A decaying 18th century mansion once at risk of demolition is at last to be restored to its former glory.

Work has begun on the £5.2 million restoration of Lightwoods House and Park in Smethwick.

The Grade II house was built by Jonathan Grundy in June 1780 and he was its first occupant, living there until his death in 1803.

The pile was later bought by local soap manufacturer George Adkins in 1865.

His son Caleb inherited it and when he died in 1902, it was put up for sale and looked set to be demolished to make way for housing.

A public campaign saved the house by raising enough money to buy it and it was handed to the then Birmingham Corporation.

In 1971, it was converted into studios and offices by stained-glass artists John Hardman & Co which had leased the premises.

They vacated the building in 2008 and it has since fallen into a poor state of repair. Birmingham City Council transferred the house and park to Sandwell Council in November 2010.

Now the Sandwell authority has embarked on an ambitious scheme to give it some much-needed attention.

It is putting £1.6 million towards the restoration scheme, with the remaining £3.6 million coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund.

Specialist restoration company Fairhurst Ward Abbots has been awarded a contract to carry out £3.9 million of work.

Council deputy leader Coun Steve Eling said: "The aim is to restore the historical elements of Lightwoods Park and refurbish the Grade II Lightwoods House so more people can enjoy, learn about and become involved in the park and house.

"This is the culmination of a major piece of work to restore the park and house to their former glory.

"Local residents and members of the Friends of Lightwoods Park and House have been involved in working out the priorities for what will be included in the restoration and the future uses for the house. I can't wait for the work to be finished."

Project officer Cherie O'Sullivan added: "Everyone is anxious to see the work get under way as soon as possible and we appreciate people keep hearing us talk about it.

"We expect to be on target for the grand opening in August 2016."

Coun Richard Marshall, chairman of the Friends of Lightwoods Park and House, said: "After years of talking about this project, to be within touching distance of it starting is almost unbelievable.

"It will have a huge effect on the community and the area as it will re-energise this part of Smethwick and will bring life back into an iconic park."

The project includes bringing Lightwoods House back into public use for community meetings, training, functions, a children's centre and on-site offices for the park/house management and police.

The ground floor will provide public toilets, a tea room and exhibition space. The upper floors will have rooms for the community, conferencing, weddings and commercial office space.

The project also includes restoration of the grounds which were officially opened as a public park in 1903.

The aim is to restore the drinking fountains, 19th century bandstand, Shakespeare Garden, walls and railings and a pond; improve access and provide a new play area; turn the plant nursery into a horticultural training centre and hold educational and events programmes at the park and house.