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The Bordesley Centre

A Grade II* Listed Building in Sparkbrook, Birmingham

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Latitude: 52.4678 / 52°28'4"N

Longitude: -1.8778 / 1°52'40"W

OS Eastings: 408399

OS Northings: 285545

OS Grid: SP083855

Mapcode National: GBR 65F.97

Mapcode Global: VH9Z3.D7NJ

Entry Name: The Bordesley Centre

Listing Date: 8 July 1982

Last Amended: 27 June 2012

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1210202

English Heritage Legacy ID: 217655

Location: Birmingham, B11

County: Birmingham

Electoral Ward/Division: Sparkbrook

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Birmingham

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Midlands

Church of England Parish: Sparkbrook Christ Church

Church of England Diocese: Birmingham

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Former school, built by Martin and Chamberlain for the King Edward VI Foundation. The boys' school dates from 1883, and the girls' school, also by Martin and Chamberlain, was built in 1891-3; the builder was James Moffatt. There were later additions and alterations, notably in 1910, 1927, the later C20 and early C21. The school occupies a prominent site at what is now Camp Hill Circus, at the northern end of Stratford Road. The later C20 extensions to the east of the site are not of special interest.


MATERIALS: red brick, with terracotta-moulded brick and stone dressings. Tiled roofs with decorative ridge tiles and brick stacks; ventilation towers with slated spires. The majority of the windows to the historic parts of the school building have their original timber frames, or replacements following the original designs.

PLAN: the two principal blocks stand on a rectangular alignment, with the 1883 former boys' school building to north, and the larger 1890 girls' school building to south. A wing of 1910 extends eastwards from the southern end of the 1883 building; this wing has a later-C20 extension to the south. A second 1910 extension projects from the south-west corner of the boys' school building. Extending at an angle from the south end of the girls' school building is an addition of 1929. The former caretaker's house to the west of the school, built separately in 1883, is now joined to the north-east end of the girls' school building.

EXTERIOR: the gradual accumulation of buildings has resulted in a composition of great variety, unified by the free Gothic style which characterises the principal buildings, and by consistent use of materials and of distinctive architectural and decorative features.

The earliest structure, the former boys' school building, is of two storeys. The north end is marked by an octagonal ventilation tower topped by a slated spire with lucarnes and weathervane above a timber-framed bell stage; below, a two-storey rounded stair tower with a pyramidal roof, ringed by tall trefoil-headed windows. Set within the negative north-west corner is a pointed doorway entrance, the tympanum holding three pointed openings, now filled with fretwork decoration. The gable of the north end was raised and enlarged in 1891, providing extra classroom accommodation. On the western street frontage, the ground-floor has pointed-arched windows linked by hood-moulds; at first-floor level, the hall is lit by triplets of lancet windows in stone frames topped by gables with terracotta apex panels, the projecting central gable having the arms of Edward VI in a roundel surrounded by circular lights. A sexfoil above two lancets lights the northern end of the hall. The fenestration of this block otherwise consists of triplets of square- and pointed-arched windows with stone heads.

The former girls' school building is also two-storied, but is slightly taller than the earlier building, with a ventilation tower similar to that on the boys' school - lacking lucarnes, but with an additional section of timber open work at the apex of the spire - rising towards the centre of the ridge. The girls' school is more richly decorated than the earlier boys' school, the use of terracotta in the west elevation being particularly lavish. The west-facing entrance porch to the north of the main range has a shouldered-arched doorway within a pointed opening with Edward VI's arms to the tympanum, below a hood-mould with head-stops, the whole being surmounted by a crocketed gable; above, a pointed window of plate tracery. The main range, which also has a first-floor hall to the west, has six pairs of pointed windows, with shallow buttresses separating the bays; the two central bays are emphasised, each having a crocketed gable with arms over the ground floor, and above, a composition of windows with geometrical tracery crowned by a large roundel; rose windows to the north and south elevations also light the hall. A gabled block projects westwards from the south-west corner with windows in triplets topped by octofoils. An octagonal stack with a complex cap rises against the south elevation; there are blocked windows to the left. The long east elevation of the girls' school is less ornate than the west, with triplets of windows beneath high gables, the windows separated by buttresses.

The former boys and girls schools originally had a narrow link, now removed, the area between the buildings, at the junction with the eastern 1910 block, being enclosed by an early-C21 glass structure, rising through two storeys. Within this is a doorway at the south end of the 1883 building, with a bell inscribed 'Boys School'. The 1910 wing is plainer, the majority of the windows being rectangular, but with some restrained Gothic detailing, notably the plate-traceried stone gables to the eastern range; this block has a basement, with pointed segmental-arched openings. The block of the same date at the south-west corner of the boys' school, has comparable detailing to the western gable end. The 1927 extension to the south end of the girls' school is yet more restrained in style, but in the western elevation is found the distinctive triplet of pointed windows linked by a hood-mould beneath a gable, this upper floor being corbelled out. The later C20, flat-roofed extensions to the east of the school are extremely plain.

The two-storied former caretaker's house, now joined to the north-west end of the former girls' school, its south elevation forming a right angle with the entrance porch, has a canted bay to left, and to right, a tripartite window with a single window above, surmounted by a gable breaking the roof line; a ribbed stack rises to right, with two truncated stacks to left. The yard to the rear of the house is surrounded by a wall, which forms a boundary with Stratford Road to the west.

INTERIOR: the interiors of the school buildings have been subject to considerable adaptation and alteration during the course of their history, most recently during the extensive works of 2004-6, during which a number of walls were removed at the junction between the two principal buildings and the eastern wing, creating an open entrance space, with a gallery above, both areas being enlarged by the glass extension. However, the school buildings largely retain their original plan forms, and a good proportion of original features.

