We are delighted to announce that Mary Street has won this year’s Birmingham Civic Society Renaissance Award!

The Planning Committee visited four outstanding shortlisted projects in May, and while there was an exceptionally high standard of entries this year, the committee unanimously voted for Mary Street as the winner. The building dating from 1823 has been carefully restored and transformed into a modern home by owners Malcolm Kirkham and Jan Arkwright who sensitively bought the former workshop back into use, which they now call their home.

2019 saw four outstanding projects shortlisted:

• The New Standard Works
• The Squirrel Works
• Mary Street
• Garth House, Edgbaston Park Hotel and Conference Centre

The Judging Process

As part of the judging process, the four projects were considered in terms of the building or structure’s condition before works started, the level of restoration work involved, how much of the original has been retained and how successful the completed project has been especially in terms of community. The Planning Committee felt that Mary Street had been transformed into a fine city home creating an oasis of quiet and calm in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter. They were thoroughly impressed with the level of repairs and conservation carried out and how the new interventions have been introduced and skillfully integrated. New and old blend together virtually seamlessly and the owners’ attention to detail is meticulous and well considered.

The project team which consisted of BPN Architects, PMP Consultants and Nigel Birch of Springworth, all worked together over a period of a year to bring the project to fruition.

History of the building

Mary Street is important to the Jewellery Quarter and acts as an indicator of the area’s unique development. The house which was a former workshop extension was constructed in 1823. One of the first tenants was a man called George Wyon, who was a die-sinker, modeller and chaser. The Wyons were a well-known manufacturing family in Birmingham, specialising in medals and engraving.

The building is completely unique in its character and is an excellent example of a process called shopping. Shopping is a word synonymous with nineteenth-century Birmingham and the Jewellery Quarter in particular, but more generally associated with manufacturing buildings. The way the Jewellery Quarter developed was a direct response to land shortage, and as the area became more desirable, buildings were literally ‘squeezed’ into tiny plots of land such as gardens and courtyards, places that weren’t necessarily suitable to build on but provided an ideal opportunity to make money and profit. When a workshop was built in a courtyard or garden, it was known locally as shopping with the shop referring to workshop.

While the Jewellery Quarter has many examples of ‘shopping’ developments, there are none quite like Mary Street because this building is the earliest identified of its kind in the Jewellery Quarter. But what’s different about the Mary Street building is that most shopping extensions or workshops were usually situated at the rear of the street-frontage buildings, not at the side.

The project

From the beginning of the project, Malcolm and Jan were keen to retain as many of the original details as possible, preserving the historical integrity of the building. A sympathetic, modern glass extension to the rear of the property was created and the smallest of details have been retained, from the intricate hooks and nails that nineteenth-century workers would have used, through to the original metal-framed windows.

Malcolm Kirkham and Jan Arkwright have sensitively restored this building and given it a new lease of life! And it is a building that continues to stop onlookers in their tracks!

Commenting on winning the award, Malcolm and Jan said;

“We are thrilled. Mary Street is the JQ’s oldest surviving example of this type of workshop. We were committed to retaining its history and identity, whilst bringing the building into use – and ensuring its future”

BPN Architects, who led on the project were equally thrilled with winning this year’s Renaissance award and commented that;

“We’re really pleased to hear that Mary Street has received the Birmingham Civic Society’s 2019 Renaissance Award!

It’s a project that is close to heart of the all the BPN team – not least because the building is opposite our office! It was a vacant and run-down building when we first moved into the office – but that was its charm. Malcolm and Jan, the clients, and whole team worked incredibly hard to make sure that it didn’t lose this during its renovation. Everyone was keen to make sure a ‘light touch’ was taken throughout the existing building which has been upgraded in some very discrete but effective ways to ensure the building is viable as a new home. We had an opportunity to create a new modern extension to the rear which follows the historical footprint of former workshops and enabled us to reflect the original jewellery quarter vernacular in a literal and playful manner with mirrored glazing.

It’s been a pleasure to work on this project with everyone and see the building being brought back into positive use!”