Highbury Park is located on the borders between Moseley and Kings Heath and comprises of the estate of Joseph Chamberlain – former Lord Mayor of the City – left to the people of Birmingham on his death. His residence, Highbury Hall is located on the northern edge of the Park.
Highbury Park is a precious resource, as all open spaces are: it is a haven of tranquility, fresh air, and green space for all who live around and visit it. The park is home to abundant wildlife & plant species – woodland, aquatic, and other birds; pond animals; and the largest variety of trees of any park in Birmingham. Highbury Park has a rich history, containing evidence from the bronze age to the present day. Each of these is worth preserving and in some instances enhancing.
The Chamberlain family created & developed the Highbury estate from 1879 to 1914 – named after the London suburb where Joseph Chamberlain grew up – when the idea of bringing the countryside into the town was popular among wealthy families.
Highbury Hall was built in the ‘Venetian Gothic’ style, and the grounds – 25 acres on a south facing slope – were landscaped by Edward Milner, with the main entrance from the western boundary in Shutlock Lane. At the south-facing front of the Hall was a lawn with clipped holly and box along a semicircular path that also featured beds of shrubs and annual plantings. Existing field boundaries were removed to create thirteen acres of parkland. Trees were retained, additional stands were planted, including the beech copse north of the lake.
The gardens followed the fashion of the times. In 1890, there was a new rose garden, in the ‘Elizabethan’ style, with beds edged with box, and enclosed by yew hedging, at the end of the kitchen garden. In 1901, a ‘Dutch’ garden had beds wholly of bulbs, with terracotta tile edging and paths, and surrounded by a holly hedge. Next in 1902, came the ‘Italian’ garden – this and the rock garden below it are the only visible sites of Chamberlain’s formal gardens. There was a pergola for climbing roses, an attractive brick balustrade with ornate iron gates from Siena, a fountain, and a small pool at its centre, all was enclosed by the beech hedge (which still exists, unlike the pergola). By 1903, the grounds extended to over 100 acres, some leased from Richard Cadbury (who had built Uffculme in 1891, next door to Highbury). In 1904, a formal tea garden was added to the front of the Hall, while the shrubbery near the lodge had additional plantings, including magnolia and bamboo, newly introduced from the east.
The spectacular gardens were suitable for entertaining the many house parties held during Joseph’s political career. Garden parties were also given to Birmingham society, and used for larger events, such as the Moseley Flower Show and the Kings Heath horse show. Joseph left politics after a stoke in 1906, and died in 1914. The family left the house and it became an auxiliary military hospital. Most of the grounds became a public park in 1930.
Friends of Highbury Park was set up to as a voluntary group dedicated to the preservation, improvement and enjoyment of the Park.
The Friends group supports the paid park workers in their efforts in gaining funding for preservation, restoration, and regeneration of Highbury’s historical & natural resources. The Friends actively seek input about the park from all local people and visitors, and liaise with the city council over maintenance, security and events programmes.
Below is a plan that accompanies ongoing consultation about the future of Highbury Park. An electronic version of the consultation form is available online at the www.birmingham.gov.uk website.