Fox Hollies Park

The area became a public park after the Fox Hollies Hall estate and part of the Severne family’s lands were bought by the City. This part of the estate was transferred to the Parks Department at the end of 1929, but it took several years of work before the park could be opened. It did not have the same level of equipment by the war as the Recreation Ground did, but it found other more informal uses: a local lady called Pat Smith, interviewed by the History Society, called Fox Hollies Park a snogging park! However some things that have happened in the park over the years have been more problematic.

 

Fox Hollies Park is perhaps the most historic part of Acocks Green. It has remains going back to 1500 B.C. In more recent times there was an 18th century mill. A sluice gate was still there in 1936. Two farms belonging to Colonel Walker’s Fox Hollies Hall estate were here: Sandpits (for breeding horses), and Pool Farm (agriculture). The pool from Pool Farm survives. However, the star is the Bronze Age sauna site. These remains are what is known as a ‘burnt mound’. The one in the park is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. This is part of the description:

“The monument includes the known extent of the buried and earthwork remains of a burnt mound in Fox Hollies Park lying to the north of Westley Brook. The burnt mound includes a low oval mound approximately 0.3m high and measuring 14m by 9m, orientated approximately east to west. The matrix of the mound is visible as an area of small heat-crazed cobbles in gritty black soil. A geophysical survey of the area revealed dense concentrations of stone as well as at least seven probable pits, three hearths and four troughs. In addition the line of the old stream course remains visible around the mound.”

 

Burnt mounds are now thought by some archaeologists to be prehistoric saunas because of the absence of cooking remains at the sites. The heated stones damaged or broken by cold water indicate the possible generation of steam, which would have taken place inside a shelter. Fox Hollies Park’s burnt mound is south east of the pool north of the stream. With a little imagination, these remains could have been places for special cleansing, maybe by travelling priests or healers, and accompanied by the use of herbs, “substances”, incantations and prayers for physical and psychological health.



In the 18th century there are records of a corn mill on the Westley Brook. John Morris Jones described the mill thus:

 

Broomhall Watermill

Broomhall was an ancient moated site of large size. ‘Bromhalas’ (Broom Hollows) is referred to in the Yardley Charter of 972, and the site may have been in occupation then. The mill, on what passes for a fairly steep little stream in these parts, is probably early Medieval - it is not recorded in the Domesday Book, but no Yardley mill then was. In the 1609 Boundary Presentment the Broomhall Brook is called ‘The Rasse’, which may mean the rail-race of a mill. I have found two other references to it so far: it was apparently in use between 1778 and 1803, and John Taylor II bought the fishing rights in the millpool and the nearby pool in 1783.

 

The mill is shown on maps up to 1880 (not on Beighton), and the pool and linking fishpond survived until the estate was bought by the City of Birmingham: the pond was then drained, and the millpool too, the stream being led down a series of concrete steps, creating a cascade as an amenity for the Fox Hollies Park which has been made along the valley. The comparative steepness of the slope leads me to assume that a small diameter undershot wheel may have been used here.



The Tithe Map, which is oriented with north to the right-hand side of the page, shows land use and ownership in the 1840s.



The accompanying Apportionment shows the mill site at number 1436 and the location of Pool Farm at number 1276. Note that Dolphin Lane swings west at the farm at this time (here towards the top of the map). Landowners are in the first column, and tenants in the second. Later most of the area was acquired by the Walker family, and the rest by the Severne family.


 

ADDISON, Samuel

Rogers, Humphrey

1281 Further Moat Field

5 1 24

 

 

1292 Middle Barn Field

3 3 20

 

 

1293 Further Barn Field

3 2 20

CHILLINGWORTH, Benjamin

himself

1426 Pear Tree Piece

1 0 7

 

 

1427 House and Garden

0 1 38

 

 

1428 House Meadow

1 3 7

 

 

1430 Foredrove

0 1 34

 

 

1431 Rickyard Piece

1 0 23

 

 

1434 Little Moor

0 2 37

 

 

1435 Big Moor

3 1 24

 

 

1436 Mill Pool and Mill

0 3 32

 

 

1437 Little Daniel

2 0 5

 

 

1438 Hop Yard

2 2 6

 

 

1439 Bog Dumble

1 3 29

 

 

1440 Mill Close

4 0 34

 

 

1457 Far Rickyard Piece

2 2 15

 

 

1458 Big Piece

6 3 31

 

 

1459 Broomhall Piece

2 1 28

 

 

