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History of Kings Heath Park

The house situated in Kings Heath Park was built in 1832 for the newly elected MP William Congreve Russell. Russell who later became both a Deputy Lieutenant and High Sheriff of Worcestershire is thought to have left the house in 1835 and moved to the more fashionable Leamington.

Over the next few years there were a number of occupiers, but in 1880 the house was bought from the Ingleby family by John Cartland. Cartland was a wealthy brass forder who already owned the adjoining property, The Priory. He was an ancestor of both Major Ronald Cartland (MP for Kings Norton until he was killed in action at Dunkirk) and Dame Barbara Cartland, the well known novelist. John Cartland transferred the property to his four sons who promptly let it on a twenty one year lease to Fredrick Everitt, a brewer who owned Kings Heath Brewery in Grange Road.

In 1901, the lease was surrendered to the Cartlands, but in 1902 a national financial crisis had repercussions on the Cartland family. They formed the Priory Trust Co Ltd and transferred the freehold of the house and land to that trust with the possible intention of developing the area for housing.

However, on 9 November 1908 the Trust sold the house and half the surrounding land to the Kings Norton and Northfield Urban District Council for £11,000. The council responded at the time to popular demand and immediately opened the grounds as a public park, but the house was reserved for another use. The trust sold the remaining half of the land surrounding the house to Birmingham Corporation for £5000 on 10 February 1914, and this area was immediately incorporated into the newly formed Kings Heath Park.

If there was a comparison of maps and plans from 1840 to date it would show that Kings Heath Park House, including the grounds, have remained relatively unchanged.

By 1909, the residential period for the house was over and the second phase as an institution was about to start.

In 1908 there was serious overcrowding in local schools and the council had planned a new school with separate departments for infants boys and girls in Colmore Road. At the time urgent accommodation was required and the council approved the use of he White House which was the name the house was known by at that time.

In order for the building to be made suitable as a school a great deal of modifications had to take place, but by January 1909 the work was complete and ready for 300 school children.

In February 1910 there was a visit by HM Schools Inspector who praised the way in which the house was modified and complemented the Head Teacher Miss Ward on how happy and content the children were.

By April 1911 all the children were finally transferred to the newly opened school in Colmore Road.

In 1911, Kings Heath was incorporated as part of Birmingham and the new school in Colmore Road became part of the Education Department, whilst the parks became part of City Parks Department and the house was used as an administrative centre.

From 1911 to 1939 the park flourished and was maintained by a highly skilled team of gardeners who looked after the following facilities:

  • Football and cricket pitches
  • 3 grass tennis courts
  • 2 crown green bowling greens
  • 1 putting green
  • Birds and animals
  • Glasshouses
  • Toilets
  • Pool
  • Ornamental gardens

During the 1930s the park was used extensively by families for days out particularly at weekends and Bank Holidays. There was even a tea room which was run by two spinster ladies in the house until 1950.

After the war there was a major effort towards self sufficiency. This was combined with a major skills shortage, because many of the highly skilled gardeners had gone to work in industry. This prompted the local authority to train gardeners.

On 3 March 1953, Birmingham Council decided to develop the site as the School of Horticultural Training at Kings Heath House. It is amazing that 40 years on the building was again used for educational purposes.
In the early days attending the Training School was a very formal affair, with gardeners attending dressed in suits. Training was intensive and the centre quickly gained a reputation nationally for encouraging students to develop their skills. The training involved attending a 5 year apprenticeship scheme, with some students going on to attend full time college courses with Pershore College of Horticulture nr. Worcester. Apart from attending the centre one day per week students would develop their skills working in local parks in Birmingham.