Tower Ballroom to be demolished after listing fails

The Tower Ballroom at Edgbaston Reservoir will be demolished after a bid to get the structure listed failed.

Candlelit vigil for the Tower Ballroom at Edgbaston Reservoir. Credit: Scott Hewer
Candlelit vigil for the Tower Ballroom at Edgbaston Reservoir. Credit: Scott Hewer

The 146-year-old building was originally a roller skating rink and became a dance hall in the 1920s – but the site has been earmarked for housing since 2017.

Notices were placed last year informing the public of a January demolition – but a listing application was since made by the Victorian Society in “recognition of the building’s social and historical significance”.

Tim Bridges, Birmingham and West Midlands Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society, said: “Although much altered, the ballroom was originally a roller skating rink, and serves as a reminder of when ‘rinkomania’ took over Britain, and roller skating rinks went up over the country in the latter half of the 19th Century.

“The rink was built by William Wyatt as part of a wider development of entertainment facilities at the reservoir, and opened in 1876.”

But Historic England took the decision not to recommend the site for listing and it has subsequently not been listed by the Government.

A Historic England spokesperson said: “We received an application to list the Tower Ballroom in Birmingham and after careful consideration have not recommended the site for listing.

“The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport agreed with our advice.

“While it is appreciated by the local community, the Tower Ballroom does not have the special architectural and historic interest needed to merit listing on a national level.”

A date for demolition has not yet been set by the city council.

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “The Tower Ballroom site is identified in the Birmingham Development Plan (BDP – adopted in 2017) for redevelopment to deliver much-needed family housing with a mix of commercial and community uses.

“The Revised Draft Edgbaston Reservoir Masterplan builds on the policy allocation and sets a vision to provide high-quality affordable homes with ground floor uses to create activity and improve safety.

“Future development will be highly sustainable and respect the adjacent Local Nature Reserve. The masterplan provides clear guidance to protect and enhance the natural environment to ensure the reservoir can be enjoyed by future generations.

“The council has undertaken extensive public engagement on the masterplan. This includes establishing a Community Partnership Forum, where representatives from the local community have engaged in redrafting the masterplan to ensure it better aligns with the community’s vision.

“The second draft of the masterplan, in which the proposals for the Tower Ballroom site continue to be based on the BDP’s long-identified housing designation, will go out to public consultation in Spring 2022.”

Iris Bertz, a member of ERCO (Edgbaston Reservoir For All) who has campaigned for the Tower Ballroom to be retained and helped compile evidence of its history for the listing application, described the demolition of the building as a “real missed opportunity”.

She said: “It is one of the last remaining original roller skating rinks in Britain – and people don’t even know that was a thing in Victorian times.

“I think it’s fundamentally wrong.”

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