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Sutton Park



To a Brummie growing up in the 30’s till the 50’s Sutton Park was a magical place which was as good as the seaside but as kids not many of us knew or cared about the history of the place, it was a place for most of us to escape the squalor and slums of Aston and Nechells as our only playground were the bomb pecks apart from concrete recreation grounds where we could play cowboys and Indians or fight another war among and inside the empty and half demolished buildings
But when you were in Sutton Park it was another World, swimming in the lakes paddling in the pools and climbing tree’s were you could be a Highway man, Tarzan, Robin Hood or one of his merry men transported back in time to whatever period you wanted to be in. It was a treat only allowed at bank holidays once a year but we loved it spending the last hour or so before you got on the train or bus back to Brum in the tea huts or sitting on the grass eating an ice cream thinking how lucky we were
The train takes about 10 minutes from Birmingham to Sutton Coldfield, and five minutes from the railway station are the gates of Sutton Park. Of the hundreds of thousands of city dwellers in Birmingham who have been to Sutton, how many, one wonders, realize what a wonderful "section" of English history lies there almost at our doorstep. Far back in the dim days of the early Heptarchy (Which is a 16th Century Term for the period 449 till 828) the Kings of Mercia, from their palace at Tamworth, set apart the forest of Sutton for their hunting ground, and Sutton Park is just a little bit of that forest that remains today. And long before the days of the Mercian Kings, before the Chief Beorm established his Hamlet which was to become Birmingham (Beorming-Ham) the citizens were known as Beormings (known to us as Brummies) had built their little hamlet on the River Rea, perhaps before Caesar had discovered the strange people who stained their bodies with woad, some warring Celtic tribes on this wild upland had scooped out, with their rude bronze mattocks (A kind of Pickaxe), earthworks from behind which they could shoot their arrows. And here they remain to this day, untouched by the plough, levelled a little by the hundreds of winters, and with old oaks growing on them here and there, but clearly to be traced even now in Sutton Park. The dyke which crosses the carriage road to Streetly, just past the " Keeper's Well," and runs across the valley and through the opposite wood has sometimes been considered one of these. Another surrounds the foot of the tree-crowned hill above Blackroot marsh, and the crest of the hill is scored all over with old entrenchments. What pictures of wild battle do these overgrown dykes suggest! What skin-clad barbarians fighting' with strange weapons in peaceful-looking Sutton Park! And there are many other traces of the ancient Britons in and near Sutton Park. The District of Maney has been derived from the British  “Meini”, the stones. A large Druidical stone was found there in 1853. The name of  Rowton Well may have been derived from the British “Rah Din” meaning camp on the hill, and a tumulus which is a mound usually over an ancient grave on a hill near the well was opened by the Sutton Corporation in 1859 and proved to be artificial. Barr Beacon, two miles west of the park, is supposed to have been a Druidical shrine. A curious sacrificial bowl has been found there. Aldridge, two miles to the north, was an " old ryke," or dwelling place, when the Saxons found it. and there is a tumulus near the church. The King's Standing mound, near Banner's Gate Lodge, was a British tumulus. A larger tumulus is in Bourne Vale Wood, near Streetly. Lastly, at Stonnall, two miles from Aldridge, when a tumulus was opened there in 1824, there was a great find of bronze swords, spearheads, Celts, and other British implements. But although the diggers of all these earthworks scored their mark across the heath of Sutton they left no written witness of their names. It was not till Caesar brought his legions to Britain, and sent back his wonderful reports to the Roman Senate, that the recorded history of our land began. Of that Roman occupation there are some most remarkable remains in Sutton Park. For five hundred years Britain was an important and prosperous colony of the Romans, and those mighty builders dotted all over the country their cities and forts, their "casters" and " chesters," built their great boundary walls across the land, and above all made those great highways—roads which all led to Rome—through the forests and marshlands, and over the rivers and mountains. One of them ran from Dover to Wales (Gatheli, Celt, or Watling Street), another from Totness to Lincoln (the Fosseway) and there were many others. From the Fosseway there branched on the Cotswolds a road running through Derby towards Newcastle. It was one of the Icknield Streets, so called, perhaps, from the British tribe the Iceni, through or near whose country they ran. Now two of these great roads, Icknield Street and Watling Street, crossed each other four or five miles north of Sutton Park, where there was a great fort called Etocetum, and where there are now two little hamlets— one called Chesterfield (the field of the camp) and the other Wall. Many centuries have passed since this was a walled town, but even yet a trace of its greatness may be seen in the masses of rough rubble masonry set in the hard Roman cement, which crop up here and there in the meadow at the back of the church. And many relics of the old fort have been dug up and are placed in the museum at Lichfield. Fragments of Samian ware and tesselated pavement are there, tiles (all stamped with the Roman letters, P.S.). coins, scrapers, a curious but elegantly moulded column base, and a massive piece of lead piping with the rough seam along the top such as one sees in every museum in Italy, and many more interesting remains of Roman Britain would be found if the site were excavated. There is a street in Birmingham, a little section of the great road, still called Icknield Street, but the traffic of the world long ago deserted the road between Birmingham and