Henburys Garden Talk, Phillada Ballard, 12 Nov
The third strand of HCP projects is getting underway with a public lecture about the Henburys, jointly-sponsored with Highbury Park Friends, which is the first in a series of gardening seminars aimed at getting a group of people to research and develop a restoration garden on the site. Here’s the whys and wherefores.
Joseph Chamberlain bought the land for Highbury in 1878 and had the house built by 1880. Richard Cadbury had Uffculme built in 1891. But long before either man had those houses, and before the railway was built, there were houses at the Henburys. It’s not entirely clear what was built when, but by 1850, one of those houses was quite grand, and had glasshouses to match. Of all the houses and structures at the Henburys, only the garden wall and the D-pool remain. The main house was knocked down in 1965. The date of other bits disappearing – such as the obelisk, the farm buildings and the gatehouse – aren’t known. So attention now focuses on the Henbury garden wall as a site of historic interest.
The wall was damaged by a windstorm in 2008, was repaired in March 2010, then vandalised in August. Whilst waiting for further repairs attention is turning to the horticultural conditions.
As at other Birmingham Parks, some of the Highbury Park rose beds will be grassed over, probably including one in the Henbury garden. This is the last of several, and if the era of the rose gardens is over, we’re wondering what we can do to give the place a new start.
This has made us look at the state of Henburys plantings generally, and we’ve decided that it’s just not good enough. The Henbury garden could be better. But with budget cuts, we’ll have to be creative about how we accomplish this. So people from Kings Heath Floral Trail, Kings Heath Transition Initiative, parks officers, local councillors, Highbury Park Friends and Highbury Community Partnerships have talked about the possibilities, and come up with a plan.
The wall has got good southern exposure, and has held ornamental or fruit-bearing plants at some point in the past. So an idea is forming around replanting the bed with plants typical of c.18/19 gardens, including edible fruits and herbs. The idea resonates well with period restorations of places like Soho House and Erasmus Darwin House, where efforts have been made to create a replica of a typical garden.
In order to do this on a shoestring budget, the plan is to invite people to join a short masterclass in period garden design funded by HCP. The participants would attend further seminars to learn how to do the necessary research and design. We will then source plants through various charities and benefactors. Ultimately, it could be a period restoration based on community involvement, and which will produce benefits in terms of a nicer garden, a showcase for people’s own gardens, and potentially some produce!
To that end, we have asked Phillada Ballard – who wrote the landscape history of Highbury Park in 2008 – to give an introductory lecture on the history of the Henburys, and on topics that need to be addressed in thinking about doing any garden design and restoration. She will be speaking next Friday at the Moseley CDT, from 7:00. Those who’ve seen her talk before will know that her knowledge is encyclopaedic, and the details are fascinating. She will be bringing the depth of her knowledge about the Henburys to bear on the possibilities for this garden.
So if you’re curious about the history of this part of the park, please come along. In addition, if you would like to know more about the garden project, then please add your details to the list that will be set out on the night, or contact us directly via the details given. We will send you more information, and will notify you of the following seminars, from January.
People have already expressed an interest in the project, so if you want a place in the class, be sure to get in touch sooner rather than later!
PS: if you want to read up on the other HCP projects, have a look at the November issue of B13 Magazine.