Highbury was built by Joseph Chamberlain, industrialist, reforming Birmingham Mayor and controversial national and imperial politician and was the family residence until his death in 1914. Highbury symbolises and commemorates the power of a political dynasty, which included his sons Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister from 1937–1940, and Austen Chamberlain, Foreign Secretary 1924–1929 and Nobel Prize Winner in 1926.
The house and its surrounding 26 acre estate form one of Birmingham’s most important heritage assets. The Grade II* listed Victorian Mansion was designed by the prominent Birmingham architect J.H.Chamberlain (no relation) in a Venetian Gothic style with exceptional Arts & Crafts features and was completed in 1878.
The grounds were mainly landscaped by Edward Milner, an Edwardian garden designer of national reputation, and are included at Grade II on the national register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. They included a long carriage drive from the lodge, pleasure gardens close to the house, kitchen gardens, a hobby farm and a series of ornamental gardens, lakes, ponds and open parkland.
In 1919 when the building was in use as a military hospital, the Estate was assigned to a trust, the Highbury Trust; in 1932, the trusteeship was passed to Birmingham City Council which has since then been the sole trustee. The property was given in trust to the City Council ‘for the benefit of the people of Birmingham’.
The Estate is now managed by the Chamberlain Highbury Trust which formed in December 2015.
Chamberlain Highbury Trust website
The Trust’s Strategic objectives are:
Raise sufficient capital through a well managed fund-raising programme to undertake the full restoration of the Highbury Estate within 5 years
Achieve long-term financial sustainability by [20xx] with an operating surplus to build reserves to cover future maintenance and revenue costs
Restore and convert the House to provide good quality accommodation with efficient utilisation of space
Develop the park and grounds within the estate
Achieve standards of excellence in
- Restoration, design, historical accuracy and quality of execution
- Efficient use of energy, water and materials
- Biodiversity and nature conservation
- Safety and security
- Events management
Promote and celebrate the history and achievements of the Chamberlain family
Achieve high levels of visitor satisfaction and visitor numbers, with a diverse visitor profile reflecting the Birmingham demographic and the aim to interest and involve older children/young adults in Highbury
The Charitable Trust consists of the the Highbury Estate:
Highbury Hall – currently used by the City Council as a conferencing & banqueting facility.
Chamberlain House – the City Council demolished the extensive glasshouses in the 1930s and built this to house the City Council’s Social Services Department. It has recently been redeveloped and is now part of Uffculme School, a community special school for pupils aged between 2 – 19 with a statement of need for Education, Health and Care Plan for Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC).
Highbury Farm – currently the only section specifically used for charitable purposes, now housing Four Seasons Plant Nursery for the employment of people with disabilities.
Formal Gardens – incorporating an Italianate Garden and a Rock Garden, these being the only parts readily accessible by the public.
Extensive parkland – currently making up the majority of Highbury Park.