Sphinxes set for return to their Birmingham home

By on 24/01/2012 in Culture, News

Birmingham's 'Soho sphinxes' are returning to their former home, thanks to a £65,000 funding boost.

The pair of stone sphinxes, originally owned by industrialist and entrepreneur Matthew Boulton (1728-1809),  will take centre stage as the city's Soho House museum gets a new look this summer.

The Grade II* listed building is also set for a new visitor centre as one of 36 museums and galleries across the UK to receive grants jointly funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Wolfson Foundation.

Work will begin in March, with the new visitor centre scheduled to open this summer.

The £162,000 Soho House project will entail:

  • The remodelling of the ground floor of the Visitor Centre to provide improved community and visitor facilities, primarily through the creation of a large multi-purpose space. This will function as a gallery, café and activity space and also as a wedding venue which will help contribute to the financial sustainability of the site.
  • The return of the 'Soho sphinxes'. These were originally located in Boulton's gardens at Soho, and were acquired by Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery in 2001. The sphinxes will be housed in the ground floor gallery against a new glass wall which will provide a visual link with the garden and house behind.
  • The refurbishment of the first floor of the Soho House Visitor Centre to house a new permanent exhibition exploring the life and times of Matthew Boulton, featuring superb examples of the silver and ormolu wares made at his Soho Manufactory.
  • The refurbishment of two period rooms in Soho House.

Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport and Culture, Cllr Martin Mullaney, said: “This is fantastic news and we're extremely grateful to the DCMS and the Wolfson Foundation.

“Soho House holds a unique place, not just in Birmingham's history but in the overall story of the industrial revolution. This project will enhance what is already a hugely popular museum and I'm delighted the sphinxes will be making a welcome return.”

Announcing the grants, Ed Vaizey said: “Today's announcement shines a light on the breadth and diversity of museums and galleries in England.  We are incredibly fortunate to have so many rich and fascinating collections, many of which have been improved, enhanced and made more accessible by the continuing generosity of the Wolfson Foundation.”

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation, added: “We are delighted to be working in such a productive and exciting partnership with government. The quality of projects funded demonstrates once again the sheer range and richness of the country's heritage collections.  Each project will help to improve the experience of visitors.”

For more information contact Geoff Coleman on 0121 303 3501

Notes to Editors

Photographs of Soho House – including images of the Soho Spinxes – can be downloaded here: http://www.flickr.com/search/?w=35256023@N02&q=soho%20house

Artists’ impressions

Proposed south elevation: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B3OX4ags5zyuN2ZlOGU0YzEtY2UyMy00OGJiLTlmZTQtYmM1MDNiYWFjNDAw

Visitor Centre revised layout: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B3OX4ags5zyuY2YzZWZjYzEtMTc3Yi00NmQ1LWJmNDktODlmYzJlMDlhYmI2

Visitor Centre external visuals: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B3OX4ags5zyuN2RmNTMyMTgtYjQ0MS00YzljLWJhYzQtNzYwNzc2MzFmMDQ2

Soho House was the elegant home of industrialist and entrepreneur Matthew Boulton from 1766 to 1809. Carefully restored, this fashionable Georgian house features period room interiors with fine collections of ormolu, silver, furniture and paintings. It was once a regular meeting place for some of the greatest minds of the 18th century. Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) was a founding member of the Lunar Society, a group of great thinkers and inventors who met regularly at his home at Soho House. Boulton's guests included James Watt, Erasmus Darwin, Josiah Wedgwood and Joseph Priestley.

The DCMS/Wolfson Fund has distributed £47 million to 445 capital projects in eligible museums and galleries across England since 1990.  The funding has been provided in equal shares by DCMS and the Wolfson Foundation.

The Wolfson Foundation is a charitable foundation set up in 1955. Grants are made for the advancement of science and medicine, health, education, the arts and humanities. As a general policy, funding is provided to back excellence, to act as a catalyst and to provide for promising future projects which may currently be underfunded. Last year the Foundation distributed some £40 million.

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