In the former boys' school the first-floor hall, running along the west of the building, has been adapted for use as a library, with a mezzanine floor and glass panels inserted within the open space, but the roof retains its cast-iron blades with pierced decoration, forming pointed arches. There are similar arches to the classrooms which open off the former hall to the east. This block has a number of other noteworthy details, including boarded dado panelling, arched openings and original doors, whilst the two staircases retain their paired iron balusters and moulded wooden hand-rails.

The former girls' school has a very large hall with a timber hammer-beam roof, the five trusses being decorated with lancet and roundel tracery, and springing from moulded corbels set into graduated pilasters; carved heads which once adorned the ends of the braces beneath the hammer beams have been lost. There are stained glass panels to the round windows. The moulded dado panelling, in the hall, and elsewhere in this block, is of high quality, as are the surviving doors, which have corresponding detailing. The hall's herringbone woodblock floor remains, as do other wooden floors within this block. The first-floor classrooms have timber roof trusses, on moulded corbels. The main, open well stair, at the north end of the block, has turned wooden balusters and newel-posts, the treads being wooden blocks set in iron, inscribed 'Hawksleys Patent Step'.

The 1910 block is plainer internally, and has partitioning to the first floor, but there are some original features, including dado panelling and doors with chamfered rails and muntins; in the basement, joists are supported by cast-iron columns. The interior of the 1927 extension, which now houses a mosque, was not inspected.

The former caretaker's house is much altered internally, with few original features; a wall has been removed, exposing the angle between two small C19 chimneypieces.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: a row of former covered play-sheds stands to the north of the site, now converted for indoor accommodation, the previously open frontage being glazed and boarded, between the original cast-iron columns.

The northern boundary of the site is defined by low brick walls with tiled capping. Iron railings on triangular coping survive to the west, with wrought-iron gates - probably not original - approaching the former boys' entrance to north-west; there is a less ornate gate to the rear of the house, and a brick gate pier with terracotta finial before the former girls' entrance.


The King Edward VI Grammar School at Camp Hill opened in 1883, replacing the former Meriden Street Lower Middle School. The Camp Hill school was one of five grammar schools established by the King Edward's Foundation at this time, when the advancing standards of elementary education provided by the Birmingham School Board prompted the Foundation to reorganise their own educational provision, replacing their Lower Middle Schools with grammar schools. The Camp Hill school offered places to both boys and girls; after a short period in temporary accommodation, the school moved to the newly-purchased site of Camp Hill House in Stratford Road. The boys occupied a new school building from the first, whilst the girls were accommodated in the existing house; in 1891 Camp Hill House was demolished, and a new building constructed for the girls' school was completed in 1893.

Both buildings were designed by Martin and Chamberlain, one of late-Victorian Birmingham's leading architectural practices, and Architect to the Birmingham School Board from 1870 until shortly before the abolition of the school boards in 1902; the practice built fifty-one board schools. John Henry Chamberlain (1831-83) and William Martin (1828-1900) formed the practice in 1864; following Chamberlain's death, Martin was joined by his son, Frederick William Martin (1859-1917). Martin and Chamberlain played a significant role in defining Birmingham's civic architecture during the latter decades of the C19, and the practice built many important public buildings, including libraries, baths, and hospitals, as well as schools, but the board schools formed an especially significant and lasting contribution to the city's built environment. Martin and Chamberlain created a house style for their schools, which were characterised by their red-brick construction, tall ventilation towers, proliferation of gables, and decorative use of tiles and terracotta. In 1894 the Pall Mall Gazette commented that, 'In Birmingham you may generally recognise a Board School by its being the best building in the neighbourhood... with lofty towers which serve the utilitarian purpose of giving excellent ventilation, gabled windows, warm red bricks and stained glass, the best of the Birmingham Board Schools have quite an artistic finish'. Martin and Chamberlain would have been an obvious choice for the commission for the new King Edward Grammar School at Camp Hill, and the resulting building shared many features with the schools Martin and Chamberlain had been building for the Birmingham School Board.

King Edward VI Camp Hill Boys' School moved to new premises at King's Heath in 1956, and the girls' school moved two years later. The Camp Hill site was subsequently home to a teacher training college, and to the City of Birmingham Polytechnic; it is now the Bordesley Centre, an educational, religious and advisory centre for Birmingham's Yemeni community, run by the Muath Trust. In 2004-6 extensive internal remodelling and refurbishment was undertaken.

Reasons for Listing

The Bordesley Centre is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:
* Architect: the two school buildings were designed by Martin and Chamberlain, a leading architectural practice in late-Victorian Birmingham;
* Architectural Interest: the two separate schools, built ten years apart, are both excellent examples of the practice's skill in employing a variety of Gothic details and decoration to create distinctive school designs; the girls' school building is particularly impressive, with its imposing west front enlivened by variation in plane, an especially effective scheme of fenestration punctuated by buttresses, and unusually rich terracotta embellishment;
* Interiors: the girls' hall has an elaborate hammerbeam roof, which has suffered some loss but remains a very striking and unusual feature. Both schools retain good interiors overall, with original fittings and joinery, those in the girls' school being of particularly high quality;
* Intactness: the original school buildings remain largely as constructed, with their historic plans still legible, and many significant external and internal features remaining;
* Historical: the former King Edward VI Camp Hill School was one of five grammar schools established by the King Edward VI Foundation in 1883, in a significant development of their educational provision. The addition of the separate girls' school building in 1893 illustrates the increasing importance of this school, with greater numbers of girls attending.

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