• Welcome to this forum . We are a worldwide group with a common interest in Birmingham and its history. While here, please follow a few simple rules. We ask that you respect other members, thank those who have helped you and please keep your contributions on-topic with the thread.

    We do hope you enjoy your visit. BHF Admin Team

Birmingham Open Air Schools - Cropwood, Hunter's Hill, Marsh Hill and Skilts (excl. Haseley Hall and Uffculme)

That sounds horrible littleemily. I can't imagine why they would have wanted to treat children like that - especially children who were not well. It is so sad that you were not allowed to be happy and enjoy your time there.

Here is another old picture (c 1925) that says it is Cropwood - I know there are a few building up there - do you recognise this one?


  • cropwood_open_air_school_balckwell_c1925_-_Copy.JPG
    41.8 KB · Views: 78
the balcony looks similar but the building looks very different from the one above which is more like the one I stayed in.it was a beaautiful building and lovely surroundings but evil within. young children having to get up at 5.30 to clean their shoes strip their beds, blankets folded at the bottom all square. all before breakfas.t we were given cod liver oil tablets and if you didn't swallow them punishment, one girl was so frightened she wet herself so had to stand at the front during breakfast with her knickers on her head. at night we had to queue to have our underwear inspected it was so degrading and even though we were so young it didn't seem right. there was definatly no mothering at this school.
That sounds horrible littleemily. I can't imagine why they would have wanted to treat children like that - especially children who were not well. It is so sad that you were not allowed to be happy and enjoy your time there.

Here is another old picture (c 1925) that says it is Cropwood - I know there are a few building up there - do you recognise this one?

That doesn't look like Blackwell court
It sounds horrific! Such a contrast to today - many children stay there on adventure holidays - all running around taking part in the activities and camping in the grounds. What a shame it wasn't even a little bit like that when you stayed there. I will ask my son about the building on the second photo.
They have lots of events that are not to do with Scouting, it's also an activity centre. If you give them a ring I'm sure you could visit the site. It's not gated or restricted access, you could walk around the grounds but may need permission to go in the house
I am very confused now as it seems that the picture at the bottom 1925 is cropwood and the top one Blackwell court is not Cropwood as apparantly cropwood is now hunters Hill technology college they are not so far apart on the map and they are both in blackwell maybe thats where the confusion lays.
Hi All,

My uncle and aunt, Fred and Gertrude Farr, were caretakers at Blackwell Open Air school but they did not stay long as they could not get on with the headmistress

Old Boy
On this thread someone mentions that Hunters Hill was for the site for boys and Cropwood for girls. (I am not sure if it has always been called Hunters Hill)


There is also a colour postcard of Blackwell court.

If you look on Google maps Hunters hill seems to have no chimneys.
My son is not sure if he remembers the building on the second picture I posted on post #21 but he said there were a few buildings on the site and it could have been the other side of the manor house where he didn't have reason to go. On the picture you can see the side of a house so that is a possibility. Again on Google maps if you look at Blackwell court it does seem to have a long building behind and slightly to the side of it.

Blackwell court does seem to be one of those houses that looks different from each side.

The next time I drive past it I will pop in and see if they will let me compare the pictures.
Looking for clues I have just found this - from Journal of Educational Administration & History: Open Air Schools

Cropwood residential open air School originally the Cadbury holiday home in Blackwell, near Bromsgrove, Worcestershire was also presented to Birmingham in 1922 and land was donated where Hunters Hill open air School was built in 1933.

The second picture I posted was from a postcard posted in 1925 and it seems Hunters Hill was not built until 1933.
I think I may have solved the mystery - there are two adventure centres in Blackwell - both are used by scouts/groups etc

Blackwell Adventure Centre, Blackwell Court, Agmore Road, B60 1PX

Birmingham Outdoor Centre, Spire house Lane, B60 1QE - On Google maps this one seems to be in the grounds of Hunters Hill Technology College - By the gate on the College sign it says "Cropwood House". Further up the drive there seems to be a large house with other buildings and on the opposite side of the road there is another Hunters Hill site.

I am not sure why my son thought the old picture of Cropwood was Blackwell Court he is usually very good at recognising things (whoops!) but I think people have got confused when others have said Cropwood is now a scout/adventure centre and assumed it it is the better known Blackwell court.

Hope this all makes sense.
Last edited:
Thanks so much for all the information pollypops ( love the name) yes I have seen the google map and they are very close together, I have been on the Hunters hill web site and sent a message with phone number so waiting to see if I have an answer.its nice to know that it is used for children to have a good time now as opposed to the awful times former boarders had.
My brother was at Hunters Hill School around the late 50's early 60's. Cropwood was on the opposite side of the lane - the front gates were opposite each other. We went to visit him once a month travelling by bus from Small Heath and train from town to Blackwell. I loved visiting but didn't realize how he must have felt. He ran away once with his friend. They would have been about 11years old and got as far as two roads away from home when the police found them and took them back to Hunters Hill without seeing us. But my family insisted on going to see him and Dad borrowed our neighbours car on that night. Lots of tears. poor things.
I was at Cropwood open air school and I vaguely remember a boys school close by. I have written on this thread before, and said how desperately unhappy I was there, and it is a sadness that has never gone away. I was only 6 yrs old when I was there, and found no wamrth love or comfort in that place. So yes, lots of tears and poor children like your brother.
My wife, then Audrey Berry was at Cropwood from 1944 until 1951. When she was there it was more for terminally ill children and indeed some of the Teachers were ill.
She had happy memories of Cropwood. Not a lot of education for her, when she left at 15 she couldn't tell the time. She remembers climbing some of the big trees and having the fire brigade to get her down.

I think the Open Air title came from having one wall of the bedroom completely open to the outside world. Lots of nature walks, in 1947 a teacher took them out in the snow and asked what they thought this stump of wood was. It was the top of a telegraph pole!
Does anyone know if there are any records of Cropwood for 1944 until 1951?
I was at Hunters Hill Open air school from 1943-45. Cropwood Girls open air school was opposite the gates of Hunters Hill school. We would use the emenities of the open air swimming pool at Cropwood once a week. I was at Hunters Hill on VE day. We had no Union Jack to fly, but Cropwood were flying one, so a friend and I went over there and took it down to flt at Hunter Hill. Our Head Mistress, Miss Buckley said we could fly it for an hour, and then we had to take it back. I returne home to Birmingham just before VJ Day, and then went to Uffculme(sorry if spelt incorrectly) open air school in Kings Heath. The large mansion that some one had mentioned was actually the family home of the Chamberlain family. I quite enjoyed mydays at both Hunters Hill and Uffculme. It must have done me good, I am now 81 and still going strong.
Hunters Hill open air school for boys did actually open in 1933. The first Headmistress was Miss Buckley, and she was still the headmistress when I attended the school from 1943-45. During my period at the school I also sang in the choir at St. Cathrines church in the village. During the war we had Italian POW's working in the field next to the school, and they would throw us apples. I also remember Edward Grey (of Greys in Birmingham taking the choir out for the day, and I was privileged to have a ride in his large motor car which was run by a large gas container on the roof of the car. As a city boy, it was my introduction to the country side, and I have never looked back, now living in beautiful North Norfolk. I owe a lot to Blackwell.
I was at Cropwood late fifties, it wasn't a happy experience, the headmistress at that time was Miss Urquart.

There is a book in the library you might be interested In, called 'A Breath Of Fresh air'. It is all about the open air schools that belonged to Birmingham Council, there were about six.

After I left there I went to an open air school in Erdington called Marsh Hill open air school, that was a much better experience, and it wasn't a boarding school.

Regards trebor (Rita)