Ward End Park House
The exact age of Ward End House is uncertain, but it was mentioned as early as 1759 on Tomlinson's map of Little Bromwich Manor. The building as we know it today, however, is more likely to be late 18th Century, with additions in the Victorian era.
The earliest family that we can be certain of having lived there was the Marshalls (after whom we have named the new computer suite). They originated from Perlethorpe, Nottinghamshire, around 1663-4.
George Marshall, a banker, was the first member of the Marshalls to live in Ward End House. His only son by his second marriage, George William Marshall born in Ward End House on 19th April 1839, was a well-known Genealogist, receiving a grant of arms in 1867. George William Marshall was married twice and left issue six sons and two daughters. He sold the property in 1884 presumably to a Mr Frederick Gwyther.
Frederick Gwyther, an Electro-Plate Manufacturer, certainly lived in Ward End House. However, it is not recorded when he and his family actually moved into the house but they were certainly there in the 1880s. He married Charlotte Elizabeth and had three sons - Walter Joseph, John William and Percy Norman. The family motto (still to be seen on a finely carved oak surround to a fireplace in a room on the ground floor of the house) was - "DUM VIVIMUS VIVAMUS" ('While we live, let us live"). Frederick Gwyther died in October 1891. His widow, Charlotte, continued to live in the house but remarried in1896 and became Mrs Jaehnichen. She sold the house and 11.38 acres of land to the Birmingham Corporation (now known as Birmingham City Council) on 27th November 1903 for £7,500.
On 29th September 1903 the City Corporation purchased a further 42.69 acres of land from Mr T Grosvenor Le and Mr P Meadows Martineau for the sum of £13,514 5s. 0d.
On 14th May 1904 about 25 acres of land was officially opened to the public by the Lord Mayor at that time, Alderman Hallewell Rogers.
The plan of Ward End House of 1845 is different in shape from the plan of 1759, indicating that it was rebuilt between those dates. When Ward End House was acquired by the City Council, it was used for Departmental accommodation in the form of flats.
In 1939 part of Ward End House was leased as refreshment rooms to a private caterer but in 1940 the caterer left after his refreshment rooms were damage by enemy action. Also at that time the use as Departmental living accommodation ceased.
In 1941 the whole of Ward End House was requisitioned for use as Divisional Headquarters of the National Fire Service. The house was de-requisitioned in 1957.
In 1948 the Catering Committee took over tenancy of part of Ward End House as refreshment rooms. This tenancy ceased in 1966 and the ground floor was then used for Departmental purposes in the form of mess rooms, storage and office accommodation. The Home Guard and a Barrage Balloon Unit used rooms in Ward End House during the war. Evidence of this can still be seen on doors in the basement.
In 1979 the ground floor of Ward End House continued to be used as Departmental storage accommodations while the 1st and 2nd floors were leased to the National Playing Fields Association.
Since 1989 the upstairs rooms have been used as the Area Office for the Department of Recreation and Community Services, now known as Adult Education and Leisure and Culture (which included Youth, Community and Play Services).
Downstairs there were classrooms as well as changing rooms for people using the Tennis Courts. Later in 2000 the changing rooms were converted to a brand new Computer Suite and subsequently named after the first family to live there, The Marshall Family (mentioned previously).
In 2001 a reception area in the foyer was created and a ground floor room was completely refurbished.
Today the house is a thriving centre for the local community. Many and varied Adult Education lessons are held there including Computer and Internet Classes, Yoga, Sewing and Upholstery, Flower Arranging, Craft, Mehndi Hand Painting, Drawing and Painting as well as English and Maths Improvement alongside English as a second language.
Upstairs the Youth, Community and Play Services serve the whole of Hodge Hill area. A few yards from the house is a Resource Centre offering all types of recycled and new materials and furniture for Charity groups to purchase at very little cost.
The gardens and park are beautifully kept by the local council. They are planted out twice a year with bulbs and bedding plants giving a glorious display all the year round.
Many of the local community can still remember the House and Park as a place they visited as a child enjoying buying ice creams and teas at the house, hiring out rowing boats on the lake, watching games on the bowling green and viewing the greenhouses. Sadly the greenhouses had to be demolished some years ago but the palm trees still thrive. The boating lake is now used by the Sea Cadets.
Ward End Park House, or The White House as it is sometimes affectionately known, is really well worth visiting. The House still has many of its original features and great efforts are made to keep it used for the good of the public. The House is open to anyone wishing for information on any Adult Education Classes in the Hodge Hill and Yardley area. Staff there will be only too pleased to help.
Acknowledgements to Jennifer Herbert, Adult Education Centre Manager and her son Stewart for compiling this fascinating information on the history of the Park House.