Wall, the ploughs filled up the ditches and levelled the ridge, and only a memory of it remained here and there, as a boundary line between the old counties of Stafford and Warwick. Only a memory except in Sutton Park, where there can still be seen a mile and a half of one of the most perfect examples of a Roman highway left in Britain. It enters the Park- near the fork of Sutton Oak Road and the Chester Rd (on a Old 1900 map by the Royal Oak Inn), and leaves it at The traffic island at Rosemary Hill and Streetly Lane  (the field on the Street), overgrown with gorse and ling but straight as a line, sixty feet across, arched in the middle and with ditches on either side, just as it was left by the Roman legionary seventeen hundred years ago. A golf course has been formed on the surface of the road by the Sutton Golf Club, where the heather has been cleared away, and the perfect arch of the street covered with smooth turf. Here one may stand and see the road stretching across the heath as far as the eye can reach, and imagine it again as the great paved imperial highway from the Eternal City to the ends of the known world, busy with the traffic of the tributary Britons, the legions and people, the slaves and the commerce of the " senate and people of Rome.
It the Gentemans Magazine of 1792 a person who called himself “Incola” wrote the following piece
The Park furnishes fuel for the poor inhabitants from a vast magazine of peat near the Roman Road, mentioned before, composed of the rotted branches of some thousands of fir trees, cut down by the Romans to enable them to pass over a morass there. The bodies of the trees are sometimes dug up sound, with the marks of the axe on them, which effectually confutes the opinion of those who suppose they have lain there ever since Noah’s deluge.
This old peat may still be seen near Rowton’s Well it is a long narrow cutting not unlike a section of the road running towards the Roman Street, and is strong evidence for thinking that “The camp on the hill” was a regular station for the Roman Troops on their way to the North and that Rowton’s Well was dug by the Romans, in the middle of the little amphitheatre of hills to supply the camp with water.
But, as most of us know the Roman colony in Britain came to an end in the 5th Century, as the Roman soldiers were withdrawn for the defence of Italy.
The Britons were attacked by the Picts and exterminated by their Saxon allies.
As dust began to settle on the ruined cities so the gorse begin to grow slowly year by year on Icknield Street
Tribe after Tribe of the English came and fought each other for the land, and formed the seven kingdoms of the Heparchy, each trying to conquer the other for 300 years.
The kingdom was called Mercia and was the most powerful of the 7
It was at Tamworth and the at Kingsbury that the Kings of Mercia held their court. From there the savage Penda struck the last blow for the pagan gods; from there Offa drove back the Britons to the present boundary of Wales, and held them behind his great dyke from Chester to the Wye. And we can dimly see St. Chad; the monk from Lindisfarne, travelling from Lichfield, on foot and unattended, along Watling Street on the edge of Sutton forest, to preach before Wulfere, the son of Penda, the last of the kings to be converted to Christ, in the year 765
A wild, fierce race were the Angles. When they were not fighting the Britons or the Danes, or each other, their chief delight was the hunting of the wolves and boars, the wild cattle and the deer, in the great forest wastes which surrounded their little towns and homesteads. The Mercian kings set apart for the chase several great preserves—Sherwood Forest, the Forest of Cannock, and a great tract near their gates at Tamworth. All the country behind the strip of arable land in the Tame Valley to Aston, as far back as Barr Beacon and Weeford, an area of 100 miles, formed one great hunting ground, and in the middle of it, on Maney Hill, seven miles south west of Tamworth, the kings built a hunting lodge called Southtun, on the edge of the Colfield, (Latin for Field on the hill) the waste heath sloping to the north from Barr Beacon. This place is now Sutton Coldfield, and the eight or nine square miles of woods and heath in the; middle of that " Forest and Chase of Sutton " have been wonderfully preserved to us as Sutton Park, almost the same to day, except for the hideous defilement of the railway, as it was when the yellow-haired English kings hunted the wolf in Hollyhurst, and chased the deer across the heath to Barr or to Lichfield.
Centuries passed and Egbert ruled and under him," he reduced the Mercian kings to the rank of earl. The Danes plundered the country as far as Worcester, and sacked Tamworth, and many a poor cottager from the Tame valley and his womenfolk hid themselves in Sutton woods. Alfred drove back the Danes, and sent his daughter, Ethelfloeda, the Lady of the Marches, and her husband Ethelred to rule for him at Tamworth, and to rebuild the town— their work can still be seen in the foundations of the castle. The battle of Hastings was fought and lost, and the Normans divided our country among them and made the great Domesday Book, the census and detailed description of the land. It is mentioned in it that the woodlands of Sutton extended two miles in length and about one in breadth, not very different to their extent to-day, but then they were all valued at four pounds. At the time of the Domesday a little hamlet had grown up here in the heart of the forest, and there were eight hides of arable land, the holdings of eight families, about eight hundred acres.
People on reading this article might be puzzled over something that I wondered about many years ago and that is were are all the great oaks like the ones at Sherwood forest?
Well I can answer that question now Sutton Park was burnt down in 1868 destroying over 500 acres of buildings and trees while totally decimated Streetly Wood.
And as long ago as 1900 Hollyhurst wood the nearest to the town and the most beautiful of the woods in the park was being ravaged by the oak blight caused by a small moth
If anyone has any questions shoot away and will answer if I can


