Birmingham's Roundhouse gets lottery grant

May 2017 - One of Birmingham’s most neglected historic canalside buildings is set to be brought back to life with a £2.5m National Lottery grant, reports Peter Underwood

The cash will enable an unusual partnership of the Canal & River Trust and National Trust to revitalise the Grade II* listed Roundhouse into a city base 'from which to explore Birmingham’s famous canals by foot, bike or boat,' as the press release puts it.

Situated on Sheepcote Street, in Birmingham's city centre it is next door to the former Fiddle & Bone pub, closed for many years, briefly reopened by the owners of Sherborne Wharf and now relaunched as The Distillery.

The Roundhouse itself was built in 1874 by the Birmingham Corporation and was originally used as stables and stores. Designed by local architect W.H. Ward, the horse-shoe shaped building has been steadily falling into disrepair.

The investment from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), together with the combined expertise of two major heritage organisations, should see the building restored and rejuvenated as a focal point on the city’s canals, although how much boaters will benefit is debatable.

Plans for the Roundhouse include a café, a cycle hire and repair workshop, volunteering opportunities and a shared working space.

It’s claimed that The Roundhouse will attract over 50,000 people a year, both from the local community and visitors from further afield, and the two charities are planning to depend upon local volunteers to take on what they call, 'a range of volunteering opportunities'

They also need more money with a fundraising appeal planned 'to raise the additional funding needed to bring the project to life'.

In an attempt to bring in local people tghere are plans to give them a chance to explore the Roundhouse for themselves with events celebrating the history of the building, and encouraging people to explore the city’s canals, planned for the summer.

The £3.3m scheme has now been given a full £2.5m award to enable the scheme to go ahead, with the 0.8m additional funding provided by the two partners.

Stuart Mills, Property Director for the Canal & River Trust, said: “There’s an exciting future ahead but to realise it we really want local people to join in and get involved whether that be through volunteering, donating money or simply participating in some of the amazing events and activities that will be taking place.”

Lucy Reid, Assistant Director of Operations at the National Trust, said: “The Roundhouse project is all about partnership and co-creation. The end result will be an inspiring and atmospheric space at the heart of our city’s canal network from which to explore the waterways and the hidden histories of the people who made Birmingham – lamplighters, boatspeople and horses. There will be night-time paddles, ‘untours’, films and events, office spaces and a café.”

The grant has been awarded through HLF’s Heritage Enterprise programme. It is designed to help when the cost of repairing an historic building is so high that restoration simply is not commercially viable.

​Grants of £100k to £5million bridge the financial gap, funding the vital repairs and conservation work needed to convert derelict, vacant and under-used buildings like the Roundhouse, into new, usable commercial spaces that can have a positive impact on local economies.

Photo: Staff from the Canal & River Trust and National Trust are joined by heritage working boat volunteers and canoeists from B-Row to celebrate the £2.5 National Lottery Grant.

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