Here he explains why the two roles may have more in common than you might think.
When trying to assess why Birmingham’s Calthorpe Estate has been so successful for more than 300 years, Ralph Minott has a theory.
“I like to describe the things that have shaped the Estate as examples of fortuitous genius” said the development director, who this year marked a decade working for the historic estate.
“We are hugely successful at what we do, but when you reflect on the Estate’s history, you would be forgiven for pinching yourself. Some amazing decisions have shaped the company and I often look over old files, leases, indentures and land assemblies, and think wow, what genius!” The first to epitomise this ‘genius’ was Sir Richard Gough. He acquired the Estate’s first tract of land in 1717 on the western fringes of Birmingham, which at that time was one of the world’s fastest growing cities and the engine of the industrial revolution.
The Estate steadily grew around Edgbaston Hall, a manor house landscaped by the great Capability Brown, and eventually extended to more than 640 ha – an oasis of green in a city of factories, smoking chimneys and back-to-backs. Today the Estate is still owned by Sir Richard’s descendants, the Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe family. While it has evolved significantly over the past three centuries, the Edgbaston district of Birmingham remains one of the UK’s most celebrated garden suburbs and affluent parts of the city.
Now, as then, the Estate remains free of any heavy industry, but in the 1950s it was another of those “geniuses” who made a significant contribution to the direction of the Estate; the celebrated architect and masterplanner, John Madin.
“In 1958 the family engaged with the visionary John Madin, to see how they could change the evolution of the Estate to keep pace with the fast changing city of Birmingham,” said Ralph. “When you look at the Estate up to the late 1950s it was essentially houses and fields, so the result of the John Madin commissioned masterplan was quite transformational. It is spooky how, in the absence of a formal planning policy, the plan has largely been realised, and an example of how big ambitions can shape minds.”