Author: Jane Edwards

Tree update…..

Those of you that are ‘ECO’ friendly will be pleased to hear that the Tree Officer thinks it may be possible to leave about 12 feet of trunk standing to allow the extensive insect life within the gash area of the tree to continue using it as habitat. When I visited today the insect life was abundant and birds were visiting to use the rich food source there, even as the contractors were working ! Those observant people who visit this area of the cemetery may have noticed that a similar fate happened to another tree near adjacent to the Jewish cemetery area, some years ago, and it is still providing a home for a vast array of wildlife.

Sad reminder….

We were reminded at Committee today that tomorrow will be the first anniversary of Barrie Simpson’s funeral. He is still sadly missed, as so many things we do and discuss had involved Barrie initially. He is still very much part of FBEC and what we do.

Our War Graves, and remembering those that gave their lives was so very important to Barrie, as was the fate of the Chapels and the cemetery as a whole and we miss his wealth of knowledge.

Old Oak damaged by storm Hannah

Today we received the photo below and a message from the City Tree Officer:-

‘Unfortunately one of the mature Oaks adjacent to the Jewish Cemetery suffered severe storm damage over the weekend.
The tree has been assessed and found to have several severe structural defects.
Due to the prominent location of the tree the decision has been made to have it removed.’
Birmingham City Council’s tree service provider will be on site tomorrow to undertake the work.

Normally the Tree Officer likes to leave the main structure of a tree standing as ‘habitat’ if it needs to be felled through age etc but unfortunately, as you can see, that is not possible in this case. It is very sad, but nothing lives forever and the main tree stock in Brandwood End is 125 years old or more, so losses have to be expected. The Friends hope we can work with the Tree Officer and Bereavement Services to plant young trees to naturally take over from these beauties!




St George’s Day and the Mushroom sharing his name!

We all know that the 23rdApril is St George’s Day, but did we know that there is a St George’s Mushroom? What’s even more exciting is that they are growing in the cemetery!

St George’s mushrooms are so named as they are usually ready to pick from about St George’s Day, and it was with great joy that Carola, a member of our committee, stumbled across a specimen whilst refreshing our notice boards! The link below will tell you a little more about them and it appears that the ‘River Cottage’ Chef, is most partial to recipes including these edible mushrooms.

Remember never to pick and eat mushrooms/fungi unless you are accompanied by someone who knows which is which- as eating the wrong sort can be fatal!


The family history of Charles Downes, the first burial.

As promised, here is Charles Downes’ family background –

1871 Census

(Charles’ Grandfather) William Downes, now aged 30,was born in 1841 in Dilwyn, Herefordshire. Dilwyn is a village in Herefordshire, England located about 18 km from the city of Hereford and 9 km from its nearest town, Leominster.

By the time of the census in 1871, William is a carpenter living on Balsall Heath Road employing a man and also a servant, Jane Brazier aged 21 (b 1850).  His wife is Sarah (nee James) is aged 33.   He has two sons Walter William (Charles’ father) is aged 2 and Albert

1881 Census

William is now aged 40 and is a builder.   His wife Sarah is 44.  Their son Walter William is 12 and a scholar and Albert is 10 and a scholar.  The family are living at b/o 152 Balsall Heath Road, Kings Norton, Worcestershire.   Mary A. Lancaster (a niece aged 15) is a visitor.

1891 Census

Charles’ father, Walter William, is now aged 22 (born 1869) and a carpenter living at 188a Balsall Heath Road.   He marries Ada Louisa McKenzie (Mother born 1971) aged 20 (from 172 Moseley Road) at St. Thomas in the Moors Church of England Parish Church in Cox Street West, Balsall Heath on 1st March 1891.  Both their fathers are listed as deceased.

(In 1897 when Charles is 3, his father Walter William Downes aged 28 is admitted to the Birmingham No. 5 Branch of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners Union).

William and Ada’s children .

