The watercolour Fair at the Lickey Hills was produced by Frank Lockwood in 1949. It featured Rednal Pleasure Fair and illustrated recreational options at the city's edge. The brashness of the fairground could be sampled and the beauty of the natural landscape beckoned. 474 acres of the fairground awaited exploration, with tea-rooms, amusement arcades and pubs. Easily reached along Bristol Road's tramway, the Lickey Hills provided inexpensive and accessible entertainment for all.1 At peak times, a seemingly endless procession of trams moved the crowds.2
Lockwood's painting was possible only because of a long, hard battle to secure the area against speculative developers. With the opening of the railway between Birmingham and Gloucester in 1840, the Lickeys were gradually encroached upon. Following Barnt Green's emergence as a commuter village, landowners were pursued by developers. As with London's Hampstead Heath, conservationists rallied and Birmingham Association for the Preservation of Open Spaces (BAPOS) was formed with support from Edward Cadbury and George Cadbury Junior, amongst others. Rednal Hill was purchased and presented to Birmingham in 1887, twenty-four years before the area was formally incorporated into the city. Over the next forty-five years, individual portions of the Lickey Hills were purchased by BAPOS or the Cadburys and donated to the city, whilst the council also occasionally purchased land. By 1933 almost the entire wooded area was preserved for public enjoyment.
Attitudes varied about what constituted appropriate enjoyment in the Lickeys. The profusion of gift shops and pubs ringing the area offered opportunities to individual visitors and small parties to choose how their leisure time and disposable income should be spent.3 Picnics were popular with couples and families, and rambling was an increasingly popular pastime for lone walkers and organised parties alike.4 Church, community and youth groups encouraged this and more formal events also promoted 'wholesome' communal activity. For many years, Pearson's Fresh Air Fund organised mass excursions for slum dwelling children to the Lickeys, via the Bristol Road tramway.5 This was a national charity and the area perfectly served its aim of providing children with access to clean, healthy air, invigorating surroundings and an opportunity to closely examine the natural world. Many Cadbury works outings also came here and enjoyed organised games, events and formal refreshments.
Those who saved the Lickey Hills preserved a sufficiently large resource to accommodate most recreational interests. They also provided a key component of what would become Birmingham's formal green belt, something of current significance, given regeneration plans for adjacent Longbridge. Less tangibly, the mansions of Edgbaston and suburban amenities visible from the Bristol Road tramway, might have prompted aspirational thoughts and contemplation of social injustices among the thousands of city dwellers taking that route to the Lickey Hills.
1 For details, see R.E. Tupling, Rednal and the Lickeys (1972); M. Hampson, Around Rubery and the Lickey Hills (2000) 2 D. Harvey, City to the Lickeys (2008) 3 Pubs included the Barracks Inn, Cock Inn, Rose & Crown, Plough & Harrow and the White Lion. See Hampson, pp.124 & 126 4 T.A. Leonard, A History of the Holiday Fellowship 1913-1940 (1941) 5 Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery [BM&AG: 1994F154.3] http://www.bmagic.org.uk (viewed 24/06/2010)
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