Last week the 120 year old barn adjacent to Manor Farm Park – part of the Cadbury family legacy in South West Birmingham – was destroyed by arsonists.
The ‘Cadbury’ Barn, at the entrance to Manor Farm Park in Northfield, was originally built in 1894 by local business man and philanthropist George Cadbury.
The barn was built when he and Dame Elizabeth lived at neighbouring Northfield Manor House, which was destroyed in an arson attack almost 3 years ago to the day on 30th July 2014.
The Cadburys held parties for impoverished children from across the city in the barn and it was used as a base and training centre for the Friends Ambulance Unit during World War II.
Restoration plans devastated
The devastating news of the fire rocked members of The Cadbury Barn Stakeholder Group, who had been working together for several years on plans to restore the barn – along with adjacent buildings – for community use.
However, after some reflection and discussion, the group – led by the Friends of Manor Farm Park and including representatives from other organisations such as Birmingham Conservation Trust, the City Council, Bournville Village Trust, and the Society of Friends – has new hope for the site.
The group hope to honour the Cadbury legacy and move forward in a new direction to provide a brand new community space where the original barn once stood.
Chair of the Cadbury Barn Stakeholder Group, Lesley Pattenson, said: “Although the original Barn has been destroyed by arsonists we will continue the work started by George and Elizabeth Cadbury, whose ethos was to give families an opportunity to enjoy good food and leisure opportunities in an attractive natural environment.”
Lesley added: “This tragedy is a setback to our plans and the progress we had already made, but we are still determined to create a multi-use community meeting place with a café and toilets and to improve Manor Farm Park for the benefit of users and the local community. Our vision, to have a focal point in the park which will attract more visitors, remains unchanged. However we now have the opportunity to design a purpose-built facility to carry on the legacy of George and Elizabeth Cadbury, subject to securing major funding, which to some extent could reflect the characteristic look of the original Cadbury Barn.”
Heritage architects will be consulted on how to save some bits of the wreckage to preserve some of the heritage of the barn.
And they need YOUR help!
The Friends of Manor Farm Park are a small group and seeking people’s views and redesigning the plans will take time and money.
Lesley said: “It’s been heartening to receive numerous messages of support via social media so we Friends have set up a Justgiving Crowdfunding page, which will help us restart and move forward with the planning process and continue the legacy of the Cadbury Barn.
“There’s a lot of work to do; the fire has meant we have to think again about how the park and its amenities can be developed. We are aiming to set out the options in a consultation exhibition to be held at local venues including Shenley Court Hall, St David’s Church and the new community hub ‘Our Space Our Place’ in Northfield, over the next couple of months. We will also be gathering memories and photos of the Cadbury Barn at these events.”
The Friends will also be putting out an appeal for people to get in touch with their stories and memories, as well as photos of the Barn as it was before the fire, to create a historical record of the uniquely decorated wooden building.