The nineteenth century (maps 6 and 7)
A row of almshouses was built beside the Trust School about 1800. New Bridge, the present one, was a decade later. The churchyard was enlarged in 1833. The Napoleonic Wars and the Corn Laws thereafter kept the price of grain high and farming profitable. Many farms were rebuilt as groups of substantial brick and tile structures, as the maps show. Yardley Farm (1837) is the only one in the whole manor to survive intact. The large farmhouses provided quarters for family and single workers and there were garrets for workers' families over some of the outbuildings. The Tithe Commutation Act, which substituted money rents based on acreage for tithes in kind, made accurate large-scale maps essential. Those for Yardley of 1843, each Quarter separate to a scale of 12 inches to the mile, are finely drawn, showing every building, close, lane and track. They give us an accurate picture of Yardley for the first time, though the First Edition of the O.S. One-Inch Map published a few years earlier is not despised. Final enclosures having followed an Act of 1833, the whole parish was now in individual ownership: because the newly-enclosed pieces were numbered differently from those mapped around them, it is possible to identify them. The extent of the open fields at enclosure is shown on Maps 1 and 3. Only patches of Stichford and Church Fields had survived in Church End, though there were commons elsewhere.
From the Schedule we learn that Squire Taylor owned Hillhouse Farm; Rev. Gwyther owned Glebe Farm; Henry Greswold land about the Turnpike, Wash Mill and Farm, Blakesley; Margaret Steward Bachelors Farm; the Earl of Digby Lea Fields and Cowford Hall. The villa which became the Yardley Arms Inn and the cottages by there like those on Old Stoney Lane beside the Station Road ramp, post-date enclosure. Lanes improved as part of the Act were Yardley Fields Road, Stoney Lane, and Cole Hall Lane. A lane near the Lyndon border was made into a private drive to Old Gilbertstone in 1846, being replaced by what is now Manor House Lane (it led to Lyndon Manor House, demolished in the 1960s).
Robert Stephenson's London to Birmingham Railway was opened in 1838. It cut through Church End's ridges, between Lea Hall and Bloomers, north of Cowford Hall and south of Stud Farm and Hillhouse, was banked over the Yardley Brook valley and level at Stoney Lane. High brick bridges over the great trenches were built for Lea Hall, Church Lane, and Hillhouse, and an underbridge for Dead Man's Lane (Crossfield Road). Rent was paid to the Vicar for the crossing of Glebe Farm land. Stechford Station (a railway clerk misspelled Stichford, and the name stuck) opened in 1844: the level crossing was replaced by a ramp and overbridge 21 years later.
There was no rush to build and live in what could now be called 'commuter country'. Advertisements for riverside plots in Saint Mary's Road (Mary Road) stressed that they enjoyed fishing rights in the Cole, then a trout stream, in addition to fresh air and freedom from town epidemics. A few villas appeared - Victoria House 1865, Gumbleberries 1874, for example, and a grid of streets was sporadically developed. Two hamlets grew, Lower Stichford with an inn and smithy near the Cole bridge (Upper Stichford was on the Castle Bromwich side), and Five Ways by Field House Farm. It is not proposed to tell the detailed story of suburban growth in Church End here: see my 'Urbanisation of Yardley' for this. Herein I shall generalise and simplify, as has been done on Map 10.
In 1820 when for the last time the manorial Courts Leet and Baron were held, in the Trust School, Yardley's population exceeded 2,000. It is now a hundred times as great. Having exported people for much of its history the parish became an importer from the mid-19th century. The Oxford Railway and Acocks Green Station were opened in 1852, initiating a 'railway suburb' thereabout. Yardley Village was midway between the stations: mansions were built about but not in it, by wealthy families who owned carriages and created private parks. Building society villas for professionals and tradesmen came too along the Turnpike and the old lanes. Last were artisans' terraces on new streets. Among the mansions were The Grange (Hoskins - Church Road), The Grove (Ashmores - Vibart/Farnol Roads), The Croft (Barrows - Cranfield Grove), The Oaks (Iliffes - Charminster Avenue), Rockingham, Yardley House (Turners - Hythe Grove), and Wisteria Villa (Hedges - Five Ways). There were a score or more smaller named houses. At Blakesley were the Clementses, at Old Gilbertstone, and Kite House the Thornleys, and at Newbridge the Parsonses. New Gilbertstone, built in 1874 for the Tangyes was a Gothic monstrosity. Kite House was rebuilt as Gilbertstone Grange, for this was the period of fancy houses with fancy names as bogus as the architecture. Hay Mills developed as an industrial village of terraces on both sides of the Coventry Road, and 'South Yardley' about the Swan was a similar development of the 1880s, like railside Stechford.
