding since 1996. The building is located near the Victorian bandstand, which in turn is close to the Russell Road entrance of the park.
I recently managed to successfully bid for £5000 from the corporate centre of the Council, to fund a structural and historic survey of this building. This is part of a determined effort to restore the building and get it back into use, mostly likely as a cafe/restaurant. The intention of this survey was to understand what needs repairing to the building to get it back into use, plus what is actually original on the building – I am informed by the council’s Conservation officers that only the frontage of the building is original and that the body dates from 1911.
Once we could under what needs repairing on the building, we could potentially offer it to the private market on a 15 to 25 year lease, where they repair the building, in exchange for a pepper corn annual rent.
Unfortunately, this survey has run into problems with the present structural safety of the building which is preventing anyone entering the building. I am now trying to identify further pots of money to make the building safe enough to do enter and complete this survey
Background to the Golden Lion pub
The former Golden Lion pub building dates from about 1500. It was originally located on Digbeth (or to be geographically correct, Deritend) along High Street Deritend. Its original location is very close to the junction of High Street Deritend and Alcester Street, where the Peugeot showroom is now and somewhere in the middle of the ‘into city’ lane of the High Street; the road was made into a dual carriageway in the 1960s.
The early history of the Golden Lion pub is hazy – very much like the other pre-Tudor building on Deritend High Street, the Old Crown pub. Like the Old Crown, the Golden Lion was not originally a public house. It is speculated that the Golden Lion was originally both the Clergy House and the school for the nearby Church of St John the Baptist. The Church of St John the Baptist dated from 1300 and was until the 1960s located at the corner of High Street Deritend and Chapel House Street (next to where the Irish Centre is today). This church was the parish church of Deritend, which at the time of 1500 was not part of Birmingham, but instead part of Aston.
It is believed that the first complete English Bible was printed inside the building of the Golden Lion pub by John Rogers – John Rogers would go on to be the first Martyr burnt at the stake by Queen Mary. For more details on the life of John Rogers go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Rogers_(Bible_editor_and_martyr)
At some point in its history, the Golden Lion building became a pub. In 1911 the building was dismantled and re-erected at Cannon Hill Park. Its move was funded by the Birmingham and Warwickshire Archaeological Society.
In Cannon Hill Park it was used as both a Cricket Pavilion and a Tea Room. The cricket pitch was in the area between the Golden Lion and the main pond. It stopped been used as a cricket pavilion in the early 1980s.
In 1996, the building was completely closed due to structurally problems and held up using the scaffolding you now see in place.
Progress to get the building restored and put back into use was held up until early this year. This was because the thought within the Council was to move the Golden Lion building back to Digbeth – site and use unknown. It couldn’t go back to original location, since it would be in the middle of a dual carriageway. Using my position of Cabinet member for Leisure, Sport and Culture and with advice from English Heritage, it was decided to keep the building in Cannon Hill Park and move towards re-opening it as a cafe/restaurant. This was based on the advice that moving the building again, could damage the timber joints and the fact that it could not be put back in its original location – also it location in Cannon Hill Park is very picturesque for a building of this type.
On that basis we bid for £5000 to do a structural and historic survey.
The surveyor did an initial assessment on whether the building is safe to enter. Unfortunately, the building is not safe to enter for the following reasons:
1) The structural scaffold around the building has not been maintained since 1996. As a result the building itself is most likely to be holding up the scaffolding.
2) New structural scaffolding will need to be designed and erected around the building, before anyone can enter the building.
3) The interior of the building is covered in pigeon and rat droppings and will require a thorough environmental clean before any survey work is done.
The cost of the new scaffolding and environmental clean is estimated to be approximately £50k.
I am now trying to identify funds to go ahead with this.
In the meantime, the £5k has been transferred to additionally fund works to re-roof the Grade II listed Cannon Hill Park bandstand. The roof is at the end of its design life and without a new covering water will start to ingress into the timber roof structure. This work is due to start in the next few weeks.