Last night social media and the local news were inundated with very sad images showing the former home of George Cadbury on fire. Tucked away at the back of Manor Farm Park, Northfield Manor was home to the Cadbury family from 1894 until George’s death in 1922. His wife continued to reside there until the 1950’s when ownership was transferred to the University of Birmingham. It was a hall of residence until 2007 and for the last 7 years has unfortunately remained vacant in a state of dereliction. Reports at the moment point to a suspected arson attack. It seems that the fate of the manor house is now sealed and as a result of extensive fire damage it will probably be demolished.
The Mock Tudor style house is locally grade A listed (national listing was sought in the past but rejected). It was originally a farm house built circa 1750 known as Manor Farm and significant alterations were later made in 1809 to form the building on site today. It sits within 50 acres of park and woodland which is now Manor Farm Park and once made up the grounds of the manor house.
It is tragic to see a piece of local history go up in flames especially as there was so much potential for the building to be restored. In comparison to other examples from the same period the buildings architectural value may not be as significant but its local, social and historical value was very important. This in my opinion was reason enough for it to be nationally listed and restored to its former glory.
The house would have been a perfect location for a museum about the Cadbury family, similar to Winterbourne House in Edgbaston which chronicles the lives of the influential Nettlefold family. The Cadbury family were equally as influential as the Nettlefolds providing work for thousands of people at their chocolate factory in South Birmingham where they produced Dairy Milk chocolate which would transform the British confectionary industry. They strongly believed in social rights for their workers and providing a better quality of life. This resulted in the creation of Bournville, a green leafy model village to house the workers. The Bournville estate is one of the one important examples of arts & crafts housing in the country.
Of course it is difficult to preserve and save every historical building due to factors such as lack of funds & finance, upkeep costs/maintenance issues, local politics etc, but I really hoped that one day Northfield Manor’s time would come. Sadly it seems the current interest in restoring this hidden gem is now too late. It is very disappointing indeed to see another heritage building lost in such unfortunate circumstances.
If anyone has any old photographs, memories or stories about the manor house please feel free to comment. I would be really interested to hear from you.
More information & links about Northfield Manor below:
- Location: Manor House Drive, Manor Farm Park, Bristol Road South, Northfield, Birmingham, England.
- Year: Circa 1750, alterations 1809
- Use: Residential dwelling (former home of Sir George Cadbury), latter University of Birmingham Halls of Residence. Vacant since 2007.
- Style: Mock Tudor, Jacobean timber panelled interiors.
- Materials: Red brick & stone with mock Tudor style timber frontage, detailing & bay windows.
- Status: Locally Grade A Listed.
- Recent developments: Recent planning application for the Retention and conversion of the Manor House to create 20 apartments plus the erection of 103 new dwellings made by the University of Birmingham and Banner Homes Midlands- 2012/07097/PA.
- Registered on the SAVE catalogue of buildings at risk register in 2011. http://www.savebritainsheritage.org/
BBC Birmingham: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-28574387
More photos & videos on the Daily Mail: