Winterbourne is a Grade II listed, rare surviving example of an early 20th century suburban villa garden and Arts & Craft home. Originally built by John and Margaret Nettlefold for their growing family, the house and garden are now open to the public, with exhibition rooms on the ground floor that tell the story of the Nettlefold’s involvement in industry and social housing in Birmingham pre-WW1 and beyond. After two subsequent changes of ownership, the house was bequeathed to the University of Birmingham in 1944, with a trust deed stating that the garden must remain true to its original form.
By that stage, the final owner, John Macdonald Nicolson, had lovingly maintained the original site, with many new additions. There were several noteworthy specimens in the garden and much of the site was closely affiliated with University departments for research. The house was used as halls of residence in the 1950s and ’60s and then as office space by several university departments before a massive restoration and reopening in 2010. Whilst the garden had been open to the public for several years, the addition of the house added a new dimension to the visitor experience.
The plant collection at Winterbourne includes over 10,000 plant species and two ‘Plant Heritage’ National Collections, Anthemis and Iris unguicularis, the winter flowering iris. A considerable collection of cacti and succulent plants can also be accessed by the public on selected days of the week. The gardens’ seven acres provide a diverse and variable habitat for all types of plant species and demonstrate how plants have adapted to extreme climatic conditions.
During spring, the Sandstone Rock garden radiates with the vibrant colours of Primula species Astilbes and azaleas on the dryer banks under the arching stems of Acer and Halesia.
In high summer the walled garden not only showcases heritage varieties of fruit and vegetables but is also a blaze of colour with perennials, annuals and climbing plants.
Your visit should include the exploration of the lower areas of the garden where the formal garden meets the wild wet woodland; Gunnera manicata grace the stream banks with their 2m wide Jurassic leaves and spiny sharp stems. The Japanese bridge leads the visitor into this quiet undisturbed woodland realm where native wild flowers can be seen growing in their preferred environment.
The Nut walk is an original feature of the garden with 100 year old hazel and cobnuts arching overhead, providing cool shade in the summer and a pleasing lattice like affect with the low winter sun.
The house and garden are open seven days a week throughout the year to paying visitors, with a closed period of four weeks around Christmas. During usual open hours, students at the University of Birmingham have free access seven days a week and University staff can visit for free Monday to Friday. Staff are on hand to help with enquiries and more in-depth queries will be forwarded to the curator. Recent development work on paths in the garden now gives greater access for people who use wheelchairs or mobility scooters.
Curator t 0121 414 3003 e email@example.com