Saturday, 5 February 2011

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

Ongoing research; last updated 27 February 2017

1896

Selly Oak, part of the parish of Northfield, was becoming a progressively more populated area, as industry from Birmingham migrated to find room for massive expansion. Members of the Northfield Parish Council began to recognise a need for open spaces for recreational purposes and proposals were made to satisfy that need. In May a Recreation Ground Committee was formed and they began the search for a suitable piece of land anywhere around the village. Approaches to several local landowners (for land “bordering Heeley and Exeter Roads”, or “the other side of Raddle Barn Lane” or “at the top end of the village”) were unfruitful. By October it was reported that Mr. J.G. Ledsam was willing to negotiate over the sale of 8 acres of land belonging to Weoley Park Farm, bordering Old Lane, and commonly known as the “Old Park”.


The price was £200 per acre. There were conditions attached which would have financial implications. The road in Old Lane was to be made up (estimate £500), and the plot was to be fenced (estimate £300). A budget of £3,000 had been allocated for the project. It was anticipated that the surplus of £600 could be used for extras – a shelter for the children, cutting roads, planting shrubs, etc. Formal application to loan a sum of money not exceeding £3,200 was made to the County Council, all in accord with the requirements of the Local Government Board.


1897

To satisfy the Local Government Board's requirements for the loan it was necessary that there be a formal resolution from a Parish Meeting to acquire a recreation ground. This was advertised and held on 16th January 1897. The necessary resolution was carried with 54 votes in favour and 14 against. It was argued from the floor of the meeting that there was insufficient representation at that meeting and a poll was called for. The poll was held on 30th January 1897. Again the resolution was carried: for 238, against 169 (No. of voters on the register 2145). And so the application for the loan was duly lodged through Worcestershire County Council, to which Northfield Parish Council was beholden.  Meanwhile there were other interested parties beavering away in the background unbeknown to all but a few.  Worcestershire County Council appointed their Chairman to visit Selly Oak to hold a public inquiry into the matter.  He did so on 20th August, calling a meeting at 11 a.m.  It was argued that many working people had views that needed to be heard, but the timing of the meeting precluded them - they were at work!  So another meeting was convened for the evening of 3rd September.  The Worcester Chairman again attended, and at the meeting he was presented with a letter dated 2nd September from Mrs. Gibbins and her four sons who offered to purchase the land – not just the 8 acres but 11½ acres - prepare it and gift it, with conditions, to the Parish Council who would be custodians of the recreation ground for the people of Selly Oak. The Parish Council graciously accepted the gift, an acceptance which the County Council endorsed, and the loan application was withdrawn. Conveyancing of the land from Mr. Ledsam to the Messrs. Gibbins began (and was completed on 27th January 1898), and preparations for the recreation ground began.



1898

Preparations continued with a constructive dialogue between the donors and the Parish Council regarding precise layout. In March Josiah Thomas Horton, gardener, of Tennal Road, Harborne, transferred from Queen’s Park, Harborne (a new park recently opened by the Birmingham City Council), to assist with the laying-out of the recreation ground. In April the process began of formally conveying the land to the Parish Council from the Gibbins family – Mrs Emma Joel Gibbins (nee Cadbury) with her four sons, William, Thomas, John and Benjamin, of 10 Carpenter Road, Edgbaston, who were the proprietors of the Birmingham Battery & Metal Company, a company that had expanded from Digbeth to the site which is now the Battery Retail Park in Selly Oak. The conveyancing was completed by 1st February 1899.  The plot comprised 11 acres, 2 roods, 5 perches of land (- about a third of the size of the Park as we know it today), with a frontage of 271 yards in Old Lane, Selly Oak. The plot was fenced and flower borders, with trees incorporated, were created around the perimeter; walkways were also laid out. Planning permission for a Park-keeper’s lodge, closets (i.e. toilets) and a shelter was sought and granted, and the buildings duly erected - the Lodge at the entrance on Gibbins Road, the shelter at the top of the driveway from the entrance in Gibbins Road, and the conveniences at the south east corner of the site. The layout of the Park - as well as some detail about the layout of Weoley Park Farm - is clearly shown on the detailed maps of 1913, 1919 and 1951 (select the appropriate history from the column on the right of this screen). In the autumn of 1898 the Northfield Parish Council ceased to exist and the administration of the local community, including the Park project, was taken up by the newly formed Kings Norton and Northfield Urban District Council (Mr. Thomas Gibbins, one of Mrs Gibbins' sons, being elected its Chairman).




