Ambitious plans to save the historic Birmingham home of the Chamberlain family have been unveiled.
Birmingham City Council wants to completely restore the Grade-II listed manor house and gardens and lay on more facilities and events for the public and community groups.
Running of the estate would be transferred to a not-for-profit trust.
The £7 million plans were explained during a public meeting at Queensbridge School on Monday night to a packed hall of about 300 people.
It was part of a consultation on the future of the Highbury Estate in Moseley the council is carrying out.
Members of the public have until next Monday, December 3, to put forward their views before the council makes its final decision early next year.
Highbury Hall and gardens were the family home of Birmingham MP Joseph Chamberlain and his son, former Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.
The grand house, other buildings and landscaped gardens were given in trust to the city council in 1932 with the proviso they were used for the benefit of its citizens.
Today, the hall is home to a number of city council departments with its main source of income being from being hired out for weddings and corporate events.
But the council’s director of legal and democratic services, David Tatlow, said unless changes were made, its future was uncertain.
He said the total cost for the refurbishment and renewal of the house and gardens was £7 million, on top of the annual running costs of £75,000.
Mr Tatlow admitted that in the past, the council had “simply not done enough” for one of the jewels of Birmingham’s crown.
“We are now going to refurbish and renew the hall and gardens and want to do it well,” he said.
Elizabeth Perkins, a former member of Birmingham Conservation Trust and who has helped draw up the plans, said they were hoping to secure Heritage Lottery Fund money.
But to do this, she said, they had to make sweeping changes – the most notable of which was to transfer management of the estate to a trust made up of business people, heritage experts and city councillors.
More public and community events would be put on in the hall and gardens, along with an increase in weddings and corporate events.
“It has always been about keeping it for the citizens of Birmingham – not just keeping it as a grand country house,” she said.
The plans have had the seal approval of Mary de Vere Taylor, Joseph Chamberlain’s great-granddaughter.
In a letter read out to the meeting, she said: “It means so much to us that people still care a great deal about Highbury’s present and its future."