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21 Feb 2020

Smethwick Council House wins conservation award

The recently-restored Smethwick Council House has been named as the winner of the West Midlands Victorian Society 2019 Conservation Award.

The restoration of the Grade II-listed Council House which was built in 1905-1907 and was designed by architect Frederick J. Gill of Smethwick has won the coveted prize for its quality work.

The building on High Street has been described as a “free, somewhat Baroque, William & Mary” and is built of red-brick and buff terracotta.

The building has two-storeys with a central portico, as well as a slate-hung tower and cupola containing a chiming clock by Smiths of Derby. The bells hang in the cupola above the dials.

The programme of works on the building which is owned and run by Sandwell Council, included extensive renovations to the external elevations and the roof, with the prominent clock tower refurbished and the terracotta façade restored.

Over one hundred damaged terracotta blocks were replaced; the entire pitched roof was re-slated with Westmorland slate to match the original roof; internal and external repairs and redecoration to two ornate domes.

There was also the repainting in original colourways, resulting in what the judges described as “an altogether successful and magnificent restoration project.”

To ensure sensitive restoration of the building, Council Heritage Conservation, Surveying and Urban Design Officers assessed the building using specialist skills to select fitting materials and ensure that the right techniques and contractors were used to carry out the project.

Councillor Wasim Ali, cabinet member for resources and core services, said:

“This is fantastic news because Smethwick Council House has played a huge part in the history of the town over the last 113 years.

“It is a very attractive and useful building that has been used for a multitude of uses down the years, including civic events, a range of council services and a huge range of community events.

“The proposal was to restore the Council House back to its former glory for future generations and the work has successfully ensured that it will remain an important community facility and landmark for local people for many years in the future.”

Stephen Hartland, chairman of the Birmingham & West Midlands Group said:

“This was such an impressive restoration of a particularly striking local Edwardian building,

“It is highly deserving of this year’s prize. It stood out among other applicants in so many ways, not least the high-quality materials used in the conservation and restoration work”

Stephen Benson, CEO of Hortons’ Estate, which has sponsored the 2019 Conservation Award, said:

“Hortons’ Estate Ltd are delighted to continue to support the Victorian Society and to sponsor the 2019 Conservation Award which showcases the excellent and necessary work undertaken in restoring valuable buildings in Birmingham and the West Midlands area.

“The Council House in Smethwick is an excellent example of a prominent, listed civic building being brought back to its former glory and effective economic use” The work on the building was undertaken for the council by Stone Edge Historic Building Restoration in Lancashire, Castle Roofing of Birmingham and Darwen Terracotta of Lancashire.  

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