The Original Boundary Path on the East Side of the Park (photo Feb 2011)

The Original Boundary Path at the North East Corner of the Park (photo Feb 2011)

1899

The prepared land was gifted formally to the Kings Norton & Northfield Urban District Council by the Gibbins family. The original conditions attached to the gift were confirmed - no intoxicating liquor should be sold or used in the park; it should not be open for playing games on Sundays; and its gates should not be closed for more than two consecutive days for the holding of any event, such as a flower show, for which it may be let, freely or with charge, as the Council may determine. There was a motion to name the park “Gibbins Park”, but the donors requested that its name not include theirs. Consequently the land was designated “Selly Oak Park”, and Old Lane was renamed Gibbins Road in recognition of the gift.



Photographs of copies of documents kindly made available
by the Property Services Department of Birmingham City Council
(a transcript of the Conveyance can be seen in the 1899 clippings)


Early in the year, after competition, Josiah Thomas Horton was appointed to the post of Park Keeper / Superintendent, with coat and cap provided, and residence at the Lodge. He was appointed on a month’s notice; his salary was 24/- per week.


The formal opening of the Park occurred at 3pm on Easter Monday, 3rd April, when a large crowd (estimated as 6,000 - 7,000) witnessed the 88 year old Mrs Gibbins open the gates with a silver key and listened to speeches by the donors and local dignitaries, all of which was reported in the local press. The donors were presented with a resolution of the District Council, engrossed on vellum, recording their gratitude. Entertainments followed the opening ceremony.

The Park was overseen and administered by the Baths, Parks and Cemeteries Committee of the Kings Norton and Northfield Urban District Council. They set about drafting bye laws and insuring the buildings in the park. Policing arrangements were made, though for legal reasons it had not been possible to swear in the Park Keeper as a Special Constable as the Committee wished, instead the local Watch Committee provided the necessary cover. Further developments and provisions were made; the drainage of the land was attended to, and a set of swings – one for boys, and another for girls – and gymnastic equipment was purchased and erected.

There was early demand for use of the park by various organisations. Five major users in this first year were:

i) the (Oddfellows and Foresters) Amalgamated Juvenile Fete Committee for an event on 3rd June;

ii) the annual Selly Oak and Bournbrook Children’s Fete on 3rd July – an event which had been held in the district since the Parish church had been dedicated 35 years earlier, and would be held in the park for many years;

iii) the annual Selly Oak Horticultural Show on 5th August;

iv) the Order of Rechabites for an unspecified event on 19th August; and

v) a special event, with sports, on 26th August, staged by and for the Selly Oak Victoria Brass Band who had given a programme of music on Wednesday evenings during June, July and August - and who would be another regular user of the park in subsequent years.

According to the extensive and detailed press reports all the events, except one, were very successful and well subscribed, often thousands attending. The Selly Oak Horticultural Show, usually very popular and successful, “reached the lowest water mark” this year. A post mortem on the event, in committee and in the press, ascribed the Show’s lack of success to the absence of a beer tent! A beer tent had not been allowed under the terms of use of the park – in accordance with the conditions of its gift by the Gibbins family. The contention was so bitter that the show did not return to the park for several years.

This was not the only bone of contention. Soon after the first bookings of the Park were made, the Council agreed operational conditions upon which the Park could be used by the different organisations. There was an upswell of opinion – again expressed in the various organising committees and the press - that the Council were being too draconian in demanding that the secretary of the organisation using the Park be responsible personally for any damage done during use and that he agree to repay the full cost of repair; and in giving the Surveyor and Park-keeper “absolute power and control in all respects in the matter”. It appears that the conditions were eventually upheld, at least in spirit, if not letter.

