Comparatively little is to be learned of the history of this
property. The City Librarian produced a copy of "Mansions and County
Seats of Staffordshire and Warwickshire", pub. Lichfield Mercury,
undated but presumably 1890-1900, and this gives a few particulars.
It records the property as being in the possession of George and Anne
Hands early in the 19th century. Subsequently it passed to Dean
Woodhouse from 1820 until his death in 1833. His daughter married
Prebendary Robinson, whose two daughters dying young were
immortalised by Chantrey as "The Sleeping Children". After Preb'y
Robinson's death his widow, Ellen Jane, married Richard Hinckley in
whose family the property remained until 1880. It was then acquired
by the Seckham family who held it until the first World War, when it
was taken over by the War Department in whose care it remained until
four years ago. We understand that the buildings are now threatened
It appears that until the present century the demesne of Beacon Place
included what is now Beacon Park and beyond to Walsall Road and
Sandford Street; 100 acres of parkland and 10 acres of garden. The
setting of the house is reputed to have been laid out by Lancelot
'Capability' Brown. If this is correct it implies that an earlier
house existed on the site as Brown died in 1783 and the present
house is unmistakably of the Regency or early 19th century period.
The article we have consulted states that the house was re-built in
the Hinckley's time by the famous architect Sidney Smirke
(1799-1877). We are of the opinion that this could hardly have
entailed extensive re-building but rather some modernisation. In any
case the Regency character of the buildings has not suffered. It is
possible that Messrs Hinckley & Birch, solicitors, could
supplement these notes from their records.
The main building is of two storeys with partial basement and
comprises a central block, about 55 ft x 50 ft, of lofty and spacious
rooms with a monumental staircase and two symmetrical pavilions or
wings, about 45 ft x 40 ft, with rooms of lesser size and height.
The walls are of brick covered externally with painted stucco, the
roofs are slated.
There is a complement of contemporary stables and sundry later
buildings in various states of dilapidation. A three-bedroom house
and a block of two flats have been erected in the garden since the
last war, one flat only being occupied.
The main building is a good example of the work produced about the
beginning of the 19th century of which the Wyatts, Holland and Nash
were the leading exponents. The exterior is graced by Ionic
pilasters and delicate mouldings. Internally there are some fine
door-cases, ceilings and friezes, all highly enriched, and a
remarkable staircase with contemporary cast iron balustrade and
- State of Repair
We were surprised to find the building in a very fair state of
preservation in spite of many years of neglect. We were glad to note
that it had escaped vandalism and that the decorative features were
almost intact. We noted certain damage to ceilings and falls of
plaster due to a neglected roof outlet; also some outbreaks,
fortunately localised, of fungoid attack. We consider that any
defects can be remedied at an expense which, at present, would not be
We note that the building is scheduled under Section 30 of the
Planning Act of 1947 as a building of historical or architectural
We are of the opinion that the building proper should be re-couped
and could be retained and rehabilitated if at all possible to find
a valid use for it. If it is to escape the vandalism of the
house-breaker it is incumbent on this study group to propose suitable
uses for it.
The virtually separate pavilions or side blocks would lend themselves
to conversion for residential purposes as a quite business-like
The rooms of the central block are of such size and height that they
are quite unsuitable for domestic purposes and it is here that our
suggestions are required.
We note that at the meeting of the study group on 5th January 1962
various suggestions were made for using the site of Beacon Place
after pre-supposing its demolition. There seems no reason to assume
that the building could not be converted at reasonable cost to serve
as a Community Centre or Regional Theatre Centre as then suggested.
Other suggestions made by our members were:
a. An Art Gallery and Museum in place of the existing one;
b. A Library and Joint Records Office;
c. A Council recreation and Banqueting suite;
d. A Centre for Further Education incorporating the Art School;
e. Refreshment Rooms in connection with Beacon Park.
We should like the Study Group to consider the possibilities of
combining some of these uses in order to make the conversion and
rehabilitation a remunerative proposition. Any re-use implies
measures of sympathetic modernisation and the installation of heating
and other services.
It is interesting to note that a number of private concerns are now
taking over buildings of this type, e.g. Little Aston Hall, for
purposes similar to those suggested above and that Birmingham City
Council have recently agreed to spend £ 10,000 per year for the next
ten years on a Youth Arts Centre.
The Lichfield Society
Buildings Study Group