In 1853 a notice was posted by the Warden and Society prohibiting the pursuit of game in the park on the grounds that unrestricted hunting had almost destroyed all the game, and over-eager sportsmen were damaging woods and fences.

This ban upset some men who formed themselves into a ‘Park Protection Society’, meeting at the Green Man Inn, Erdington. One complaint about the Corporation quickly led to others, and before long the Government was petitioned for a new Municipal Charter after a mass meeting on Clifton’s Hill attended by 2,000 people. The resulting enquiry, held at Sutton in August 1855, had a negative outcome, but the statements of the witnesses about the park show how it was regarded at the time.

Henry Fielding, a silverware manufacturer from Birmingham who had moved into his new house, ‘Marchmount’ at Wylde Green in 1853, said that the Park was for poor inhabitants, to send their cattle into it; it had pasturage for horses and cattle, but not sheep. Mr. Buggins who farmed Booth’s Farm, south of Powells Pool, agreed: ‘Cows, horses, asses and mules, any thing except sheep.’ He also said that the value of the pasturage could be doubled by putting it ‘through a run of cropping’.

Mr. Hayward, timber merchant of Wyndley Mill, said the woods were not properly managed; he would replace all the oak woods with larch. Mr. Parkes, spademaker at Stone House Forge (Powell’s Pool), who employed 30 men, complained about the state of the roads. His idea for improving the park was ‘If a labourer had half-an acre allotted to him, the first year in manure and labour it would probably cost him £10; at the average value of potatoes, it would produce him £15.’

Mr. George Jones, a Birmingham manufacturer who had lived in Sutton for five years, asserted ‘I could go into the Park and have nine brace of birds (wildfowl) and snipe besides.’ Another Birmingham manufacturer, Edwin Lewis, who lived at Chester Road, said ‘I bought my house at £2,000 because I thought we had a right to the Park’. The Deputy Steward, Mr. Holbeche, explained that the poor got most benefit from the Park, depasturing a horse or mule for 3s 4d and a cow for 20d, as well as cutting gorse and ling, and gathering fern for firing; improving the pasture would only benefit the relatively well-off.

In his summing-up, the barrister speaking for the Corporation, Mr. Huddleston, said, “What was their advice? “The Pasture is wretched; we have a fine new scheme for Sutton Coldfield - crop the Park with carrots, turnips and potatoes”. This was the most unfortunate thing that ever emanated from the minds of the Birmingham gentlemen who seek this innovation; they have found out their mistake, for a more unpalatable suggestion to the inhabitants of Sutton Coldfield could not have been propounded…they did not want cupidity to deprive…those who enjoy the beauties of the Park of their pleasure”.

Miss Bracken’s 1854 sketch of a shooting party in Sutton Park (photo courtesy of Sutton Reference Library)