The Sunken Garden

In 1922 The Birmingham Civic Society designed and paid for the creation of a new formal garden which they called a "Sunk Garden" near the Grove Lane entrance. The site of the garden was previously an irregular hollow, but the executed design carries on the axial line of the park entrance and featured as its centrepiece a bronze sculpture of a child holding a lamb atop a Portland stone plinth. This was meant to symbolise the historic use of the land as glebe land. The statue was unveiled on 15 January 1937 and was designed by John P. Walker. Unfortunately it was stolen in 1988 and has not been recovered. Source

In 1933, The Council ran a competition for the best design for an artwork for the park. It was won by John P Walker, with a design called I believe. ' Child with Lamb '. The prize was just £30, but it came with funds of £250, to have the work created. Cast in Bronze by the Burton Foundry in Surrey, it was unveiled, on a white marble column, in the sunken garden by the Lord Mayor in 1937. It sat there, long admired, until about 1985, when some low life stole it. The statue has never been found, and if, by a sheer stroke of luck, anyone spots it, please call the police or the City Council. Some of us would like it back.

Source: Dennis Neale (Handsworth Local History)

     Commissioned as a result of a sculpture competition organised by Birmingham College of Arts and Crafts in 1932, it was funded by Richard Wheatley, a Handsworth patron of the arts and and ex-student of the College. The brief was for a decorative feature suitable for a park and the competition was open to past and present students.(1) Walker, a student between 1925 and at least 1936, won the first prize of £30 for his model in February 1933 (2) and was awarded a further £250 to carry out his design in bronze. The figure was cast and patinated by the bronze statue founder A.B. Burton of Surrey by September 1936,(3) and the plinth designed with assistance by December. Gratefully accepted by the City the statue was erected in Handsworth Park and officially unveiled by the Lord Mayor. The local press recorded that Wheatley 'had been struck by the fact that all the pieces of sculpture in public places seemed either to be memorials to great citizens or to record some great event. None seemed created out of an artistic appreciation. He hoped that by seeing things of beauty, people would be encouraged to spare a little money from the modern ways of recreation for things of art which would beautify their homes.'(4) Wheatley financed two other art competitions at the College of Art and Crafts, including a mural decoration at Dulwich Road Senior Boys School in 1936. After his death in 1938, he bequeathed £8,000 to the City towards the Birmingham Civic Centre scheme: (see the entry for Bloye's Boulton, Watt and Murdoch, Broad Street). The sculpture is no longer present and its whereabouts and fate are unknown.

Source

Approximately oval on plan, the sunken garden is today (2000) laid to grass with beds of ornamental shrubs to the north-west and south-west retained by low brick walls. Concrete steps descend from the west, north, and south to a perimeter walk, while a further central walk extends east across the garden, to a square central area which surrounds a vacant tapered pedestal. The sunken garden has been considerably simplified from its form shown in photographs in 1930. An aviary constructed adjacent to the sunken garden in 1930, itself replacing a 19th Century aviary adjacent to Park House, does not survive. Source

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