One of Birmingham’s oldest buildings has been almost entirely demolished sparking anger from conservationists and historians.
The University of Birmingham tore down the oldest parts of the Northfield Manor House this week - a year after it had been gutted by fire.
Only modern extensions remain of the 18th century building. Conservationists are urging the university to save the little left and restore the 300-year-old building.
They watched with horror as much of the historic building, gutted by fire last year, was knocked down when demolition crews moved in.
The University of Birmingham, which owns the building, insists it has only bulldozed parts of the building which are structurally unsound and said there would be full consultation with the community before any final decision was made on the remainder.
But leading conservationists say the demolition has already gone too far and too much of the older parts of the building, which has its 300th anniversary this year, are gone. They fear total destruction is virtually a formality.
Coun Peter Douglas Osborn (Con Weoley), a member of the council’s conservation and heritage panel, said: “This building was erected on the last date that the Scots invaded England on behalf of James the second’s son the Old Pretender. It is its anniversary year.
“I raised this potential demolition a month ago in the planning committee. It is sad that I have been proven correct.”
He said that too often a decision to remove parts of an old building led to the rest being brought down to rubble.
“If the university fails to restore this, it would demonstrate it is a not a place of learning with cultural values but an international business,” he added.
Local historian Carl Chinn also warned the university against further demolition, saying: “I would urge the university to stop the demolition and consult with local people through community groups and their elected representatives over the future of this building.
“They should take a serious look at how they will restore the building, in partnership with the community.”
The Manor House, in Bristol Road South in Northfield, was bought by the Cadbury family in 1890 and remained its home until 1953 when the university took it on as a halls of residence. It has been empty since 2007 after the university decided it was too expensive to upgrade with modern facilities.
It is not listed with English Heritage but has an informal grade A status on Birmingham City Council’s local list of historic buildings.
A university spokeswoman said the latest demolition work was necessary for safety reasons, pointing out they were saddened by the fire last year.
“Since the fire, we had sought to establish a way of retaining Manor House if at all possible and, in line with this desire, we had recently awarded a contract to remove the hazardous material and to install a temporary roof to protect the rest of the property," she said.
“While carrying out this work, it has become clear that much of the property is damaged beyond repair and is in a dangerous state and we have no choice but to take down substantial parts of the structure.
“The extent of damage caused to the building was such that it posed an unacceptable risk to the safety of workers on site.
“When the damaged parts of the structure have been cleared, we will reassess the state of the remainder of the building. We will keep the local community informed throughout.”