In 2007, historian Phillada Ballard was commissioned to research and write a history of the Highbury landscape, with an eye toward a restoration bid. Her research came up with several important findings, such as the uniquely intact connection between house and parkland; the remains of an even older garden estate at the Henburys, and an appreciation of the earlier agricultural landscape preserved accidentally by both Chamberlain and Cadbury.
From the Statement of Significance:
Highbury Park includes the land of two estates of historic significance in Birmingham. The first, The Henburys, established by the early 18th century is a rare survival of an estate from this period, of which there were once numerous examples in the hinterland of Birmingham but which do not survive having been built over.
The fame of Highbury was due to the fact that within seventy acres there were many different features and these contributed to the feel of being in the country on a large estate, rather than in the suburbs of a major city. They display the quintessence of high Victorian taste in gardening and, moreover, the taste of one man, having been created on an undeveloped site, and having remained intact and substantially unaltered since Joseph Chamberlain’s death in 1914.
We have a digital copy of the Highbury Historic Landscape Appraisal, where the entire document can be downloaded in one 35 Mb PDF. Or, if you are interested in browsing it a page at a time, the entire set can be viewed in our page browser.
For anyone wanting to look at a paper version, there should be a colour copy in the Central Library and the Kings Heath Library. Moseley CDT library have a copy, and we keep one as well, that we take to events.
The page browser is a grid of thumbnails that link to full size page images, so you can browse pages consecutively, or skip around between them. Use it as a taster, to skim through the report before going to have a look at the paper copy. It’s a great way to give the entire survey a quick browse, particularly if you’re interested in the pictures or maps! (You might need a big screen width to view them comfortably, or perhaps we can whittle down the dimensions sometime soon.)
We plan to take excerpts from the survey and publish them along with comments or other material. For example, we might try to do some sort of overlay showing the ways estate and park boundaries changed over time, using the maps Phillada provides. Or we might look for the exact position that an old photograph was taken, and compare it side by side with a current view.
There will also be posts about park features that could be the focus of restoration projects. The survey is very much intended to provide historical background for such projects, so we hope to use it to reveal information and prompt discussions.