Farley Park Lodge Accessibility updates

Farley Park Lodge is a striking early 1900s building, originally serving as the residence of the local park keeper. It has been a library and arts centre and now it’s a community centre, owned by Sandwell Council and managed in partnership with Great Bridge Community Forum.

Between January and May 2023, Urban Design and Building Services (UDBS) oversaw accessibility improvements to Farley Park Lodge, including:

  •  Building a small extension to the lobby of the main entrance – creating a gently sloping approach instead of the original narrow ramp and single step
  • Increasing the size of, and refurbishing, the accessible toilet
  • Creating an accessible baby change room
  • Improving access to the hall entrance – including new external steps
  • Replacing the external lighting, installing new high-efficiency LED sensor lights for reduced light pollution
  • Adding new line marking and signage to the designated parking bays.

There is ongoing work to install a ramp to the original entrance of the lodge.

“Everyone is so pleased”

Vicky Whitehouse is Community Development Officer at Great Bridge Community Forum.

She said: “I can confirm that everyone is so pleased with alterations.  Especially the automatic doors and wider entrance.  We have a number of service users who are elderly or in wheelchairs so it’s been great to be able to see them enter our building with ease, instead of navigating the old-style doors.  The wheelchair users are grateful for the extra space in the disabled toilet.

“The youth changing bed / baby change is a fantastic addition to our community centre. Sandwell Parents for Disabled Children are a group who have previously expressed interest in using our facilities but found the changing area unsuitable and access to the building a challenge.  We recently held a coffee morning with them and they were so impressed with our new facilities that they are going to book in future events. Thus generating more income and publicity for us.”

Farley Park Lodge: a timeline

Thank you to Maureen, Chair of Great Bridge Community Forum, for helping us to write up this history of Farley Park Lodge.

Reuben Farley was a local lad, born in Great Bridge, who became the first Mayor of West Bromwich (he was Mayor five times altogether) and later an alderman. He was an entrepreneur and philanthropist who gave many gifts to the area – including plots of land on which parks and recreation ground could be established. One of these plots of land became Farley Park.

Interesting fact: Farley Clock Tower on Carters Green was built by public subscription to show how much the people of West Bromwich appreciated Reuben Farley’s work for the area.

1891: Alderman Reuben Farley purchased land and gave it to the Greets Green community as a recreation ground. This is the park now known as Farley Park.

Early 1900s: Buildings were added to the park – one of which was a school and, the other, a gentlemen’s reading room and eventually a general reading room. You can still see the words READING ROOM on the front of the building that we now know as Farley Park Lodge.

1947: The council took over the reading room and it became the local library. The house was used for the keeper for Farley Park: this was a time when parks were managed by a keeper and a group of gardeners.

1975: The library closed on this site and the facility was moved to Great Bridge. The house was no longer used, as the roles of park keepers were becoming obsolete.

In the years that followed, the building now known as Farley Park Lodge was leased to Jubilee Arts, a grant-funded organisation who worked with local communities to organise fetes and fayres and encourage residents to form their own organisations. One such community organisation became the Farley Community Association and, later, the Farley Tenants’ and Residents’ Association.

When Jubilee Arts moved out of the Lodge, Farley Community Association in conjunction with local councillors, successfully lobbied for it to become a community centre.

1992: Work to make Farley Park Lodge a community centre was completed. The community centre was opened on 11 July 1992 by Councillor John Sullivan. The refurbishment had cost £250,000, following the discovery that there was no proper foundation beneath the building and because of a need to source a new clock for the tower.

The Farley Park management committee was established, at a time when all community centres had a manager and two or more staff.

Farley Park Lodge was used and enjoyed by various groups, both community- and council-led. It acted as an office base for organisations that included Cruse Bereavement Care and Epilepsy UK.

1995: Great Bridge Community Forum (GBCF) was established, formed of members of groups that used Farley Park Lodge, plus other local organisations and residents. It gained charitable status.

2001: GBCF received £200,000 of Big Lottery funding, enabling it to employ staff and begin its formal work.

2023: The grandchildren and even great-grandchildren of the Lodge’s first service users are enjoying the building today, benefiting from activities that include an after-school club and holiday playscheme.

The accessibility updates to the building will further enhance people’s appreciation of and access to Farley Park Lodge for many years to come.

UDBS is honoured to oversee work on, and care for, many wonderful buildings in Sandwell – see more of our projects.


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