Sod-shifting spade from Edwardian Birmingham housing estate gifted to Winterbourne House

By Culture24 Staff | 06 April 2011
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A black and white photo of a woman in a dress digging up spade into earth in front of a crowd of suited men and women
Margaret Nettleford finds a sod in Birmingham in 1907
A spade used to dig the gardens at a housing estate for the poor more than 100 years ago has been donated to the historic home of its former owner.

Winterbourne House and Garden, where original Birmingham Housing Committee chairman John Nettleford and his family settled, will inherit the spade from the current proprietors of the Moor Pool Estate. Nettleford’s wife, Margaret, used the tool to dig the original soil at the Estate when it was founded in 1907.

A photo of an old brown stage balanced against a white wall
The spade commemorates a story from the history of Birmingham
“The Moor Pool Estate features heavily in our study exhibition room,” said curator Lee Hale, calling it “the icing on the cake” for the collection at the University of Birmingham heritage attraction.

“Now visitors to Winterbourne can learn more about the history of the estate and see the commemorative spade on display alongside many other items which bring the story of the family and their work to life.”

After making a fortune in screw manufacturing, Nettleford envisaged the estate as an opportunity to improve the lives of city dwellers and workers for his firm, which still partly exists in the guise of local business Guest, Keen and Nettleford.

It accommodated 500 low-cost, low-density houses designed to contrast the notoriously bad conditions many Brummies faced at the time, embracing the light and airy feel of a garden city.
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