<preform>Me And My Home: Engineered to perfection</b></i></preform>

Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya has created a fantasy of Victorian and Indian grandeur. Chris Arnot steps inside
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The Independent Online

Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya is professor of engineering at Warwick University. During the Eighties, he transformed the training of engineers to stem the skills shortage at the top level of British industry. With his wife, Bridie, he restored the former home of Joseph Lucas, a Victorian industrialist and the inventor of the safety lamp.

Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya is professor of engineering at Warwick University. During the Eighties, he transformed the training of engineers to stem the skills shortage at the top level of British industry. With his wife, Bridie, he restored the former home of Joseph Lucas, a Victorian industrialist and the inventor of the safety lamp.

When I first glimpsed the house, in the mid-1960s, the company that Lucas founded was using it for training purposes. I was just finishing my graduate apprenticeship with Lucas, and was earning around £13 a week. But I could see myself living in a place like this. "One day, Kumar, one day," I said to myself, as I took in the sumptuous surroundings. All that stained-glass; all that carved oak over marble fireplaces; all that lush, green grass on the croquet lawn. It was full of intriguing and quirky features.

"Lucas was a staunch Quaker and he had the great, sweeping staircase bowed out at one point to form a pulpit. From up there, he'd deliver his morning sermon to family and servants. As for me, I'm a Hindu who went to a school run by Jesuits - I suspect that my wife and daughters would tell me where to go if I stood up there and started preaching at them.

"When I first came to this country in 1961 from India, it was a complete shock. I was 20 and, although I had my first degree under my belt, I'd been used to having everything done for me. My father, who'd been at Imperial College, knew the chairman of Lucas and evidently thought that a thorough apprenticeship would stand me in good stead to help run our family businesses. What he couldn't have foreseen is that I would eventually want to stay in the UK and make my own way. I couldn't have foreseen it either when I arrived at Birmingham's Snow Hill Station, and lugged my suitcase down to the company headquarters at Lucas factory on the edge of the Jewellery Quarter. Even London seemed tolerable compared to this grim and smoky place.

That old Lucas factory was transformed into huge loft apartments a few years ago. The biggest went on the market with a price tag of around £1m. I paid almost as much to acquire Lucas's house in Moseley in 1997. The previous year I'd been there for a meeting and I knew the company was going through major problems. I remember surreptitiously lifting up the carpet in the dining room to check the state of the floorboards. As an engineer, I look very closely at the way a house is put together, and I could tell that this one was fundamentally sound. The heating pipes were in good nick, and so was the tank under the conservatory which collected rain water and then recycled it through an ingenious garden irrigation system.

But the conservatory was falling down. We found pictures of it in its heyday and then had it rebuilt exactly as it had been. We like Victorian-Edwardian architecture and we wanted to keep all the original features, like the great cast-iron radiators and the wallpaper in the dining room - a leathery substance embossed with fruity patterns. Lucas must have been very keen on fruit. Vines and pomegranates feature prominently in the friezes and the stained glass. I'm Indian and my wife Bridie is Irish, but we live in the heart of England and a lot of our British-Victorian oil paintings reflect that. But all the way up the stairs I have Indian miniatures and in a glass case, half way up, is a gold shawl worn by mogul queens for their coronation. It weighs a ton - they must have been strong women.

Like so many of my Indian artefacts, the shawl was inherited from my parents. I also buy from sale rooms wherever I am in the world, be it New York or Beijing. And I'm a great collector of antique clocks, mainly Georgian. There are about 25 of them scattered throughout the house and each has a slightly different mechanism; I count myself lucky if 10 chime at the same time.

I think we've stamped our traditional English house with quite a blend of nationalities. Above any fireplace, for instance, you might find a Chinese fan, a fourth-century Indian god, a couple of Turkish vases and some Italian glassware. But then Moseley's a very cosmopolitan suburb - that's one of the things that appeals to me about it. I love it when there are 20 people sitting around the table in our dining room, which is about 200 ft long. In Lucas's day, it was used for dances. I like to imagine what it was like with all those rustling skirts and quivering fans.

In warmer weather, we sit on the verandah or the terrace beyond with a glass of wine, waiting for the barbecue to heat up. The grass is as lush as I recall it when I first saw it and there's a row of magnificent blue cedars at the far end. In the summer, I don't want to be anywhere else. And I never thought I'd say that about Birmingham.

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