The West Midlands Historic Buildings Trust
The West Midlands historic Buildings Trust (WMHBT) is a registered charity. Specialists in the field of building conservation give their time on a voluntary basis to serve as Trustees and funds come from membership subscriptions.
WMHBT's purpose is to safeguard buildings within the West Midlands that are of historical or architectural importance. Where this cannot be achieved by simply raising awareness to the issues, WMHBT will consider carrying out a conservation project itself.
As a registered Building Preservation Trust, WMHBT is able to attract grants and low-cost loans to carry out the type of rescue scheme often necessary with ‘Buildings at Risk’ and in this way aims to cover the deficit in funding such projects.
Membership is open to anyone with an interest in safeguarding historic buildings. WMHBT organises a range of activities, focused on the West Midlands, to both encourage new members and involve existing members.
Activities include a regular newsletter; specialist talks, events and visits to historic buildings; arranging public access (as appropriate) to buildings before, during and after repair; commissioning and publishing research into historic buildings; encouraging the involvement of schools and colleges in conservation projects; and disseminating information.
The first WMHBT project was 19-20 High Street, Kinver, South Staffordshire, a timber-frame building listed grade II. In the Staffordshire volume of ‘The Buildings of England’ series, the late Nikolaus Pevsner states that in Kinver High Street the best houses are numbers 17-20.
To have lost an important building within that range would have been a tragedy, but when the WMHBT took the building over it was in a dangerous condition, with parts close to collapse. By that stage no-one was prepared to take up the arrears of maintenance because it would have cost more than the market value to put it right. As a result of the WMHBT project, 19-20 High Street has been transformed into a comfortable four-bedroom home and is now occupied by new owners. The high standards of the work were recognised by two awards: "The Carpenters' Award" presented by English Heritage in recognition of "the sensitivity of approach and excellence of craftsmanship"; and a “mention” by the Civic Trust for its "worthy contribution to the community".
The second WMHBT project was the grade II listed office building built as a living showcase by the former Harris & Pearson Company, firebrick manufacturers, in Brettell Lane, Brierley Hill, West Midlands. The building had been unoccupied for 13 years and was in a derelict state when acquired by the WMHBT, with the costs of repair again being in excess of market value. Conservation building work to convert the building for modern-day use as commercial offices commenced in April 2004 and was completed in January 2005. The building was sold on completion and has been returned to use as prestigious offices. The project was a regional finalist in the RICS Awards 2006, a national finalist in the Brick Awards 2006, and was awarded a “commendation” in the 2006 Civic Trust awards. More information about this building is avaialable on the Harris & Pearson Office Building web site.
Both of the above projects were made possible by tremendous local community and local authority support and financial assistance from several sources, including primarily the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Architectural Heritage Fund.
The Victorian, the magazine produced by the Victorian Society,
published an article about the work of the West Midlands Historic Buidlings Trust in July 2009.
Download it in pdf format (258kb)