This grand building with its distinctive clock tower was built between 1877 and 1879 and first known as ‘Handsworth Public Buildings’. It was commissioned by the Handsworth Urban Sanitary Authority which had taken over the functions of the parish. Handsworth was then part of Staffordshire and in the 19th century saw considerable growth and urbanisation: the population of the parish rose fourfold between 1840 and 1890. Handsworth Urban District Council was established in 1888 and at this point the building became known as The Council House.
The building, along with its high quality fixtures, is testimony to local pride. The architects were the Birmingham firm of Alexander and Henman, the construction is of red brick and terracotta with stone dressings and a slate roof. There are many decorative features including the copious use of the Staffordshire knot emblem – perhaps a statement of Handsworth’s then independence from Birmingham. You can still see the rooms where the councillors met and the beautiful glass windows.
When Handsworth finally became part of Birmingham in 1911, the Council House continued to house local offices and later became part of the Technical School. Over the years drawing classes, dressmaking and a wide variety of other subjects have been taught where Handsworth’s councillors once met.
Richard Trengrouse is a Director at South and City College and has a keen interest in local history and historic buildings. He is very pleased that when the College took over the Council House it decided to restore the building, together with the Technical School on Goldshill Road. Both buildings are 19th century Grade Two listed, with many fine features, and are of great historical significance.