Lightwoods House in the south of Smethwick near the Harborne boundary took its name from the tract of woodland in the area. The house is said to have been built by Jonathan Grundy in 1791, but a brick in the wall immediately east of the entrance porch is inscribed ‘Jonathan Grundy, June 19, 1780’. Grundy, the eldest son of Jonathan Grundy of Wigston Parva (Leics.), is the first known occupant of Lightwoods House and lived there until his death in 1803. His widow Hannah lived there until her death in 1815, and their daughter, also Hannah, lived in the house until she died unmarried in 1829.
The house and its land then passed to Jonathan Grundy’s niece Eliza, the wife of Henry Goodrich Willett. In 1842 Willett, whose wife had died in 1837, owned 38 a. of land in Smethwick; most of his estate lay immediately around the house, but part was between the present Bearwood, Waterloo, and Grange Roads. Willett lived at Lightwoods House until his death in 1857. His nephew, Captain H. J. Willett, occupied the house for a few months after his uncle’s death, but in 1858 it was leased to George Caleb Adkins, a local soap manufacturer. Adkins bought the house with some land from Willett’s trustees in 1865 and lived there until his death in 1887.
In 1902, on the death of Caleb Adkins, apparently his son, Lightwoods House with its 16-acre park was put up for sale, and it seemed likely that the house would be demolished and the land used for housing. Mainly through the efforts of A. M. Chance, however, the house and park were bought for the public. In October 1902 the committee which had raised the purchase money handed over the property to Birmingham corporation as a public park. About the same time other land was added bringing the boundary to Adkins Lane and Galton Road, and further subscriptions enabled the committee to buy more land in 1905. A feature of the park is the garden, opened in 1915, which contains specimens of the plants mentioned by Shakespeare. Since the opening of Lightwoods Park the house has at various times accommodated a public library, public refreshment rooms, and rooms for the Sons of Rest. In 1971 it was converted into studios and offices by the lessees, John Hardman & Co. Ltd., stained-glass artists. They vacated the building in 2008 and it has fallen in to quite a poor state of repair since then.
I believe my maternal grandfather was sent here to recover during WW1. I have a photograph/postcard of Lightwoods House from that time.
Hi John, Just seen your post – I know it has been months since you poster this. Myself (the Lightwoods Park Project Officer) and the consultants would be be really grateful if we could scan the photograph / postcard you have as we are hoping to capture as much of the history of the house and park as we can for the heritage lottery restoration project. Please get in touch: email@example.com
Hi, I’m really thrilled to have learnt about your drive to rescue the House and Park. My Mum was an Adkins and George Caleb was, I believe, her great uncle. Sadly Mum passed away in 2007, but she left a lot of family history research. My cousin Tim Boddington has a website adkins-family.org.uk you may find interesting. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions. Kind regards Sarah Green
My cousin, Sarah Green, has very kindly brought this blog on the Lightwoods to my notice. It was indeed owned and lived in by a son of our great great great grandfather, George Caleb Adkins. Much research was carried out by Sarah’s mother, my aunt, Evelyn nee Adkins. In the history above I think there may be a little confusion at the beginning of paragraph three. After the death of George Caleb Adkins in 1887 his widow, Anne (they were cousins!), lived on at the Lightwoods until her death in 1902. They did not have a son named Caleb Adkins so far as I know.
I am delighted that a restoration project is underway and fully support this great effort. I wish you the very best of luck for success with the Lottery application. I will make a point of looking again at my aunt’s research notes to see whether there is any further information regarding the Adkins family association with this lovely house.
Hi Sarah and Tim,
Thank you for getting in touch. I have looked at your website and it makes interesting reading.
Sandwell Council, have been working with the local community since 2010 on a proposed restoration project. The council are looking to submit a Parks for People Round 2 Heritage Lottery bid at the end of February in hope to restore Lightwoods House and Park – it would be so fantastic to restore back to their former glory!
Keep an eye on this blog to hear in June/July whether we have been successful!
In the meantime if you do have any further history on the Lightwoods House Adkins family please get in touch – my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi, my paternal grandmother was a VAD at Lightwoods Auxilliary Hospital from 1916 until 1921. I have never seen a photo
of her. I would love to know more about life there during WW1
my uncle a mr rolf weaver and my auntie lived in the house in the late 50s early 60s as he was the head park keeper for lightwoods park.the bowling greens were his pride and joy.i put many fish into the pond in the secret garden and a number of budgies into the aviery there.
I remember Lightwoods Park well as a toddler. There was an Aviary in the park with a lot of colourful budgies. It was a real treat to be taken to see them whenever I visited my grandparents who lived in Lightwoods Road. There always seemed to be numerous old Aunts and Great Aunts of ours who met on the bench near the aviary. The Sankeys were once a big and prosperous family in Bearwood / Harborne but sadly, none of them is left now.