So it was a very eventful first year in the life of the park. It was the Urban District Council’s first park; and, whilst they were on a learning curve, it became a model and base for their subsequent parks and recreation grounds.


1900

The bye-laws were finally agreed and displayed publicly. A 14’ x 6’ propagating frame was requested and provided to generate and maintain plant stocks. The area around the new swings and the main drive was asphalted. Seasonal assistance was provided for the park-keeper, and some of the trees were relocated and more added.
The Selly Oak Victoria Brass Band gave another series of Wednesday evening concerts during June, July and August, and held their own fete and sports day on 25th August. The annual Children’s Fete was held on 30th July; it was reported to be the largest held up to that time, close on 2,500 children being entertained to tea. A minor accident was reported, when on 11th July a girl was struck on the face by a swing and knocked down. A similar accident had occurred on Whit Monday, a day on which the Park-keeper estimated between 10,000 and 12,000 people (i.e. half the population of the district) had used the park.


1901

More asphalting was undertaken, this time the road to the shelter. Action had to be taken to prevent people cutting turf from the flower borders for their caged birds, and boys raiding bird’s nests. In the autumn the Committee visited the park and decided that the outside woodwork should be painted. The park-keeper, who early in the year had been provided with a “proper uniform”, was granted 8 days leave in the autumn, and nearer the end of the year his duties were extended to attend to the trees in the village, for which he was given temporary assistance. A glacier stone found in Frederick Road during the construction of part of the Birmingham Water Scheme was placed in the park.  (These stones are sometimes called "Erratics".  As well as an entry in Wikipedia, there is an interesting article on the occurrence of glacial erratics in the Birmingham area [including those in Selly Oak Park], writtten by Roland Kedge, on pages 9 and 10 of the Newsletter No. 207 from the Black Country Geological Society - see www.bcgs.info/BCGS_Newsletter207.pdf.)
Selly Oak Victoria Brass Band gave another series of concerts during the period mid May to August, this year on either Wednesday or Saturday evenings, but there is no reference to their annual fete and sports day in the park. Postponed by one day because of heavy rain, the annual Children’s Fete was held on Tuesday 27th August – they catered for 3,200 children!


1902

The outside painting identified at the end of the last year was completed, as was the asphalting. It was proposed to purchase a span roof greenhouse for the park.
Undoubtedly the great event of the year in the Park was the festivities (including a bonfire) on 26th June to mark the Coronation of King Edward VII. The (Foresters and Oddfellows) Juvenile Fete was held on 23rd August. I assume the Selly Oak Victoria Brass Band delivered its usual summer programme of music. Whilst no report of this has been found, there was a request from the band for a contribution towards music, to which the Baths, Parks, and Cemeteries Committee was not able to accede. There is also a reference to a request for permission to be granted for the sale of refreshments on a Wednesday evening – presumably to coincide with the band concerts. The request was granted to the applicant provided the park keeper was unable to provide the service; it transpired that he was able to provide the refreshments.


1903

Five years after the park was opened, this was a busy year of maintenance. There were repairs to the Lodge, including painting, papering and whitewashing; the roof of the Lodge and Shelter were repaired; tree guards and swings were varnished; the iron fencing was painted; the footway along the park frontage was widened and the fence raised to allow asphalting. There was a proposal to install a gas supply to the Lodge. Trees up the centre drive of the park which were not flourishing were removed and new ones of a more hardy variety were substituted. The park keeper was supplied with a new uniform and cap.
The annual Selly Oak and Bournbrook Children’s Fete, which for the first time included a musical competition, was held on Tuesday 28th July, the booked day before having been rained off. The Selly Oak Victoria Brass Band again gave their weekly concerts, and held their annual sports in the Park on a fine 29th August when between 700 and 800 people attended. Finally it was reported that visitors to the park during the summer had been more numerous than in previous years, more especially on Wednesday evenings when the weekly concerts given by the band took place. The press reported: “Selly Oak Park is becoming more popular than it was. As the village expands there will be no dearth of visitors to the park, but at present its patronage is checked by the distance that has to be travelled to get to it”.



