Historic shelter to get new lease of life at Avoncroft

By Tristan Harris 21/02 Updated: 21/02 14:02

Buy photos » The airing court shelter prior to dismantling. Picture by the Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings. s

A PIECE of Bromsgrove's history will be preserved, thanks to Avoncroft Museum, three charities and the Kier Construction company.

The Edwardian garden pavillion, located on the site of the former Bromsgrove lunatic asylum since the early 1900s, will be moved to the museum in the coming weeks. The structure, an 'airing court shelter', was used to provide open-air exercise for patients.

The one at Barnsley Hall Hospital featured landscaped grass areas enclosed by railings to ensure the patients did not escape. Each court contained an octagonal shelter to protect patients from the elements.

But, more recently, the shelter had become a target for vandalism.

Simon Carter, director of Avoncroft Museum, said: "Despite residents’ best efforts, the shelter was proving difficult to maintain and its future was hanging in the balance.

“We put forward a rescue plan and thanks to support from Kier and three local charities - the George Cadbury Trust, the RD Turner Trust and the 29th May 1961 Trust - we are now in the process of relocating it piece by piece to Avoncroft.”

He added, although it was only a simple structure, it was an important one as it illustrated the changing attitudes to the way mentally ill patients were treated in society.

“Unlike their mid-Victorian predecessors, the Edwardians saw fresh air and exercise as beneficial, rather than threatening, to health.

"There couldn’t have been a greater contrast between the Barnsley Hall Hospital and the types of institutions described by Dickens, but despite being modern, light and airy when it opened in June 1907, it was still a place where people who had treatable disorders such as epilepsy, were confined away from their families and society.”

The painstaking process of moving the shelter to the open-air site, piece by piece, will see the roof tiles stripped, the timber roof structure taken down and then the internal wooden partitions and bench seating dismantled.

After that, there will be the removal of the eight supporting cast iron columns.

At Avoncroft, the shelter will be a resting point for visitors en route to the top of the bank above the Museum's ice house.

The shelter was due to be rebuilt immediately, but it is being delayed on ecology conservation advice to protect the museum's colony of great-crested newts.

It will be constructed by Easter and, hopefully, completely restored and open to the public by the late summer.

Kier is taking care of the construction and the painting and following restoration will be carried out by volunteers. The museum needs to raise an extra £15,000 to complete the project.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the project or volunteering at Avoncroft Museum should call Hamish Wood on 01527 831363.

Buy photos» Avoncroft Museum director, Simon Carter, Gary Pearce, Kier Construction director and engineer Neil Carlson. s

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