Uncovering a hidden gem event venue with local Instagrammers
Event planners are always on the look out for hidden gem venues. We are spoilt for choice with modern hotel and conference centres but sometimes an event requires a more unique venue. This was why, when local Instagram group IgersBirmingham announced they were hosting an Instameet at Grade II listed building Highbury Hall, I signed up to attend.
Amanda Thurlow outside Highbury Hall, Birmingham
Nestled in the Birmingham suburbs, just 3 miles outside Birmingham city centre, lies a Victorian gothic mansion that is entwined with the social history of the region.
Highbury Hall was home to Joseph Chamberlain, former Mayor of Birmingham and father of former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. The house would have been a hotbed for political discussion and important meetings during the family's residence.
After it was no longer home to the Chamberlain family, the house became a wartime hospital, then a care home, followed by, more recently, a conference and events centre. The beautiful features of the building & the picturesque parkland that surround it ensure its popularity, particularly as a wedding venue.
Inside Highbury Hall, Birmingham
However, beyond the ornate façade the mansion has slowly been falling into a state of disrepair. In 2016 The Chamberlain Highbury Trust was established to manage the restoration and in 2018 an £8m fundraising campaign was launched. Restoration plans include aims to improve the event space and attract a wider variety of users to the venue.
"Using the unique environment created by Joseph Chamberlain, Birmingham’s first and most famous civic leader, we want to identify, educate and develop the leaders of the future. We will provide learning and personal development opportunities for those young people who aspire to become leaders. Everyone involved will be helped to fulfil their true potential.
The Highbury Estate will be restored to its former glory and secured as a place for education, enjoyment, entertainment and endeavour for the general benefit of the citizens of Birmingham (and beyond) just as the Chamberlain Family intended when the Estate was given in Trust for the people in 1919." Chamberlain Highbury Trust
Renovations, that will close the hall for a year, are to include fundamental work such as replacing the boiler and structural repairs, amongst other things. Disused rooms will be bought back into use to create an exhibition space and the bedrooms, located off the balcony surrounding the main hall, will offer breakout space. Although, if the venue continues to be used for weddings, there could be a benefit into making these bedrooms multi use so they offer an option for small numbers of guests and family to stay on site.
Highbury Hall bedrooms
Reviving the disused space will reduce the size of the kitchen, which hopefully won't impact on the types or size of events that the venue can host. Currently maximum capacity is 100 for dinner or 160 for a reception, with event catering provided by Civic Catering, part of Acivico Limited.
Parking is limited but according to Birmingham Mail there are plans to demolish the out of period caretakers cottage and reinstate the original driveway. Ideally this would incorporate more parking space, although there is on street parking just outside.
The introduction of a lift during the renovations will also make the building more accessible. The wifi connection needs improvement and the onsite tech will need an upgrade to bring the venue in line with the expectations of the modern day event planners.
Highbury Hall stone terrace and surrounding parklands
With large lawns, stone terraces and acres of parkland extending out beyond it's boundaries, Highbury Hall offers plenty of space for outdoor and team building activities.
Amanda Thurlow standing in front of Highbury Hall
The venue is one to watch over the next few years. Sarah Blake, Community Legacy Manager, Cancer Research UK, tweeted after her venue visit, describing Highbury Hall as "an absolute corker". With the TLC that the restoration will provide, this historic mansion has the potential to flourish as a boutique event venue.
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