Friday, 25 March 2011


Ongoing research; last updated 14 February 2012

Here we give an overvew of the history of the park on a year by year basis. The detail upon which these summaries is based is contained in the year clippings - individual minutes, newspaper reports, etc - and the links to these can be found at the end of each year's summary or in the column on the right hand side of this page.


Kings Norton and Northfield Urban District Council, in whose jurisdiction Kings Heath fell, like many local authorities at the time, was pursuing a policy of providing green spaces for their constituents.  They had already opened a number of parks and recreation grounds in their area - Selly Oak Park (3 April 1899, a gift), Cotteridge Park (8 February 1905, purchased for £2,655), Muntz Park (20 May 1905, a gift), Victoria Common, Northfield (29 July 1905, a gift), Bournbrook Recreation Ground (George Road) (acquired on 29 September 1906) and a plot in Stirchley Street (in November 1906, a gift).  The people of Kings Heath were beginning to call for provision to be made in their district. So the Council began to scour the area to find a suitable plot.  They had had early (1906) negotiations with Major Howard Cartland of the Priory Estate Company Limited regarding a parcel of ground on the Priory Estate, but because of onerous covenants relating to the land in question that avenue of enquiry had been abandoned.  Approaches were made to Mr. Taylor for other land in Kings Heath.   That line of enquiry was unsuccessful too.  As the quest for land continued, Major Cartland returned to the arena and offered the Council Priory Estate land at £1,000 per acre, agreeing himself to pay £3,000 for laying out a park. 

Then began a period of weeks of intense negotiation backwards and forwards between the two parties, trying to reach a deal.  The Council offered £500 per acre.  Clearly this was unacceptable, and the Council eventually recognised that.  It thought it could acquire 15 acres of the Priory Estate, complete with the mansion (Kings Heath House) and lodge for £10,000.  Major Cartland responded, staying his ground - £1,000 per acre for 15 acres, less £3,000 towards laying out the park, i.e. £12,000.  Alternatively he woud take £14,000 for 18 acres!  Back came the Council with their offer of £10,000 for the 15 acres, plus a further £500 or half the cost of making a road on the north west boundary of the land.

As the year turned, still the haggling continued.  Back came Major Cartland - 18 acres for £14,000, or 15 acres for £12,000 with an option to purchase the remaining 3 acres for £2,000 within a period of not less than 3 years.  The Council responded - 15 acres for £11,000 with an option to purchase the remaining 3 acres for £2,000 within a period not exceeding 5 years.  The final smash in the ping pong contest was about to be played!!  Major Cartland agreed 15 acres for £11,000, but would only grant an option to purchase the remaining 3 acres for £3,000 within I year. 

And that is how the deal was finally struck, and the Council made an application to the Local Government Board for sanction to borrow the £11,000.  The report of the Council meeting at which the decision was taken is very full and portrays the cut and thrust of debate amongst divided Council members earnestly arguing the percived best interests of their electorate.

There was a considerable groundswell against the purchase of the park.  Many argued that it was inappropriate to spend so much money on a park; the impact on local rates would be disproportionate to all benefit.  Others argued that it was not in a suitable location - too far away from the centre of population; whilst supporters argued that at the anticipated rate of house building the park would soon be surrounded by houses and find itself at the heart of the population.  And this second ping pong battle of opinion raged on (and is captured in the 1908 clippings).

A newspaper report of the day (Birmingham News, 7 March 1908) provides interesting background:-
"The land secured will be a priceless boon to future generations when every other piece of ground is built on.  It is locally considered to be a good thing that one of Kings Heath’s largest houses should be saved from demolition.  It may, I am told, be decided that some rooms shall be used as a museum.  I gather that Kings Heath House, although not an ancient structure, is full of years, having been erected at the beginning of the nineteenth century.  The title deeds, in the possession of Messrs. Foster and Co., solicitors to the Priory Estate Company, show that the house was once owned by the Tarletons, and afterwards by the Ingleby family, both formerly distinguished in the legal profession of Birmingham.  The late Mr. John Cartland, the founder of the present Cartland family, purchased it nearly thirty years ago from the Ingleby Trustees, and when Mr. F. Everitt, J.P. lived there the house underwent extensive alterations, at a cost of nearly £6,000, the late Mr. J. Cartland paying half that sum.  The grounds are remarkably well adapted to the purpose.  The sward is level, and will afford a capital cricket pitch, and the grounds are well wooded.  During the tenancy of Mr. and Mrs. Scarfe, and of Mr. G. Greey, the gardens were maintained in style, and little expense should be needed to put the place into a park like condition.  The main entrance is through an avenue of stately trees."

