Summer Visit to the Elford Walled Garden

A rare sublime summer Sunday afternoon saw twenty members of the Society visit the walled garden at Elford as guests of itss Management Trust.

Elford Hall was demolished in 1960 but the sizable walled garden survived, in decline, as a smallholding until the end of the twentieth century when it then fell into decay. The Hall, home of the Pagets and the Howards before them, was built in 1725 on the site of the previous house. The centre of an extensive estate, it was inherited by Francis Howard Paget in 1936. Swiftly recognising that the estate was in decline and would be a substantial burden on him he reached agreement with the City of Birmingham Council for its sale to them. Any plans that the City Council had for the Hall were rapidly overtaken by the Second World War and it would not be unreasonable to say that the Council "forgot" about the Hall and Estate - apart from storing artworks from Birmingham's museums there, away from bombing raids. With the Hall demolished the walled garden struggled on as a smallholding until 2008, when Birmingham City Council contemplated selling the land for housing. The shocked Elford residents swung into action and, following negotiations with the Council, a 35 year lease was agreed by a newly formed Walled Garden Trust.

Since then the project, led by the local community, has gone from strength to strength. Whilst the majority of the site within the walls is under vegetables, a magnificent rose garden has been established. Outside the walls, herbaceous borders and a sensory garden have been created. The gardener's cottage, which is in a poor state of repair, is to be renovated as funds permit. Most of the work is undertaken by a range of volunteers, drawing on skilled craftsmen as required. Some volunteers are Elford residents but many come from further afield. Events are staged to raise funds for the on-going restoration work. Scarecrow festivals (this year on August Bank Holiday), Beer Festivals, bonfires and even wedding receptions are scheduled in this year's diary. The Trust was also successful in being awarded 250,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Garden is freely open during reasonable hours to all visitors. Those members who have not seen this hidden gem on our doorstep are encouraged to make a visit; perhaps linking it to the adjacent Elford Church which contains the fascinating medieval tombs of the Stanleys, predecessors of the Howards and Pagets.

Roger Hockney
June 2013