Winterbourne is a rare surviving example of an early 20th century suburban villa and garden. The house was built in 1903 for John and Margaret Nettlefold, of Guest, Keen & Nettlefold or GKN.
Nettlefold was a pioneer of town planning who carried the ideas seen in his own home to the less wealthy areas of the city.
The house was built at a time when the city had a serious lack of decent homes for working people. John and his wife Margaret were from prestigious local families who had made their living in industry. Choosing their house to be designed in the Arts and Crafts style reflected their modern outlook.
Originally designed as a small country estate with rustic outbuildings and large gardens, Winterbourne followed the style of the Arts and Crafts movement with examples of local craftsmanship throughout the house.
Margaret Nettlefold designed the garden, inspired by the books and garden designs of Gertrude Jekyll. After a period of restoration, the garden was Grade II listed by English Heritage in 2008.
John MacDonald Nicolson was the last private owner of the house and a keen gardener. He developed many new areas, including a scree garden and small alpine features around the garden.
Nicolson died in 1944 and bequeathed the house and garden to Birmingham University. The garden became the University’s Botanic Garden and new areas for teaching and plant conservation were developed within the historic layout.
The garden today is still used by students but is also open to the public to be enjoyed by everyone.
Today the botanical garden offers colour and interest throughout the year. The restored walled garden complete with crinkle-crankle wall, is a riot of rainbow shades from May until October. The lawns are fringed with striking colour themed borders, and beyond lies an original sandstone rock garden and a woodland walk through Gunnera leaves and Rhododendron displays. The botanical garden contains plants from around the globe with collections of plants from China, North and South America and the Alpine areas of the world.
Information from Winterbourne website.