Mary Stevens Park

History of Mary Stevens Park

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Ernest and Mary Stevens

Mary Stevens Park exists thanks to the generosity of Ernest Stevens, a wealthy pots and pans manufacturer who was born in Lye in 1867.

Ernest’s wife, Mary (née Collins), was born in Quarry Bank in 1869. They married in 1895 in Christ’s Church, Quarry Bank. While Ernest built his successful business – the famous Judge Ware, a kitchen equipment brand still in existence, Mary devoted her life to helping those that were unable to help themselves – in particular children and disadvantaged women.

The Judge Ware logo, 1936

Judge Ware logo, 1936

Ernest and Mary’s happy marriage was cut short in 1925, when Mary died following several years suffering from cancer. After her death Ernest made several large public donations, many of them dedicated to perpetuating the memory of his wife. Principally, in 1929 he purchased the Studley Court estate and house from the nuns of the St. Andrews Convent with the intention of creating the Mary Stevens Park. This acquisition prevented the land being sold off to build houses, preserving it as an open space for future generations.

Ernest paid £15,257 (approximately £850,000 today) for the estate and house, and swiftly presented it to Stourbridge Borough as a public park and recreation ground.

A Deed of Gift accompanied the donation:

“THE DEED OF GIFT PROVIDES FOR AND PROTECTS THE BEAUTY OF THE PARK FOR ALL TIME AND MAKES IT A PLACE OF REST FOR THE WEARY, OF HAPPINESS FOR THE CHILDREN AND OF BEAUTY FOR EVERYONE.”

msp gates

Mary Stevens Park gates, 1931

Feeling that the whole park warranted a ‘magnificent and imposing’ entrance, Ernest funded the purchase of the main gates, including the Portland stone pillars, stone walls and associated railings, at the main entrance.

He also provided money to purchase gates and railings at three other entrances to the park.

The Grand opening of Mary Stevens Park took place on 6 April 1931. On this day Ernest Stevens was given the Freedom of the Borough of Stourbridge.

Opening the park

The opening of Mary Stevens Park, 1931. Ernest Stevens is second from the right

Ernest Steven’s made a number of gifts to the people of Stourbridge and its surrounding areas:
– Mary Stevens Park
– Mary Stevens Maternity Home
– Stevens Park, Wollescote
– War Memorial Sports Ground, Amblecote
– Mount Pleasant Methodist Church, Quarry Bank
– St Mary’s, Oldswinford Gates and extension
– Quarry Bank Peace Memorial
– Stevens Park, Quarry Bank
– Haden Hill House, Old Hill
– Carlisle Hall, Stourbridge
– Elmley Castle, Worcestershire

Before Ernest Stevens – going back in time

1923 – May Emma Davies, a devout Roman Catholic, passes Studley Court and its estate to Muriel Daniel. Daniel holds the estate on behalf of a small religious order of nuns of the Order of St. Andrew. The building becomes a boarding school for girls, known as St. Andrew’s Convent School. The girls use the Heath Pool for swimming.

Girls in pool

St Andrew’s Convent schoolgirls bathing in the Heath Pool

1919 – Studley Court estate is gifted to May Emma Davies in 1919 by John Harper Bean.
1917 – The estate is purchased by John Harper Bean.
1913 – The estate is purchased by Charles Webb, eldest son of Edward Webb, a successful seed merchant.

1910

The site of what was to become Mary Stevens Park, 1910

1910-1895 – Edward Webb, head of a successful seed-merchant company, purchases Heath House and its estate including the Heath Glassworks ruins, renaming the whole place as Studley Court. Webb demolishes the ruins. Although Heath House has always been a grand mansion house, it has so far been defined by its relationship with the glassworks.

From this point, Heath House exists purely as a mansion for people of high social standing.

Images of Studley Court

Images of Studley Court, c.1900

The Dining Room at Studley House, 1897

The Dining Room at Studley House, 1897

Webbs' Bulb Catalogue, 188

By the end of the nineteenth century Webbs Seeds had become a household name and the company was appointed official seed purveyors to every monarch in succession from Queen Victoria to Queen Elizabeth II. The company eventually became involved in seed testing near Droitwich, from where the modern “Webbs’ of Wychbold” company trades.

1891 – The Heath Glassworks (which has been disused since 1882) is under the ownership of James Walker. The Walker family has owned the works since 1851. James Walker is under severe financial pressure, which includes having to pay rent on the unproductive glass factory. In desparation, Walker commits suicide.

1891 – Heath House is signed over to William Turney by his brother, Henry Turney, a leather dresser.

1887 – Henry Turney purchases the Heath House property.

1880sancient_roam

This 1880 map shows the position of Heath House

1882 – Economic depression hits all trades in Stourbridge, including glass. As a result Phillip Walker – owner of the Heath Glassworks – shuts down production, making a large number of glassworkers unemployed. This event marks the end of glass making in this part of Stourbridge.

1877 – G. Perry, an insurance agent for the firm Phoenix, is listed as trading from Heath House.

1877 – Mrs. Cochrane, member of a family that has made its fortune from iron, is listed as a private resident of Heath House.

1866 – William Walker, owner of the Heath Glassworks, dies, leaving a half share of the works to his sons, James and Phillip.

The glassworks, 1860

The glassworks, 1860

1852 – Heath House is sold, to unknown buyers. Between 1852-77 the ownership of Heath House is not recorded.

1851 – Francis Rufford (MP for the City of Worcester, inheiritor of a banking fortune, spendthrift and incompetent businessman) is declared bankrupt with debts of £400,000 (£46billion today!). Francis Rufford has no interest in the family’s glass-making business, but his financial ruin puts great pressure on his brother, Phillip, who runs the Glassworks in partnership with William Walker as Rufford & Walker, manufacturers of “flint glass, plain and cut”. William Walker asks Benjamin Richardson, owner of the nearby Wordsley Flint Glassworks, to take on Rufford & Walker’s stock, enabling the business to continue. This gives William Walker the financial freedom to buy the business outright. Walker brings his son James into the business.

1831 – Francis Rufford Sr, owner of Heath House and the Glassworks, dies, leaving both properties to his sons, Phillip and Francis Jr.

1801 – Heath House and the Glassworks are sold at auction at the Talbot Hotel, Stourbridge, following the bankruptcy of the Glassworks’ owner Serjeant Witton. The buyer is Francis Rufford Sr, a banker. His youngest son Phillip takes charge of the glassworks and moves into Heath House.

Auction Notification, The London Gazette, July 1881

Auction Notification, The London Gazette, July 1881

1786 – Heath House is occupied by Richard Russell Witton and his brother Serjeant Witton. Serjeant Witton leases part of the Glassworks from his brother.

1750 – Click here to see a map.

1745 – Edward Russell takes over the Glassworks. Russell produces high-quality and everyday flint glass and phials (bottles).

1736 – The Glassworks owner, Humphrey Jeston III, is forced to sell due to financial difficulties.

1705 – Humphrey Jeston takes out a mortgage on a glasshouse, to manufacture bottles. The glasshouse is situated at the northwestern corner of the park, north of where the current council offices are sited.

1705 – Humphrey Jeston takes out a mortgage on a glasshouse, to manufacture bottles. The glasshouse is situated at the northwestern corner of the park, north of where the current council offices are sited.

1691 – The first recorded reference to a glassworks, when premises are mortgaged to a Thomas Dalton.

The original Heath glass cone

The original Heath glass cone

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