A PARTY on Sunday celebrated 50 years since Sanders Park was officially opened to the public - but the Sanders family legacy in Bromsgrove stretches well beyond those black front gates.

Buildings and statues that are embedded in the Sanders' family history have become pieces of the town's furniture.

The horse trough in the Strand was erected in memory of Benjamin Hadley Sanders, a solicitor and town clerk born in 1831 who was involved in the early days of Bromsgrove Rovers Football Club.

In 1821 his grandad, Benjamin, founded The Button Factory at the rear of the high street - behind what is now Ollie's Eatery. The factory moved five years later to the former Sidemoor Mill, now Willow Road. Benjamin also built Denmark House in Kidderminster Road, now known as The Cottage and Copenhagen House.

The Sanders empire continued to grow as the family bought the Cotton Mill Estate off Watt Close in 1853, formerly a water mill powered by the Battlefield Brook.

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Sanders Park in the 1980s. Photo by N. Stevenson.

The mill was demolished in 1892 and BHS later build an outdoor swimming pool there. A water feature is all that remains today.

Oakdene, the Sanders' family home for generations, looked out across the fields that are now visited by 350,000 park-goers every year.

The building is now used by Bromsgrove Unionist Club, while the land was left to Bromsgrove Urban District Council in 1951, following the death of Benjamin's daughters Mary and Lucy.

A condition in Mary's will stated that no existing trees should be cut down, unless they were diseased or dangerous, and that any trees that died should be replaced.

Since it was officially opened to the public on September 14, 1968, the park has welcomed the addition of a pavilion, built with money from a disbanded housing association, and a sensory garden.

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Sanders Park in the 1980s. Photo by N. Stevenson.

It hosts the town's annual carnival, charity fundraisers, live music events at its bandstand, and sports and exercise classes ranging from tennis to tai chi.

Renowned Bromsgrove poet and scholar A E Housman, whose bronze statue adorns the town's high street, often refers to the landscape of the park's Battlefield Brook in his work.

Descendants of the Sanders family, who have since moved as far as London and Somerset, joined the golden anniversary celebrations at the weekend, and said they were overwhelmed by the sense of civic pride in the community.

Sara Lennon said: "It was very special to take part in such an important event, and to know that we are related to people who have made such a difference to the town.

"At a time when our community institutions are so under threat, it was a real reminder of how important such places are as physical locations to bring people together, and as symbols."