In search of John Madin’s Birmingham

Madin walking tour led by Alan Clawley

Starting at Five Ways Station, 10.30 am, 22 JUNE 2013

‘Those who characterise Madin as a commercial architect because of his many and prominent office buildings should look at other aspects of his practice, less glamorous but of great social significance. His conservationist approach to the development plan for the Calthorpe estate; his workmanlike planning of Dawley, Telford and Corby new towns; his public service commissions; and his design and layout of housing schemes that are still lived in and popular today – all testify to his commitment to human values.’ Alan Clawley, John Madin, Twentieth Century Architects, RIBA Publishing 2011 with the Twentieth Century Society and English Heritage.

John Madin’s most prominent buildings are undoubtedly his commercial offices and Birmingham’s Central Library which is widely regarded as his best single work. The library closes at the end of June but the campaign led by Friends of the Central Library goes on.

Birmingham Central Library - John Madin

Birmingham Central Library – John Madin

Less well known but no less interesting is Madin’s commercial and housing work for Lord Calthorpe, the owner of the 1600-acre family estate in Edgbaston a few miles west of the city centre.

John Madin's buildings

Hagley House, now known as Cobalt Square



Madin was invited in 1957 to draw up a Master Plan for the development of the estate and to become its Chief Architect. Over the following two decades Madin grasped this rare opportunity to design and built a new commercial zone on the Hagley Road as well as many large housing schemes utilizing the rambling gardens of redundant Victorian villas. He was thus able to raise the overall housing density of the estate in line with the rest of the city in such a subtle way that the change was hardly noticed.

HighpointThis tour for the Twentieth Century Society, is a 4-mile walk starting and finishing at Five Ways rail station, one stop from New Street, and goes west through the Hagley Road Commercial Zone to the residential tower block of West Point, then east to look at Augustus Court, Beechcroft, Chad Square, Chadbrook Crest, Clare Drive, Grenfell Drive, Heaton Drive, Stonebury & Elmhurst and Woodbourne to the White Swan on Harborne Road.

After lunch the tour takes in St Georges Close, Fairlawn and Beechcroft, Westbourne Gardens, Cala Drive, Estria Road (including an inside visit), Warwick Crest (with inside tour), Templefield Square, and St James House.

Source material can be found in the Madin book (2011) particularly chapters 1 and 2, and Christopher Madin’s encyclopaedic ebook at

A place on the tour can be booked at There is a charge of £20 for members and £25 for non-members.