UPDATE 7.50am 1/8/2014 West Midlands. Police have confirmed that three youngsters have been arrested in relation to arson at Manor House. The schoolboys, aged 12, 14 and 15, were taken into custody where they were questioned yesterday evening and later released on bail pending further enquiries.

Enquiries are on-going and witnesses are still urged to come forward.

Anyone with any information is asked to call police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

nfmfire3

Experts looking at Northfield Manor House today, after last night’s devastating fire, have offered a glimmer of hope for its future.

The Manor House adjacent to Manor Farm Park, Northfield, suffered a huge blaze last night, with 20 West Midlands Fire Service appliances in attendance at the height of the fire. The cause of the blaze is believed to be arson and many fear are that the Manor House will have to be demolished.

George Cadbury
Image by Tim Ellis on Flickr

History 

Originally built in 1820 (although there was a building there at an earlier date), Northfield Manor House was the home of George and Elizabeth Cadbury, from 1894 until George passed away in 1922. Every summer, the Cadburys invited 700 disadvantaged children from across Birmingham stay in a purpose built building at the Manor House.

It was bequeathed to the University of  Birmingham in the 50s, following Dame Elizabeth’s death, and used as halls of residence.

The Manor House has been empty since 2007. Although the University have employed a security firm to protect the building, it is believed little has been done to maintain its condition.

Saving the building

BBC reporter Steve Hermon said this morning that structural engineers on the site had said there was a “slight chance” that the building could be saved.

Following his visit today, Richard Burden, MP for Northfield, said: “There is a lot of damage but the good news is that, as a result of the fire fighters’ efforts, the signs today are that the building can be saved for the future. Urgent safety concerns mean that some parts of it – particularly around the chimneys – will need to be secured or taken down straight away. Even there, though, with time and money, restoration should still be possible.”

Weoley Councillor, and planning committee member, Peter Douglas Osborn also visit the house this morning with staff from owners University of Birmingham and he agreed saying: “We think it can be saved, and having been round the top of the building I think so too.”

Listing status

The future of the Manor House has been under discussion since it became vacant in 2007, when UoB stopped using it as Halls of Residence.

An attempt to get the building nationally listed then was rejected by English Heritage, for the following reasons:

In summary:

The Secretary of State, after consulting English Heritage, the Government’s statutory adviser,
decided not to list the above building. The reasons were:

* The building lacks sufficient architectural quality, either in the portion dating from the mid-
C19 or the 1890s.
* All parts of the building, both the C19 parts and the later C20 follow well-established stylistic
trends, and provide no hints of novelty.
* The building has suffered from piecemeal adaptation, both when it was a house and since its
change to being a university hall of residence.
* The ownership of the building by the Cadbury family is a reflection of their success as
opposed to the location of any breakthrough that led directly to their pre-eminence.

It therefore was not of sufficient special architectural or historic interest to merit listing.

 English Heritage adviser’s report – view as a PDF here

Although not nationally listed, the building is locally listed at Grade A, which offers some protection against demolition. Save Britain’s Heritage listed Northfield Manor in their list of buildings “at risk” in 2011.

Redevelopment plans

An agreement between the University of Birmingham and Banner Homes was reached in 2012, for a sale subject to planning approval from the council. Plans were submitted to Birmingham City Council in October 2012 for permission to develop the Manor House, and surrounding buildings, into apartments, maintaining many of the key original features such as stained glass windows and fireplaces.

The public consultation on the planning application ran until March of this year, extended from the statutory date of February 2012 and the application was due to be considered by planning committee in August.

You can view the plans on Birmingham City Council Planning Online

It is unclear at present what the fire will mean for this agreement and future plans. A spokesperson for CALA Homes (who acquired Banner Homes) told the BBC: “it was awaiting confirmation from the council whether the application would still be considered by the planning committee as originally planned, on 21 August.”

University of Birmingham Reaction

UoB Manor House Halls 2002 by Ash Matadeen

Professor Adam Tickell, Vice-Principal of the University of Birmingham, said: “We are deeply saddened that the historic Manor House […] has been severely damaged by last night’s fire. We are extremely grateful to the Fire Service and others who worked tirelessly to get the fire under control, make the area safe, and ensure no one was injured.

“The Manor House was used by the University as a student residence until 2007. It was awaiting planning approval from the City Council to be sensitively converted into flats as part of a wider redevelopment of the site. The site, including the Manor House, was boarded up to prevent access and the University employed an external security company to provide 24/7 monitoring of the site.

“The University retains its desire to keep the structure of the Manor House but now needs to properly assess its condition. We are working with engineers and the local authority building control to understand the level of damage, make the structure safe and secure the site.”

Cadbury legacy

Bournville Village Trust, another legacy of the Cadbury family, posted on their Facebook page today: “Everybody at Bournville Village Trust is deeply saddened to hear that a former home of the Cadbury family, Northfield Manor House, has been badly damaged by fire last night. The house was bought by George Cadbury and his wife in 1894 and Dame Elizabeth Cadbury lived there until it was given to the University of Birmingham in 1952.

“Today is a very sad day for members of the Cadbury family but also for BVT and the wider Birmingham community to lose a precious part of our history adjacent to the Bournville Estate.”

Arson investigation

West Midlands Police are investigating the cause of the fire, suspected to be arson.

Anyone with any information is asked to call police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

We will keep you up to date with any developments regarding the Manor House as we get them.

Read more:

Northfield Manor blaze: former Cadbury family home fire suspected arson [Video] | B31 Voices

All B31 Voices posts on Northfield Manor (some of these are a few years old and some links / images may no longer work!)

Cadbury home Northfield Manor House destroyed in arson attack | BBC News

Fire at Northfield Manor | Richard Burden MP

George Cadbury | BirminghamUK.com

 

3 COMMENTS

Comments: