Let’s all go to the park today.
The idea for a public park in Wednesbury was first mentioned at a meeting of the ‘Local Board of Health’ on 25th August 1885.
The ‘Midland Advertiser’ reported that “Nothing in Wednesbury is more needed or desired to benefit the working classes”.
The ‘Local Board of Health’ became the ‘Municipal Borough of Wednesbury’ on 10th July 1886, the board’s former chairman was Richard Williams J.P. who later was elected as first mayor.
“Now something I didn’t know: I just read that Richard Williams was a ‘scouser’ who came to Wednesbury in September 1844 to be manager at the Patent Shaft and Axletree Company.
Born in Liverpool on the 3rd January 1817, son of Liverpool mechanical engineer.
Together with his wife Margaret, the daughter of a Liverpool customs officer, they made their home at ‘Barkley House’ – in Holyhead Road, renamed ‘Brunswick House’.
“Brunswick House’ was on the corner of Victoria Street, and later used as a day nursery.”
Back to the park:
So the new Borough Council made the provision of a public pleasure park their first goal.
They intended it to be finished in time for the Golden Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria that were due the following year.
A site of twenty four acres was chosen (some reports state twenty eight acres) lying between Wood Green Road and Blazes Lane. (later renamed Brunswick Park Road)
The land was former coal workings and a vast pit mound, purchased from none other than the Patent Shaft and Axletree Company for £3,000. (Again some report different prices)
Next to this site was the twelve and a half acre cemetery, which was consecrated in 1868, also reclaimed industrial land.
The contract for derelict land reclamation scheme was awarded to landscape gardener William Barron, of Borrowash, Derbyshire.
He wanted to keep the pit mound as part of the landscape and this he did, we now call it the ‘Mount’.
It’s intention was that when ascending its network of terraced path, lined with foundry slag, It would give breathtaking views over the park’s lawns, flower beds and ornamental lake to the countryside beyond, as far as Barr Beacon.
A park keeper’s lodge was constructed at the main entrance gates (the original ones were made of wood) along Wood Green Road.
The first resident of the park lodge was Mr Joseph Pym. “It was interesting to read the Trade Directory of each year and note the park keepers…. I have the list if you’re interested”?
He had some very affluent neighbours did Mr Pym, because on the opposite side of the road, ‘Wood Green’ had become a very desirable place to live.
Original features of the park included the rustic bandstand on the main lawn, close to Wood Green Road – and two matching shelters which stood on top of the mount.
Also on the mount were a pair of cannons, captured during the Crimean War and originally ‘guarding’ the entrance to ‘Arundel House’, on Wednesbury Church Hill.
A beautiful cast iron children’s drinking fountain was provided by Charles Southers J.P. in 1889. This was removed for the ‘war effort’ so his son gave the limestone replacement in 1939.
“We were discussing the cannons a few weeks ago on THOW Face book page and were wondering what happened to them, it seems now that they may have gone the same way as the children’s drinking fountain”?
The Pavilion was provided through public subscription in 1926, where teas were served and public toilets accessible.
This was damaged by mining subsidence and was demolished in 1990.
The concrete moulding of the ‘arms of Wednesbury Corporation’ above the entrance was placed in Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery.
And then there were ‘the Whale bones’ An arch made out of whale bone that stood on the approach to the pavilion.
” Again we were wondering where they had come from and where they went to? Well, I have a bit more info now”
They once stood (around 1900) in the grounds of ‘Tanworth House’, Wood Green, before being given to the park by coal merchant Tom Hickinbottom, during the 1930’s.
“But where did they go”?
On 23rd September 1963 it was reported to the Corporation that “one of the whale bones at the entrance to the pavilion in the Brunswick Park had been snapped off at the base and was showing signs of decay”. So in view of the danger to the public it was recommended that the whalebones should be removed…. “Mystery solved then, but another one appears later”.
To commemorate the 1911 Coronation of King George V, a beautiful ‘Pillar Clock’ was provided in the park and was a gift from Councillor William Hunt of ‘Hampton House’, Wood Green.
Another presentation was that of the bandstand by Arthur H. Johnson O.B.E. of Northampton, set in a terraced amphitheater – again constructed using foundry slag – and opened in 1928.
“And here is the other mystery”:
The following year he made another gift of two bronze lamps in the form of nude female figurines, which used to grace the approach to the bandstand.
“But they are no longer there and no one seems to know what happened to them, there is no record I could find to say they were removed”?
The pool was replaced with a concrete children’s paddling pool in 1931, which – in turn – has long been filled in to provide a children’s play area. A later paddling pool and fountain has also been removed.
In 1938, Wednesbury Sons of Rest was opened in a corner of the park at the top of Foley Street, here, the ‘Friends of Brunswick Park’ held regular meetings. “They probably still do? You will have to tell me I’m afraid”
Brunswick Park was listed on ‘English Heritage’s Parks and Gardens Register’ in 1994 as being of “national importance.
“So it seems over the years, that the Park has been used as it should: The first thing that comes to mind is of course: ‘Pat Collins’ fairground, coming to our park every year.
But some years ago they used to hold the ‘horticultural shows’ there. They had brass bands entertaining the crowds. And the annual town carnival every July used to end there. (It is not allowed anymore for various reasons that we have talked about before on THOW)
But life may be coming back to the park again because one of my friends on face Book mentioned you had a Bonfire night there?
It would be a shame if Wednesbury didn’t advertise Brunswick park more by simply holding more entertainment there. This was the reason the park was built in the first place, wasn’t it?
I think the next ‘show case’ should be a meeting of all THOW people on FB. We could all bring our own picnics, drinks and a blanket?
Where we could all talk about our history and swap memories. And just think: If everyone here turned up, we would fill the park”!
And of course the sun would shine down on us all day.