Public transport was the reason for Yardley's development as a Birmingham suburban area: without it the distance would have discouraged settlement. After Turnpike abolition in the 1870s, horse-buses plied along the Coventry Road to the Swan. In 1897 the City of Birmingham Tramways Company began a service of steam tramcars from Hay Mills to the Swan, which was then rebuilt. The humped Cole bridge prevented connection with the lines from the town to Small Heath: after its replacement in 1904 the link was made and open-topped two-deck electric cars trundled up Red Hill, powered by a generating station where Colliers premises are now. Two years later the Company was bought out by the Corporation of Birmingham Tramways Dept. There was never an extension of the lines beyond Church Road. To cater for tram-borne townees on summer evening outings, large ornate pubs were built or rebuilt, like the Plough and Harrow and the Bull's Head.
Yardley Rural District Council was established in 1895, taking over the functions of the Local Board. Its headquarters were on Sparkhill, the population centre of Yardley, not in the rural
village. The Solihull Sanitary Authority, which included the parish, laid a sewer down the Yardley Brook valley to Colehall. The farm was bought for filter beds and the house became the offices.
Later the sewer was extended to Minworth Main (Birmingham, Tame and Rea District Drainage Board). Stechford Bridge was rebuilt jointly by Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Birmingham in
Churches and schools
St. Edburgha's remained the only church in Yardley until Marston Chapel was consecrated at Hall Green in 1704. The first parish to be carved out was that of Christ Church Yardley Wood in 1849, followed by St. Mary's Acocks Green (1867), and St. Cyprian's Hay Mills (1878). The following year an iron chapel was in use at Stechford, this being replaced by the present All Saints' in 1898. It became a parish church in 1932. St. Michael's and All Angels, built in Rowlands Road as a mission in 1912, was enparished in 1956. In that year a mission opened in the Bishop Lightfoot Hall: it became St. Richard's Lea Hall and was enparished when the new church was completed in 1966. Methodists were meeting in a house on Old Stoney Lane before 1875. Their first chapel was built on Victoria Road in 1879, and the present church in Lyttleton Road opened in 1932. The nearby Catholic church of Corpus Christi began as a mission in 1919, the church being consecrated ten years later. There has been a Carmelite convent at The Grange since 1933. Our Lady Help of Christians mission at Lea Hall began in 1961. Other Nonconformist churches are Church Road (1873), Stechford Baptist Church Hall (1926), Station Road Meeting Hall (1936-52), Digbeth-In-The-Fields Moat Lane and Glebe Farm Chapel in Farmcote Road both 1949, and Elim Church in Broadstone Road (1950). There was a Salvation Army barracks in Shipway Road 1898-1903, and the Hall in Blakesley Road was opened in 1938.
The Trust School admitted some girls until 1819, after which - as they had to pay fees - there were none. In 1831 a school for Infants was begun somewhere in Yardley but soon closed for lack of money. Yardley Church School was opened for Girls and Infants in 1836. There is one reference to a 'Stechford and Greet School' before 1847, but nothing else is known of it. Ebenezer Hoskins of The Grange built a Cottagers' Institute opposite the church to provide education for adults. Yardley School Board opened Redhill School at Hay Mill in 1892-4, and Stechford Board School at Five Ways in 1896. It was to be twice enlarged, by Worcestershire in 1906 and by Birmingham in 1928. Both Trust and Church Schools were condemned by the County Education Dept. in 1908, and the next year the pupils went to the new Church Road Schools. All other schools in Church End have been provided by Birmingham Education Committee. Dates that follow are those of opening and enlargement: details of the buildings’ use and capacity will be found in the V. C. H. Warwickshire Vol. VII. Bierton 1928-9, Audley 1933-4, Hobmoor 1933-51, Ridpool 1937-9, Whittington Oval 1938-48, Lea Village (Mirfield) 1938-41 and Blakesley 1959.
The twentieth century (map 10)
Birmingham had sought to annex Yardley since the 1880s. The newly-formed Worcestershire County Council was determined to retain the District, and it sought the make good the deficiencies in
services. Policing had been done by Warwickshire since 1857, but this was taken over and a fine police station was built on the Coventry Road - prominently displaying the arms of Worcester.
A noble Council House on Sparkhill was both an advertisement for the County and a focus for local pride. But water and gas came from Birmingham, as did most of the new Yardleians. These amenities made possible the enormous increase in population (from ten to sixty thousand) in the three decades from 1880. Terrace streets were quickly built and occupied at Stechford and Hay Mill(s), up Red Hill, between Church Road and Yew Tree Lane, on Church Road, Clements and Stuarts Roads. Even in the village two crofts were crammed with tunnelbacks, three short rows of them.
