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|Winter In The Park|
Map & Info provided by Sutton Coldfield Civic Society
(Alan Green) The yellow shaded area is primarily heathland but has plenty of
As in the image above this, the bike storage is still there. One of the gents on the left is holding a newspaper. (Image: David Wilcox)
and again, the town gate (Image: David Wilcox)
As above, Park Road, looking back towards the Railway Bridge and Town
This is the place that I live. It is not where I came from though. It has been around a very long time, in fact, Henry VIII gave Sutton Coldfield its "Royal" prefix; it was one of his favourite hunting parks. Going back even further the Romans had a big say in the area, but going back even further - read on:
From the Celts to the Normans
It seems that the history of Sutton Coldfield can be traced back to Celtic times. It is thought that the area known as Maney Hill was inhabited by a group of Celtic priests or 'Druids' because of a large stone monolith found there. Indeed the word 'Maney' probably comes from 'Meini' meaning stones!
Romans built a road
through Sutton Park, which linked up with Watling Street (A5) at Wall. It is thought
that construction on this road started in 70AD. When the Romans left, in came
the Anglo-Saxons and the country was divided up into several smaller kingdoms.
The Midlands area was known as Mercia, the capital of which was Tamworth. Large
areas of land were set aside by the Kings of Mercia to use for hunting purposes,
in an area stretching from today's central Birmingham to as far away as
Shenstone in Warwickshire and of course encompassing the area we now know as
Sutton Park. The word 'tun' means enclosure and since this enclosure was south
of the capital of Mercia, the area was named 'South Tun'. Obviously, the word
Sutton is derived from this! The word later altered to 'town'.
The Saxon noble, Earl of Mercia was defeated in the Norman Conquest and his lands were taken by William the Conqueror. In the centuries following the Norman Conquest, the town of Sutton grew and prospered. In 1126, King Henry I exchanged both the lands and the forest for two manors in Rutland, which were then in the possession of the Norman Earl of Warwick. There began a long association of Sutton with the Earldom of Warwick. Guy, Earl of Warwick, granted the town a Market Charter in the 14th century and a few years later, a large annual fair with music and entertainers was set up. The Warwicks' association with Sutton ended in 1471, when Neville, Earl of Warwick, was killed at the end of the War of the Roses. Sutton then fell into decline, its population dwindled and its markets and fairs were abandoned.
Bishop Vesey and the Park
|The history of Sutton Coldfield since the end of the 15th century has been entwined with that of one man, John Harman aka Vesey. Born in the area in 1462, he studied at Oxford before taking Holy Orders. He became chaplain to Elizabeth of York, the wife of Henry VII - a post he held when the future Henry VIII was born to the Queen in 1491. In due course, Vesey would become Bishop of Exeter and would acquire great wealth. He became one of the few men that King Henry VIII came to rely on and Vesey had much influence on court matters.|
Vesey returned to Sutton in 1524 to attend the funeral of his mother and was sad to discover his home town in such a sorry state. Vesey's connection with King Henry VIII was instrumental in the signing of a Royal Charter in 1528 granting Sutton Coldfield the status of a Royal Town. Whilst being entertained at Vesey's home at Moor Hall, the King and his companions went off hunting in Sutton Park. The King was attacked by a wild boar, but before it could harm him, the beast was killed by an arrow. To the King's surprise, when he called for his saviour to be brought to him, he discovered that the marksman was a young and beautiful woman.
On asking the girl how he could repay the favour, he heard how her family had been dispossessed of their property and the King ordered that restitution be made to them. King Henry was also keen to show his gratitude to Vesey and the people of Sutton Coldfield and on December 16th 1528, the Royal Charter was signed giving Sutton Coldfield the title of Royal Town and Sutton Park to the people of Sutton in perpetuity (*) (See below). Henry also gave his own emblem of the Tudor Rose to the town, which was used as its Coat of Arms until Sutton Coldfield became part of the Birmingham Metropolitan District in 1974.
The Charter also declared that the town be, in a way, self-governing. It required that an elected body of 24 local men be established, known collectively as the Warden and Society of the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield. Their duties included keeping roads in good repair, improving housing and providing schools and teachers. Vesey himself was a true philanthropist and helped in the revival of the town by encouraging once more the markets and fairs, by building a local grammar school in 1540, a school which flourishes to this day, by building over 50 stone houses for Sutton's poorer inhabitants and a Town Hall. He even stocked the lands himself with mares, colts and horses and Sutton Park started resembling the park we know today.
In the centuries since, Sutton's story has been one of quiet and continuous evolution. Sutton enjoyed further prosperity in the 18th Century and the system of Warden and Society was abolished in 1886 and the role of Mayor of Sutton Coldfield was created - the first Mayor being Sir Benjamin Stone. The arrival of the railways in the 19th Century, brought a sharp increase in the town's population. By the time the Great War broke out in 1914, people were starting to spend their holidays in the town. Next to the image of the carving above, there stands a plaque commemorating the use of the Park during the Great War.