1904

Maintenance continued. Following an inspection by the Committee, there was a large programme of painting - the iron fence fronting the Park, the seats, the shelter, the ironwork of the swings and gymnastic equipment all receiving attention. The park staff was instructed to paint the tree guards. The overhanging eaves of the Shelter roof were repaired. Sand was obtained for the floor of the swings. Shrubs in the borders were thinned out and replanted, with the excess (we subsequently learn that it was 270 plants) being sent for use at Lodge Hill Cemetery; additional labour (2 men) being provided for this task. Three double back seats were ordered for the shelter. Mr. William Gibbins provided 18 lime and 18 elm trees which were planted in place of horse chestnuts up the centre drive of the park. Consideration was given to the provision of cricket pitches and a bowling green. The park keeper’s wages were increased to 27/- per week, and his assistant’s wages were reviewed.
The Church Lads’ Brigade was granted permission to drill once or twice a week in the park. The Victoria Brass Band gave its usual programme of music during June, July and August. The Selly Oak and Bournbrook Children’s Fete, now called the Festival and under a new arranging committee, was again rained off but then held successfully the next day, on Thursday, 1st September, with the associated sports being held on the following Saturday afternoon. Approx 3,500 (one report stated 3,400, another 3,600) children were looked after by 200 helpers. The engine attached to a roundabout at the Festival damaged the asphalt drive, but the drive was soon repaired.


1905

The Lodge was painted; there were alterations to the shelter and the double back seats arrived and were installed. The plans for a bowling green were ditched – it would have to wait another 6 years. Surplus shrubs and trees were removed to other recreation grounds. A cricket pitch – only to be used by children of school age - came into use in the middle of the year. Later in the year, football for those less than 14 years old was allowed in the park; and boys of the Selly Oak School were allowed to play football in the park on Saturday mornings under the supervision of the park keeper. The park keeper was provided with new work wear.
There were the usual uses of the park - the Victoria Brass Band held its summer concerts; and the Selly Oak and Bournbrook Children’s Festival, with 3,600 attending, was held on Wednesday, 26th August. The Band had asked for assistance with their expenses; the Council were unable to accede to their request, but allowed pledges of voluntary contributions to be received at the entrance to the park.
(Mrs. Emma Joel Gibbins, aged 94 years, died on 26th April 1905)


1906

Early in the year the park was reported to be in very good order. The trees in Northfield were formally declared a responsibility of the park keeper, who was also being more frequently referred to as the Superintendant. Several proposals were tabled:- i) the erection of a 25’ x 12’ greenhouse (to provide for 4,000 – 5,000 plants) and potting shed; ii) standards and wire for the protection of beds; iii) bulbs; and iv) the planting of trees for the protection of the shelter from wind and rain. A gas supply was laid to the Lodge, some internal cleaning and redecoration was approved, and a proposal to enlarge the pantry was considered. An application for increased wages for the park keeper’s assistant came under review. In the autumn the flower beds were reported to be “looking exceedingly well”.
There were the usual uses of the park. The Selly Oak and Bournbrook Children’s festival was held in glorious weather on 18th July; it was bigger than ever (4,000 attending) and declared the most successful to date; the park keeper and his assistants were later singled out and rewarded for their work. The following Wednesday evening, during one of the weekly Victoria Brass Band concerts, the Raddle Barn maypole dancers, who had performed impressively at the Children’s festival, gave a repeat performance to the delight of everyone. On 1st September the Royal Staffordshire Blues Band gave afternoon and evening performances to great acclaim; the event was organised by the Progressive Association Education Committee with public subscriptions gathered by the chairman of the Baths and Parks Committee who was not wearing his committee hat for this project which had been initiated earlier in the year.

This was the year when the Selly Oak Baths were opened in Tiverton Road, Bournbrook.  A souvenir was published to accompany the opening.  It contained a brief history of the district, including a reference to the gift of Selly Oak Park by Mrs. Gibbins.