The Great Trust had presented the District Council with several pieces of land, forty acres in total, for use as recreation grounds. A large piece of Church Field and a small one of Stichford Field were among them. The only ones to be opened were Queens Road and Sparkhill Parks: the silted moat by the church was considered dangerous so it was infilled, but bordering trees and slight hollows still define it. The old almshouses were demolished and a new group with a hall opened at the north end of the village, in 1904.
Yardley voted to join Birmingham in 1911 and did so the following year, enjoying lower rating for the next fifteen years. Thereafter the ancient name has only geographical significance, referring to no more than a square mile of the parish and manor. The Corporation adopted a 1909 plan of the Rural District Council for the Cole Valley. It was decided that wherever industry and sewerage works did not prevent it, the valley would be kept as a green strip of meadows, with a riverside walk from Solihull Lodge to Sheldon. Seven decades on the work is nearly complete. The river had been somewhat straightened, removing the last refuges of fish (the last trout was taken from it in 1925), and two millraces have been infilled. Richmond Road, Bachelors Farm, The Riddings and Glebe Farm recreation grounds have been laid out and there are larger areas of green on the west and north banks.
To link up its outlying suburbs the Corporation established the Outer Circle bus route in 1926, having drained, tarmac’ed and lit the lanes it used. This brought public transport to - or near - Yardley Village for the first time, so that it became suitable for private development. About Stechford a further fillip to urbanisation was the extension of Bordesley Green East across the Cole so that trams could reach Stuarts Road (1928). The landscape of Church End changed radically between the Wars. Villas and mansions largely disappeared, giving place to short streets of semi's. Only The Grange survives, as a Convent. The Croft is remembered in a new name for an old lane. The Grove (alias The Poplars) has gone but its lodge still stands just off Barrows Lane. Rockingham and Yew Tree Houses are recalled in street names, as are Flaxley, Fieldhouse, Glebe Farm, Lea Hall and Hillhouse (Old Farm Road). Millhouse Road follows the line of the infilled headrace to Wash Mill. Bachelors Farm gives its name to a play area. Folliotts (of Blakesley Hall) and Grevises (of Moseley Hall, former lords of Yardley) were honoured, if that is the right word, in the 1930s and 1960s respectively - but not the Taylors. The hamlets of Lower Stichford and Yew Tree vanished along with many farms and cottages. Starting in Lyttleton Road in 1920, huge council housing estates were to be built in two periods. These were Fast Pits and Hobmoor (2200 houses) and Manor Road in the 1920s, and after a break due to the Depression, Riddings, Glebe Farm and Lea Hall from 1933. The latter estates were not complete when World War Two started. Glebe Farmhouse was demolished c. 1934 and Lea Hall in 1937 when the railway station was built in the cutting beside it. The gate pillars long survived.
New estates were fitted in between old lanes, which were improved. New highways - Berkeley Road East/Millhouse Road, Audley/Kitts Green Roads, Wyndhurst/Bushbury Roads, and the part-new, part-old
Manor/Inglefield/Lea Hall Roads and Flaxley/Folliott/Mirfield Roads, Wash Lane/Richmond Roads, Yew Tree Lane/Richmond Road - supplemented existing through routes. Holloways were infilled, hedged
banks removed, streets were sewered, mained, paved, and lit with gas lamps. Part of Old Yardley Green Road was abandoned. Early estates were on straight or gently-curving streets, nearly all of
them open at both ends. Later street-plans were circles, arcs, quadrants, and included short cul-de-sacs. 'Greens' were provided, but amenities were few and peripheral. Cinemas opened at
Stechford and opposite the Swan, which was again rebuilt. Palatial pubs were built or re-built on bus routes: they had rooms and halls for every social function. Private development was to cover
large areas of former farmland between Stuarts/Clements Roads and the eastern boundary, and from Stechford on both sides of the railway to and along Church Lane. Much space was left as nurseries,
allotments, and sports grounds. Industry spread at Stechford, rail-served, and began on a designated site at Lea Hall/Kitts Green. Trolley-buses replaced tramcars and went on to the 1931 boundary
at Hatchford Brook in 1933. Diesel buses plied on several cross-Quarter routes.
The changes in Church End since World War Two could not be as drastic as those of the 1920s and 1930s, but they are considerable in total. The most spectacular is the Coventry Road Underpass (1967) which solved at great cost the problem of separating the proposed Expressway traffic from the Outer Circle. Thereabout the huge (fourth) Swan, the Tivoli Shopping Centre, Swan Office Centre, and Colliers premises provide suitably dramatic architecture. Second in magnitude and importance must be the extension of Bordesley Green East to Station Road and the Meadway thence (early 1960s), a much-needed highway to Coleshill. Towers loom beside it and overlook Kents Moat Park, in the making of which ancient Pool Lane has been partly obliterated. Pool Way shopping precinct is cut off by the Meadway from half its potential customers: a long-demanded foot bridge was installed, ignored, damaged, and at length removed.
