Saturday, 5 February 2011

HISTORICAL OVERVIEW

Ongoing research; last updated 24 July 2015



This volume continues the historical overview of Selly Oak Park; the earlier years having been reported in the previous volume (see column on the right) and in the book, “The Heydays of Selly Oak Park”. Again the clippings, listed in the column on the right, contain the more extensive detail upon which it is founded - information from Council committee minutes, newspaper reports, etc.



1911

After October 1911 the Kings Norton and Northfield Urban District Council was subsumed within the City of Birmingham (under the terms of the Birmingham Extension Order 1911). Selly Oak Park was then administered by the Parks Committee of the much larger Birmingham City Council, and rather than being in the top flight of the former authority’s parks, found itself one of the smaller units amongst a much larger number. Under the new administration each of the parks and recreation grounds would be placed under the direct charge of a park keeper, found from amongst the newly amalgamated staff, who would be designated head keeper of that particular park or recreation ground. So the park keeper at Selly Oak found himself stripped of those duties and responsibilities outside of the Selly Oak Park itself. At the change of administration he is recorded as salaried at 30 shillings per week, with house, coal, and gas; and having four men, each earning 24 shillings per week. Now instead of reporting directly to the chairman of an administrative committee, he was responsible to Mr. W.H. Morter, the Superintendent of Parks who was based at the prestigious Canon Hill Park, and who hierarchically was responsible to the Chairman of the Parks Committee (with its separate Administrative, General Purposes, and Finance Sub-Committees), and through it to the Birmingham City Council. Selly Oak Park with its staff thus found itself much lower in the pecking order, not receiving as much regular attention as hitherto, and the pressures of limited and decreasing resources beginning to take their toll.
 
 
1912

Park Environment:
The construction of the bowling green initiated by the former administration was completed.
Under the previous regime the park had been policed by the local police force, but under the new regime the Chief Constable needed his men for additional duties arising from the City’s extension, and so the Parks' policing duties were withdrawn. As a result the new Parks Committee appointed 42 men of their own to police the parks, and one of these was specifically allocated to Selly Oak Park.
 
Staff:
A staffing matter, concerning the pay of one of the casual labourers at the park, had to be resolved.
Park Uses:
The Selly Oak Choral Society was granted permission to hold a pageant and garden fete (with a maypole) in the park on 13th July.
The annual Children’s Festival was not held this year; the organising committee thought that it would be difficult to collect the necessary funds because of the distress felt in the district on account of the coal strike which was a prominent feature of that time.
Football matches played in the Park were reported in the press.
By the year end there had been 11 band performances and one Pierrot entertainment in the park; 5 of the band concerts having been given by the Selly Oak Victoria Brass Band. The band performances had been advertised in the press.
 
Miscellany
 
On a website - http://www.wirksworth.org.uk/X353.htm - there is information about a postcard by George Marsden of Wirksworth, dated 1912, from James to Miss Eth Horton, Park Lodge, Gibbins Rd, Selly Oak, Birmingham.
The message on the postcard reads - "Dear Eth, Do you remember being on this rock in the picture. I think you will recognise it. I wish you were here, but I suppose it is no good wishing. I have not found anything very exciting yet, everything seems dead. Hope to see you Sunday week. Yours ever, James."
Ethel was one of the daughters of Josiah Horton the Park-keeper.  She eventually married a James Stone, perhaps this same correspondent.

 
 
 
1913

Park Environment:
In February the park was extended by another gift from the Gibbins family (though by this time sadly Mrs Gibbins and two of her sons had died). It was the remaining two of the original donors, Messrs. William and John Gibbins, who gave another 6¾ acres of land in Gibbins Road. This extended the frontage of the Park along Gibbins Road to Harborne Lane to the south side of the high ridge of Gorsty Leasowe. The gift, with the same conditions attached again, included the cost of fencing the land and the expenses connected with the conveyance of the land to the Corporation.

 

Photographs of the first and last pages of the conveyance document
 for the 1913 extension of Selly Oak Park.

Kindly made available by Birmingham City Council.

(A transcript is provided in the 1913 Clippings.)
(Click or double click on an image to enlarge it.)




