A lunatic asylum in Sutton Coldfield ?

You may find one referred to on this page



Hugh Bateman was born at Hartington Hall, Derbys in 1765. In 1785 he acquired Four Oaks Hall from Rev Thomas Gresley and lived there for seven years.He had two daughters born in Surrey and according to the Sutton Coldfield registers a son Richard Sacheverall born in Sutton in 1788.

No such son appears on the Bateman Pedigree; perhaps he died as an infant.

Bateman became Sir Hugh, Baronet of Hartington in 1806.

He sold Four Oaks Hall to Edmund Cradock-Hartopp in 1792.

He died in 1824 and his title passed to the unborn son of his daughter. The Hartington estate passed to a nephew



The Beeches was a large Victorian house on Lichfield Road occupying a large site on the corner of Jockey Lane. In 1891 it was occupied by James Edward Bibby, a Chartered Accountant, his wife and son and two domestic servants.

Six and a half acres of the adjoining paddock were lost in 1929 as a result of a Compulsory Purchase Order to provide land for the Girls Grammar School

The house was demolished in 1932 when the remainder of the site was sold for £3700 for redevelpment. Despite local protests retail redevelopment was approved and theBeeches Walk parade of shops was built.



A hawthorn bush growing alongside the Chester Road once marked the boundary between Warwickshire and Staffordshire and it is said that when a beggar died under the bush neither of the counties would accept responsibility for his burial.

The origins of the Bush Inn on the Warwickshire side are not known, but a public house stood there in 1841; its landlord was William Goodwin and he lived there with his wife and six children.

In 1861 Goodwin took a new lease of 99 years at £40 pa from the land owner, the Rector Rev WK Riland Bedford , built a new pub (adjacent in Jockey Lane) and five cottages and converted the old pub building into three cottages.

The licence changed hands. In 1881 Alfred King was the publican. In 1891 John Foden was recorded as both licensee and a farmer.

The name change took place between 1891 and 1907; a photograph bearing the latter date clearly shows the name to be ‘The Beggars Bush’ and the landlord George Harding.

The building was demolished and a new one erected in the 1930s.

The hawthorn bush was lost to road widening scheme



William Henry Bidlake was born in Wolverhampton in 1862. He took his MA at Cambridge University and whilst there lodged at Emmanuel Road. He practiced as an architect in Wolverhampton and carried out many commissions in the Birmingham area. He designed St Andrews Church, Handsworth and St Agathas, Sparkbrook, both now Grade 1 listed.

In Sutton Coldfield he designed the Victorian alterations to the Parish church and the new Emmanuel Church, Wylde Green built 1909 /1916 as part of the development of the Wylde Green land owned by Emmauel College,Cambridge.

He also designed and built for his own occupation the house ‘Woodgate’ 37 Hartopp Road.



The substantial victorian house ‘The Birches’, named for the trees in its grounds, was built on Jockey Lane in 1877.

In 1881 and in 1891 Thomas Turner ( son of Thomas Turner, a retired gunmaker of Stanley House, Jockey Lane) lived there with his wife, four children and three domestic servants.

In 1913 the house was rented out to the then newly formed Wylde Green and Sutton Coldfield Conservative Club. The Club bought the property and its two and a quarter acres of grounds for £2500 in 1917, and have occupied it ever since.



Several well connected local gentry were involved in the creation of Blackroot Pool for industrial purposes . Edward Homer (son of Thomas and Elizabeth Sadler) married Katherine Bracebridge and was Steward (Town Clerk) of Sutton Coldfield.

Nicholas Dolphin was Warden of the town in 1756 and 1757. Joseph Duncumb was Warden in 1760 and 1761.

The archives are not entirely clear. In 1757 Dolphin and Homer were granted by the Corporation a licence to make a pool in the valley below Black Root and to hold for 42 years at one shilling a year.

In 1759 Dolphin, Homer and Duncumb were granted permission to build a water wheel and mill for dressing leather.

In 1759 Duncumb was granted a lease by the Warden and Society of twelve acres, then a bog, for 42 years at two shillings a year in consideration of him making a pool at his own expense and keeping and maintaining a road on the dam.

The pool was created and there was at one time a sawmill in the adjacent gravel pit. It is unclear whether any leather dressing mill was ever in operation.

In the following years a number of parties have leased the property; in December 1772 Thomas Ingram a Birmingham merchant; in about 1800 Perkins but only on a yearly basis due to a 1778 injunction.

In more recent times the pool has been used only for leisure activities. In 1907 the lessee Chas Townsend of Hollyhurst was advertising Blackroot Boating Pool with sixteen acres, forty pleasure boats, good fishing and accomodation for 450 people under cover.



Anyone passing Bodington Gardens at Birmingham Road, Maney today could be excused if their first thought turned to beer: but the Bodington - with only one b -commemorated here was an eminent Sutton personage for whom an open air memorial is most fitting.

Born in Buckinghamshire in 1799 and educated at Magdalene College, Oxford he became a physician and GP in Erdington. He was also a local politician and served on the Sutton Corporation for forty years ( having as usual being appointed for life)

His great professional interest was pulmonary disease and in 1836 he acquired the Asylum and Sanitorium at Driffold House, Maney.

He was a pioneer in his field and was the first to suggest dry frosty air as a cure for tuberculosis. ( See his 1840 ‘Essay on the Treatment and Cure of Pulmonary Consumption’ ) He was not taken seriously by his contemporaneous peers and rather lost heart in the subject. He turned to the treatment of insanity.

In 1851 the local census recorded eleven ‘ lunatics’ and six staff including the doctor and his family at Driffold House.