And another report describes the land in Vicarage Road thus:-
"It (has) a good hedge fence to both frontages, and behind this was a belt of well grown timber.  On the grounds were several large beds of matured rhododendron bushes and many well grown trees.  The land is level, and the turf in such condition that very little money would have to be spent in relaying any part of it.  Further, there was in the estate a beautifully situated and very ornamental lake, which was an important feature in a park.  The members of the committee were very much struck with the beauty of the pool and its surroundings.  In addition there was a lodge at the entrance, which could be used as a park keeper’s house, and there was a house which it had been suggested might be used as a museum.  Connected with the house was considerable stable accommodation, which might be used for the purposes of Council work."
The opposition to the purchase of the park was very strong from some quarters; the Selly Oak and Bournbrook Tradesmen's and Ratepayers' Association called a special meeting to orchestrate formal opposition and that resulted in a decision to petition the Local Government Board for a public enquiry.  Simultaneously there was a vigorous correspondence through the "Letters to the Editor" columns of the local press.  The question of the park was also addressed in manifestos as candidates vied with one another in Council elections.  Even the clergy took up the cause in Sunday sermons!

As soon as it had it been announced that the park, with Kings Heath House, was to be acquired a stream of applications for use came in.  Opportunities were seen in many directions.  The first one was from the Local Education Authority who were eagerly seeking accommodation for a temporary school pending the provision of a permanent school in the neighbourhood of Grove Road.  There was also a suggestion that the House should be used for public offices since the Council was desparately in need of more office accommodation; though this never happened.  The local cricket club lost the tenure of its usual ground and it was suggested that they should make an early application for a pitch in the park.  The Higher Education Committee asked whether the Pupil Teachers' Centre might use the park as their playing field.  Other clubs requested the allocation of a cricket pitch.  There were even speculative applications for the position of Park Superintendent.  All these request were deferred because the park still had not been formally acquired and conveyed to the Council.

Whilst all the arguments were being aired, as early as April the Council was preparing to buy bandstands for its parks - at Selly Oak Park, Cotteridge Park, and Muntz Park - and they included provision for Kings Heath Park in their shopping list.  The bandstand, provided by The St. Pancras Iron Works Co. Ltd., London, would cost just shy of £95! - and would be erected on a concrete base costing approx £20 prepared departmentally.
Also in the background the Clerk to the Council was busy settling the terms of the contract for the purchase.  He and the Council had to fight off the vendor's solictor's claims for 50 guineas for their costs.  In the end  it was agreed that the Council would pay this fee in recognition of the fact that they were actually obtaining 2 roods and 6 perches of  land more than the 15 acres originaly agreed.  And so in June a contract of sale and purchase, subject to Local Government Board approval,  was agreed, but still not before opposition from amongst the Council members, and even at this late stage calls for the abandonment of the scheme.
The Local Government Board enquiry was held on Wednesday 22nd July 1908, the pros and cons being fully represented - and taking up "acres" of reporting space in the press.  It was reported on 26 September that the Local Government Board had eventually approved the purchase and given its sanction to borrowing - any loan for the park to be repaid within a term of 60 years, any loan for the House to be repaid within 30 years.
The park was finally conveyed to the Council on 1st December 2008 and formally opened with a gold key by Councillor Coley, Chairman of the Kings Norton and Northfield Urban Distriuct Council, on Saturday 12th December, following a procession through Kings Heath of the municipal authorities and the various instituions of the district.
Now other arrangements began to move.  Consideration was given to the staff that would be required at the Park.  The position of the bandstand was agreed.  It was agreed to erect a fence on the north western bounday of the land.  Reports were called for regarding the clearing out of the lake.  The use, and terms of use, of Kings Heath House as a temporary day school was agreed, and tenders accepted for supplying appropriate ventilators.
So at the end of a busy year, fraught by controversy and argument, Kings Heath Park had become a reality, and one wonders what the correspondent, "Jack 'iggins", who wrote to the Birmingham News on 11 July in such amusing - or should that be cycnical?  - terms, would have made of it.


