Aston Hall – one of Birmingham’s most famous and best-loved buildings – celebrated its 150th anniversary as a museum over the weekend.
The Jacobean house was built 400 years ago, but opened by Queen Victoria as a museum to be a “boon and a comfort to the people of Birmingham” during a visit to the city on June 15, 1858.
Celebrations on Saturday to mark the anniversary saw children and adults dressed up as Victorians, including a Queen Victoria look-a-like, story-telling and music. The event took place at Aston Park and nearby Aston Parish Church, as Aston Hall is closed until next summer while it undergoes a massive £10 million redevelopment.
Councillor Ray Hassall (Lib Dem Perry Barr), Birmingham’s cabinet member for leisure, sports and culture said: “Aston Hall museum is held in great affection by local people and is one of the country’s finest Jacobean houses. It is an important part of the city’s history and heritage. This is an exciting time for Aston Hall and park as the site is currently undergoing a £10 million major restoration and development to ensure its future.”
Aston Hall was built in the 17th Century by Sir Thomas Holte and remained in his family until 1817, when it was leased to James Watt Junior. It was later purchased by the Birmingham Corporation in 1864.
The landmark building also features in short film made by Birmingham poet Benjamin Zephaniah in which he cites the stately-home as “the building he loves most in the world”.
The Rastafarian poet who grew up in Handsworth describes how he used to sneak into Aston Hall as a child because it was one of the few places in the city where you could find beautiful architecture.
The film was made for a website called www.thebigpix.co.uk to celebrate another landmark construction – the Angel of the North in Gateshead is ten years old.