Knowle Park (Job’s Close) & Local Nature Reserve (LNR)
(The ‘o’ in Job’s is pronounced long as in Globe not short as in Bob)
Knowle Park, the Nature Reserve, Purnell’s Brook, and the grassland behind it, are all remnants of Knowle’s historical past in the great medieval Forest of Arden.
The Park, with other fields, was grazed by Burton’s Dairy Farm (now St. Lawrence Close) including a boggy area beside Purnell’s Brook. This was saved from development by the Knowle Society in 1971 as a Nature Reserve when 200 acres of farmland between Station Road and Tilehouse Green Lane were released for housing. The tiny bog site was unploughable in both World Wars and so its wealth of now rare Common Spotted Orchids and Marsh Marigolds and many other ancient woodland species, survived. But these have suffered from drying-out ever since, after the head-springs of Purnell’s Brook were culverted away, leaving the Brook to be fed solely from storm-water culverts often polluted with washing-machine effluent.
Purnell’s Brook was in Saxon times the Merebroc, the boundary brook between the Knowle and Longdon manors, and later the parish boundary. Research suggests that a medieval Purnell, who had lived in ‘a messuage called Purnells’ (Records of the Manor) gave his name to the Brook. There are still fields called Purnells in the 1816 Enclosure Map radiating out from the Brook to his (?) old farm at the corner of Lodge Road (formerly Knowle Common Road) opposite the Wilson Arms (formerly the Rising Sun Inn). The farmhouse was bought by the Revd Thomas Blyth in 1806 and sold to the Bower family as The Lodge in 1887, and finally demolished in 1939. The present doctors’ surgery stands on the site.
The Revd Blyth’s estate extended over Longdon Road into the top of the present Park where there were three old claypits down the hill. A boating pond was created within the large bottom pit, and an arboretum of trees was planted up the hill.
Job’s Close House was built in 1904 besides this ‘Pleasance’ and was occupied by Cedarhurst School during the 1939-45 War. It was eventually purchased from Solihull Council by Trustees in 1957 and is, to this day, a much-loved retirement home, administered by the Trustees. The grounds became a public park in 1960 after the loss to housing of Knowle’s Jubilee Field in Station Road, east of the new Arden School. In 1974 the lower Burton’s field was taken in and re-seeded, and the central hedge was removed, leaving only the four alder trees across the Park. The pond was also re-furbished and the remaining two pits levelled and landscaped. Park Superintendent Mr Furniss-Huson had the pond dredged in the 1980’s and it was again part dredged in 2005 but there are still many mallard there and a resident moorhen family.
The Park is currently seeing many improvements, notably to the children’s play area and the grounds between the House and the bungalows; also the installation of a Trim Track and Five-a-Side goalposts. Funding is currently being sought to extend the footpath around the whole of the Park; and it is also planned to lay woodchip along the paths within the rough grassland in January 2006, and to build bridges over the Brook for better access to that area.
The Rough Grassland LNR – Two fields down to the brook are remnants of the demolished Tilehouse Green Farm in Tilehouse Green Lane. The former farm entrance is marked on either side by two enormous Scots Pines by the pavement. There are apple and damson fruit trees in the grassland close to Longdon Road.
Jobs Close – An orchard planted by Revd. Blyth survived uphill, between the House and Longdon Road and the bungalows – cut down by Solihull Council.
The Pond – Storm water from the House is thought to have drained into the pond from the pipe still visible in the rear bank. Any overflow is carried underground to the brook from the culvert at the pond edge.
The Allotments – were relocated from St John’s Close when the whole area was built over in the 1960’s. There was an old pit, formerly a large pond – according to Mary (née Burton) – next to Burton’s Farm which had been gradually filled with waste from the Tyseley Bakelite factory and had occasionally self-combusted below ground, but the Fire Brigade refused to tackle it! This made an excellent new site for the allotments, and grows exceptionally good vegetables.
Washpits Farm in wartime – Three bombs fell in the surrounding fields while Arthur and Mary Burton were at the Cinema in Station Road (later Johnson’s Garage). They were not allowed back “but we live there” they said. Much soil was thrown up which showered all over the farm buildings.
The Queen’s Silver Jubilee Oaks – 25 were planted by Arden Schoolchildren around the footpath to St. Lawrence Close under the aegis of the Knowle Society to commemorate the Queen’s Jubilee in 1977. Many were systematically vandalised and replanted.
Millennium Commemorative Tree Planting – 25 sponsored trees were planted by Knowle Society members in the open tree area opposite Longdon Road car park. Unfortunately only one yew tree has survived vandalism, strimming and drought.
The Knowle Society 40th Anniversary 2002 – 40 woodland tree whips were planted in the rough grassland against the north boundary wall. Three quarters have survived, growing strongly in the tall, uncut grass.
Medieval Ridge and Furrow ploughing – Remnant ridges can be seen across the Park and in the corner of the Play Area.
An old cottage – stood to the right inside the Park off Lodge Road. Worcester Pearmain apples were stored there from the Job’s Close orchard
- Washpits Farm off Station Road – Burton’s Dairy Farm – Milk was delivered by pony and cart all over Knowle. Farmed right up to Job’s Close House. Arthur Burton died in October 2005.
- Slater’s Farm – Up Widney Road from the crossroads.
- Lander’s Farm – Butchers, Knowle High Street, later Soden’s, now a Bridal shop. The farm was at the beginning of Tilehouse Green Lane.
- Tilehouse Green Farm – Last tenanted by Burton’s. Two Scots Pines either side of farm entrance in Tilehouse Green Lane. Its land extended down to Purnell’s Brook.
Mr Green – a speculative builder, bought Washpit’s in 1930. He then bought up all the other farms (in the depression years?) even in Browns Lane. Burtons at Washpits was the last farm to be demolished in 1972. They had all been bought for future development.
Stella Jarman – January 2006