The Leasowes is situated in Halesowen on the southern edge of the West Midlands urban conurbation. It is a 57-hectare public park containing the remains of one of the most important and influential landscapes of the 18th century. The garden was designed by the poet William Shenstone beginning in 1743 and continuing until his death in 1763. Shenstone created his garden from valleys, open grassland, lakes and streams. Today, The Leasowes is of major historic significance ranking in importance with landscapes such as Blenhelm and Stowe, and being listed as Grade 1 on the English Heritage ‘Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England’.
Now in the ownership of Dudley MBC, a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £1.3 million, was awarded for the Leasowes Restoration Project. Further funding from Dudley MBC has created a total budget of £1.75 million. Work on site began in the winter of 2003, this is due for completion in summer 2005. Dudley Council is committed to working towards securing further funding to enable the complete restoration of The Leasowes and to bring the whole of William Shenstone’s historic landscape back to its full former glory.
Hawne Basin and the Leasowes
From Windmill End the canal runs along the side of the Rowley Hills with extensive views over this part of the Black Country. Emerging from the short Gosty Hill Tunnel (no towpath) the canal passes through the former tube works and now ends at Hawne Basin where there are moorings. Originally the canal continued on to Selly Oak passing through the notoriously long and narrow Lapal Tunnel. It was the repeated collapse of sections of this tunnel that resulted in the remainder of the canal being closed in 1917. A short unnavigable length remains in the Leasowes Park. The canal embankment here closed off the view from the poet William Shenstone's famous landscaped gardens in 1797. Dudley Council is restoring the grounds but in the meantime there are still many pleasant strolls alongside the streams running through the woods. The more energetic can follow the series of footpaths which lead south to Illey and Lapal. The now disused section of the canal that runs from Hawne Basin to Selly Oak is currently the under gradual renovation by the Lapal Canal Trust. (Dudley MBC Canals of Dudley)
Halesowen Abbey (also called St Mary’s Abbey) was founded in 1215 by monks of the Premonstratensian Order (originated at Premontre in France) when they were granted the Manor of Hales by King John. As lords of the Manor, the monks held sway over an area of more than 4,000ha (10,000 acres). The dissolution of the monasteries saw the Abbey surrendered to the Crown in 1538. Soon after, the buildings were partly demolished and the site was granted to Sir John Dudley by Henry VIII.