Saint Nicolas' Place
1st October 2019
A key part of Birmingham’s Tudor heritage, the building known as Saint Nicolas' Place, Kings Norton (formerly The Saracen’s Head) is seeking a new proprietor to secure its future as an architectural gem and a well-used commercial and community enterprise.
The building began life as a Tudor merchant’s house and was used for a variety of purposes until 1930, when the proprietor of the time, Mitchells & Butlers Brewery, transferred ownership to the parish of St Nicolas' Church, Kings Norton, the current custodian.
The church’s role in the survival of the complex of Tudor, Georgian and Victorian buildings has been utterly vital. In early 2004, Saint Nicolas' Place and the nearby Old Grammar School won the prestigious national BBC2 ‘Restoration’ television competition. The Parochial Church Council (PCC) of St Nicolas' worked closely with the community to provide a sustainable future for the historic buildings of Kings Norton by conserving and enhancing them, thus making their heritage available to the widest possible audience. The restored buildings have offered a broad variety of community services, events and programmes combined with education, tourism and commercial use.
After 90 years of careful stewardship of Saint Nicolas' Place, the PCC have to acknowledge they are unable to sustain the level of funding required to maintain it. They feel that a new custodian would be appropriate at this stage to take the building into its next chapter.
The PCC have found it challenging to maintain a high level of conservation for all the historic buildings in their care. St Nicolas’ Church, the 900-year-old Grade 1 Listed church building, requires major work on its roof and spire within the next 12 months to safeguard its future. This project alone will cost in excess of £300,000.
Despite this pressure on its limited resources, the PCC has made provision for the continued preservation of the other historic property for which it is responsible, The Old Grammar School in St Nicolas' Churchyard, which has been part of the church's story for over 500 years. (In other words, The Old Grammar School is NOT going to be sold, as some media outlets have reported, but will remain the property of the PCC).
Although it is with heavy heart that a new proprietor is now sought, the PCC have taken extensive professional advice and have conscientiously discerned this as the best way forward to safeguard the fabric of these buildings for future generations.
They believe this to be a great opportunity for another company or organisation, for Saint Nicolas' Place is a unique property with shop and café premises and has excellent event facilities for local groups or commercial purposes. It is hoped that the successful applicant will bring new energy and investment together with a strong passion to secure the long-term future of this much-loved and well used building.
For further information:
Regarding the reasons for the PCCs decision, contact:
The Communications Team at Church of England Birmingham:
For expressions of interest in the building, contact:
DDI: 0121 212 7662
DDI: 0121 212 7688
A Statement by the Churchwardens on behalf of the PCC
As you will know, the Parochial Church Council (the PCC) recently came to the very sad conclusion that it cannot afford to offer further financial support to Saint Nicolas' Place. This is made all the sadder by the serious commitment the current staff team and volunteers have given to it.
What lies behind the decision?
Saint Nicolas' Place has been operating at a financial loss every year for the last ten years so that the PCC has put in over half a million pounds of subsidy. Losses have continued this year and, by the end of August, they had reached nearly £60,000. We estimate that the costs for the full year will be around £72,000.
Simply put, the PCC does not have that kind of money. St Nicolas' Church is beginning to show signs of deterioration: just keeping the scaffolding up to stop the roof damage from getting worse costs us £1,000 every month. We have some urgent repairs to the spire to make that will cost us about £12,000, and so on.
In addition, the PCC is not making its full contribution to the costs of the Diocese's Common Fund because we are making a loss. It has few choices as a charity and has had to take action to address this very serious financial position.
What are we doing?
We have started to look for new owners for Saint Nicolas' Place who can offer it a future.
We have agreed to set up a 'Friends of St Nicolas' Church' charity to assist the PCC in its work of maintaining the church and its mission. The PCC decided that it has to give priority to the church building but it will also maintain the Old Grammar School and the churchyard. Hawkesley and Immanuel Churches will continue to be vital parts of what we do.
We have to raise additional income for St Nicolas' Church. We have the beginnings of a programme of more activities starting with 'Flicks at St Nick's' and a series of concerts, open church events, and so on. We also welcome any other ideas and offers of support.
We are getting lots of good advice from the Diocese to support our efforts to preserve St Nicolas' Church and are making sure that we are well prepared for the hard work of applying for grants.
The PCC has been helped by an increase in regular giving for which we thank everyone. We will shortly be looking at the fees we charge. Watch out for the new card reader to allow cashless payment in church.
Where can I find out more?
We will shortly put the full report from the PCC on this website and some paper copies at the back of church. The Churchwardens and clergy team will answer any questions you wish to ask.
We really do appreciate the efforts that many people have put into Saint Nicolas' Place and the generosity that has been shown throughout ten years when so much has been tried to make things work.
The PCC is made up of volunteers who agree to give their time and skills to guide the running of the church and its mission. We are all aware of the heavy requirements that go with charity governance. Your support for those affected by the decision, those saddened by it and those who have had to take it will be welcome.
Peter Hay and Julie Hill
on behalf of the PCC