On Wednesday I caught a train to Birmingham for my long overdue day out with Nikki. After a catch-up over pots of chamomile and jasmine tea in uber cool cafe, York's, we walked the three miles from the city centre to the leafy suburb of Edgbaston. The drivers at the West Midlands' main bus network, National Express, had been on strike since Monday and, at 11am, the main roads were eerily quiet.
Our destination was Winterbourne House and Botanic Garden.
Winterbourne is rare surviving example of a suburban villa and garden built in the Arts and Crafts style, by architect Joseph Lancaster Ball in 1903 for John & Margaret Nettlefold. John was elected as Liberal Unionist member for the Edgbaston and Harborne ward of Birmingham City Council in 1898.
A pioneer of housing reform, having at heart the desire that all classes should live in decent dwellings. This description of John Nettleford, taken from his obituary in the Birmingham Daily Gazette on 6th November 1930, sums up his commitment to the provision of good quality housing for working people. Housing reform was his passion, but his achievements came at personal cost. His eldest daughter Evie was interviewed by the Birmingham Daily Post in 1973, at the age of 80 and offered a poignant insight into John’s political struggles: “[It’s] a great mistake to be a pioneer. It’s a killing job. They all argue with you and they don’t believe you.”
Margaret Nettlefold designed the six acre garden, inspired by the books and garden designs of Gertrude Jekyll. The garden was Grade II listed by English Heritage in 2008.
“The Garden is singularly well-furnished, and the path below the terrace fringed with a wealth of flowering shrubs and aubrietias…Unhappily however, there is no subject to which the camera so steadily refuses to do justice, and this outcome of Mrs Nettlefold’s taste must therefore go unpictured.”
COUNTRY LIFE MAGAZINE JULY 1ST 1911
I wish I could share the glorious smell of this greenhouse, stuffed with hyacinths....
John MacDonald Nicolson was the last private owner of the house and, as a keen gardener, developed many new ideas. Upon his death in 1944 he bequeathed the house and garden to Birmingham University. The garden became the University's Botanic Garden and is still used by students to this day.
The tea room was doing a roaring trade, unsurprisingly when you look at the menu (HERE
). These ladies were enjoying a pre-Ramadan afternoon tea but broke off to tell us how beautiful our outfits were. By strange coincidence we were both wearing dresses we'd bought from Kharibu
(as my friend Sheila
always says, I'm linking 'cos I love!)
“Mr Ball has devised it on those simple and reasonable lines which so surely achieve success, while there is everywhere evidence of thoughtful design, expressed in a reticent way”
COUNTRY LIFE MAGAZINE JULY 1ST 1911
Winterbourne House was designed to be ‘cutting-edge’ with all the modern conveniences of electric lighting, hot running water and a telephone line. Rooms were light and airy, with views over the garden. The Arts and Crafts inspired design employed local materials and craftspeople to provide an enduring feel of quality. We spotted J Sankey & Sons metalware, Ruskin ceramics and needlepoint stitched by Margaret Nettleford herself as well as a wealth of Morris and Co. textiles and wall coverings and William de Morgan tiles.
By the time we'd walked the three miles back into the city centre it was almost 3 o'clock so we popped into Leon at New Street Station for lentil masalas and herbal teas before hopping on our respective trains home.
Thanks for a fabulous day, Nikki - I can't wait for our next adventure!
Winterbourne House and Garden, 58 Edgbaston Park Road, Birmingham B15 2RT
Open even day:
10.30 - 5pm (March to October)
10.30 - 4pm (November to February)
Adult Admission: £7.40 (£8.50 with Gift Aid)
Days out are great but even better with friends. What a fabulous place and the gardens are beautiful. I love both of your outfits. Nikki's outfit would look great for my niece's wedding but I'm not having much luck in procuring a similar Kantha jacket and I'm certainly not paying Toast the prices they want for one!Any ideas?Have a great weekend.xxxReplyDelete
You're right, everything's better with good company.Delete
The right kantha jacket will appear eventually. Nikki's is Anokhi for East and was an eBay find. Toast make lovely stuff but they are so expensive! xxxx
That looks like a great day out. The house and the gardens look amazing, just my sort of place. That greenhouse must have smelt amazing with all those Freesias.ReplyDelete
The smell in tat greenhouse was incredible, Spring personified! I could have sat in it all day! xxxDelete
What an absolutely splendid day out, I am going to have to go back to your photos later to try to take it all in. The greenhouses have me drooling, I bet it was lovely inside them.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Jayne. I went overboard with the photos. It's inspired me to sort our garden out today! xxxDelete
Beautiful -- inside and out!ReplyDelete
Isn't it fabulous? xxxDelete
I do love a good greenhouse! some nice cacti in there I see - what a lovely old place, well worth a visit.ReplyDelete
Those greenhouses just got better and better. The orchid one was so warm and fragrant I wanted to move in! xxxDelete
Love the room designs, the furniture, the gardens. What a treat. xxxReplyDelete
The Arts and Crafts movement was glorious, it's a shame it fell out of fashion so soon and most of the houses built in the style were either demolished or unsympathetically modernised! xxxDelete
Glorious place. The gardens are just splendid. I love the smell of hyacinths, it's quite heady, I can imagine a greenhouse full of them would smell divine.ReplyDelete
Winterbourne was such a treat, it's hard to believe how close it is to Birmingham city centre. That greenhouse smelt phenomenal! xxxDelete
What a fantastic place! A glorious house *and* botanic garden, you were definitely spoiled for choice there. I could have wandered for hours, which I presume you and Nikki did. And I can almost smell the heavenly scent of those Hyacinths through my screen! What a wonderful day out! xxx P.S. Just checked, and it's just over half an hour from our cottage, so on our list it goesReplyDelete
You and Jos would love it - and the treats in the tearoom would have you spending the whole day there. It's only a stone's throw from Birmingham Botanical Gardens as well! xxxDelete
Ooh what a treat! We've got some Sanderson Morris & Co wallpaper in the drawers downstairs - not enough for a room - but would do a few feature walls (charity shop donation clearance years back). We have Golden Lily wallpaper in our front room - exceptional quality - it was expensive (not as achingly so as it is now!) but it's been up for 20+ years and still looks freshly done. I love the Blackthorn design at Winterbourne and that beautiful mirror. Thanks for the share - you both look so lovely and Spring-like!ReplyDelete
Hello Elaine and thank you! We loved how they'd mixed the Morris & Co wallpaper in the rooms. The prices are insanely high now, Golden Lily has been "reduced" to £93 a roll on one of the wallpapering websites this week - a gloriously Springlike print if ever there was one, it must feel like the sun is always shining in your front room. xxxDelete
That's astonishing - we have Golden Lily in Indigo and the RRP is £135.00 a roll?!!!Delete
It's absolutely gorgeous but we didn't pay that much for it lol
I paid £2 a roll for Compton from the Hospice shop years ago - they just wanted rid and the RRP is the same - gawd!