Following last year's consideration, it was decided to appoint a park-keeper and two assistants.  In January it was announced that Mr. Hubert Shuttleworth, age 38 years, had been appointed park-keeper at 25 shillings per week with the use of the lodge (he had been the foreman gardener laying out of the grounds of the University, which would be formally opened later in 1909).  The assistants appointed were i) Mr. J.M. Reynolds (the resident of Kings Heath House, who had been the caretaker and gardener until the park was conveyed to the Council), appointed on 20 shillings a week and having the use of a portion of the House until it was required for the temporary school (see below); and ii) Mr. Finch, appointed on 23 shillings a week.  Both assistants were to be paid 6d. per hour for work on Sundays.  The lodge, to be occupied by Mr. Shuttleworth, required certain repairs to make it habitable and these works were ordered to be planned and costed.  As it was proposed to grow most of the bedding-out plants for the other parks and recreation grounds of the Council in the greenhouses at the Park, and it was considered impossible for the appointed staff to attend to this workload in addition to their ordinary duties, an additional man specially for that purpose, and to take charge of the greenhouses, was appointed a few months later - James McNerlin, with a wage of 25 shillings per week, plus sixpence per hour for work on Sundays.

It was discovered that the lodge could not be put into a habitable condition except at disproportionate cost, and it was recommended that a new lodge (costing £400) should be built.  The recommendation was put on hold for the time being.

In preparation for the temporary school, tenders were accepted from local tradesmen for the alteration and renovation of certain rooms, the erection of "out-offices", and for providing and fixing steel hopper ventilators to the windows of the rooms to be occupied as classrooms.  It was left to the Education Committee to appoint a caretaker under their direction.  They eventually appointed Mr. R. Pepper at a wage of 15 shillings per week, with house, coal and gas; they subsequently discovered that it was necessary to renovate the rooms he used. 

The school was opened on 18th January but, owing to an epidemic of measles in the district, it had to be closed immediately.  It was re-opened on Monday, 8 February.  322 children were admitted, after which the intake of further pupils was halted.

Developments in the Park included:-
  • Instructions being given for a footpath to be made from the entrance to the park in Avenue Road, nearly opposite Grange Road, to the main drive.
  • Arrangemenst for the lake to be cleaned out and made to a uniform depth of about three feet by labour provided by the Distress Committee (who assisted the hitherto unemployed).
  • A fence, five feet high, to be erected along the north-western boundary of the Park.
  • Instructions being given for the lawns near Kings Heath House to be adapted for four tennis courts.  By June these were reported to be open to the public at a charge of eight pence per hour per court
  • Agreement to erect a shelter and public conveniences in the park, at a cost of £275 and £175 respectively - and application to the Local Government Board for sanction to borrowing for this purpose - which sanction was eventually given.  Tenders for the shelter were invited in October, and received in November after which the lowest tender - from Mr. W.J. Morris, a local tradesman - to build a shelter for £250 was accepted.
  • Tenders for painting the outside of King’s Heath House and the bandstand in the Park were invited, and the lowest - £26. 10s. and £2 15s. for each respectively - was selected.
  • A proposal in October from the Distress Committee, for the purpose of providing employment for the unemployed during the approaching winter, that the following work be undertaken:-
  • The ditch in the spinney adjoining Avenue Road to be piped in and filled up, and the whole levelled.
  • The path through the above spinney at side of Avenue Road and round the pool to be regravelled and the path across the park made during last winter to be gravelled.
  • The band stand enclosure to be formed, fenced and returfed.
  • A bowling green to be formed, levelled, and turfed.
  • The seats recently erected to be painted.
  • Paths to be formed for the new conveniences and shrubs planted.
  • Estimated cost ..................................... £265  3s.   3d.
Early in the year, one of the councillors (Councillor Cocks) presented a swan as a gift for the park.  In the Spring Mr. W.J. Masters made a gift of 200 plants, and in October Councillor Callwood presented six cygnets for the park.

The Council invited bands and concert parties to give voluntary entertainments in the park - for which they were prepared to contribute towards the expenses of the bands, one shilling and sixpence for each performer and five shillings for the bandmaster;  the bands were allowed to make a charge for seats within the bandstand enclosure.  Northfield Prize Band played a programme of sacred music in the park on Easter Sunday, and on Easter Monday the Northfield Institute Prize Band gave a performance.  These were the first concerts given in the park.  Further entertainments, including visits by regimental bands, took place regularly through the summer months.  By the end of the year it was reported that there had been 24 band performances, and 24 other entertainments, and £15  13s. had been contributed to the bands.