The jewel in Sutton Coldfield's crown is Sutton Park, with an area of about 2,400 acres, is the largest urban park in Europe. The park originated in the 12th century although there is evidence of prehistoric burial mounds, an early, fortified settlement and a Roman Road. Sutton Park was given to the people of Sutton Coldfield in 1528 by King Henry VIII. The story goes that Henry VIII was attacked by a wild boar whilst out hunting in Sutton Park with his good friend Bishop Vesey. Before it could harm the king though, the beast was killed by an arrow. To the King's surprise, when he called for his saviour to be brought to him, he discovered that the marksman was a young and beautiful woman. Henry was told of how her family had been dispossessed of their property and he ordered that restitution be made to them. Henry was also keen to show his gratitude to Vesey and the people of Sutton Coldfield and on December 16th, 1528, a Royal Charter was signed giving Sutton Coldfield the title of Royal Town and Sutton Park to the people of Sutton Coldfield in perpetuity. Henry also gave his emblem of the Tudor Rose to the town, which was used as the town's Coat of Arms until Sutton Coldfield became part of the Birmingham Metropolitan District in 1974.
Throughout the years since, the people of Sutton Coldfield have guarded their rights to the park fiercely and lawsuits were brought against the town's Warden and Society, those that administered the town and park, if there was evidence of mismanagement. Complaints were made about the stocking of the park with strangers' cattle, spoiling the woods, felling timber without the consent of the town's inhabitants and increasing the fees for the pasturage of horses and cattle in the park.
The southern part of the Park is so named after the 'col' the charcoal burning activities which went on here until into the 18th century. Hence the name South Ton Col Fields = Sutton Coldfield.
|"This tablet is erected to commemorate the occupation of this park from 1914 to 1920 by His Majesty's troops. The park was placed at the disposal of HM Government entirely free. Over 50,000 of HM Troops occupied the various camps constructed. The Birmingham City Battalions of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment received their training here & were followed by other units. For a considerable period the camps were used for convalescent officers & men - and New Zealand troops also were in occupation prior to their return home. The Council of the Royal Town (of Sutton Coldfield) received the thanks of the War Office for their patriotic action."|
|The emergence of the carriage as a popular mode of transport, saw the introduction of highwaymen to the park. A group of bushes within the park became known as 'The Thieves' Bushes' - a suitable hiding place for the highwaymen as they awaited their next victims. In 1862, the railways arrived in Sutton Coldfield and this brought about an increase in the town's population and in visitors to the park. By the time war broke out in 1914, many people had started spending their holidays in the town. Sporting interests were increasingly catered for and in the 1900's, there were two racecourses within Sutton Park.|
|During the two great
wars of the 20th century, Sutton Park was used for military purposes. During the
First World War, the park became a training ground and camping site for
thousands of young soldiers and in the Second World War, a prisoner-of-war camp
was established there and park maintenance was carried out by German soldiers.
There is a plaque near the Town Gate, which commemorates the part played by
Sutton Park in the First World War.
Much of the Park has never been cultivated and is today a mixture of woodland and heath with a number of streams and man-made pools. Plants and animals that are not otherwise found in this region are supported in the heaths and bogs of the park, which are themselves somewhat rare habitats in the Midlands area. Conservation and protection of the park are vitally important to the people of Sutton Coldfield and in 1950, the Friends of Sutton Park Association was founded to promote awareness and interest in the park. The association also alerts the public to threats to the park, and checks on 'improvement' proposals offered by administrators.
Conservationists repairing the Plantsbrook near the Town Gate
|Today, the park is still enjoyed
by a large number of people who come to walk the dog, have a picnic or to just
get a bit of fresh air! All manner of sporting activities are offered, from
cross-country running to RAC Rallying. A Visitor's Centre opened in 1985 and
offers an impressive array of information about the park. It's a shame one or
two areas have been denuded by kids on mountain bikes who will not stay on the
paths. And the curse of English society, the amoebic like vandal, is also taking its toll.
See also Keepers Pool.
In Oct 2000, walking the dog, I talked to one of the Rangers. He told me that
one or two buildings within the park, built about 100 years ago, have had to be
demolished due to vandalism. Intrusive Silver Birch are currently being
removed bit by bit to restore the park to a more natural state. The Silver Birch
is by nature, a thirsty tree, and has drained some natural marshland, a
situation it is hoped will be reversed.
The park was granted special status from English Heritage in 1995 and is now included in the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. With this Grade II listing, the profile of the park has been raised and, it is to be hoped, that its future conservation ensured by not letting the Council get its hands on it. And now, some random images of the Park taken since 2002 to date.
Keepers - the demolished pool has now gone, victim of vandals.
Each Pool has its own pages
Moss in The Park
Heritage Signs in The Park
Along here ran a deer barrier, the point of the Heritage sign and below, the remains, a ditch, almost filled in
The rose bears no resemblance to the Sutton Coldfield Rose because that was red & white, signifying the union following
the War of the Roses
Result of storm in Jan 03
The next 4 are of Pike basking in Blackroot Pool on a warm summers day. The male is the smaller
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