University’s STEAMhouse building scoops prestigious conservation award

Birmingham City University (BCU) has been recognised by the Victorian Society for breathing new life into a major historical building in the city.

Posted 13 February 2023

The new STEAMhouse building, which will house the upcoming GBSLEP AGM.

The University was announced as the winner of the Victorian Society’s Birmingham and West Midlands Conservation Award in recognition of its STEAMhouse building, an exemplary restoration of the city’s Eccles Works factory.

The winner was announced at a special ceremony on Saturday 9 February. An illuminated certificate and a 19” bronze disc recording the name of the winner and the year, for display on or in the building, will also be presented to BCU.

STEAMhouse, officially launched by the University in October 2022, is home to a multi-disciplinary community of entrepreneurs, businesses, academic researchers and students.

Offering a wealth of support to companies of all sizes to boost growth and innovation, STEAMhouse is central to Birmingham City University’s commitment to spearheading the STEAM agenda, which places the Arts at the centre of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines.

Professor Philip Plowden, Vice-Chancellor at Birmingham City University said: “Birmingham City University is honoured and delighted by this award. The Eccles building is such a prominent and significant part of Birmingham's heritage that it is only right that we bring it back into use.

“STEAMhouse reflects the Victorian commitment to industrial innovation. It brings together our university’s 180-year heritage in Arts and Design to sit alongside the delivery of Technology and Engineering, in order to solve the challenges of today and tomorrow. And by using the building to host companies and start up enterprises we are ensuring a continuing engagement with enterprise and industry.

Stephen Hartland, chair of the Birmingham & West Midlands Group of the Victorian Society said: "Every year I am amazed and impressed by the quality of nominations for our award and this year is no exception. Nominations from Coventry, Wolverhampton and Birmingham in 2022 once again saw very high standards, which have become synonymous with this award.

“However, there can be only one winner and our Casework team felt that the STEAMhouse was a clear winner, by a country mile. This comes against the backdrop of the disastrous fire in 2007, which caused serious damage to the building, and which makes this award ever so more poignant. 

A stone’s throw from the planned new HS2 rail station, STEAMhouse retains much of the Belmont Works’ original character and its iconic façade, which dates back to 1899.

The building was seriously damaged by fire in 2007 and appeared on the Victorian Society’s regional watchlist of endangered buildings for several years.

Erected in 1899 as a 'Manufactory' for the Eccles Rubber & Cycle Company, its distinctive terracotta façade, and all the elements of the frontage, have been reinstated following the fire.

The Conservation Award recognises an outstanding renovation or conservation project on a building that dates (or has had substantial alteration/additions) from between 1837-1914, within the geographical remit of the Birmingham & West Midlands Group of the Victorian Society.

Stephen Benson, Chief Executive, Hortons' Estate Limited, the award’s sponsor said: “Hortons’ Estate Ltd are delighted to continue to support The Victorian Society and their important work promoting the restoration of historic buildings in the region, and to sponsor the 2022 West Midlands Conservation Award. Birmingham City University’s restoration of The Eccles Building is an excellent example of bringing back such valuable, historic buildings into modern economic life.”

The Victorian Society is the only charity dedicated to protecting our Victorian and Edwardian built heritage. We help tackle the climate emergency by campaigning for the sensitive reuse of historic buildings to generate much lower carbon emissions than demolition and rebuild.