Festival of Walks: Historic Survey Walk No. 1

One of the ways we want to use Phillada Ballard’s Historic Landscape Appraisal is as a reference and organising device for a series of walks. We are calling them Historic Survey Walks, the first of which will be this Saturday, from 11:00, meeting at the Alcester Road entrance to the Park.

This will be a short walk around the eastern end of the park, once known as Uffculme Park, and containing remnants of the 18th Century estate known as The Henburys, shown as the area labelled B in the map below.

The history and character of this estate has developed a significantly higher profile through Phillada’s work, so we want to use this as an opportunity to look for hidden details, and to imaginatively re-visit the former estate. What follows is a set of notes drawn mostly from Phillada’s work, but also from a couple of other places, such as those of Barry Pearson and Colin Baker .

We have yet to find ways of printing sufficient colour notes, so part of the purpose of this post is to give those of you with colour printers a chance to make your own copies. You will also find much larger versions of each image if you click on a given map. (BTW, these maps are modified somewhat from the originals, for the purposes of this walk.)

Henburys history

The area seems to have been enclosed – possibly since the Middle ages. Part of King’s Norton berewick (Manor of Bromsgrove) from Domesday era; seems to have started changing hands in late 1600s.

The Henburys was a small rural estate consisting of a residence with grounds and a small farm.

The original farmhouse and its buildings were cut off from the estate when the Birmingham to Gloucester railway cut across the estate in 1837 and these were replaced by new buildings near the house.

Shortly before reaching the house, on the left, on rising ground there was an eye-catcher, in the form of a stone obelisk. The date when this was erected is not known and it has given rise to some speculation.

It was widely believed to have been erected by Walter Lyndon to mark the burial spot of a favourite racehorse, but his son, G.F. Lyndon discounted this, and said it had been the work of a former owner of the estate, Mr Ratheram. The fact that by 1840 the field it was in was known as ‘Monument Piece’ would indicate that it had been built some years before, and stylistically a date in the third quarter of the 18th century could be possible.

From this high ground of almost 500 feet, even as late as 1895, there were ‘extensive and charming views of the intervening country between Moseley and the Lickeys’.

There is very little archival evidence as to the planting of the Henburys estate. However the entrance avenue trees were described in 1921 as ‘lofty elms and ancient beeches’ so were probably planted by 1840 and were the trees hown on the 1840 tithe map. That same document described the hedgerows as having oak and ash.

A detail of one of the specimens grown in the glasshouses at the Henburys has been found. In 1893 G. F. Lyndon presented a double white flowered camellia (Camellia alba fl. pl) to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The age of the plant was not known but it had clearly been at the Henburys for a very long time, possibly from the early 19th century and was initially housed in the ‘large greenhouse’ mentioned at the sale in 1826. Camellias became popular in the early 19th century, and especially from the 1820s onwards, and because they were not thought to be hardy were housed under glass. G.F. Lyndon said that the plant had reached such a size by 1864 that a new house had been erected for it, and by 1888 it had outgrown this house and had to be pruned to 18 feet high. It annually had 10,000 blooms.

Shortly before selling the Henburys Lyndon held the Moseley and King’s Heath flower show in his grounds, an event that the Chamberlains attended and for which their gardener, Cooper, entered several of the competition classes.

1890 Richard Cadbury bought a plot of agricultural land, to the southeast of Highbury, naming it Uffculme.

~1893 Cadbury purchased The Henburys from G.F. Lyndon.

1894 Western portion of Henbury pasture leased to Joseph Chamberlain. At that point, the Highbury grounds covered more than 70 acres.

Uffculme, like Highbury, was built on former agricultural land and it included the ancient yew tree that had given its name to the field path. This tree was near the coachman’s cottage near the Highbury boundary, and the path was absorbed into the grounds of Uffculme. Richard Cadbury built a high wall running along his Queensbridge Road boundary but to compensate the public for the loss of the path and their views across to the Lickey Hills planted the road with trees to make a shady walk.

The garden was laid out with lawns and a large rockery, whilst two pools were made in a marshy area of the garden which was a former clay pit. The lower end of the old field path was retained beyond the timber framed barn, which was demolished. It ran through an area of land which became an orchard and kitchen garden and was later the site for the Open Air School.

1899 Richard Cadbury passes away. His widow Emma moves to Uffculme from Moseley Hall and remains til her own life ends in 1906.

1906 As part of the King’s Heath bid for independence from King’s Norton, local pride was shown in the planting of 228 trees along the Alcester Road, ‘for the welfare and betterment of the district’ paid for by public donations. (http://www.kingsnorton.info/time/kings_norton_timeline.htm)

1907 Barrow Cadbury buys Uffculme from his father’s estate. House used for institutional purposes, grounds used for charitable purposes.

1911 King’s Norton (incl Moseley & Kings Heath) absorbed by Birmingham.

1911 Uffculme Open Air School built in 3 acres of the Uffculme grounds.

1914 July 2 Joseph Chamberlain dies

1915-18 Highbury used as a military hospital, along with Moor Green house, Uffculme, and others.

1916 Uffculme and part of its grounds given by Barrow Cadbury to Birmingham City Council as men’s convalescent home.

1919 Highbury given by Austen Chamberlain to the Highbury Trustees, grounds of Highbury purchased by voluntary contributions and also vested with Highbury Trustees.

1919-32 Highbury used as hospital for disabled ex-servicemen.

Highbury Hall and the adjoining public park was set aside for charitable or public use in 1921 and further land was added to it in 1923 and 1924.

1921 15 acres of the Eastern Henburys and 15 acres of the Highbury grounds opened as a public park

1922 Former kitchen garden of Henburys and additional section let as allotments

1923 42 acres of Western Henburys estate purchased by Birmingham Civic Society from Barrow Cadbury and conveyed to City for use as playing fields and public park

1924 3 acres adjoining Highbury given to park by Civic Society

Changes to the path systems throughout the park were made when the original graveled paths were replaced by tarmacadam. In one area near the site of the Henburys house the original surface can be seen where the tarmacadam itself has worn away.

1965 Henbury demolition

1969 alteration of Alcester Road entrance

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