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Lottery bid for Manor House Museum

Ambitious plans to invest more than £2.5 million to restore and enhance a landmark Sandwell property have won approval from councillors.

Sandwell Council is applying for money from the Heritage Lottery Fund so it can restore the timber-framed Grade I Manor House in Stone Cross which dates back to the 13th century.

Councillors yesterday gave the go-ahead to apply for funding which, if successful, will improve access to more of the historic house, remove unsympathetic extensions, correct patched and temporary repairs and enhance the grounds.

Councillor Richard Marshall, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for leisure, said: “Our aim is to restore and improve the Manor House so it can take its justifiable place as one of the most significant heritage buildings in the West Midlands. We want to make it more accessible for people to visit and to conserve its history for future generations.”

A significant programme of physical works is proposed in line with the recommendations of the 2011 Conservation Plan as part of the work to the building if the bid is successful.

A report before councillors outlined a programme of repairs to the physical structure of the building including the removal of inappropriate 20th century materials and repairs in line with current best practice as specified in the Conservation Plan.

The council wants to improve the physical access around the building through alterations in floor levels, re-opening historic doorways and new improved staircases and upper floor access.

And it wants to remove the poor quality extensions to the building dating back to the days when it was used as a pub in the 1960s as well as provide new facilities including a classroom and toilets in adjacent buildings.

Officers say a successful bid would also enable further archaeological investigations in significant parts of the building, particularly the chapel range and the newly-discovered 15th century bakery.

They would also carry out a range of hard landscaping improvements including developing dedicated pedestrian access from Hall Green Road, relaying and re-organising the car park and developing part of the existing car park as a hard-surfaced events area.

Councillor Marshall added: “If we get funding, then the capital works will enable more and better events at the Manor House and make it a quality asset in the heart of the community. We will be able to provide more school visits, use it for events and hire rooms out for private parties, meetings and conferences.”

Council officers will now seek a stage-one pass for development funding of £142,000 as part of an overall capital project with a total value of £2,500,00 with 80 per cent support from the Heritage Lottery Fund and and the 20 per cent from Sandwell Council.

The development phase is estimated at costing £142,000 with a council contribution of £28,400.

The Manor House was the centre of the West Bromwich manorial estates from the 13th century until the influence of the manorial lords declined in the 16th and 17th century.

The house became a residence for a succession of wealthy London-based merchants and lawyers, but increasing industrial development in the immediate locality saw the hall gradually converted into tenements.

By the 1940s the Manor House was one of the last slum clearances in West Bromwich. It was saved from demolition when it was purchased by West Bromwich Corporation in 1949. Conversion of the buildings into a public house in 1960-1961 gave the Manor House a new role until its closure and return to Sandwell Council in 2009.

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