HIGHBURY HALL

Highbury Hall was built for Joseph Chamberlain in 1878, two years after he became MP for Birmingham, and was named after the London suburb where he grew up. Initially the estate consisted of 25 acres of grounds and gardens; this was increased in 1903 when a further 75 acres was leased from Richard Cadbury (who had built Uffculme next door to Highbury in 1891). Joseph’s eldest son Austin, developed the ground and gardens, and started a farm suitable for supplying the house with fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. There were over 20 men employed to look after the gardens and the 25 greenhouses, Highbury was to become well known for its Orchid collection. The gardens were used for the many parties held during Joseph’s political career; they were also used for larger events, such as the Moseley Flower Show and the Kings Heath horse show.

When Joseph died, the house and grounds were taken over as a military hospital for servicemen injured in the war, it became Worcestershire VAD 30, as an annex for 1st Southern General Hospital. It opened on 28th May 1915 as a 140-bed general hospital.  It later became a neurosurgical unit, and finally dealt with orthopaedic cases. 

After the war Highbury continued to be used as a convalescent home for disabled ex-servicemen. In 1919 Sir Austin Chamberlain gave Highbury to the Highbury Trust, who administered it until 1932, when it was presented to Birmingham Corporation, who used it as a home for the elderly, the grounds were reduced and became part of Highbury Park, it continued to be used as a home until 1984, when Birmingham City Council completed a restoration of the house and is now still used for both for civic and public functions, including weddings

Joseph Chamberlain lived at Highbury between 1880 and his death in 1914.

Joseph Chamberlain was born in Camberwell, Surrey on July 8th 1836 came to Birmingham in 1854 to join a family manufacturing company, and in partnership with J.H.Nettlefold, his uncle set up the screw manufacturing company, Nettlefold & Chamberlain, which became the Guest, Keen and Nettlefold Company or GKN as it is best known, he retired from this business in 1874 and entered Politics as a Liberal. In 1873 he became Mayor of Birmingham and was responsible for much of the rebuilding of the city, and the foundation of the University of Birmingham in 1900, he was the first University Chancellor serving from 1900 till 1914, he left politics after a stroke in 1906, and died 2nd July 1914, in the family house in London. The family refused an offer of a official burial at Westminster Abbey, and on 5th July his body was returned to Birmingham by rail and was buried at Key Hill Cemetery the following day. During his life Joseph married three times, two of his wives dying during childbirth, he had six children the most famous being Neville who became Prime Minister 1937-1940.

 

Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Chamberlain    c 1900

Highbury Hall Today

Highbury Hall is today a conference and banqueting suite, with certain rooms available for hire.

©  COLIN BAKER   2007