The uniform cottage-type council houses of the 1930s estates were to be flanked by 'high-rise' and 'low-rise' dwellings in a variety of heights and lengths during the completion of Glebe Farm/Lea Hall/Kitts Green. Shop rows appeared at Glebe Farm and opposite the new Baths complex at Stechford (1962). This squats on Stich Meadow, the brook being underground. Sadly the largest surviving piece of open field in the manor, Manor Road Recreation Ground, was overlain by towers and long blocks in the 1960s: a small patch of Nether Field is still green on Yardley Fields Road. The Yew Tree shoppig centre was extended, and low towers went up thereabout, in the 1950s. The last two decades have seen much infilling of open spaces left by earlier development.Everywhere cul-de-sacs of private and municipal dwellings, in short rows usually, push between and behind older housing.
Electrification of the London line necessitated replacement of all the over-bridges except that at Lea Hall (now closed to cars), because they were too low to accommodate the cables. Recently the two stations have been re-furbished. In 1951 diesel buses replaced the trolleys. River and riverside work has continued, the Severn/Trent Water Authority being responsible for flood control. Balancing lakes at Kingshurst will not affect Yardley, but bank-raising has changed the topography of the former flood-meadows in the Quarter. Building approaches the river more closely than could be wished, but two walks have been provided along the new high banks. As I write, there is a threat to access to the Cole at the site of new building near Cole Hall: 200 acres of the former sewage works thereby are near complete reclamation. Industry has continued to develop north from Kitts Green and, recessions permitting, may spread across the levelled site.
The Tivoli cinema has gone, and the Atlas is in other use. Blakesley Hall is a prized branch museum, after restoration which involved demolition of unsightly brick buildings at the east end. Yardley Village, protected by the Park on the east side, is now approached closely on the west by a pleasing new estate - but access therefrom is by foot-path only. As one of the city's Conservation Areas, with a Society to watch over it, the village has been closed to the through traffic which threatened church and cottage. so that walking about it is a pleasure once more. Let us stroll through in October 1980. Opposite the former Talbot Inn, a house that was restored for the Yardley Millennium season, is Yardley Grange, a historically incorrect name for an old people's home. The village proper starts with brick outbuildings and a low house and former butcher's premises. This has been pebble-dashed but is early 18th century, brick beneath. Beyond two weedy vacant plots, which await the attentions of the Society, is a three-storey Georgian house also cased in grimy concrete and gravel. The 1882 Institute is shabby in disuse, contrasting with the restored Penny Cottage (1826) next door. Behind the late-1890s row are two more, twelve dwellings in all, wholly filling two of the original long crofts which make up Church Terrace. At the corner is the Post Office and only shop. The white-washed and dormered cottage of Stuart construction, now two dwellings, was formerly a malthouse. There has been no inn since the Talbot retired with the opening of the new Ring O' Bells in the 1930s farther along Church Road. Damson Cottage, Georgian, is embedded in the back of the old malthouse. The smithy is still in business, most work being done in the modern block to the north. Yardley or Church Farm of 1837 seems unchanged with house, barn and outbuildings, but it has no land to farm. A modern house replaced the overlarge Victorian vicarage two decades ago. The vandal-proofed Church School survives as a parish hall.
The houses on School Lane, from Holly Croft of 1786 and 1860 to Meriden House a century old, are - with Church Terrace - the only extensions to east and west of what seems always to have been a street village lacking a green. Trust School and moat site are there to interest the visitor who finds the church locked against hooligans. The sward behind the church was in 1972 the arena for my pageant 'Yardley's Thousand Years', in which 500 children from schools in the ancient manor took part. This was a major event in a season of celebration of the Millennial anniversary of the Charter in which Yardley was first recorded.
The maps and material of this booklet may be copied for educational purposes only without special permission, provided that they are properly attributed to the author. Copies of the booklets named in the text and others may be seen at Birmingham Reference library, Local Studies Department.
History & Antiquities of Worcestershire - Nash
Aris's Birmingham Gazette
Short History of Yardley & Its Parish Church - Sutherns
Yardley Charity Estates - Bulpitt
Short History of the Parish of Yardley - Phelps
Saxon Charters of Worcestershire - Grundy
Material for a History of Yardley - Bickley
Extract & Summaries of Yardley Parish Records - Discovering Yardley Group
Medieval Yardley - Skipp
Victoria County History of Warwickshire Vol. VII Birmingham
Birmingham & Its Regional Setting - British Association
Yardley Village Buildings, Maps & Notes - Price