A newspaper (Birmingham News, 29 May 1909) reporter's perspective on the park made encouraging reading:-

"I had a stroll round Kings Heath Park this week and noted with pleasure the charming appearance the grounds presented.  The fine collection of rhododendrons are out in full bloom round the ornamental lake – now re-filled after cleaning – and up the main drive.  The chestnut trees are also making a brave show with their blooms.  My attention was further drawn to some very fine specimens of the Sorbus (Service Tree), which are very beautiful.  The large bunches of white flowers almost hide the foliage, making them each look like a huge bouquet.  The Kings Norton Baths and Parks Committee, with the officials, are evidently doing all they can to make the park attractive and popular.  Three tennis courts have been provided, and are now open to the public use at a small charge per hour. Entertainments have been provided for the holidays; there will be Pierrot concerts on Saturday and Monday, and on Sunday afternoon the Northfield Prize Band will give a concert."

Despite such glowing reports there were others indicating that public misbehaviour was an issue in the early days of the parks existence, especially from noisy and boisterous "young urchins" - bicycles were ridden amongst the crowds, football was played indiscriminately, and rooks nesting in the trees were stoned!  In October two lads were arraigned before the Bench for throwing a steel capped wicket at a tree and a seat near it in the park, inflicting 50-60 holes.  The charges against the 9 year old were withdrawn, and those against the 13 year old were only pursued in order to make a point more publicly.  The lad was let off on paying four shillings towards the costs.

Tuesday August 3rd was the occasion - in the park - of a successful second annual Band Concert and Flower Show under the auspices of the Kings Heath Adult School Brass Band.  Press reports tell of 300 entries in the flower show, but only two bands in their competition.  The Kings Heath Fire Brigade gave a display during entertainments in the afternoon.

Cricket was played in the Park; a report in August speaks of a match between girls and boys, in which the boys had to bat, field and bowl-left-handed!  The girls won by 11 runs.  In the return match the following week, under the same rules, the lads won by 13 runs.

At the end of July the idea was floated in the press that there should be an aviary in Kings Heath Park.

Two other interesting statistics emerged:-
  • The greenhouses had been open to the public on 15 Sunday afternoons during the summer; 9,465 visitors passed through in total, an average of 631 visitors each day.
  • 15,361 bedding plants were produced at the park during the year.
The year is perhaps best summed up by another reporter (Birmingham News, 9 October 1909):-

"The various parks and recreation grounds which now exist in the Kings Norton district have not been acquired without a good deal of expense on the part of the community, but there is probably no public asset that the people would be less willing to surrender.  I have been very much impressed with the extent of the use which the people make of them, and this of course is the measure of their appreciation.  The efforts which the Council are making to add to the attractiveness of the parks entitle them to the grateful thanks of their constituents.  At Selly Oak, at Cotteridge, and at Kings Heath the whole aspect of the parks as they were even a year ago has been altered.  Now I see a further five or six hundred pounds is to be spent upon them, in addition to the ordinary maintenance expenses.  Two birds are to be killed with one stone also, for in doing so work is to be found for the unemployed.  I think no one will object to this form of municipal enterprise, and on the contrary, I imagine there are others who will feel like myself, viz., anxious to say a word of commendation in order that the Council may feel that their work is not unappreciated in this direction at least." 


It was announced in January that an aviary had been buillt in the Park - it was described as having a rustic character, designed by Mr. Shuttleworth the park-keeper, and occupying  a sheltered position near the house..  Other improvements in the park included the laying out of a bowling green, an enclosure around the bandstand, and the construction of a large shelter.  Eventually the enclosure round the bandstand was provided with a fence 3 feet 6 inches high; and eight dozen chairs were provided for the enclosure, this number being doubled a few months later.  The bowing green was first opened on 4th June - the following week the local newspaper reported - "the green has been fully occupied in the evenings by bowlers and there is every prospect of it being a great attraction.  It is most pleasantly situated, amid the shade of the great trees of the pool, and there is a capital bowling surface.  There is room for five sets of players.  The charge is 2d. per player per hour."   20 new seats (11 shillings for each of the iron castings, with wooden seats and back rests fixed to the iron castings departmentally for 7 shillings each) were acquired.