I'm a wallpaper heiress! Going to look at what else we have stashed away .....
It's madness! You'll be knocking down walls and selling them with the wallpaper still attached at this rate! xxxDelete
Wow. What a great tour.ReplyDelete
Coffee is on and stay safe.
Thanks, Dora! xDelete
I wanted to tell you Vix that my darling husband Tony died on the 25/3/23ReplyDelete
My heart is broken
Siobhan, I'm so very sorry to hear about Tony. From the loving way you always wrote about him he sounded like such a special man and was so brave during his illness. I know he loved you just as much as you loved him. Sending you all the love in the world. You will be very much in my thoughts. Vix xxxDelete
What a wonderful day you and Nikki had. I loved seeing the flowers, especially the daffodils. Makes me want to go out to a Botanical garden now. XReplyDelete
Thanks, Jess. I love botanical garden. Winterbourne gave me the kick up the ar*e I needed to get cracking on our neglected garden. xxxDelete
What a gorgeous garden!ReplyDelete
I really like the outfits you two were wearing and how coordinared you were!
Great photos. Always fun to visit these places with you.
Thanks, Ivana! xxxDelete
Of course I'd love it. Thanks so much for sharing. If you ever make it down this far south please pop into Standen. It would be very much your taste. I never tire of it. ArilxReplyDelete
From the snippets you've shared of Standen and the bits I've seen on TV, I know I'd love Standen. xxxDelete
What a lovely house - I like that it's not crammed with "stuff" and there is lots of light and space in the rooms. The greenhouse is beautiful - I can just imagine how delightful the scent of all the spring flowers was.ReplyDelete
Winterbourne is one of those houses you can imagine yourself living in, such a lovely cosy feel to it and all those wonderful William Morris prints. That greenhouse was something else, the smell was incredible. xxxDelete
Hello! You both look very at home at Winterbourne and I can totally see why! Beautiful photos. I would so love one of those greenhouses! xxxReplyDelete
We wanted to move in, it was gorgeous! Those greenhouses were amazing - one for orchids, one for cacti and another for Spring flowers, I'd love one! xxxDelete
What a beautiful place. It looks very peaceful. You look gorgeous, as always. I'd never heard of Kharibu before, but I clicked the link and wow, what beautiful clothes. Looks like an altogether lovely day out. xxReplyDelete
Thanks, Louise! Winterbourne was lovely, we're hoping to go back to see the gardens in full bloom later in the year. Kharibu has some fabulous things - she only does small print runs so the clothes are almost one-offs, I love everything I've bought from her. xxxDelete
Another one to add to the list of must sees! It looked amazing both inside and out. I saw a coal scuttle I coveted amongst all the other lovely artefacts and furniture you featured. What a coincidence you and Nikki wore the same designer dress but not so unexpected either; as your friends must have similar likes as you. Fab picture of you both!ReplyDelete
I'm a sucker for a coal scuttle! I think the one at Winterbourne is a J.Sankey and Sons model, made in Bilston in the black Country. I love their metalwork. xxxDelete
Hi, Love this post. I think Winterbourne is one of Birmingham's best kept, known about secret houses and gardens. Its lovely at any time of year and there always seem to be something new to see plant wise. Don't know whether you found it or even if the path was open, but there's access through a little gate to Edgbaston Pool which is lovely although there's no access to the parkland which is a golf course.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Adrienne! We loved Winterbourne and have already agreed to go back in the Summer so we can wander through the rose arch and see the wisteria in all it's glory. I I did see a gate and wondered where it led to. We shall explore further next time. xxxDelete
You are so sweet, Vix, thanks for the shout-out! I loved poring over all these pics of Winterbourne! Thank you! It looks like you and Nikki had a marvelous time - and although you may have just been a careful pic-taker, it looks like it was empty while you visited! I love the ginormous cacti!ReplyDelete
My pleasure, darling! The joys of visiting during a bus strike - we had the house the ourselves although the tea rooms were rammed! xxxxDelete
That's an absolutely lovely house. The country could do with more politicians who believe in everyone having decent housing nowadays...ReplyDelete
Mr Nettlefold sounded like a thoroughly decent chap, didn't he?Delete
I highly recommend Winterbourne if you're ever up in Birmingham - it's not far from the cricket ground! xxx
Oh what a beautiful place Vix! Thanks for letting us tag along. I could happily live in that Succulent & Cacti House :) I can smell the hyacinths from here & they are divine xXxReplyDelete
I thought Winterbourne would be right up your street, Lulu. They run RHS courses there, too. xxxDelete