Guest Blogger: For the Love of a Park

Prize Band on the Bristol Road

Prize Band on the Bristol Road, 1912 [WK/N2/216]

Birmingham Archives and Heritage houses copies of thousands of newspapers, and minutes of meetings of councils and their various committees. 

As a regular reader, I have been systematically trawling through these records – the minutes of the Parks Departments of the former Kings Norton and Northfield Urban District Council (KN&N UDC) and the Birmingham City Council, and reading relevant local newspapers (eg. The Birmingham News). 

The Heydays of Selly Oak Park 1896-1911I have been compiling a comprehensive history of Selly Oak Park.  The story starts in 1896 when plans for the park (the first for KN&N UDC) were hatched. 

The early history in a book entitled The Heydays of Selly Oak Park: 1896-1911 has already been published (2010, History Into Print, Brewin Books, Studley). 

The research is continuing, and work, as it progresses, is now shared more widely at: www.thehistoryofsellyoakpark.blogspot.com 

I have been fascinated, for not only does this work describe the park, but it gives a fascinating insight into the social life of the community during the past 100 years or so.  I have also learned that benevolence and development go in cycles with austerity and financial cuts. The patient and discerning reader who has worked in local government will also discover from this compilation that there is nothing new in the creativity and machinations of local administration! 

Why Selly Oak Park? With a gleam in the eye, my great grandfather was the first park-keeper there from the park’s opening in 1899 until he retired in 1928.  My grandfather lived through his teenage years with his mother and father (and a brother and eleven sisters!) in the Lodge on Gibbins Road.  A romance between my grandfather and my grandmother started following their meeting in the Park.  My mother, as a small child, was often at the park with her grandparents.  Retired, there is now time to search the archives and walk in the park, literally and metaphorically.  You could say it is my blood – for the love of the park.  

Ken Pugh

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