Based in Lee Bank, central Birmingham, E. R. Mason Youth Club is one of the oldest youth projects in Birmingham. Has Lee Bank and Birmingham progressed E R Mason has grown, changed
The 1920’s & the Boys Club
Ernest Mason was the founder of Ernest Mason boys club and A church warden at Saint Thomas’ church on Holloway head. In 1921 Ernest Mason Wrote a history celebrating the centenary of the church.
The club began in the premises of a disused public house in Washington Street during the 1920’s.
He had a purpose-built club constructed on the corner of Washington Street and Ridley Street. They’re called Ernest Mason boys club it was really a community Centre. They would hold film shows in the basement and other community activities in the building.
Poverty in Birmingham city centre was at its height in those days. It was not uncommon to hear of children begging for sandwiches from the workers as they left the factories. In those days children were given porridge at school before lessons started. Many children had very poor foot wear or nothing at all. The Birmingham mail boot fund provided hobnailed boots for children. He is literally were boots with nails hammered into the soles of the feet to ensure the leather didn’t wear out. When the children and young people came to the club they changed out of the hob now to boots and put on specially provided plimsolls.
One of the highlights of the year was a holiday at the seaside. Ernest Mason arranged for a train to be provided to take families to the sea.
Post War Years & Cregoe Street
After the Second World War the area was redeveloped. This began in the late 1940s and continued until the late 1960s. Queen Elizabeth the Queen mother came to the bank to officially open Nash house.
As part of his will Ernest Mason arranged for the construction of a brand-new boys club on Cregoe Street in 1963. At this time the Albemarle report was written about young people and modern youth work was born.
Birmingham city council and the Ernest Mason boys club foundation formed a partnership to provide Youth work from the new building.
There have been many youth workers over the last 50 years or so. Terry Hopkins is one that is remembered for the Land Rovers that he used for expeditions to Europe with young people.
The Lee Bank estate was created around the concept of Towers in the Park. There were over 20 acres of public Parkland and eventually 10 Tower blocks. Strangely many of these were named after some of the nearby stately homes of England. Such as Charlecote Longleat Packwood and Haddon. These blocks were built in the days of cheap electricity and had underfloor heating. There were tales of people drying the clothes on the floor using the heat generated by the heating elements.
70’s, 80’s & 90’s
During the 1970s the youth club became well known for hosting some of the sound systems that were created by members of the Afro-Caribbean community. This created an important social outlet at a time when many nightclubs operated the racist colour bar banning people from black and ethnic minority groups from attending their club.
As early as the 1970s it became clear that the design and construction of some of the properties was faulty. This resulted in damp conditions for residents and serious health conditions being such as asthma. After many years of campaigning it was finally agreed during the 1980s to regenerate the Lee Bank estate and the areas around it. After a vote by residents The parts of the area known as Lee bank, Fiveways estate Woodview, Benmore and Sentinel Towers became part of Optima community association. £55 million was put into a program by the government to regenerate the estate. As part of this program the ER Mason youth centre was moved from 65 Cregoe to 40 Irving street where a new building was constructed.