Kings Heath Park Bandstand small
Read more about the history behind Kings Heath Park, Birmingham, and how former TV gardens in the park were gifted to Thrive.

Originally called Victoria Park, Kings Heath Park nestles 5 miles south of Birmingham City Centre and boasts 35 acres of mature gardens.

The main house in the park was built in 1832. It went on to have a number of notable occupiers.

In 1880, the house was bought by John Cartland. He was a wealthy brass founder and ancestor of novelist Dame Barbara Cartland. John Cartland transferred the property to his four sons. They in turn let it on a 21-year lease to Fredrick Everitt, who owned Kings Heath Brewery.

In 1901, the lease was surrendered to the Cartlands. Shortly after this, in 1902, a national financial crisis had repercussions on the Cartland family. They formed the Priory Trust Co Ltd and transferred the freehold of the house and land to that trust. They had the possible intention of developing the area for housing. However, in 1908 the Trust sold the house and half the surrounding land to the Kings Norton and Northfield Urban District Council.

The house was used by the Council as a school until 1911. In response to popular community demand, the Council opened the grounds as a public park.

In 1914, Priory Trust Co Ltd sold the remaining half of the land surrounding the house to Birmingham Corporation. This area was immediately incorporated into the newly formed Kings Heath Park.

From 1952, it became the Birmingham Horticultural Training School.

TV gardens Birmingham social
Thrive gardens Birmigham

The Television Garden at Kings Heath Park started in 1972 as a partnership between Birmingham City Council and television company ATV (which later became Central Television). The programme, ‘Gardening Today’, was originally devised to show viewers how to design and maintain their gardens.

The first presenters were Bob Price and Cyril Fletcher. They started with half an acre of barren swamp land, but together they built an Elizabethan knot garden. Bricks were laid in a lovers knot pattern to enclose a bed of herbs. They also built a greenhouse and vegetable plot. This was in response to elderly viewers saying they would like to grow potatoes to beat the high prices, but couldn’t manage the digging. The two presenters showed viewers by showing how to do this without digging!

They also laid a patio to the entrance of the garden and built a rock and water garden. They planned rose beds, shrubs and herbaceous borders and planted a weeping willow.

By 1985, Central Television had decided that the potential of the garden was fully exhausted to make any further programmes on the site. Investment was made, which increased the garden space to its present size. This enabled plans to build a beginner’s garden, an enthusiast’s garden, a labour-saving garden and areas for blind and the disabled users.

Makeover and departure

In 1989, Bob Price passed away. New presenters Howard Drury and Geoff Amoss were introduced. The show was given a makeover, along with a new title; ‘Garden Time’.

The development of the site was rapid. Companies like Bradstone, Blooms of Bressingham and Stapley Water Gardens helped establish many high-profile displays.

By 1995, the programme was dropped from its schedules. After 23 years, Central Television pulled out of Kings Heath Park.

Following the departure of Central Television, the School of Horticulture formed a partnership with Pershore College, a nationally recognised Horticultural College, and Bournville College. Students from both colleges regularly used the gardens as a training ground.

In 1996, Gardeners World moved to Kings Heath Park. Over the years, they have developed many new gardens with top designers like John Brookes, Robin Williams, Dan Pearson, Joe Swift, and Bonita Bulaitis, producing a variety of different designs.

Show gardens for Gardener’s World Live, designed by the likes of Chris Beardshaw and Rachel de Thame, have also been reconstructed by Pershore students in the garden for public viewing. This was done as recently as 2003, when a two-day Ground Force construction project took place.

Thrive takes over

Thrive established its presence at Kings Heath in 2013.

Kings Heath Park TV Times 1977
Press cutting from TV Times, 1977
Kings Heath Park Birmigham Voice 1992
Press cutting from Birmingham Voice, 1992
Kings Heath Park press article 1995
Press cutting from unknown source, 1995
Kings Heath Park Birmigham Voice 1995
Press cutting from Birmingham Voice, 1995
Kings Heath Park The Sun 1996
Press cutting from The Sun, 1996
Take a tour of Thrive Kings Heath Park Birmingham. Recorded in 2021.

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