Tiverton Road School
One of the schools from which the pupils attended the annual Children's Festival
(Photograph kindly contributed by Don Hughes)


1907

The enlargement of the pantry in the Lodge became a reality. Three cricket pitches were allocated for the various schools belonging to the Selly Oak Wesleyan Sunday School. A sub-committee visited the park with a view to providing tennis courts in the park. Meanwhile the park keeper’s remit was slowly expanding – he had been involved in planting at Bournbrook and Muntz Recreation Grounds and various libraries in the district, and was instructed to plant a privet hedge at Northfield Library.  Later in the year it was felt by the Committee that it was impossible for the Superintendent of Selly Oak Park to properly superintend all the parks and recreation grounds of the Council and it was therefore resolved that he be relieved of the duty of superintending the Cotteridge Park and Stirchley Playground.  The Superintendent / park keeper laid proposals regarding staffing, and their remuneration, for the various parks and recreation grounds before the Committee, and after Committee review in conjunction with him a scheme for the rearrangement of staff was prepared. Staffing numbers were considered sufficient for the winter months but would need to be reviewed the following summer.
The Selly Oak and Bournbrook Children’s Festival was held on Wednesday, 17th July, again 4,000 children attending a very successful event. After the 1899 fiasco, the Selly Oak Horticultural Society had held its annual show elsewhere, often finding itself in competition with the Bournbrook Society. As time passed there were suggestions for an amalgamation which finally came about in 1907 with an application, which was granted, for the use of the park by the Selly Oak, Bournbrook and District Horticultural Society for their annual exhibition on Saturday, 27th July. It turned out to be blighted by inclement weather. Several applications from Pierrot troupes to give entertainments in the parks were received and granted (at their own expense).


1908

The big development in the park during 1908 was the provision of a bandstand. It was eventually supplied and fixed by the St. Pancras Iron Works Co. Ltd., London for £94 6s. 8d., on a concrete base that was constructed departmentally for £20. The position of the bandstand in the Park - just to the west of the shelter at the top of the main driveway from the Gibbins Road entrance by the Lodge - is clearly shown on the 1913 and 1919 plans (select the appropriate history from the column on the right of this screen).  The bandstand was eventually demolished in 1950 (again see appropriate history).  The Committee agreed that tennis courts should be prepared (their position is also shown on the later plans). A 22” lawn mower was purchased from Parker, Winder and Achurch, Ltd for £7 17s. 3d., and old machines were repaired. There is a record that a Mr. John Bowen started work at the Park as a labourer in July.
After newspaper advertisements inviting offers from bands and concert parties to play in the various parks, arrangements were made by the Urban District Council for entertainments to be given on each Saturday evening during July, and on several of them in August, and these were advertised by poster and newspaper advertisements. It was reported later in the year that 23 entertainments had been given in the various parks and recreation grounds of the District Council during July, August and September, 14 of them by bands who had been paid £1 per band. On 15th July the annual Selly Oak and Bournbrook Children’s Festival was held; the Selly Oak Victoria Brass Band, accompanied by the Harborne Industrial Boys’ Band, played its usual part. The seventh annual charity sports in aid of the Selly Oak and Bournbrook District Nurses Fund were held in the park on 18th July; an impressive feature of this was a competition in which eight local fire brigades competed for cups and medals.
(Mr. Thomas Gibbins died on 23rd May 1908.)



This is how the bandstand may have looked.
(This photograph is of the Bandstand in Ward End Park, Birmingham  in about 1906)
(Photograph posted on Facebook by Tom Burke, with acknowledgement to Sue Shepherd, in January 2015)




This is how the Bandstand in Selly Oak Park did look.
(Photograph, taken about 1922, from family archives; contributed by John Skinner)
(The characters in the photograph are my mother, Josie Pugh, nee Horton
and her mother, Florence Horton, nee Acford)



