Turn left off the Kings Heath High Street at the entrance to Highbury Park. Walk down the tree-lined Queensbridge Road, past the School and turn left again at the Britannia Apartments. About half way down Yew Tree Road you’ll come across an entrance to a stately home. This is Highbury Hall, the Grade II listed Birmingham Residence of one Mr Joseph Chamberlain in the late 19th century.
Highbury Hall is a great example of what Birmingham does best, under selling itself. As with many great Birmingham assets, Highbury Hall is a real hidden gem that many Brummies probably don’t know a great deal about, in fact they probably didn’t know it existed! Nestled amongst its stunning leafy grounds on the edge of Kings Heath’s Highbury Park, the home was the latest instameet destination for our community. Although part of the house is in need of renovation, the majority of the house was open to the 60 attendees of the meet and provided a huge amount photographic inspiration.
The home, referred to as very dark and gloomy by Chamberlain’s partner Beatrice Webb, laid on a stunning display of shadow and intense light which streamed in through the original stained glass windows of the home. Intricate woodwork, original furniture, and stunning marble fireplaces give Highbury Hall a stately yet welcoming feel at the same time, while the dramatic interplay of shadow and light in the home take visitors on a time warp to times gone by.
Chamberlain commissioned the home as his Birmingham residence in 1878 and lived in it from 1880 until he died in 1914. After a short spell as a hospital and home for disabled soldiers during World War I, it was given to trustees in 1919 by his son Austin Chamberlain before passing into the ownership of the Corporation of Birmingham in 1932. Although the home was restored by Birmingham City Council in 1984, there is still a large part of the building that needs restoration. The expected cost of this work is in the region of £8m, of which 50% has been secured already by The Chamberlain Highbury Trust. The Trust, which is a non-profit organisation that works to restore the building, is awaiting a lottery grant for the remaining 50% of the required funds before they can complete the renovation of the grand building.
Surrounding Highbury Hall is the popular Highbury Park, which includes Chamberlain’s famous orchid houses. A supply of orchids was sent every few days from the orchid houses to Chamberlain’s 19th century London residence when Parliament was sitting. The park also includes an apiary, some stunning water features and green spaces which are regularly enjoyed by Kings Heath locals. The instameet attendees ended the event in Kings Heath park which is adjacent to Highbury Park. As if Highbury wasn’t enough, residents of Kings Heath are also blessed with Kings Heath Park which features an excellent tea room amongst its gardens and playing fields.
So if you’re in Kings Heath and wondering what to do, why not explore the grounds of Highbury Park and Kings Heath Park. While Highbury Hall is not yet open to the public, it can be hired for events and functions.
Here are a few of our favourite images from the event.
Thank you to Christine Wright (@soprano3) and the Chamberlain Highbury Trust for helping to organise the event.