At some point the Asylum was moved to the White House, Maney.( demolished in 1935 to provide a site for the Odeon cinema) In 1881 the Doctor was living at Manor Hill where his two daughters ran a girls boarding school. The census of that year shows nine pupils of which five were nieces.

He died aged 83 in 1882.

One of his sons George Fowler Bodington also qualified as a physician. In 1881 he was operating a private Asylum in Kingswinford. His other son Charles took holy orders and was Vicar of St Andrews, Wolverhampton and later Canon at Lichfield Cathedral.

The 1981 essay by Jane Davage ’The life and Times of George Bodington’ to be found in Sutton Reference Library provides an interesting account of this fascinating personality



The triangular area we know as Boldmere is bounded by the Chester Road in the west, Sutton Park in the north and the railway in the east. This barren, pebbly and unpopulated part of the Common land is described on Speeds map of 1610 as ‘Cofield Wast’

Chester Road was once the main route from the south to the then port of Chester, the principal port for Ireland and its route through Sutton was notorious in the 18th century for robbers and highwaymen. In 1729 a London merchant was murdered here and his attacker was hanged on Gibbet Hill overlooking Chester Road . The route was turnpiked in 1759.

The name Boldmere is generally thought to have been taken from Baldmoor Lake which was once situated adjacent to the Chester Road. Very little is known of the lakes origins or of its disappearance. No lake is shown on Speeds 1610 map.

The 1841 census lists a small settlement named as ‘Baldmoor Lake’ and comprising ten dwellings and a malt house ( later the Oscott Tavern). The lake does not appear on later maps but the census of 1881 shows a Captain Holloway and his family living at ‘Lake House,Chester Road’. The present Lakehouse Drive is thought to mark the location.

The larger area saw some limited development after the Enclosure Act 1825 brought

Common land into private ownership. In 1841 there were 38 households housing 192 people including three farms (along the edges of Sutton Park) one pub ( the Bush Inn ) and 34 cottages mostly situated around the junction of Jockey Lane and the track to the Powells Pool and the Park.

The Catholic church was built in 1840 and new roads were cut in anticipation of thedevelopment to be encouraged by the coming of the railway. Girls and Infant schools were opened in 1848 and a new church St Michaels was built in 1857.Several large houses including ‘Boldmere House’ and ‘Normanhurst’ in the vicinity of the church at this time.

The railway was delayed a little and did not open until 1862 when stations were built at Wylde Green and Chester Road. Thereafter housing and other building progressed rapidly







John Boultbee Brooks bought Wylde Green Farm and its many acres from the Smith family in 1899.

He was born in Hinkley, Leics in 1846. In 1865 he set up a leather goods business in Great Charles Street, Birmingham under the name JB Brooks & Co.

He specialised in horse harnesses but in 1882 he patented a leather bicycle saddle which became highlypopular and succesful. The business flourished and its success enabled the family to live in comfort at Finstal Park, near Bromsgrove, Worcs.

The Brooks brand continues in Smethwick today although the  Brooks family interest was sold to Raleigh Cycle Co in 1958

Brooks Road, Boultbee Road and Finstal Drive were among the many new developments of the Wylde Green Farm land




The Bracebridge family of Lincolnshire acquired the Manor of Kingsbury by marriage in the early 13th century.

In about 1419 Sir Ralph Bracebridge, a courtier to Henry the Fifth, aquired a lifelong lease of the Manor and Chase of Sutton Coldfield, in exchange for an agreement to serve the Earl of Warwick at the garrison in Calais with nine lancers and seventeen bowmen.

In about 1422 he created a large fish pond, later known as Bracebridge Pool, in Sutton Park by damming the Ebrook. The pool was stocked with bream a favorite alternative to meat on feast days. The rent payable was fixed at £10 or as an alternative 120 bream a year.

Bracebridge Pool has had many tenants over the cenruries but was never industrialised and remains today almost as tranquil as it ever was.

The Kingsbury line of the family expired in about 1600, but was followed by the Bracebridges of Atherstone who were prominent in Warwickshire.

When the racecourse was created in Four Oaks Hall park in 1879 a road was formed to link the racecouse facilities and grandstand to the Lichfield Road. When the park was redeveloped for residential property this road became Bracebridge Road.

'The Dene' number 2 Bracebridge Road, was the first house built in 1896 to a design by architect WH BIDLAKE . Today it has Grade II listed building protection.

One of the most sought after residential roads in the town Bracebridge Road boasts four other Grade II listed properties.



The name Burges/Burgess appears several times in the annals of Sutton Coldfield.

John Burges is recorded as Rector appointed by the Crown in 1521 and therefore presumably approved of by Bishop Vesey

Another John Burges was appointed Rector by John Shilton in 1617. He was a prominent puritan born in Peterborough about 1563 and educated at St Johns College, Cambridge. He was Rector of Norwich in 1590 but was briefly incarcerated in the Tower of London for his views in 1604. Freed on apologising he left the country in disgrace to study medicine at Leyden. He returned in 1611 and was restored to a clerical role in Sutton which at that time was strongly puritan.

He published a learned tract ‘The Answer Rejoined’ in 1631. He died at Sutton in 1635. His son John was Warden of the Corporation of Sutton in 1637.

His immediate successor as Rector in 1635 was Anthony Burges who though not related did have similar puritan credentials. Also educated at St Johns, Cambridge, he was a fellow of Emmanuel College a strongly protestant institution with strong Sutton links. He was chaplain to the Parliamentary garrison at Coventry during the Civil War. He was a prolific sermoniser, and published 162 sermons in 1652 and 1654.

After the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, the town's sympathies changed ; his opinions no longer in vogue he was rejected as Rector in 1662 and retired to live in Tamworth. He died in 1664