1909

The 1907 proposals were realised when two tennis courts were opened in the spring – their use was charged at eight pence per hour per court. A peacock was gifted to the park by Mr. C. Cartwright of Chapel Lane, Selly Oak.
Once more the Parks Committee advertised for voluntary offers from bands and concert parties to give entertainments in the parks, and with the responses they organised a summer programme. The band members were paid one shilling and six pence and the band master five shillings per performance – maximum of 25 band members. Entertaining groups / bands could take the hire money for seats around the bandstand when performances were given, and they were allowed to make collections to defray their own expenses. During the year Selly Oak Park hosted 11 band performances, and 7 other entertainments (– only half the number that were held in the new King’s Heath Park which was in its ascendancy). The annual Selly Oak and Bournbrook Children’s Festival (attendance now up to 5,000) was another outstanding success on 14th July. Three days later (17th July) there was another children’s party in the park, this time organised by the Selly Oak and Bournbrook branch of the Ten Acres and Strichley Co-operative Society, with about 1,000 children attending. At the end of September the annual charity sports in aid of the Selly Oak and Bournbrook District Nurses’ Fund was held in the Park, the fire brigade competition again being the principal feature. Comment was made in the autumn that the measure of the appreciation of the local people for their park was evident in the extensive use being made of it. Conscious of this the local authority allocated additional funds for the Park, and in so doing also found work there for the unemployed.

In May of 1909 the old oak tree that had stood at the corner of Oak Tree Lane and High Street (Bristol Road) since about 1720, and which many (erroneously) believed was the origin of the name Selly Oak, was felled.  A stump of the tree, with a plaque attached, was placed by the lodge in Selly Oak Park, as a memorial of the characteristic feature of the village.  

The Oak Stump in the Park

Judging by the crowds, the roped off area, and the fenced stump, this was a celebration of the placing of the oak stump in the park following its felling in Oak Tree Lane in 1909.
Notice the roof of the shelter in the left background.
(Photograph contributed by John Skinner)



(Photograph contributed by Tom Hill)


The same place in the Park in 2008, almost 100 years later. 
Notice how the sapling in the first photograph has grown to a great spreading oak!
(Photograph contributed by Martin Robson Riley)




Memorabilia

In May of 2012 Marie Broad posted (on Facebook) some photographs of a cigar holder case in the possession of her 80 year old grandad.  The case had belonged to his great grandad, and had been made from a piece of the original old Selly Oak Tree.  They have kindly granted permission for the reproduction of those photographs here; Marie exhibited the case at the Selly Oak Festival on 30 June 2012:


                   

The cigar holder case, made from the old Selly Oak oak tree felled in 1909
      

Marie Broad at the Selly Oak Festival, 30 June 2012




1910
An iron fence enclosure, 3’ 6” high, was constructed around the bandstand and initially 8 dozen chairs were provided; another 8 dozen were purchased later in the year. Back in 1906 there had been a proposal to plant trees to protect the shelter from wind and rain, but now a wind screen was specified, planned and constructed. The opportunity was taken to include the Lodge in the tender for painting the new wind screen. It was agreed to provide swings, a “giant stride” and a see-saw for the park. In view of the number of parks and recreation grounds under the supervision of the park keeper, he was provided with a cycle (“costing no more than £10”) to enable him to move between, and supervise, them.
As last year, press notices were placed seeking offers from bands and concert parties to play in the Park. During the year Selly Oak Park hosted 10 band performances, and 15 other entertainments – running third to the number at the newer King’s Heath and Cotteridge Parks. There was also a press notice inviting offers from refreshment caterers and others for the right to sell refreshments in the Park. The Ten Acres and Stirchley Co-operative Society used the park for a Children’s summer party on 16th July when about 1200 children participated. After a stuttering start with the committee debating “To be or not to be”, the annual Selly Oak and Bournbrook Children’s Festival was not organised this year.



High Street (now called Bristol Road), Selly Oak.

About 1911 - Note lack of cars, but also flags probably celebrating the Coronation of King George V; Coronation celebrations were held in June 1911.
Note the young trees with tree guards - according to records in 1906 and 1911, the Park-keeper at Selly Oak had responsibility for inspecting the trees in the streets.