The replacement of the lodge came back on the agenda, with a proposal to approach the Local Government Board for sanction to borrow £400 for the purpose of a new building.

Football matches played in the park in the early part of the year were reported in the press.

Once again, the Council invited bands and concert parties to give entertainments in the park -  and offered similar contributions to last year, but now with an upper limit of 25 performers.  A programme of entertainment - often advertised in the press - was given throughout the summer season.

The question of catering in the park came under consideration.  In June, after a stalled start, the Council invited tenders from refreshment caterers to provide a service in the park for the period until 31st October.  Eventually Mrs Blunt of Avenue Road was given the right to sell refreshments in the park from a mobile stall of her own providing up until 30 September; the right cost her 2 shillings per week..

All of these arrangements conspired to generate the following report of the May bank holiday:-
"The glorious weather on Bank Holiday made the people flock to Kings Heath Park, where the show of spring flowers was at its best.  The five beds of tulips, made of Arliss (scarlet), Chrysoloia (yellow). Thomas Moore (orange), Vander Keer (magenta) and La Reine (white), were greatly admired, as were also the beds of hyacinths and the wonderful display of wall flowers at the entrance, and the beds in front of the house.  The tennis courts were fully occupied by persons of both sexes, enjoying a game in the brilliant sunshine.   There was a full programme of entertainments, which were watched by crowded audiences at each performance.  It opened on Saturday with Graham’s Merry Mascots.  On Sunday afternoon and evening sacred music was played by the Kings Heath Band, concluding with the Dead March in “Saul”, on account of the death of the King.  On Monday the Handsworth Comedy Company gave a performance; on Tuesday the entertainment was given by the Merry Mascots; on Wednesday the Black and White Entertainers appeared; on Saturday (to-day) there will be a band performance by the Friends’ Institute Brass Band.  The new bowling green is not yet open to the public.  The official opening will take place on Saturday, June 4th.  The alterations and improvements carried out during the winter were greatly appreciated by the visitors, as also was the aviary, which is still open to receive a few more occupants."

The summer holiday was anticipated in the press in these terms:-
"There is to be a good programme at the park for the holiday week, the public being well catered for, viz: Saturday, Harborne Excelsior Band; Sunday, Kings Heath Adult School Band; Monday, Linwood Entertainers; Tuesday, Handsworth Comedy Co.; Wednesday, Black and White.  On Sunday and the following days there will be two concerts each day.  The bowling green and the tennis courts are in splendid condition, and the flower beds are just at their best.  Given fine weather the holidays for people visiting the park will be very enjoyable if the weather continues fine.  The vinery and greenhouses will be opened to the public on Sunday and bank Holiday."

The Ten Acres and Stirchley Co-operative Scoiety requested the use of the park on 9th July for their childrens' summer party.  The party went ahead, but not without some public outcry (through "letters to the editor" in the press, and subsequently in the Council chamber) because part of the park (some thought too much) had been cordonned off so that the general public could not use it, an entrance to the park had been barred, and keys to the park had been let out of the control of the park-keeper.

An Education Sub-Committee were of opinion that Kings Heath House, then used as a temporary day school, would satisfy their need for a site for an open-air school for the benefit of the district.  They considered the premises to be well adapted for the purpose, there being large and well-lit rooms, excellent kitchen quarters, and were it necessary to provide for some residential cases there was ample room on the upper floor for dormitories.  The children attending the day school at Kings Heath House would proceed early the next year to the permanent school buildings which were approaching completion on the Grove Road site.  Kings Heath House would therefore be available for use early in the spring, 1911, and so the sub-committee recommended that steps be taken to secure the use of the premises for the purpose of an open-air school, and that they be authorised to proceed with arrangements for the staffing, equipment, and organisation of the school, ready for opening early in 1911.  The Council subsequently accepted the recommendation.

In December, Mr. H.A. Shuttleworth was dismissed from his position of Superintendent of the park, on account of gross irregularity on his part in not accounting for certain monies received by him on behalf of the Council.  The Committee did leave the option for Shuttleworth to be engaged in a subordinate capacity if they considered it desirable.

By the year end the following statistics were reported for the park:-

Receipts from i) tennis courts £17  12s.  10d.; ii) bowling greens £15  6s  8d.
Number of band performances, 18; number of other  entertainments, 44; amount contributed to bands, £12  11s.