Follies and Secret Passages

Perry Pont House, Perry Barr, 1909

Perry Pont House, Perry Barr, by C.Proctor, 1909 (Ref: WK/P3/211)

I work in the Digitisation and Outreach department making copies of material held in the archives and ensuring that the files are suitable for a new data storage system.  As we work with each image many of them capture our imagination and we are tempted to investigate further. One such group are those relating to the property Perry Pont House described in an 1838 railway guide as “one of the most perfect little paradises which any man could desire”.1

Entrance to an underground passage

Whilst Perry Pont House is pleasing in its own right (above), it is the photographs of the pleasure grounds filled with Arbours and Follies with titles such as ‘Entrance to the Secret Passage’ (to right) which really caught my eye.  A newspaper article gives these descriptions of the structures “Only a glimmer of light oozes through air-holes in the rock roof. The pillar is coated with pearly coloured oyster shells, interlaced with ribs of polished black stone and corals… Nearby is a tiny model of a Church. It is scarcely big enough to hold six people… a Miniature Cleopatra’s Needle… Several of the pebbles of the floor (summer house) have been uprooted and have proved to be horses’ teeth, yellowing with age. The diagonals are animal bone.  The intriguing pattern is offset by leaded stained glass windows. Included in the window design are the Old Hand of the Holts, a unicorn, a lion, a woman’s figure… (according to the sales brochure which is believed to have been removed from Aston Hall)”.2

 Amanda Thomas

Sadly the Birmingham Mail mournfully reports in 1938 that Perry Pont House “is disappearing to become a modern factory”, making this charming property one of Birmingham’s lost places that remains only in records and photographs.  I wonder if anyone out there knows more about the structures? – if so we would love to hear from you. 

1 Birmingham Mail 19 May 1938.
2 Unreferenced newspaper article and a further collection of documents at http://www.perrybarrbeyond.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/.

The photographs are from the Warwickshire Photographic Survey Collection,  photographed by C. Proctor and George Wood , both of the Handsworth Photographic Society.

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