The Worgan Trust was set up by the philanthropist and Quaker Paul Cadbury (1895 – 1984) in 1967 to protect and preserve greenbelt land around Birmingham; a man of great energy, and ideas. In 1971 he had the visionary idea to set up an education unit for Birmingham school children where they could experience real farming activities near to the city. He then had discussions with the Chief Education Officer for the City of Birmingham.
Chapmans Hill Farm was a 70 acre holding owned by the Worgan Trust and the Bournville Village Trust, bounded on the south-east by the then new Waseley Country Park and adjoining built up areas in south-west Birmingham. The Trustees agreed to adapt and run the farm for a minimum of five years while the Education Committee would provide a qualified teacher and educational equipment. They would also arrange the school visits and cover the cost of school transport.
The farm buildings and farmhouse were renovated. Tom Jones was appointed as the resident dairy farmer. A school room and lavatories were set out in an old barn. Instead of school desks small refectory tables and ash benches were commissioned. We are still using them as the classroom furniture 50 years on!
Chapmans Hill School Farm opened for school visits in September 1972 and Alex Cork was appointed as the teacher in charge until his retirement in 1987. His replacement, Nina Hatch started in April 1988.
During 1972 – 73 children visited with school staff on every realistic school day. It was a project of national significance and a pioneer enterprise in the field of Environmental and Farming Education. Children were able to see a small herd (initially 25 Friesian cows) being milked, a flock of 32 ewes on the hill field + 5 tame ewes with a Suffolk ram for the children to feed. 12 sows with a Large White boar were also purchased. The idea was that two sows would farrow every month so there would always be piglets for the children to see. 40 hens in 2 pens with their own cockerel would be fed by the school children who would collect the eggs. ‘Hands on’ feeding of sheep and poultry continues in the same way to this day and is much valued by teachers and pupils.
Increasing demand for younger children to gain experience with farm animals led the Worgan Trust to build a new classroom at their nearby Money Lane Farm. Opening in 1980, John Llewellyn was the resident teacher responsible for all livestock including weekends. Tame sheep, ducks and chickens were set up with cattle and weaner pigs provided by Tom Jones. Visits for younger age children (now known as Early Years and Key Stage 1) were for a shorter 2 hours. Apart from Fridays Mr Llewellyn taught 2 groups a day. On Fridays just one class came so that he could clean out the duck pond and animal pens! He was known throughout the schools for putting a chicken on a child’s head. (They were in fact bantams and we would not be able to do that these days.) He finally retired in 2008 and was replaced by Becky Lynch.
In 1991 when Chapmans Hill stopped breeding pigs the classroom was extended with new toilets and a disabled access ramp. This made the farm accessible to all children. When Tom Jones retired in 2000 Peter Charles, who soon married Emma Hillman, became the resident farmer. Then in 2008 the Worgan Trust made the decision to move to a larger dairy farm near Wythall, part of the Bournville Village Trust Estate where Peter Charles had taken on the tenancy. A £500,000 sustainably designed classroom was built here at Mount Pleasant Farm. Birmingham’s Outdoor Learning Service with Nina continued to organise visits for Birmingham school children until July 2014 when the OLS was closed down. Birmingham Council had already faced financial problems as Becky Lynch had been made redundant in 2010. This meant that children of all ages started coming to Mount Pleasant for educational farm visits.
Mount Pleasant School Farm became a CIO (charitable organisation) in January 2015, still strongly supported by the Worgan Trust. Paul Cadbury’s daughter Philippa Southall took over as Chair in 1984. She and her husband Stephen were working farmers and the current Chair is their daughter Candia Compton. As the grand-daughter of Paul, and great- great grand-daughter of Richard Cadbury this is a direct link to the original founders of Cadbury Brothers, and to the Bournville Village Trust. All current Worgan Trustees are related to the Cadbury family and thus close links to the Bournville Village Trust continue.