1460 Big Daniels

5 2 39

 VAUGHTON, Robert

 Taylor, John

1432 Hill Minshull

5 2 8

 

 

1433 The Moor

6 2 8

VAUGHTON, Robert

Taylor, John

1266 Marlpit Leasow

9 0 5

 

 

1273 Little Riddings

2 2 8

 

 

1274 Foredrove

0 0 15

 

 

1276 House and Garden

0 1 29

 

 

1275 Rickyard

0 1 1

 

 

1277 Home Meadow

9 3 29

 

 

1278 Middle Leasow

5 2 21

 

 

1280 Horse Pit Leasow

3 2 9

 WIGLEY, Edmund Meysey

 King, Edmund

1441 Yew Tree Leasow Plantation

0 3 19

 

 

1442 Slang Meadow

1 1 35

 

 

1444 Marlpit Meadow

4 3 31

 

 

1445 Marlpit Leasow

8 0 12

 

 

1446 Foredrove

0 1 23

 

 

1447 Yew Tree Close

3 2 12

 

 

1448 Yew Tree Leasow

9 1 33

 

 

1449 Further Little Leasow

5 2 9

 

 

1450 Moat Leasow

4 2 2

 

 

1451 Middle Leasow

4 2 13

 

 

1452 Three-Cornered Leasow

6 1 11

 

 

1453 Middle Moor

1 2 26

 

 

1454 Near Little Leasow

2 2 32

 

 

1455 Great Leasow

10 1 15

 

 

1456 Far Leasow

8 3 6

 

 

 

 



Below are extracts from Ordnance survey Six-Inch maps published in 1905 and 1946.

 

 

A directory of 1912 lists William Preese, bailiff to Col. Z. Walker (Sandpits Stud and Pool Farms). Col. Walker bred mastiffs and horses. His father had exhibited longhorn cattle.

 

The First World War may have brought financial difficulties to Colonel Walker. In May 1925 he sold his Fox Hollies estate to the City. His lands covered all but the south-east quadrant of the park. That section came from the Severne family. They had married a Wigley, whose family had owned a lot of land in Yardley (see the Tithe Apportionment records above). The Severnes put their large Hall Green Estate, as they called it, up for sale in 1912. The City tried to buy some of it, but the Severnes would not accept the City’s price, and the sale went to Compulsory Purchase in 1929. It must be said that the Severnes were not a small local family being outgunned by the City. They were very large landowners elsewhere in the country. One of the people from whom the land was bought was Mrs. Ruby Irene Wynn, née Severne, who was married to the 6th Baron Newborough. In December 1929 the whole of the area to become Fox Hollies Park was designated as public parkland, and several years of work followed to drain and level the ground. Severne Road borders part of the south of the park. Below is a picture, taken in April 1936, of the dam on the millstream still in place.



The end of the Second World War brought two rows of prefabs to the park edges, as seen below:



During the Yardley Millennium celebrations a Medieval Fayre was held in the park, on Saturday 20th May 1972. 



There was jousting, falconry, archery, the Band of the Queen's Own Hussars, manoeuvres by the Royal Horse Artillery, a period encampment by the Queen's Royal Lancers, and an ox roast, plus many crafts and other entertainments, including Morris dancing and a mock hanging. The weather was very bad on the day, which spoiled the fun somewhat. On the Sunday, there was a Children's Anti-Pollution Crusade, led by Rolf Harris. Children walked along the streets in costume, singing a Wally Whyton anti-pollution song; he entertained them in a marquee later in the day. In the evening, there was a folk concert in a 2000-seater marquee with Wally Whyton, the Ian Campbell Folk Group, and others.

 

The history since 1972 has been of periodic attempts to create a pleasant area for locals, but vandalism and anti-social behaviour have been constant features. In the mid-1970s a Fox Hollies Park Residents Association was formed, largely due to the initiative of Elsie Carter. Their portakabin in the park was broken into, the Park Ranger’s hut was burnt down, but play sessions were held and youth activities undertaken. Their work continued until the mid-1990s. In 1989 around 3,000 trees were planted in the park.

 

The park has two children’s playgrounds at opposite ends of the park, a pavilion and a skate and BMX park today. There is a series of small raised areas which appear to be an old BMX track from the 1980s south-west of the pool. Now a new voluntary group, the Friends of Fox Hollies Park, is working with agencies and doing work like litter-picking and arranging fundays to bring the park back to a more pleasant and enjoyable state, and to increase positive feelings in local people about this facility on their doorstep.




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