Joseph Priestley immortalised in new University building

Birmingham City University officially unveiled its latest building today (Wednesday 2 November), which has been named in honour of scientist and theorist Joseph Priestley.

Situated on the University’s City Centre Campus in Birmingham’s Eastside, The Joseph Priestley Building is home to around 400 staff from the institution’s support services.

The four-storey building comprises of 45,500 sq ft of Grade A office space and has been leased to the University from global property group Goodman. The transfer marks the completion of the first phase of the developer’s 1.25 million sq ft canal side regeneration scheme, Eastside Locks.

Joseph Priestley lived in Birmingham for over 10 years during the 18th Century, where he was an active member of the Lunar Society circle of manufacturers and inventors. His educational theory aimed to move students away from classical learning towards a more modern, practical curriculum.

The building was officially opened earlier by Lord Lansdowne, Charles Maurice Petty-Fitzmaurice, 9th Marquess of Lansdowne. His home is Bowood House in Wiltshire, which includes the preserved laboratory where in 1774, Joseph Priestley, then tutor to the 1st Marquess’ two sons, discovered oxygen.

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He said: 

”Thank you so much for inviting me to open this new building.  It is a real privilege to be here this morning. 

“We are honouring the memory of a remarkable man who, whilst employed by my ancestor at Bowood, our home in Wiltshire, discovered oxygen gas 243 years ago. The very name of this building will ensure that his legacy, linked with Birmingham City University, continues”.

The Lunar Society celebrates its 250th anniversary this year and Chair of its modern incarnation, Alan Wenban-Smith, also addressed invited guests at the launch.

Professor Graham Henderson, Acting Vice-Chancellor at Birmingham City University, added:

“This new Building forms part of our ongoing investment in developing our City Centre Campus and provides a wonderful new home to members of our professional services staff.

“Along with developers such as Goodman, the University is helping transform Eastside into one of Birmingham’s most exciting areas that is creating thousands of new jobs for today and nurturing fresh talent for the future.”

Previously known as 6 Cardigan Street, staff at the University were invited to give the facility a name earlier this year, with The Joseph Priestley Building picked as the eventual winner.

The name was suggested by Mark Brown, Electronic Services Librarian in the Library and Learning Resources team, one of the departments that has moved into the Building.

Mark explains his reason for suggesting the name:

“I came across Priestley as a radical scientist when I visited the Soho House museum recently – where the Lunar Society used to meet. It seemed a good idea to remember someone who was also very happy and productive during his stay in Birmingham."

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Other support services now based in the Building include Academic Services, Campus Management and Services, Estates, Finance, Human Resources and IT.

James Raven, Development Director for UK Business Parks at Goodman said:

“It’s an exciting milestone to see Birmingham City University open The Joseph Priestley Building, a site that will now become home to a vibrant and energetic collection of people. We have built a strong relationship with the University and saw the relocation of its staff to this central hub as a great fit for the first phase of our development.

“This transfer is evidence of our ability to deliver excellent facilities in prime locations, in turn connecting the area’s talent with both a booming start-up scene and larger businesses that are looking to escape the rising costs of London.”


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