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The oldest part of the city of Birmingham, Sutton Coldfield has been inhabited for
thousands of years. The ancient woodlands of Sutton Park are home to several prehistoric
earth mounds where flint arrowheads and cooking sites have been discovered The Romans
used the area mainly for military purposes and it was not until the Saxons took
over in the fifth century that a permanent settlement was established. A hunting
lodge was built at Maney Hill and a hamlet grew up around it. The lodge gave the
hamlet its name: it was known as “Sutton” or “Southun”, meaning “south of Tamworth”
(the capital of Mercia), while “Coldfield” denotes an area on the side of a hill
that is exposed to the elements.
After the Norman Conquest the area around the village, Sutton Chase, was designated
a Royal Forest. It became a market town under the Earl of Warwick in 1300 and prospered
until the Wars of the Roses, when the Earl was killed and the town fell into decay.
A native son, John Vesey, became the Bishop of Exeter in 1519 and used his influence
to rebuild his home town: he revived the market, paved the roads, founded a grammar
school that is still among the top in the country and built stone cottages for the
poor. Unscathed by the Civil War, Sutton Coldfield was boosted by the Industrial
Revolution, Mills were set up along the pools in Sutton Park and on the banks of
Ebrook and the manufacture of blades, gun barrels, spades and spade handles as well
as the grinding of knives, bayonets and axes further helped the town prosper until
it became one of the wealthiest in the area.
The twentieth century saw a boom in housing construction. During the Second World
War, Sutton Coldfield was used for prisoner of war camps, which were not popular
with locals. In 1974 it became part of the city of Birmingham against the wishes
of its population.
Typically of the Midlands, the town has drab weather at best: chilly in winter with
summer highs of around 20°C and fairly consistent drizzle year round. This is good
for the golf courses: Sutton Coldfield Golf Club is one of the most prestigious
in the region, renowned for its winning combination of woodland and heathland. Other
popular sports in Sutton Park include mountain biking – Skeleton Hill is especially
popular – as well as sailing and canoeing on Powell’s Pool. Nature enthusiasts enjoy
the wide variety of trees, birds and animals – Exmoor ponies roam free here and
there is also a donkey sanctuary. Roads have restricted access, making the ancient
forest a wonderful walking destination.
In the town proper, visit Holy Trinity Church, which is over seven hundred years
old, and the adjacent Vesey Memorial Gardens. The Church of All Saints in Four Oaks,
designed by Charles Bateman in 1902, is an excellent example of Arts and Crafts
style. There are several other Bateman churches around the town. For such a small
place, there is also a surprising number of stately homes dotted around. Of especial
interest are the double-moated Peddimore Hall; and Moat House, designed by William
Wilson, a student of Christopher Wren.
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