master brummie
Hi, Cromwell,  Your story on Sutton Park brought back a lot of memories. I lived in Kingstanding from age 11 untill about 26 when I came to the states. From where I lived I could walk to Sutton Park at what was called the Parson & Clerk gate. Spent many happy hours there with mates. We used to fly our model planes on the golf course, because it was a smooth landing place. Used to walk all throuigh the woods to Banners Gate and walk home up Rough Rd to the Kingstanding Circle and then up the hill to Cooksey Lane.
      Thanks Mate, Have a nice Day. Wally. O0 O0 O0 O0 O0 :) :)


Kiwi Brummie Admin' Team
:angel: Your knowledge is great and the stories are fascinating. Please keep them coming Crommie mate. :smitten:


master brummie
Cromwell that piece was really done with feeling, well done and I second everyone, keep it coming. Have you by any chance wrote any books???, or is this a new talent of so many :flower: :king:


I have wrote a couple of books Walking in My Fathers Footsteps about his life in the Great War and after
that I wrote My Thoughts and Poetry (these two books were privately published )
(Tigerlily has one, ask her what its like she won't tell me)
last year with two other people we did an annotated version of OLD SOLDIERS NEVER DIE which is on sale and OLD SOLDIER SAHIB about Life it the British Army in India in the days of the Raj (Which is a favorite subject of mine )
Picture below is a wonderful picture of children "Sticking" in Sutton Park 1900
were they have an ancient law giving you the right to take dead wood from the park


master brummie
Another fascinating article Cromwell, we have all spent happy hours in Sutton Park, when I was a young child we were taken on Sunday School Outings there, I often went on summer Sundays with my parents, and loved the fair and the donkeys. Later went with boyfriends, then as a mother. I knew bits of the history, but you have written the article so well it really brings it to life.


Oisin, I can add a bit more to this Tale with the robbers that lurked around Sutton and on the heath and the Stagecoach that use to ride across the park with the guard riding shotgun (with a blunderbuss)
the hangings on Gibbets Hill and so forth. which I will do a bit later on in the week


master brummie
Cromwell, those wheels on that cart would have made a lovely go-cart, Tigerlily what are Cromwell's books like, he sounds a very interesting gentleman! :flower:


Hello Loisand!

I have only a copy of Cromwell's thoughts and poetry and I can truly say I really love it and read it often!  O0 I hope he doesn't mind me talking about him  :smiley6600: but he is a very talented artist,a very good writer and a brilliant historian (as you can tell!). We met via Genes reunited as I am related to the Juxons on his wife's side... We have become friends as a result  :smitten: I know I am off subject, so accept my apologies now... as a Salfordian by birth, I know little of Birmingham, other than some of my family all descended from this great city in Victorian times and further back...
If you look at the poetry section you can see some of his work that appears in the book!  ;)
Hope that helps Loisand! 
Cromwell, please don't tell me off!  :tickedoff:

Take care,

Tiger  :smitten:


Kiwi Brummie Admin' Team
:angel: Like Tigerlily I also have a tenuous connection to 'Crommie' through the marriages of Haycock's and Gold's. I also remember 'Commie's' Knight family from when they lived in Kellett Rd Nechells in the 1950's/60's.

