All our talks take place online, using Zoom. Please book your place in good time; although we aim to make recordings of these talks available after the event, this will always be subject to the technological gods favouring us.

All talks are free to attend though we welcome donations to cover our costs and enable us to put on more talks in the future.

We are very grateful to the Rotary Club of Wylde Green for their support enabling this series of talks to run online.

Thursday 2 December 2021, 7.30pm

Recording the wildlife of Sutton Park: history and highlights by Peter Coxhead

Systematic recording of the wildlife of Sutton Park is vital to maintaining its status as a National Nature Reserve, with the legal protection that follows. The first systematic account of the plants and fungi of Sutton Park was published in 1876. Animals of all kinds were much less well recorded until the 20th century. In this illustrated talk, I will present a brief survey of the history of wildlife recording in the park and then look at some of the more interesting records, concentrating on animals, from insects to birds. The talk should complement the earlier one by Ian Trueman, which covered plants and habitats.

You can book your place at this event here:

Please note this replaces the previously advertised talk by Martin Fischer.


Thursday 21 January 2021, 7.30pm

The church on the hill – a whistlestop history of Holy Trinity Parish Church Sutton Coldfield by Stella Thebridge

The story of this Grade I listed building begins uncertainly in the thirteenth century and unfolds over succeeding centuries to reveal a church consistently at the heart of its community adapting to national and local changes, while remaining a place for worship and community activity.  Stella Thebridge draws on the rich resources of earlier writers as well as contemporary local historians to highlight this fascinating story, as recounted in two recent complementary publications – a guide book and a church history, both in full colour.  The books represent the culmination of a Heritage Lottery funded project at the church which enabled new research to be undertaken to inform these two books which bring the history up to date following a sensitive refurbishment of the church interior in 2016-18.

You can re-watch this event here:

Holy Trinity, Sutton Coldfield : the story of a parish church and its people, 1250-2020 Edited by Stella Thebridge is available to borrow from several libraries in Sutton Coldfield and wider Birmingham. Click here for details on how to purchase your own copy.

Thursday January 28 2021, 7.30pm

‘Tales yet to be Told,’ featuring new strange ghost stories of Sutton Coldfield from Patrick Hayes

Several books by Patrick are available through the Birmingham Library system, including Ghost Stories of Sutton Coldfield. Patrick will be letting us know how we can purchase his new book during his talk.

You can re-watch this event here:

Thursday 4 February 2021, 7.30pm

Pugin’s Passion – The Legacy of Faith

A brief overview of the history of  St Mary’s College, Oscott and the role of the foremost gothic revivalist – Augustus Welby Pugin – had on the college and the legacy that has been left today. This talk will be given by Naomi Johnson, Curator, St Mary’s College, Oscott

The recording of this talk is available to view here:

Several books about Oscott College are available through the library service, including this one at Boldmere Library.

Thursday 18 February 2021, 7.30pm

The Archaeology of Sutton Coldfield beyond the Park by Dr Mike Hodder

From Palaeolithic flints to tree-ring dating 18th century farm buildings, and everything in between.

The recording of this talk is available to view here:

You may also enjoy this previous talk given by Mike, on the archaeology of Sutton Park:

Thursday 4 March 2021, 7.30pm

A brief, illustrated history of Moor Hall by a senior member of staff from Moor Hall Hotel

The recording of this talk is available to view here:

How to create the perfect wife by Wendy Moore

Thomas Day was an 18th-century poet and philanthropist. He campaigned against slavery, spent his money on good works and was a member of the Lunar Society of scientists and intellectuals based in the Midlands. Day’s quest to find a perfect woman was rather less admirable. In 1769 he chose two orphans from the London Foundling Hospital in order to educate them both and choose the best pupil to become his wife. As part of this plan, he sent his preferred pupil, Sabrina Bicknell, to school in Sutton Coldfield. Naturally, Day’s scheme to create his perfect wife did not end well.
Wendy Moore reveals the story of Day’s bizarre quest as told in her book How to Create the Perfect Wife.

Wendy Moore is a journalist and author of five non-fiction books. Her third book, How to Create the Perfect Wife, was published in 2013. Her most recent book, Endell Street: The Trailblazing Women who ran World War One’s Most Remarkable Military Hospital, was a Radio 4 Book of the Week. Wendy is a Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund based at the British Library. More information on and on twitter @wendymoore99

The recording of this talk is available to view here:

Thursday 22 April 2021, 7.30pm

A new Flora of Sutton Park by Prof. Ian Trueman

The Park is a nationally significant refuge for many plant species which are uncommon in the English midlands. The Botanical Society of Birmingham and the Black Country has been working on a new Flora to celebrate this unique site and to place it in the context of its previous 19th and 20th century Floras. The talk will hopefully increase your appreciation of this special site and will outline the new book which is planned for publication in 2021. 

The recording of this talk is available to view here:

James Speight’s Studio. Photo courtesy of John Frearson.
Thursday 24 June 2021, 7.30pm (part 1) and Thursday 1 July 2021, 7.30pm (part 2)

James Speight of Sutton Coldfield and his family of photographers by John Frearson

James Speight was a well-known photographer in Sutton Coldfield with a studio on The Parade which opened in 1908. He took many photos of Sutton residents as well as lots of views around Sutton Coldfield. The studio closed when James retired in 1950. James came from a family of photographers who worked in various towns across the Midlands and John Frearson has been researching the Speight family for many years, with the support of the family’s descendants.

James Speight’s story will be told over two talks. The first will focus on setting the scene and exploring his family background, whilst the second will focus on James’s later career.

A recording of part 1 is available here.
A recording of part 2 is available here.

Thursday 23 September 2021, 7.30pm
People of Holy Trinity – famous and less well-known personalities in Sutton Coldfield’s past by Stella Thebridge

Following on from Stella’s talk earlier this year focussing on the history of Holy Trinity as a building, Stella Thebridge gave a second talk this time focussing on stories about the people who worked or worshipped at the Church and who played key roles in the town of Sutton Coldfield over the years.

You can watch this talk here.

Thursday 21 October 2021, 7.30pm

Sutton Park: A Photographer’s Place

Photo by E.S. Baker
Sutton Park has been a place of interest for many a photographer over the years. Supported by an Arts Council England grant, Anna Sparham is currently researching photographs of the park held in public archives. This talk introduced some of those better-known photographers through the 19th and early 20th centuries and some contemporary photographers who are drawn to the park today, including herself. As part of the talk Anna explored how these photographers’ purposes and approaches have varied and what and where has been their focus.

Originally from Sutton Coldfield, Anna graduated in photography in 2001 from Nottingham Trent University before pursuing a career in the museum sector. She was Curator of Photographs at the Museum of London from 2006 until her relocation back to Birmingham in 2019. Anna is currently an independent photography curator, researcher and photographic artist. She is also Co-Director of a new Community Interest Company, Developed in Birmingham.

You can watch this talk here.

Thursday 11 November 2021, 7.30pm

The going down of the sun – The men of Wylde Green who died in the Great War by Rob Rolfe

Research into the dead of WW1 – untold millions – continues today. A complete record of those in a local area, such as Sutton Coldfield, may never be fully achieved, since 60% of all army files from WW1 were destroyed by enemy bombing during WW2.

Local amateur historian Rob Rolfe has done much work into those who were killed who are commemorated on the war memorial in Emmanuel Church in Wylde Green, and uncovered the lives of many others not on such memorials.

In this talk Rob brought forward the stories of some of the men, talked about the research being done, and highlighted what remains to be done in the future.

Rob is a retired teacher and lecturer in mathematics education, and a lay minister in the Church of England.

You can watch this talk here.

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