More maintenance is reported - the gymnastic apparatus in the park was repaired and repainted. It looks as though the exuberance of youth had to be curtailed - the upper age limit for playing cricket was lowered from 16 to 14.
 
Finance:
The City's Treasurer's Department made an audit of the Parks during this year and identified a number of record keeping and cash handling loopholes, which were subsequently plugged. From the audit we learn that -
i) the use of the tennis courts still cost 8d. an hour,
ii) use of the loos was free!
iii) grass mown from the parks was gathered and used by the Stables Department (the parks benefitting from the return supply of horse manure!), and
iv) trees, felled or fallen, were taken off site.

Staff:
On 13th March, Mr. William Price (45) commenced work in the Park as a Gardener on a weekly wage of £2. 12s. 7d.

Park Uses:
Early in the year, the arrangements for the provision of music in the City’s Parks was reviewed. All bands had to consist of not more than 30 and not less than 15 performers, and it was required that each band must obtain a certificate of proficiency from the musical advisor appointed by the committee before any concerts could go ahead. Selly Oak Park found itself in a group of parks where the City paid for entertainments. Entry charges were not made for these events, and collections were not allowed.
Band concerts were given in the Selly Oak Park on 7 occasions; Pierrot concerts on one. Many of the entertainments were advertised in the press.



1914

The (1st World) War was declared during the summer, and it is clear, as one might expect, that until a year or so after hostilities were ended, attention to things Park, assumed lower priority - and we find fewer reports in the archives.
 
Park Environment:
The Park was one of 14 selected, where, between 6 o’clock and dusk on Tuesdays and Thursdays in May, June and July, two teachers were appointed to lead sessions of organised games.
It was recorded that almost £60 had been spent (unbudgeted) on laying out the Park – presumably this was for the new extension which had been donated unexpectedly. £200 was put into the budget for new closets.
Selly Oak was included in those parks for which a tender for new paving was obtained.
By this year there were 4 football pitches, 4 cricket pitches (on which 7 senior clubs were registered to play), 2 tennis courts and a bowling green in the Park – but no dressing rooms.
 
Finance:
Expenditure on the Park for the year ended 31st March 1914 was a little over £350 (£469 had been budgeted), and the income generated was a little over £20 (£12 had been estimated).

Park Uses:
The signs of financial stringency were seen when music in the parks was reduced – in Selly Oak fortnightly concerts were reduced to monthly ones, for which £30 was allocated – and the Police band only gave concerts in “the better class parks”! – and Selly Oak Park was not one of those.

On one of the Sunday’s in July the Band of the 5th and 6th Royal Warwickshire Regiment gave an afternoon and an evening concert.
No record has been found of the annual Children’s festival this year.
 
1915

Finance:
When the budget for the financial year 1915/16 was prepared and presented, it was “imperative that having regard to the extraordinary expenditure to which the Corporation were committed by reason of the outbreak of war and other matters, that expenditure of the Parks Committee must be reduced.” So £3,000 was cut from an overall £33,000 estimated expenditure. Selly Oak Park had to take its share of the cut, and lost £50 from its originally allocated annual budget. This represented slightly more than 10% of the Selly Oak estimated expenditure, which was eventually set at £467.
The actual expenditure on the park in the year 1914/15, ending 31st March 1915, was £508 (once more well below budget of £667), offset by income of £24 (better than the anticipated £19). However, comparing the figures, we see how the war effort was impacting on home budgets - a reduction year on year of 33% (from £667 to £467).
 
Staff:
In March Charles Henry Wale (44) was employed at the Park as a Parks Policeman; his salary was £2. 15s. 7d. per week.
The park keeper was reported to be earning 32 shillings per week, plus house, coal and gas. The Parks Committee made an interesting resolution – “that all park keepers who are receiving a wage up to and including 40/- per week be granted an increase of 2/- per week, with the exception of park keepers Print, Finch, Bailey and Horton”. No reason was given for the exception; perhaps it took into account - i) that they were living in provided accommodation, ii) the wages they were already receiving relative to the rest of their park keeper colleagues, or perhaps iii) to the small size of the park at which these keepers were located, or ............?
 

