New Futures for Birmingham`s Historic Buildings

Growing numbers of you volunteer for heritage in the West Midlands

Posted October 30th, 2008 by Birmingham Conservation Trust with 2 Comments
Volunteers, staff and contractors worked together on the huge and detailed job of cataloguing the contents of Newman Bros

Volunteers, staff and contractors worked together on the huge and detailed job of cataloguing the contents of Newman Bros

Every year Engish Heritage publishes a regional and national survey of the state of our heritage and today Heritage Counts 2008 (link to a pdf) tells us something very encouraging:   it seems more and more of you are volunteering for heritage organisations in the West Midlands.

Over the last year we have had fantastic volunteers helping us with everything from the arduous work of cataloguing and moving the contents of Newman Bros through to recording and transcribing interviews with the people who worked there.  Every time we ask for help it seems to just arrive.  This website is kept going partly through voluntary effort, including the generous people who share their photos of old buildings with us.

What else is going on? If you do any voluntary work to support West midlands heritage why not let us know in the comments section, it would be great to compare notes.

English heritage reports that:

Tim Johnston, Chairman of the West Midlands Historic Environment Forum and English Heritage’s Regional Director for the West Midlands, said:

“The nation’s historic environment is a finite and precious resource which needs to be cared for. Public interest in our unique heritage is certainly growing – this is demonstrated by the number of people in the West Midlands volunteering for the National Trust, which has gone up by two thirds in the last six years. Heritage Counts enables us to raise awareness of the issues and challenges faced by the historic environment in the West Midlands, as well as highlight some of the opportunities we have in the region.”

Highlights from the West Midlands report include:

* The number of people volunteering for the National Trust has increased from 1,990 in 2002 to more than 3,300 volunteers in 2008.

* 50% of the assets included on the Heritage at Risk Register, since its inception in 2001, have been removed as their future has been secured.

* There are six registered Historic battlefields: 14% of the total number of battlefields in England.

* Astley Castle, Warwickshire, has been one of the most seriously at risk buildings in the West Midlands for the past 30 years. But now a strategy for its rescue is in place. The Landmark Trust has acquired a long lease on the building and has put forward a scheme which involves consolidation of the remaining structure and the construction within the shell a modern “landmark” property including a holiday let for eight people. The scheme has the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage.

* The 19th century terraces at Knutton Village, North Staffordshire, were built for workers at a nearby brickworks and were characterised by the liberal use of decorative brickwork. The repair and refurbishment of the historic houses means the identity of the area has been enhanced demonstrating how townscape integrity can be restored and local distinctiveness built into the renewal process.

Foot note:

Heritage Counts 2008 can be found at It is published by English Heritage on behalf of the Historic Environment Review Executive Committee and the Regional Historic Environment Forums.

The West Midlands Historic Environment Forum comprises:
Advantage West Midlands
Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers
Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery
British Waterways
Country Land and Business Association
English Heritage
Government Office for the West Midlands
Heritage Lottery Fund
Historic Houses Association
Institute of Field Archaeologists
Institute of Historic Building Conservation
Ironbridge Gorge World Heritage Site
National Trust
Natural England
Museums Libraries and Archives West Midlands
West Midlands Amenity Societies Association
West Midlands Regional Assembly

2 Responses to “Growing numbers of you volunteer for heritage in the West Midlands”

  1. Andy Mabbett October 30, 2008

    I did ten years as a volunteer at Birmingham Railway Museum; everything from carriage cleaning to selling raffle tickets; from organising guest speakers for members’ evenings to being a steward on steam-hauled excursions on main lines all over the UK.

    I’m now a trustee and webmaster of the West Midland Bird Club. Not, strictly, a heritage organisation, but we do maintain the historical record of species seen in Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands county, while our website ( has an archive of old ornithological articles of local relevance.

    The bird cub has regular evening meetings in Birmingham, Kidderminster, Stafford, Solihull and Tamworth – all welcome – and manages several local reserves.


  2. Clare White October 30, 2008

    I’m chair of the Burslem Arts & Crafts Festival group, a wonderful bunch of people who fill the streets of the Stoke-on-Trent town with a popular festival twice a year and with a shop in Queen Street.
    Although much of the focus is on highlighting the ongoing craftsmanship in Burslem, we’ve often tied it in with the heritage of the town with walks and events and in December 6 our Christmas Festival will have a Victorian theme to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Arnold Bennett’s book the Old Wives Tale, which is steeped in the atmosphere of Victorian Burslem and well worth a read.


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