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Birmingham Local History - Inge Street Project

Conversion and restoration of the historic back-to-back houses in Inge Street and Hurst Street.

Now completed and opened to the public in July 2004

inge.jpg (95937 bytes)
At the start of restoration

Located in the heart of the city, adjacent to Birmingham?s recently refurbished Hippodrome Theatre, the Court 15 complex is the last complete courtyard of early C19 back to back housing in the city. The eleven small houses, arranged around a central courtyard with communal wash houses and lavatories, offer a fascinating insight into the lives of Birmingham?s working people over a period of 200 years. 
This project rescues the buildings from dereliction and in response to strong local pressure opens the houses to the public, creating a unique new tourist attraction for the city.
Four of the houses and the courtyard will be open to the public, displayed at different periods of their history - c1850, c 1890, 1920/30?s and 1977 ? which will highlight the changes in occupation and use. The emphasis will be on a dynamic sense of history and atmospheric recreation ? to evoke a feeling of the family having just stepped out of the rooms for a few minutes. 

Back to Backs restored
Hurst Street 24-August-2004

The displays in the buildings will be augmented by printed materials and digital information on a website, which will relate the history of the houses to the wider history of Birmingham. An education room will be provided, equipped with learning materials drawn from the City?s extensive archive of photographs and oral history records. 

Access for all and strong community links will be essential elements of the project. Older members of the community with memories of life in such houses will be targeted to act as volunteer guides and local schools will be involved in developing teaching materials and IT provision. The Education Department of the City sees this project as an ideal opportunity for local children to study their history and the department will be advising on the priorities for the educational themes. The local access group have already been actively involved in designing appropriate disabled access into the scheme and have offered to include the houses in their access guide to the city.

Of the other seven houses in the complex, three will be let out as holiday lets, authentically refurbished to reflect the period of the show houses, but with additional modern facilities. The remaining houses will be used as offices for the properties. 

The Management
Once the buildings have been refurbished by the Birmingham Conservation Trust, the properties will be managed and run by the National Trust. As a 

major national organisation the National Trust will bring long term sustainability to this project, their high standards of presentation and the capacity to ensure good training for staff and volunteers.

This is a new and exciting venture for the National Trust and will involve them in working in new ways with new audiences. Unlike other National Trust properties Court 15 will be open all the year round and all parts will be accessible. Visitors will be taken round in small groups by a guide and allowed to feel and touch everything in the rooms. There will be a programme of hands on activities for groups, including lighting real fires in the ground floor ranges and washing in the coppers of the brewhouses.

Benefits
As their first urban project outside London, the scheme is already attracting considerable media attention with Carlton TV ready to sign a major contract to make a series of programmes about the project. With such high profile coverage and the building?s location next to the Hippodrome which attracts over 600,000 visitor per annum, it is anticipated that visitor demand will be high, but because of the tiny scale of the houses, visitor numbers will be limited to a maximum of 20,000 per annum. 

The benefits will obviously be much wider than visitor numbers alone. The people of Birmingham will be given back a significant part of their history, not just through the buildings but through the new research which will be available as part of the project. The refurbishment of the buildings will create extra jobs in specialist trades and opening the properties will create new tourism jobs. Up to 100 new volunteers guides will receive training and the high profile media coverage will have a significant impact in raising the profile of Birmingham nationally. 

Programme
Detailed design work is underway and it is anticipated that building work will take place from January 2003. It is likely to be completed by early 2004, with the buildings ready for opening by Summer 2004.

Funding
The total costs for the project are ?1,780,000. The Heritage Lottery Fund has indicated that it would be willing to give a ?1million grant subject to further design work and evidence of firm match funding. The Trust has also raised ?300,000 for the necessary working capital, in the form of a ?200,000 interest free loan from Birmingham City Council and a further ?100,000 low interest loan from the Architectural Heritage Fund. Over ?390,000 has been secured in recent months but we still have a shortfall of over ?380,000. 

We currently have outstanding applications with AWM and a number of private trusts. The remainder of the shortfall we anticipate raising through commercial sponsorship, applications to other private charitable trusts and a public fund-raising campaign, to be conducted in conjunction with the local media.
Outcomes
  • New high quality tourist attraction in a prime city centre location
  • First National Trust urban project outside London, which will be advertised to 2.8 existing NT members through NT handbook
  • Sustainable project based on cautious visitor figures and underwritten by a ?760K endowment from NT reserved
  • Eleven listed grade 11 historic buildings saved from dereliction and given appropriate new uses.
  • Three new units for overnight accommodation in unique historic buildings.
  • Minimum of 12,000 overnight stays in the city centre (based on 2 people for 300 days in 3 houses), with all the knock on visitor spend attached to such visits.
  • Access benefits of working with new audiences and developing the product in early consultations with users, such as the disability group.
  • Education benefits of working with schools and colleges.
  • Training of up to 100 volunteers by National Trust and 3 ? 4 new jobs in tourism created.
  • Major coverage of the project and Birmingham?s history in general

 

Contact
For further information about any aspect of the project please contact Birmingham Conservation Trust?s administrator:

Elizabeth Perkins,
Birmingham Conservation Trust,
11th Floor, Alpha Tower,
Suffolk Street, Queensway,
Birmingham B1 1TU

Tel: 0121 303 2664

 

 

 


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