1892   William John

1894   Frederick Walter

1894   Charles        

1897   Albert

1898   Harry

1899   Louie Ada

1901   Frank


1899   Charles Dies 11 April at 47 Runcorn Road, Balsall Heath (Diphtheria x four days) – buried 15th April

———————————————————————————————–1901 Census

The family are living at 284 Balsall Heath Road, Kings Norton, Warwickshire. Walter William is 32 and is a carpenter/joiner – his wife Ada is 30.

1908   Their second daughter Lucy is born.

 1911 Census

The family are living at 105 Clifton Road, Balsall Heath.   Walter William is 43 and is a Carpenter and Joiner working at a Builders and Contractors.   Ada is 40.

Their children –

William John is 19 and a clerk, Frederick Walter is 17 and employed in shop fitting Albert is 14 and is a gas works laboratory assistant, Harry is 13 and a school boy, Louie Ada is 10 and at school and Lucy is 3 years old.

Walter William’s mother Sarah is 75 and a widow living with them.

1937-Walter William dies aged 68.

(Our thanks to all those that assisted us in producing this time line and we hope it helps to bring the ‘Downes’ family and Charles to greater attention)




Can we remind all visitors to the Cemetery to exercise care when moving any distance from their vehicle, as thieves are always looking for an opportunity to steal from unlocked vehicles. 

We are aware that the Police attended an attempted theft in the cemetery last weekend.  Brandwood End Cemetery is a relatively safe space, but do take care as thieves will always be on the look out for unattended vehicles and bags. PLEASE RING THE POLICE DIRECT.

It would be helpful if you could also advise Bereavement Service staff on 0121 303  5583 if you are ever a victim, as they are often not notified so can take no additional measurers- when applicable.

Special Anniversary for Brandwood End

This weekend was a special one for Brandwood End Cemetery as the Friends remember 2 events that happened 120 years ago.

Brandwood End Cemetery was officially opened (there is a plaque on the wall of the West Chapel ) on Thursday 13th April 1899 by Mr. George Tallis, the Chairman of the Kings Norton Parish Council Local Cemetery Committee.

The photograph above shows the boulder (Provided by the Friends following a generous donation) marking one of the communal grave areas where the very first burial site is marked.

If you look to the right as you pass the Cross of Sacrifice, very close to the Redwood Avenue, you will find a simple wooden stake. (Section C1 c/e)

The Friends, with help from Bereavement Service staff, have identified the grave of :-

Charles Downes – 5 years old – first burial in Brandwood End. The cause of death was ‘Diphtheria after 4 days’

His father, Walter William Downes was a Carpenter (journeyman) who was present at his little son’s death at 47 Runcorn Road, Balsall Heath on Tuesday 11th April 1899.   Charles was buried four days later on Saturday 15th April, and became the first burial in Brandwood End.

We have, today, laid a small tribute with a few words, but hope to bring you more of the Downes Family history via a link in the next few days.


The minister who conducted the burial service was Revd Charles William Barnard, Vicar of St. Nicolas’ Kings Norton (1893-1909) in whose parish the Cemetery lay.


Major tree work continues in the cemetery.

Tree contractors, Idverde, have crown lifted many conifers (removed lower branches) and other species, as well as removing Ivy from the lower 6 feet of trunks along the Sunderton road boundary.

Regular visitors to the cemetery will have noticed a huge increase in tree work in the last year. This has followed a survey to determine the safety of many of the older and diseased trees, to prevent damage to graves, property and people in the future. Brandwood End was opened in 1899 and many of the trees were planted then or, in the case of some of the oaks, before that date. Oaks often live for several hundred years but many other species have a much shorter life expectancy and that is the case with many of our 1700 plus trees!


We have seen major crown lifting on both sides of our Wellingtonia avenue, large trees removed on the Broad Lane boundary, Poplars removed along the Sunderton Road boundary, Woodland reduced on the pool end of Sunderton road and various trees crown lifted or removed across the cemetery.

On the plus side, great care has been taken to consider wildlife with trees left untouched that are being used by Woodpeckers, ivy growth removed in some areas and left in others for nesting, standing tree stumps left to improve biodiversity and logs piled for Hedgehog use.

A tree replacement programme has been started and a number of new trees have already been planted by local pupils. The Friends hope that this can continue, provided funding can be found.