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Aston Council Chamber

A Grade II Listed Building in Aston, Birmingham

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.5038 / 52°30'13"N

Longitude: -1.8957 / 1°53'44"W

OS Eastings: 407177

OS Northings: 289553

OS Grid: SP071895

Mapcode National: GBR 610.BB

Mapcode Global: VH9YX.3B5D

Entry Name: Aston Council Chamber

Listing Date: 26 January 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1405553

Location: Birmingham, B6

County: Birmingham

Electoral Ward/Division: Aston

Parish: Non Civil Parish

Built-Up Area: Birmingham

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Midlands

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Summary

Library and council offices of 1881 designed by the Birmingham architect William Henman, in a loosely Jacobean style.

Description

Library and council offices of 1881 designed by the Birmingham architect William Henman, in a loosely Jacobean style.

MATERIALS: red brick, laid in Flemish bond, with dressings of stone and moulded brick and a plain tiled roof.

PLAN: two stories with attic and basement. The ground floor library was entered from Witton Road, while other ground floor offices and the first floor council offices were approached from a doorway on Albert Road, which led to a staircase hall.

EXTERIOR: the building is near symmetrical and revolves around the corner turret at the juncture of Witton Road and Albert Road. This is octagonal with a prominent attic storey which supports an octagonal roof with swept profile which has a louvered, timber top stage with lead cap and weather vane which shows the date ‘1881’. At either side of this turret are facades, each of fifteen bays, divided into clusters of three bays. Two gabled projections break forward from each front and these have three lights to the attic flanked by stone volutes. Windows to both floors have moulded stone surrounds. The Witton Road front has a classical, stone door surround with pediment and a tablet above the panelled double doors which reads ‘FREE LIBRARY’. There is a more prominent, single-storey porch to Albert Road, with an arched portal. Inside this is a red granite foundation stone which records the name of the architect. Chimneys across the building are to their full height with moulded bands. To both street fronts there are wrought iron railings with decorative finials in the form of vegetation.

The rear faces a yard and has a large, central Venetian window at the level of the first floor landing. Immediately at either side of this are projecting wings with hipped roofs and at either side again are three bays to each side, all openings having cambered heads. At basement level of the Albert Road wing there are two garage doors with a deep iron lintel which are believed to have housed fire engines before the building of the borough fire station.

INTERIOR: the entrance from Albert Road leads to a staircase hall with polychromatic, mosaic flooring which extends along the corridors in both wings. A staircase with large marble newel, iron balustrade and wooden handrail climbs the wall of a large canted bay to the first floor, where there is a generous landing, paved with mosaic flooring and with columns and arches and a skylight of etched glass. A porter’s booth with etched glass windows, appears to have been moved within the entrance hall but to be an original fitting. Rooms throughout the building have heavy ceiling beams and fireplaces with marble slips and panelled decoration with console brackets above the mantel shelf. Central heating radiators are placed in cast iron cabinets with marble tops and several of the rooms have ventilation ducts.
A housekeeper’s room in the basement has a range, sink and fitted wooden cupboard, all of which appear to be original. The attics have cast iron fire surrounds.

History

Aston Council Chamber was designed by William Henman. The initial intention was that it should house the offices associated with the Public Works Committee for the Manor of Aston, which had between 50,000 and 60,000 residents by the late-1870s. A perspective drawing and plan of the intended building were published in The Builder for October 4 1879 (see Sources) and these show a slightly larger building with a prominent central tower to the Witton Road front and end pavilions to the fronts on both Witton Road and Albert Road. The plan shows that the ground floor was intended to house the Sanitary officers, Medical Officer, Building Surveyor and two rate collection rooms, with a large drawing office for the surveyors at the corner, where the two wings meet. The first floor was intended to have a large Board Room, above the surveyors drawing office, with ante-chambers, clerks’ rooms and committee rooms to either wing. The plan records the building ‘in Progress of Execution’, and although the function of the first floor, housing the board room and its ancillary offices, appears to have been executed as planned, economies meant that the ground floor was adapted to house the borough library, which had been intended for a separate building. The surveyors’ department was moved to the first floor and occupied the intended committee rooms and the ground floor corner was adapted to house the library, with a new entrance on the Witton Road front.


The foundation stone was laid in August 1880 and the date on the weather vane over the octagonal turret is 1881, which would seem to mark the completion of construction work. The Birmingham Daily Post for 3rd January 1882 (see Sources) reported that the first meeting of the board was due to be held that day. The Manor of Aston was amalgamated into the city of Birmingham in 1911. The building continued to function as a library and civic offices throughout the C20. Library fittings have been removed, but the building has been little altered otherwise since its completion. The building was vacated late in 2011.


Reasons for Listing

The Council Chamber, Albert Road, Aston, a local government building of 1880 designed by William Henman, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural: the building is a prominent example of a civic structure by a noted architect, William Henman, which is designed to impress by its external and internal architecture.

Intactness: despite some minor alteration, the building retains all the essentials of its original plan and a high proportion of its original fittings.

Selected Sources

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