Past, present and future
First of all, happy new year! If one of your New Year Resolutions is to start volunteering, you are joining us at an exciting time – check out our latest roles at https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/volunteering and join us!
To whet your appetite, and to reflect, which many people do at this time of year, a major highlight of 2014 for me was The Roundhouse project. Not only was this our first volunteering collaboration with the National Trust which marks a milestone (or mile post in canal terminology?) for us, but we were quite amazed at the amount of people wanting to get involved. As we have mentioned the project in our blogs before, this feels like a good time to provide a quick update.
In many ways this project has been a departure for myself and Lizey, the West Midlands’ heritage adviser who is task managing the project, not least because we are working with such a well-respected partner and on such a unique building. The Roundhouse is a Grade II* listed horseshoe shaped building close to Birmingham’s city centre in Ladywood, built in the 1874 for the Birmingham Corporation as a stables and stores. Owned by the Canal & River Trust, a site visit with the National Trust prompted debate around the building’s future as a possible urban outdoors hub.
To be true to the building in its future plans and subsequent use we wanted to know more about its history. We knew The Roundhouse had provided stabling, but what about its later uses? As much as Lizey would have relished the chance to do the project herself, we were realistic about the time this would take and how this would divert her from her day job, and instead the project became a volunteer task.
When we first advertised the role we expected to recruit a single volunteer, and instead we were delighted to have ended up with a small army of passionate volunteer researchers. This was in part thanks to the collaboration with the National Trust, as some of the volunteers are also involved in the Back to Backs in Birmingham.
Our volunteers include those working in the legal profession, students, an Anthropologist, and many other professions and backgrounds. Together they are a passionate and enthusiastic group who bounce ideas and research off each other. To date we have had two face to face meetings as a team, and another one is planned for later this month.
There is an air of excitement every time we meet – will someone have unearthed another coroner’s report on an untimely death at the Depot (as it was known), or found out why there are coffin shaped windows on the first floor, overlooking the cobbled yard? Who lived in the two gatehouses that guard the entrance, and did some of the horses stabled at The Roundhouse really go to war?
All of these stories and more are shared and debated via our special Facebook group, which is a great use of modern technology, juxtaposition between the very solid brick Roundhouse and the World Wide Web.
As the initial research draws to a close, and plans are shaped for the building’s future, we look forward to sharing its story with you. One thing is for sure, we could not have got this far without the energy of our fabulous volunteers and their seemingly endless supplies of midnight oil…..
See you in March!
PS the project now has a new Twitter feed (thanks to Jeanette, one of our great volunteers!) - https://twitter.com/BhamRoundhouse - check it out for the latest news on the project...
Amanda is a volunteer coordinator for the Technical Team within the Trust. Whether it’s finding a student for a long-term placement with the environment team or assisting the hydrology team with a team of volunteers to count boat movements, she can be counted on to find the right people for the role. Amanda joined the Trust in July 2012 and previously worked as the Volunteer Leader in the East Midlands. She has worked at other charities in people engagement roles, but is at her happiest besides the water.See more blogs from this author