Now all these years later to read his contribution's to the BWR it's amazing and to know how fulling it seems for 'Crommie' to share his talent and knowledge with us all is also amazing.

Like John and Rod and their achievement with the project of getting this great site up and running, with the talent, help and friendliness shown by many of it's members one never knows from what humble 'Brummie' beginnings mighty Oaks may grow. :smitten:


Now you are spoiling my page with ya sloppy coments, now pack it in as I cannot write when I'm blushing
Thanks for those kind Words you lovely Lot and as long as you keep reading I will keep posting


In the Walkers’s Birmingham Paper of April 12th 1742 the following was wrote: -
The Lichfield and Birmingham Stage Coach sets out this (Monday) from the Rose Inn at Holbourn Bridge, London and will be at the home of Francis Cox of the Angel and the Hen & Chickens in the High Town Birmingham on Wednesday next, to dinner and goes the same afternoon to Litchfield and returns to Birmingham on Thursday morning to breakfast, and gets to London on Saturday night and so will continue every week regularly with a good coach and able horses.
What a marvellous sight to have seen, as a lad I read all about Dick Turpin and his Ride to York, and remember the poem of the Landlords Black-eyed Daughter Bess.
So I can conjure up a picture of the old black leather coach with its enormous draped boot in front and the great basket behind with its little oval windows bordered with brass nails pulled by 3 or 4 heavy horses with the Postillion in cocked hat, going about 3 miles an hour up the long rise of the Erdington Lane foot deep in ruts with the guard cocking his blunderbuss on his knee as the coach slowly crept over the Sutton heath and past Wild Green in the dusk of a winters afternoon.
At Pipe Hayes there was a field called the Bow-Bearers Croft were two men working for the Earl of Warwick were stationed to escort travellers over the lonely Sutton Heath and in the days of coaches and highway men, Sutton lived well up to its reputation as an evil place to be. Tom King friend and rival to Dick Turpin was born at a farmhouse between Sutton Park and Stonnall.and many stories of the highwaymen are found among the pages of the Aris's Birmingham Gazette one springs to mind as being Robin Hood’ish
In the paper dated Oct.1st 1750
On Wednesday Mr Henry Hunt of this town was stopped on Sutton Coldfield in the Chester Road by two highwaymen who robbed him of his watch and money, Mr Hunt asked them to give him some silver back, the highwaymen returned him 6 shillings and then immediately rode of across the heath and robbed another gentleman in sight of him and then rode off.
So it wasn’t just romantic stories I had read as a child, it was true Highwaymen did show courtesy and charm, the following article also made me smile that I found in the paper dated May 6th 1751: -
On Tuesday last the Shrewsbury coach was stopped on the Chester Road, between the four Crosses and the Welsh Harp by a single highwayman who behaved very civilly (civilized) to the passengers, he told them he was a tradesman in distress and hoped they would contribute to his assistance, on which each passenger gave his something to the amount of Four pounds, with which he was well satisfied; he returned half-pence back to one of them saying he never took copper. He then told them there were two more collectors on the road, but he would see them out of danger, which he did escorting them across the heath.
Many of them when caught were hung at Gibbet Hill, which was near Oscott College
There was also a Gibbet at Little Sutton common another at Gallows Brook at Middleton


gone but not forgotten
Thanks for another interesting piece. 'Twould seem hanging didn't eradicate this type of robbery. The perpetrators merely grew nasty and moved from Sutton to Handsworth park.


Super Moderator
Staff member
Lovely article Cromwell.
Sutton Park was always a beautiful place to be, and it still is.Walking with the dogs early on a Sunday morning you could be in the middle of the countryside.
Even more beautiful to a 15 year girl when 32,000 Scouts came from all over the world for their Jamboree.


Map of 1900 shows were the two  maypoles were sited
The bottom photo is quite rare showng the maypole dancers in Sutton Park


Born a Brummie
Alberta I remember the Scout Jamboree :)

I still have a piece of "fool's gold" given to me by a young Texan boy.

Can't recall the year though :-[


master brummie
hello all ican remember the scout jamboree i was midland red bus driver at that time and carried a lot of the scouts in and around sutton and birminham it was a great event Allen