As we step ever closer to opening the doors to guests, more elegant yet essential touches fall into place.
Garth House is an impressive Arts and Crafts building, built in 1900. It’s now been restored and refurbished throughout, with bespoke detailing, and much care taken to ensure the original character of the house remains. The decor reflects its history, with a natural palette and a strong sense of craftsmanship.
Of course, individual room names have been given the same care and attention.
The ground floor rooms, available for conferences, meetings and private dining, have all been named for icons of the University of Birmingham’s rich cultural history.
Garth House’s smallest meeting room is named for Charles Lapworth, the first Professor of Geology at Mason College, the forerunner of the University of Birmingham. Lapworth was one of the most important and influential geologists in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.
Charles Lapworth is also celebrated in the name of the university’s outstanding Lapworth Museum of Geology. Dating back to 1880, it’s one of the oldest geological museums in the country. Its world-class collection is home to over 250,000 specimens, including the first ever recorded specimen of the fossil known as the Dudley Bug, and the ever-popular Roary the Allosaurus.
You can see the impressive aspect of this special meeting room at the lower right of the Garth House photograph above, featuring a stunning wide bay window and views across the lawn. This room is named in honour of Lady Barber, Dame Constance Hattie Barber, who bequeathed a substantial sum of money to the university in 1932, to build a gallery to house an art collection to rival those of the capital.
Her legacy lives on: the Barber Institute of Fine Arts is a must-see for any visitor to campus. It’s home to a truly remarkable collection of masterpieces, from Botticelli and Rubens, through Turner and Rossetti to Monet, Renoir and Degas. This beautiful Art Deco building also hosts regular free concerts of classical music.
We have much to thank Lady Barber for, not least her fortunate marriage. It saved this beautiful room from a rather less auspicious name; she was born Martha Onions.
Garth House’s third meeting space, found at the lower left of the Garth House picture, is named not for a person but for another former home. Winterbourne House was built to be the family home of John and Margaret Nettlefold, to house their growing family.
It too is a fine example of Arts and Crafts architecture. Built in 1903, it features intentionally uneven roof lines to give a sense of simplicity, and was made from ordinary authentic building materials. The origin of the name Winterbourne is unclear, but is thought to derive from the many springs and streams (or ‘bournes’) in the area. Margaret Nettlefold was a keen gardener, and used these natural features to create a beautiful sandstone rock garden with mossy rocks, steps and pools.
Winterbourne House and Garden is now a museum and botanic garden, open to the public. Any visit to Edgbaston Park Hotel should include Winterbourne: the house and garden are located just opposite, on Edgbaston Park Road.