The Grade II listed cottages at the end of Ravenhurst Street in Highgate are steeped in history. Ravenhurst Cottages were originally opened in 1848 by the Lench’s Trust as almshouses for poor widows and single women from Birmingham.
Located in Highgate, near the busy roundabout at Camp Hill, a modest elevation of three brick gables fronts the street, merely hinting at the large courtyard of immaculately preserved Victorian cottages that lie behind.
Whilst its current surroundings include many late 20th century commercial and industrial buildings, at the time of their construction the cottages would have been set on a wooded hill that formed part of the Ravenhurst estate, aptly named after its population of ravens.
The cottages were designed by J H Hornblower and Haylock, who designed a number of almshouses in Birmingham.
The inward looking arrangement, centred on a communal courtyard, offered a safe haven for vulnerable women and a sense of community. The centrepiece of the design is the Matron’s lodge, with its ornate Dutch style gable and stone detailing. The original tenants were cared for by Matron Ann Starling and paid four shillings a week for their lodging.
Nearly a century after their opening the cottages were struck by a bomb during the Second World War, killing one of the residents and leaving the building damaged until its repair in 1948. Tragedy struck again in the 70s when a fire broke out in the building, forcing more repair work to be undertaken.
The University of Birmingham used the building as student accommodation until the mid-90s, when it slipped into disrepair. In 1997 Trident Housing Association bought, restored and re-fitted the cottages and re-opened them as the first Foyer offering educational facilities, housing and support for young homeless people in Birmingham.
Having recently undergone a £1.3 million programme of refurbishment, the building continues to transform the lives of 16-25 year olds under Trident Reach the People Charity’s portfolio of Young People’s Services.
Article by Matthew Goer, Director, Associated Architects
Published in the Birmingham Post, 26 December 2013