(Photograph kindly contributed by Don Hughes)



1911

The construction of a bowling green was approved. Permission was granted for adults to play cricket and football in the park from the time of opening until 8.30 am. The park-keeper / Superintendent’s salary was increased to take account of the fact that several of the other parks and recreation grounds in the District were under his control, as well as the grounds at several libraries, and trees in certain of the streets. The increase was from 28 to 30 shillings per week then rising by annual increments of one shilling per week to 32 shillings per week.
Press notices were placed seeking offers from bands and concert parties to play in the Park. Permission was given for; i) the concluding band concert and sports day associated with the Shopping Week Festival which was held on Wednesday, 17th May, several thousand people congregating to see the various events and enjoy an evening in the Park; ii) the Selly Oak and Bournbrook Children’s Festival to be held on Coronation Day in June; and iii) the Ten Acres and Stirchley Co-operative Society’s children’s party on a Saturday in July. A serious accident occurred during the Coronation Day festivities; a young member of the Church Lads’ Brigade was badly injured when firing a royal salute in the park, and his hand had to be amputated. There was considerable concern for the wellbeing of the boy and a major fund-raising effort, sponsored by the local press, was made on his behalf with contributions arriving from many quarters including one from HRH, The Queen. (As a result of the fund, the lad was eventually apprenticed in photography, and then set up in his own business.)


-----------------------------------

In November 1911 the Kings Norton and Northfield Urban District Council ceased to exist, and under the terms of the Birmingham Extension Order 1911 the district and all its facilities was transferred to the jurisdiction and care of the Birmingham City Council. The Birmingham News, in its 11 November edition, observed:

"The urban district of Kings Norton and Northfield, which ceased to exist at midnight on Wednesday, has a worthy record in the sphere of local government activities. ..............."

"The provision of parks, baths and washhouses next became a burning question, but this took far longer to settle. A magnificent impulse was given to the movement, however, by private generosity, the Gibbins family making a gift to the community of a fine park at Selly Park (sic). ....................................."

"So far as the District Council was concerned a period of remarkable activity was ushered in about seven years ago and since then parks and open spaces and allotments have been provided in all directions, until today there is no district around Birmingham and probably few in the country better furnished in this respect than Kings Norton and Northfield. ..............................."


And so ended the heydays of Selly Oak Park when it had been in the vanguard.



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You can read more about the extension of Birmingham at:
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=22958
and at:
http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/local-news/birmingham-city-council-under-fire-155471


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A Mystery Solved

Colin Ault, Solihull  (Personal contact since August 2010)

Colin Ault, a retired policeman (at various times in the military, civil and parks police forces) is a member of the Police Insignia Collectors Association.  He and Dave Wilkinson (of Liverpool), a fellow collector, were keen to investigate an unidentified badge which had been in Dave’s collection for nearly 30 years, and of which Colin had a picture.  It bore the intertwined letters B, P and C.  Could B, P and C be the initials on a Birmingham City Policeman’s badge (if so, a hitherto unknown design) or could they relate to Birmingham City Parks or a Birmingham Parks Constable?  Colin, having seen the article in the Birmingham Mail following the publication of the “Heydays” book, and, seeing the accompanying small inset picture of the Park Keeper in his uniform, wondered if the badge on the cap could possibly provide the answer to the mystery. 

Did I have the original picture?  Yes. 

Could the image be enlarged to reveal the detail of the badge?  Yes. 

When it was, to Colin and Dave’s delight, the mystery was solved!!  This was the badge from the cap worn by the Birmingham City Parks park-keepers – or at least of the sort worn by Josiah Thomas Horton when his picture was taken – most probably around 1920 – I cannot be certain of the date, but estimate it from his aged appearance and the fact that Josiah retired in 1928 aged 65 years.  It must be assumed to be a Park-keeper’s badge rather than a policeman’s badge.  The parks police were a separate group under the auspices of the Birmingham City Council Parks Department, and the park-keepers at that time were not sworn in and did not fulfil the policing role.

In October 2010, Colin contacted me again, to show me an actual Birmingham City Parks badge.  Dave Wilkinson had recently purchased a number of badges by internet auction from a sale in London, and amongst them was a fine example, which Colin had purchased from Dave for his own collection.  Colin informed me that the badges were made by J R Gaunt & Sons, a famous Birmingham badge maker of that time.

  

The badge in Dave Wilkinson's collection compared with that on the cap of the Park-keeper.



Colin Ault with the purchased BCP badge.