1916

Finance:
The tithe apportionment on the park was altered during the year.
The estimated expenditure on the park in the year 1916/17 was down again, just £400, offset by an anticipated income of £20 – clearly the financial constraints were biting year on year.
 
Staff:
About 20 park keepers enjoyed an outing in July, at the invitation of Sutton & Sons of Reading to their establishment and trial gardens at Reading, the Parks Committee contributing £10 to the expenses of the outing. It is not clear whether the park keeper of Selly Oak Park was included in the number.

Park uses:
Selly Oak Athletic football team played its Victoria Football League matches in the Park, and their appearances were reported in the press.
 
1917

There is little reported for 1917; attention being focussed on the issues of war, the parks of necessity had a lower priority.
 
Park Uses:
Mr. Pat Collins, Amusement Caterer, Walsall, was granted the use of the Park Extension for his Fun Carnival for a period of 4 days commencing on Thursday, 12th July 1917, subject to the payment of £20, and, as offered by him, his handing over to the Lady Mayoress’ Charity Fund the takings from the roundabouts on the opening night.
 Go to clippings


 
 

 
 
1918
 
(The 1st World) War ended.
 
Again little appears in the archives.
 
Staff:
The park-keeper's second daughter was married from the Park Lodge.

Park Uses:
Mr. Patrick Collins was granted permission to hold a Fun Carnival in the Park in July, Mr. Collins agreeing to hand over to the Lady Mayoress’ Fund the proceeds of the opening night’s takings.


1919

Park Environment:
In July a third gift, and second extension to the Park, was notified by the Gibbins family. Messrs. William and John, with next generation Waterhouse and Lloyd Gibbins, gifted a further 12a. 2r. 6p. of land as an extension to the park. This extension stretched from the ridge of the Gorsty Leasowe northwards to the canal. They also donated the Lodge and garden (area 1r. 2p.) adjoining the entrance at Harborne Lane. These gifts would come into force in 1922 when the respective occupied tenancies came to an end (- there will be more details then).


Copy of a map of the 1919 extension to Selly Oak Park,
kindly made available by Birmingham City Council


Finance:
Expenditure on the park in 1918/19 amounted to £554 (against a budget increased since the war to £482), offset by £56 income (£26 had been anticipated.)

Staff:
William Drew, one of the Park employees, was superannuated after 20 years of service.
Park Uses:
The Park was one of 12 chosen for band concerts and children’s fetes as part of the post-war Peace Celebrations. Sub-committees were to be formed in the districts, involving members of the City Council and those interested to carry out the arrangements.
The Selly Oak and Bournbrook Children's Festival Fund committee seem to have taken umbrage at the Council's "attitude" - whatever that was - and drew back from the proposed fete. Perhaps they did not relish members of the Council dabbling in what they considered their preserve after they had organised so many festivals. No record of the Festival having taken place in 1919 has been found.


 
1920

Finance:
£39 10s. 0d., was allocated for repairs to the gymnasia, swings, etc. in the park. 
The total expenditure on the Park in the year (1919/20) to 31st March was £811 (against a budget of £746 - another post war increase). On the other hand, the income for the same period had been a healthy £86, against an anticipated income of £25.

Park uses:
Whatever the problems over the Children's Festival in 1919, by 1920 the organising committee had re-grouped, and the press carried several reports of the preparations for what turned out to be a large event again - 4,000 children eventually attending. Plans were made to hold the party on 18th August, but in the outcome the weather delayed it by a day. The press once more gives generous reporting space the the festiviites - perhaps reflecting the general pleasure and approval of the restoration of a village tradition which had been in abeyance through the war years. All was not sweetness and light - the eagerness of some committee members to proceed with the arrangements was seen by others as stepping over the mark and usurping delegated authority, and such could not be allowed to pass unchallenged!

 
Note:  There is an aerial photograph taken in 1920 showing the Birmingham Battery and Metal Co.  The right hand side of the photograph shows the Harborne Lane / Gibbins Road corner of the Park; but also shows how industrialised the area was in 1920, and presumably had been for some years, and explains why the Northfield Parish Council back in 1896 had been anxious to provide a park / green space as "lungs" / a breathing space for the area.   See: