A Kings Norton church is ‘with heavy heart’ seeking a new proprietor to take over the running of a much loved historic building on The Green, hoping to secure its future as a community, commercial and heritage asset.
After 90 years of stewardship of the former Saracen’s Head – including overseeing a £4.3 million restoration – the Parochial Parish Council of St Nicolas Church says it is no longer able to support the building.
A new custodian is being sought – to lease or buy the building – to take on its management.
Local MP Richard Burden said that St Nicolas Place is an integral part of local heritage and ‘an anchor for the local community’.
With over half a millennium of history, St Nicolas Place is a key part of Birmingham’s Tudor history, alongside its neighbours St Nicolas Church and the Old Grammar School.
Originally built as a merchant house in the late 15th century and retaining many of its original features, the building has served as a pub until it was gifted to the Parish of St Nicolas Church for community use in 1930 by Mitchells and Butler Brewery.
English Heritage have listed the ‘Saracen’s Head’ as Grade II*, placing it in the top 10% of the most important heritage buildings in the country.
The church maintained the building at much cost over the years. However, in 2002 – with planners refusing to allow modifications which would help bring in income to meet the high running costs – the Parochial Parish Council (PCC) decided that the building would have to be sold.
Hopes were restored following a visit by English Heritage in 2003, with the inspector recognising the need to redevelop part of the complex in order to secure the future of the heritage and community use of the building.
With planners now backing the restoration, things started to move forward. In 2004, St Nicolas Place and the Old Grammar School buildings won the prestigious national BBC2 ‘Restoration’ television series competition.
With National Lottery Heritage funding – plus over £1 million extra from the church and Friends of Historic kings Norton fundraising efforts – the newly renovated and extended St Nicolas Place opened to the community in 2007.
Now with a mixture of accessible historic and modern rooms, the restored buildings offer a broad variety of facilities: a tea room, spaces for community events and services, heritage tours and education, tourism plus weddings and other functions.
However, with the 900 year old church building itself in need of major works to its roof and spire – at an estimated cost of over £300,000 – the Parochial Church Council is having to focus its funds here and also on the preservation of the old Grammar School.
The next chapter?
A release from the PCC reads: “After 90 years of careful stewardship of St Nicolas Place, the PCC have to acknowledge they are unable to sustain the levels of resource required to maintain St Nicolas Place and feel that a new custodian would be appropriate at this stage, to take the building into its next chapter.
“Although it is with heavy heart that a new proprietor is now sought, the PCC have taken extensive professional advice and conscientiously discerned this as the best way forward to safe guard the fabric of St Nicolas building for future generations.”
“The PCC believe this is a great opportunity for another company or organisation as it is a unique property with shop and café premises and has excellent event facilities for local groups or more commercial purposes.
“The successful candidate will bring new energy and investment, alongside a strong passion to secure the long-term future of this much loved and well used building.”
‘Anchor for community’
Local MP Richard Burden (Labour, Birmingham Northfield) said: “St Nicolas Place is integral part of Kings Norton’s heritage and an anchor for the local community today.
“I am urgently contacting the Church of England to find out more. It is imperative that whatever happens from here preserves both the unique character of the building and its role as a resource for the community. Those priorities will be in the forefront of my mind in the representations I make in the days and weeks ahead.”
For expressions of interest in the building:
A spokesperson for Church of England Birmingham said: “Enquiries are being welcomed for careful deliberation, from potential custodians who would have an interest in the lease hold or the free hold.”
To express an interest, contact: