A History of my Archive in 10 Objects. No.1: Sketch from the back garden of Butlers Lane, 1976
For the first in the Museum of My Archive in 10 Objects (apologies to Neil MacGregor and the British Museum) I bring you a sketch of our house, drawn just before my 17th birthday from our back garden during the sweltering summer of 1976.
We lived in Butlers Lane, Sutton Coldfield from 1970 until the end of 1977, this was the house where I grew from child to teenager.
It was a corner house and significantly bigger than any of our previous (and subsequent!) homes. My parents bought it for a bargain, it hadn’t been altered since it was built in the 1920’s and was in desperate need of complete modernisation, much of which my dad did himself. I still have clear memories of when we moved in – there were slate fossils of ammonites and other pre-historic sea life left in the kitchen from the previous owner, also a big, black cast iron built in range, and in one of the bedroom cupboards an old clockwork railway set. All were disposed of very quickly in the urgency to fix up the house, much to my regret!
The reason this is the first in my History is because this house is where it all started, this is where I really embraced a love of history and of art, where I began drawing in earnest. I’ve more fond memories of this house than any other.
One of the best things about it was the long extended back garden, which had two large trees and several smaller ones (not visible in this drawing), a rock garden and an allotment at the bottom, which my grandfather cultivated when he later moved in with us. I shared a bedroom with my brother (on the whole amicably), on my side of the room my dad built a study alcove which we were supposed to use for homework, but which I actually used mainly to paint Napoleonic soldiers. Airfix model aeroplanes hung from the ceiling in an eternal dogfight. On my brother’s side of the room was a large cardboard cut-out of Marc Bolan, Roger Dean posters and a fur trimmed record player. We got on okey. My sister always had her own room, bedecked with posters of Black Sabbath and David Bowie. The house was easy walking distance to school and local shops at Mere Green, a bike ride from Sutton Park, and just a couple of minutes walk from Butlers Lane train station, which gave us access to Sutton Coldfield and Birmingham. In the summer I’d cycle the opposite direction along country lanes out towards Lichfield.
From this distance in time it seems a pretty well perfect place to have grown up. I loved this house.
This wasn’t the first time I’d drawn it, nor would it be the last, but this particular image seems to me to sum up a perfect summer at one of the happiest and most carefree times of my life.