|Sutton Park has been described as 'a park for all people'
and this is true from its origins in 1528 to modern times.
Most of the ancient parks were created for the conservation and
hunting of deer. One such forest, the forest of Kank (Cannock) extended
from the River Tame to the Trent. In 1125, King Henry gave part
of this forest to the Earls of Warwick. The area, from Spaghetti
Junction to Shenstone and from Barr Beacon to Kinbgsbury was known
as Sutton Chase; part of this was to become Sutton Park.
Wyndley Pool and Keepers Pool were probably constructed soon after
the deer park was created in 1126. Bracebridge Pool is thought to
have been constructed by Sir Ralph Bracebridge, a ranger during
the reign of Henry V (1413 - 1422). Bracebridge Pool was granted
to the ranger on condition he supplied the Earls of Warwick with
either £10 rent or 120 bream at 1/8d.
Late in the 1520s, Sutton Park, as we know it today, came into
being. Sutton Coldfield and its hunting grounds came into the possession
of Henry VIII. In 1528 John Harman, a Sutton native who became Bishop
of Exeter, persuaded the King to grant a charter placing the administration
of the town in the control of a warden and society. It also allowed
the Bishop to enclose a section of the Chase as a park for the benefit
of the inhabitants. The Charter laid down that the inhabitants might
'freely hunt fish and fowl there, with dogs, bows and arrows, and
with other engines for deer, stags, hares, foxes and other wild
beasts.' The Royal Charter also allowed the townspeople to use the
park to graze their animals.
In Bishop Vesey's time, there was no Town Gate. The original main
road into the park went from the manor house on Manor Hill to Wyndley.
Sutton people treasured their heritage and fought against encroachments
in 1581 and 1617. In 1778, Sir Gilbert Scott of Great Barr set up
a scheme to share all the 'waste', including the park, among the
principal landowners. The townspeople successfully opposed the plan
and the park was left untouched. In 1756, Simon Luttrell of Four
Oaks Hall Estrate obtained an Act of Parliament enabling him to
extend his park by annexing 48 acres of Sutton Park which adjoined
his land, thus changing the shape of the park for ever. In 1827,
Sir Edmund Hartop, who owned Four Oaks Hall, exchanged land with
the Warden and Society, receiving 57 acres from the park and gave
up just over 93 acres. The main advantage to the residents of Sutton
Coldfield was that Sir Edmund agreed to construct Park Road and
a new main entrance to the park. Another exchange in 1937 saw the
trustees of the Somerville Estate convey land to the corporation
bringing Powells Pool into the park.
The recreational use of Sutton Park began in the 19th century.
There were two horse racing courses in the park. The first course
was situated between Holly Knoll and the present day railway. A
second, much larger, course was constructed near Westwood Coppice.
Golf was introduced into Sutton Park by the Rector of Sutton Coldfield,
the Rev W K Riland Bedford. The first nine hole golf course was
built in 1880 around Meadow Platt and Holly Knoll. The 18 hole course
on the Streetly side was established in 1889.
When the railway to Sutton Coldfield opened in 1862, special excursion
trains for trippers to the park ran practically every day. Activities
for the daytrippers included boating on the pools, donkey rides,
refreshment rooms and swimming facilities. In 1868, Job Cole laid
out some pleasure gardens near Wyndley Gate which were extended
with refreshment rooms and overnight accommodation. In 1878, Cole
set up the Crystal Palace company which could accommodate up to
2000 people for exhibitions and events: the fun fair proved particularly
The park was used for military training in the 19th century. There
was a volunteer camp near Streetly and a firing range was established
near Westwood Coppice.
In the First World War, huts were built, first for the Birmingham
City Battalion and then as convalescent camps for the Australian
and New Zealand wounded. There was also a prisoner of war camp near
Longmoor Pool. In the Second World War, the park was used as a training
ground for the regular troops and the Home Guard, for testing tanks
and as an internee camp for Italians and Germans.
In 1957 over 35,000 scouts from 37 different countries set up camp
in the park for two weeks to celebrate the World Jubilee Jamboree.
A stone to commemorate this event is still within the park.