For most people wishing to go from Sutton to Birmingham in 1814 the choice was either to walk or to ride in someone’s cart. Sarah Holbeche noted “1814 the carter’s cart became a caravan (i.e. a covered wagon) - the only conveyance for passengers to Birmingham except through coaches”. An entry in Sarah’s Diary for 1830 records her mother’s visit to London, “bringing home a print of the first omnibus she had seen - there were only two or three then running”. Horse-drawn omnibus services soon caught on.
A directory of 1854 shows that there were now regular services for ordinary travellers. Daily omnibuses from Lichfield and Tamworth to Birmingham called at the Three Tuns, those operated by Peedles ran to Birmingham three times a day and Sheppard’s once; and there were two carriers giving a daily service to Birmingham. Miss Bracken, writing in 1860, was alarmed by this progress - “Other modes of breaking the silence have been discovered in omnibuses oscillating between Birmingham and Sutton, with multitudes imported for a few hours respiration of Coldfield air.”
Omnibuses were available for hire, much used by factory workers on their Monday outings, or “gypsying parties” (many factories were closed on Mondays - fires went out on Saturday and were not relit until Monday night). According to a report in Aris’s Birmingham Gazette of a Birmingham Town Council meeting in August 1853, Alderman Cutler “was credibly informed that not fewer than fifty gypsy parties left Birmingham in different ways the previous day. If only one hundred persons formed each party…” Such parties would have filled several omnibuses, and many of them were headed for Sutton Park, as Zachariah Twamley noted in 1855, “And from Birmingham, the park is a place of great resort in the Summer-time of the year; by Gypsying-parties, who bring bands of music with them and dance; to shake off the towns smoke, from their clothing, and other recreations”.
Sutton Park was the destination of outings from other towns, as Sir Francis Scott of Great Barr Hall complained in 1859 “I happen to be between West Bromwich and Sutton Coldfield and every Monday during the Summer months there are half a dozen enormous Vans and Omnibuses full of excursionists passing our way”. They clogged up the lanes and caused accidents, and they committed “nuisances by waving flags and playing music on the Turnpike Road”.
The replacement of half a dozen horse-drawn omnibuses taking more than an hour over bumpy roads in 1860 by sixteen trains a day in 1870 making the same journey in 25 minutes smoothly and comfortably was a revolution. The rowdy gypsy parties now came on excursion trains, and the Warden and Society took steps to protect “the inhabitants and respectable visitors from the lawless portion of the excursionists”.