st. margaret's | mapless at margaret's

The derelict site of the former St. Margaret's Hospital will be bulldozed to make way for 445 houses after Bovis Homes were granted planning permission by the Government this week.

Campaigners were outraged this week after the Government gave the go-ahead for a 445-homes development on the former St. Margarets Hospital site. Bovis Homes were informed on Tuesday (September 14) that their four-year campaign to gain planning permission for the controversial development had paid off after the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) backed their proposals.

But the announcement has angered objectors and residents fighting the plans who believe the future of the area is now in ruins. "This is a very sad day for Great Barr" said Peter Allen, the man leading the opposition to the Bovis Homes development. "I'm very disappointed that the Goverment has chosen to ignore the views of local people and give the green light for this monsterous housing development," added Mr. Allen.

The housing company had appealed to the ODPM after the plans were vehemently refused at local level.

Oscott Councillor John Cotten, who gave evidence at a Public Inquiry held by the ODPM, said the Government would regret its decision."I think in years to come the Government will realise they have made the wrong decision," he conceded. "When there are no doctors, no school places, chaos on the roads and increased crime and disorder from police shortages, they will have to admit that they got it wrong. We can tell them now exactly what is going to happen, but as with previous consultations where the public have raised their concerns, they won't listen. But it is the people of Great Barr who are going to suffer," he added.

Perry Barr MP Khalid Mahmood said he believed the decision had come down to who could afford to fight their corner the longest. "It once again demonstrated how large national companies can use their financial muscle to get what they want with total disregard for what the local community wants. This is going to have disastrous effects on the Great Barr area," he added.

Bruce George, MP for Walsall South, echoed his thoughts and likened the residents campaign against Bovis to that of David and Goliath. He said: "We had no barrister to challenge Bovis and their legal team and when Walsall and Birmingham Councils withdrew their opposition this clearly gives Bovis the edge." He added that he was disappointed by the outcome of the Public Inquiry. "I am bitterly disappointed with the decision. Bovis now has the green light to build their bloody houses," he said. "Almost all of our arguments were rejected by the Inspector. We fought a good and long fight which cost Bovis a lot of money and made them change a lot of their policies in order to win. I am absolutely gutted with the decision," added Mr. George.

Pheasey Park Farm councillor Adrian Andrew said he was speechless and "very upset" with the decision.

Charlotte Evans
Great Bar Observer
17th September 2004

Many thanks to Steven Hull for the info.

"Messing around on the web and found your pics of good old St Maggies. I worked there for several years from 1984 onwards! I can remember all the buildings when they were in their heyday and clearly remember a Pets Cemetery outside the Old Hall as I remember it. There was at least one horse and a couple of dogs buried there complete with headstones; they were right up against the front wall of the Hall and are probably completley covered by grass now.

What you have been calling the Admin Building was in fact the Assembly Hall. It was where shows etc. were put on both by and for the residents of the hospital. Before my time the nurses would walk down the middle to make sure males and females did not mix!

The side with the Clock Tower (which is the Assembly Hall) was known as the female side and the other side of the hospital where you entered was the male side. The first building you came to was not a staff building but the isolation ward where residents went if they had anything contagious (it was originally the TB ward) but was always known as isolation. It actually closed long before the rest of the hospital although you would never believe it looking at it!

The building to the right of the Clock Tower was the school of nursing and to the left was Edward Home. If you had come up the sweeping drive from the main entrance you would have seen a large building on your left this was the Haley nurses home and was actually built by residents of the hospital. Bet it would have stood longer than the crappy new houses being built in its place!

When the hospital was closing a lot of the staff wanted the buildings kept as a memorial to the individuals who had lived and died there shunned by society for having an illegitimate child or having less than normal intelligence. What an education that would have been for our children! Perhaps they would be more likely to accept each other as individuals with differing views if they had seen how those who were different were forced to live in years gone by. It might have gone a way to dissipating the hatred we see now for having differing religions or colour skin! Sorry getting on my high horse now so I'll shut up. All I will say is many of the individuals who lived at St Margarets are now living fulfilling lives within the local community and long may it last!" - Laura

"Just found this explore report. Fantastic. Thanks for documenting this place, which played a huge part in my childhood. I lived opposite the hospital on the (then) new estate, Beasley Grove. In the grounds of the hospital I saw my first pheasants and foxes, and discovered the strange pleasure in exploring places that would normally go unseen. I recall stories of graves in the grounds and, in the wooded section that runs out towards the Old Horns, we found a huge, rusting, saw-tooth-jawed 'thing' that turned out to be a man-trap - literally a giant version of those 'gin traps' that used to be used for small game. We dragged it away and sold it to some old chap."

"We used to go in via the old church, further back towards the Scott Arms, I can recall a small outbuilding with a barrel that was always full of birds, possibly crows, with their heads cut off! A few times we camped out over in the grounds and scared ourselves half to death with tales of escaped patients roaming the grounds with fire axes. As teens, we would go to the discos which were held in the club there. I moved away from Birmingham many years ago and was, like the hospital itself in your report, gutted to discover it had been demolished."

"Anyway, congrats on a great explore. At least, thanks to you, I can visit it once more, albeit vicariously." - Mike

However there's more to this site than I've documented here. Whilst these ramshackle hospital buildings aren't that splended, the grounds and Great Barr Hall are certainly worth saving from yet another dull housing estate. Prepare yourselves for some horrific neglect and vandalism...

Postscript: All the buildings of St. Margaret's were demolished by early 2007.