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You are in: Birmingham > History > Local History > Spellbound by the Saracen's Head

Saracen's Head pre restoration

Saracen's Head pre-restoration

Spellbound by the Saracen's Head

The historic Birmingham buildings that won the BBC TV Restoration series in 2004, will officially re-open to the public on the 14th June 2008. Local resident Gus Goodchild shares her memories.

After complete refurbishment, the Old Grammar School in Kings Norton and its sister building, the Tudor house known as the Saracen's Head will re-open to the public on the 14th June.

For BBC Video Nation, Gus (Marjorie) Goodchild and friends of the project have been keeping a video diary of the restoration. Click the link, below, to watch the video.

I remember the first time

Gus Goodchild: I remember the first time, about twenty years ago, I went inside the Saracen’s Head in Kings Norton. My husband and I were invited, by one of the local societies, to a talk in the North Hall.

Gus Goodchild

Gus Goodchild at the Saracen's Head

I sat spellbound, not at the talk, now long forgotten, but at our surroundings. I could not believe how lucky we were to have the privilege of sitting there. I had no knowledge of the age of the room, nor of its history. There was no ceiling, just beautiful old beams up into the roof. Some vertical beams must have held a doorway in the distant past, as there was an annex beyond them. Little was truly vertical or level. The floor was distinctly uneven-a trifle unsafe when wearing varifocals, or after a glass (or two) of wine.

To think a place like this was available to us, just a five minute walk from home, in Birmingham!

As our children grew up, we became more involved in King’s Norton. We realised that it is not just a suburb of Birmingham, but a village with its own identity and a life that centred on St Nicolas Church, the Green and the Saracen’s Head. The monthly Farmers’ Market is quite a social occasion, and not to be missed.

Old Grammar School

Old Grammar School

The threat of decay

A few years ago, it became obvious that both the Old Grammar School and the Saracen’s Head would not be usable for much longer. They needed vast sums spending on them to make them safe, and with pending laws on disabled access, the outlook was bleak. The buildings would probably shut and fall into decay. The village would lose part of its heart.

Then, from apparently nowhere, came the BBC2 Restoration programme. It was unbelievable when, in August 2004, we won. Incredibly, our buildings would be saved!

Committees were formed. Planners, architects, archaeologists and, of course, builders became part of the scene. It has been a hive of activity around the Green; now it is almost over and the buildings will be returned to the Parish and community. We are all looking forward to having the heart of Kings Norton back.

The Saracen's Head, April 2008

The Saracen's Head, April 2008

Hidden secrets revealed

Richard Thornton (a keen historian) and I have been lucky to film regularly for the BBC Video Nation. We have had access to both buildings and have seen them in all stages and all weathers! We have filmed parts that have been hidden for hundreds of years, seen what lies under old floorboards, been up in the roof and looked down into the foundations of the new visitor centre.

The re-opening

The Saracen’s Head will be officially opening on Friday 13th June at 1pm, and will be open to the public on Saturday 14th June from 10am to 4pm, just under four years after we won on the Restoration programme.

The medieval themed re-opening day will include puppet shows, costumed characters, minstrels, craft activities and of course a chance to look around the buildings themselves. Richard and I will be there to record the end of our diary and the beginning of, hopefully, a new life for both of our buildings.

last updated: 10/06/2008 at 18:09
created: 06/06/2008

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