Former Magistrates' Court
A new creative space
The Former Magistrates’ Court site will be transformed into a cultural and creative hub, providing a range of creative industries work and production space. This will be achieved through the creation of new working environments, and through entertainment and gatherings.
In the former weaving sheds there will be transformed into a multi-purpose space for event, festivals, temporary exhibitions and meanwhile activities.
History of the building
The Grade II listed ‘Worcester Cross Factory and Offices’ was designed by the architect J G Bland of Birmingham, who worked extensively in Kidderminster. It was built between 1878-1879 for the carpet manufacturer Henry Richard Willis as his company headquarters with a showroom space to display carpets. This was later to become the main Magistrates’ Court.
Unfortunately, within four years the company failed, and the site was sold to Woodward Grosvenor & Co. who developed space at the rear to provide extensive weaving sheds for broadloom carpet manufacture. In 1971 the site was sold to Kidderminster Borough Council, with part of the building converted into Kidderminster’s Magistrates’ Court and the weaving sheds becoming the town’s indoor market.
The Council vacated the site in the early 2000s, when new law courts were built near the railway station, and since then, the whole site has remained unused.
The Former Magistrates’ Court site forms a highly visual gateway to the town. Its easterly façade is the first sight of the town centre as you approach Kidderminster from the railway station and by road from Bromsgrove and South Birmingham. There is a small public landscape area opposite the south west frontage of the main building - Coronation Gardens - which was created in 1952.
The transformation of the Former Magistrates' Court will fully restore and maximise the potential of the whole site as Kidderminster’s cultural and creative hub. The heritage building will provide 2,500 sqm of high-quality office space for creative industries and businesses. The former carpet showroom (later the Magistrates’ Court) will become a flexible studio and venue, with capacity for 120.
At the north end of the site a new three-storey building will be inserted to provide a range of facilities, including ground floor access to the former weaving sheds from the town centre and flexible co-working space to the upper levels. There will be a new north connection at second floor via a pedestrian bridge, providing access to Kidderminster’s
potential new cinema site, which lies at the top of Prospect Hill.
This transformation will play a key role in renewing and reshaping Kidderminster town centre, developing a highly visible gateway building whilst re-purposing a significant historic asset. The public space will be enhanced, helping to define the town centre’s identity and provide direction for a pedestrian route through town.
As both a working hub and a site with venues for performance and exhibition, the site will be a destination for both regular users and the wider public from Kidderminster, Worcestershire and the greater Birmingham conurbation.
The redevelopment of this site will provide a critical element for the long term vision by supporting Kidderminster’s economic and cultural offer - a heart for creative and digital industries - helping to drive growth and contribute to future sustainability.
Commentary by Aidan Ridyard of BFF Architects:
The Former Magistrates Court in Kidderminster is a fascinating building because it’s really the last of the carpet factories surviving in the town. It was probably the last one built at the very end of the 19th Century and has survived when the others have disappeared. Now we have an opportunity to re-imagine it as a hub for the creative industries in Kidderminster at the beginning of the 21st century.
It’s lived as a market hall, a Magistrates Court and has done a whole series of things and nows its about trying to find what’s innate at the core of the building and that’s what we want to celebrate in the new project as we move forward.
The vision for the new project is very much how we can work with the existing building and use that as the discipline and where that needs help we put new interventions into it, supplement it and make it do what we need it to do.
So within the existing building we’ve got a fascinating brick structure which is the original carpet factory’s administrative block fronting the street, behind which is an iron framed roof which is the carpet factory itself and the whole site is set into the topography cutting in with a series of retaining walls, plateauing the site and then stepping down so we end up with a south facing building overlooking the town itself.
Our challenge is how we can open that up and celebrate that south facing site of the building and make it into a proper public fronted hub complex integrating it into the public realm outside and bringing it into the weaving sheds which are behind us on the other side of this block.
The weaving sheds on the north side of the site are where the carpets were originally made. Materials would have been brought through this archway and bought into the weaving sheds behind me and made, then taken up the road to the railway station and distributed around the world.
Those waving sheds are an incredibly flexible part of the site. There is about half an acre of them. What we want to do is make them into the flexible heart of the building, so they will house performance spaces, work spaces, and it will be thing space where everything links to. The café and social areas will use it and it becomes the glue that holds the whole complex together in the future.
The public realm on the south side of the building really needs to connect to the weaving sheds inside theme, so actually making those connections, we have a whole series of historic brick archways which we can re-use to re-establish those connections and then at the end of the building opening it up so there is a visible public connection so we join public realm to the heart of the site so they work much more in tandem rather than being separated as they have been for the last 100 year or so.
By doing that, this public realm gets annexed by the functions in the building, so the creative industries based here begin to spin out and actually get that connection with the communities which they serve.
We’re very excited to be working on the project here at the former Magistrates Court in Kidderminster because it really is a classic example of how we can make historic buildings work again for the 21st Century and create what we call sustainable regeneration. And that’s not just sustainability with how it works with the environment, which it does do, we’re using a historic building in a creative way, but its sustainability in terms of what it does for the economics of the area and for the community that it serves. And it’s that view of holistic sustainability which is what we think projects like this absolutely exemplify and why they are such interesting things to be involved with. They create such fascinating ways to actually re-energise the community and re-integrate a historic asset into it with a really positive mission.
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