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St James's House

A Grade II Listed Building in Edgbaston, Birmingham

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Latitude: 52.4699 / 52°28'11"N

Longitude: -1.9168 / 1°55'0"W

OS Eastings: 405746

OS Northings: 285774

OS Grid: SP057857

Mapcode National: GBR 5WD.NH

Mapcode Global: VH9Z2.Q5HX

Plus Code: 9C4WF39M+X7

Entry Name: St James's House

Listing Date: 26 January 2015

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1419573

Location: Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15

County: Birmingham

Electoral Ward/Division: Edgbaston

Built-Up Area: Birmingham

Traditional County: Warwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Midlands

Church of England Parish: Edgbaston St George with St Michael

Church of England Diocese: Birmingham

Tagged with: Office building

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An employers' federation headquarters, built in 1954-7 to the designs of John Madin.


An employers' federation headquarters, built in 1954-7 to the designs of John Madin.

MATERIALS & PLAN: there are two joined blocks, each of two storeys. That to the west is roughly square on plan and has a frame of reinforced concrete clad with travertine marble and using a variety of coloured slate and marbles as cladding. This block houses the reception, board room and conference rooms at ground floor level and the offices of the chairman and his deputy at first floor level. To the east of this is the lower, linear block which has brick cavity walls of red brick laid in Flemish bond. It houses offices, kitchens and a dining room. The building is flat-roofed with a felt covering.

EXTERIOR: the south front faces onto St James' Road. To the right is the lower range, with red bricks. There are 21 bays of closely-set windows to each floor, which have slightly-projecting, green, slate surrounds. The windows here and elsewhere across the building have been replaced by uPVC-framed substitutes. To the far right is a wide, blank bay which projects slightly. The taller, projecting range at left has Travertine cladding to the first floor, which projects slightly, and windows at this upper level continue the close-set arrangement seen to their right, although they are here arranged in pairs or triplets with seven windows of full height which give onto a balcony which has a balustrade of slender, metal uprights. At ground floor level there are four, full-height windows at right, beneath the balcony, and at left is a single, large window lighting the reception area. At left again is a free-standing screen wall, veneered with green slate, which forms the flank of the entrance lobby. The screen wall has diamond-shaped holes cut through it with a faceted, concrete pillar to the corner.
The west face, facing Frederick Road has the recessed entrance at the right hand corner, approached by two steps and with variegated marble walling to its flanks. Two pairs of glass doors, set in line, form the entrance to the reception area, and these have door handles in the form of callipers holding a ball, designed by Richard Swale and James Gibbons. To the right of this are five windows with projecting slate surrounds. At first floor level the walling is clad in travertine, as before, and there are three full-height lights to the right which give onto a balcony. To the left of this are eight, evenly-spaced windows, all having projecting surrounds.
The north face has plain brick walling with a series of evenly spaced windows to both floors. The taller, main block has a large staircase window at left which appears to have its original double-glazed fenestration, and there is a projecting lobby in the re-entrant angle with the lower block, which provides an entrance for the Federation members.

INTERIOR: the plan of the western block of the building, as it was originally designed, has been little altered. The reception hall runs north-south, with the principal staircase, which leads up to the principal offices, at its northern end. This has open-tread concrete steps and a balustrade with a continuous panel of veneered wood, above which the handrail is supported by metal balusters. The reception desk was originally set into an alcove. A new, projecting counter has been built at the south end of the space. Double doors to the main board room, which formerly had leather panels edged with brass fillets, have now been replaced and a mural showing workers in the engineering industries has also been replaced. The boardroom is to the east of the reception area and approached down a flight of four shallow steps. It has walls with sycamore strip panelling and a recessed panel to the centre of the ceiling. A replaced set of doors at its eastern end leads, via a lobby, to an ante-room and then a dining room, with kitchen beyond, all of which are placed in the lower, eastern block.
At first floor level, the former chairman's office has wood panelled window reveals and a fitted range of wooden shelving and cupboards to its eastern wall. The ceiling has a recessed central panel. A lobby to the room also has a large fitted cupboard to one wall.

The lower, eastern block does not correspond to its original floor plan at first floor level. Spaces have been subdivided and suspended ceilings have been inserted.  

Pursuant to s.1 (5a) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) it is declared that the interior of the first floor of the lower, eastern office range, with the exception of the full height of the staircase hall and its staircase, is not of special architectural or historic interest. The garage, which is separate from the main building and positioned to its south-east, and the later conference centre, which is also a separate structure, to the north-east, are also not of special architectural or historic interest.


St James' House was built as the headquarters for the Engineering and Allied Employers Federation, Wolverhampton and Stafford District in 1954-57. The long, thin site had been the setting for two houses which were bombed in the war, in this predominantly residential area of Birmingham. The building was planned to house offices for the Federation in a long, lower range to the east, and meeting rooms and the larger offices for the chairman etc. in a square block to the west. The closely-set windows and the first floor balconies were a conscious emulation of the Regency architecture seen in the surrounding streets of Edgbaston. Wherever possible rooms face south with corridors, lavatories etc to the north. A primary function of the planning was to facilitate relations between employers and trades unions by providing a series of rooms in which the parties could meet. The ground floor had a large board room and also a separate conference room, ante room and lavatory for the union representatives, to which they could retire for private discussions. A matching ante room on the other side of the boardroom was for the use of the Federation's members and for their discussions. At first floor level were offices for the chairman, deputy chairman and associated administrative support. An extension was added to the north side of the east wing c.1971 to provide further office space. The eastern end of the first floor of this wing was converted to an open-plan office as a result.

The building is still occupied by the EEF, a descent body of Employers Federation and the plan has remained largely as it was built, although details have been altered.

In 1960 the building was amongst the first in the country to be granted a Civic Trust Award, the awards having been started only in the previous year.

Reasons for Listing

St James's House, Frederick Road, Edgbaston, erected in 1954-7 and designed by John Madin, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural quality: the careful planning and the materials used, together with the attention to detail in the design of fittings throughout the building show John Madin’s early design practice to advantage; the low profile and broken outline, together with the use of many small windows, balconies etc., help to blend the building with its surrounding, suburban setting. The building was crucial in changing his practice from domestic to commercial work;

* Degree of survival: notwithstanding some losses in the reception area and elsewhere, the building retains a good proportion of its original fittings and all the essentials of its interesting plan;

* Historic interest: the design of this building, with its function of helping to ensure constructive relations between employers and workforce, is well displayed in the careful planning of St James’s House and represents an interesting aspect of industrial relations in the mid C20.

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