Acocks Green really began to develop as a village at the latter end of the l7th Century. In 1691 the following advertisement appeared in a London newspaper:
"There is a Stage-Coach goes from the Rain-Deer in Birmingham, every Monday Morning 6 a Clock going through Warwick and Banbury, and comes to the Bell-Inn in West-Smithfield every Wednesday, and 60 returns every Thursday, to the Rain-Deer Inn in Birmingham every Saturday, at 18s. each Passenger, performed by Nich. Rothwell of Warwick." (1)
The route that Rothwell's Stage Coach took was along the Warwick Road and through Acocks Green. The village began to assume an importance, with the 'Spread Eagle Inn' acting as a staging post. Conditions of the roads generally were bad, and the Warwick Road appears to have been no exception. In a preamble to a Parliamentary Bill urging repairs to the Warwick and Stratford Roads, the petitioners write:
"...by reason of many heavy carriages frequently passing through the same, are become so ruinous and bad, that in the Winter Season the said Roads are dangerous to Travellers and can not by ordinary Course appointed by the Laws and Statues of this Realm, be repaired."
The Bill was passed in 1725, and the Birmingham to Warwick Road was turnpiked. The worst holes were filled in, and drainage ditches dug. In order to pay for this work tolls were levied:
1. For every Coach, Berlin, Chariot, Chaise, Calash, or Chair, drawn by Six horses or more, the Sum of One Shilling.
2. For every coach, Berlin, Chariot, Chaise, Chair, or Calash drawn by Four horses, the Sum of Six Pence.
3. For every Waggon, Wain, Cart, or Carriage, drawn by Five or more horses or oxen, the Sum of Eight Pence.
4. For every horse, mule, or ass, laden or unladen, and not drawing, the Sum of One Penny.
5. For every Drove of oxen, or neat cattle, the sum of Ten Pence per score.
A toll-gate for collecting these dues was erected along Warwick Road, near its junction with the present day Station Road. Rothwell's Stage Coach poster for 1731 shows that because of road improvements such as these, the travelling time between Birmingham and London was cut by almost a day. Real improvements in roadmaking though, did not come until the early 19th Century with MacAdam and Telford. This very necessary improvement was brought about by the introduction of the Post Office Mail Coaches, which were begun in 1785 by John Palmer. By 1829, some 12 Stage Coaches a day were thundering along the Warwick Road through Acocks Green:
5.45 a.m. The ROYAL EXPRESS to London
6.15 a.m. The ROYAL EXPRESS from London
7.00 a.m. The AMICABLE from Birmingham to Warwick
7.15 a.m. The CROWN PRINCE from Birmingham to Oxford
9.15 a.m. The REGULATOR from Birmingham to Oxford
9.45 a.m. The ROYAL MAIL from London to Birmingham and Stourport
11.45 a.m. The TELEGRAPH from Leamington to Birmingham
12.15 p.m. The AMICABLE from Warwick to Birmingham
5.00 p.m. The TELEGRAPH from Birmingham to Leamington
5.15 p.m. The ROYAL HAIL to London
5.45 p.m. The REGUILATOR from Oxford to Birmingham
7.45 p. m. The CROWN PRINCE from London to Birmingham
In addition coaches ran each day between Birmingham, Solihull and Knowle, and Carriers too, such as Joseph Allen (Warwick & Leamington, every Monday and Thursday). Thomas Coles (Warwick & Stratford every Thursday), John Shepherd (Warwick, Leamington & Banbury every Wednesday & Saturday) and Thomas Golby (Warwick, Leamington, Wellesbourne & Kineton every Tuesday, Wednesday & Saturday), travelled along the Warwick Road through Acocks Green. (2)
The bulk transport of Birmingham-manufactured goods destined for the Capital was undertaken by canal. It was a circuitous route from Stourport, Gloucester, the Severn estuary, Stroud, Lechlade and down the Thames to London. The need for a more direct route was obvious. The opportunity came in early 1792, when plans were being made for the Grand Junction Canal to provide a direct link between London and the Oxford Canal at Braunston in Northamptonshire. A suggestion was put forward to provide a link between Braunston and Birmingham by way of Warwick. A plan of the proposed line of the canal was drawn up by James Sherriff in 1792. (3) The canal was to pass through Acocks Green, which Sherriff shows as "Haycocks Green."
An Act of Parliament authorising the canal's construction received the Royal Assent on 6th March 1793. By September work had begun on the stretch between Digbeth Junction and the site of the six locks at Camp Hill, Bordesley. Elsewhere work had begun at Solihull with the excavation of a mile of deep cuttings in November. The construction of the Yardley section of the canal was undertaken by the contractor, William Fletcher. The canal entered Yardley just south of Hay Mill, then ran north-easterly, parallel to the river Cole, before turning a right angle, to follow the central ridge of Yardley.
A wharf was built here for the loading of locally produced clay tiles. The present day Wharf and Wharfdale Roads remind us of this former dock. Beyond Stockfield Road the cutting is deep, and originally the canal passed through a short tunnel, some 280 yards in length. This was replaced by a bridge in 1935. The canal continues on, before turning south to cross the valley of Westley Brook, which was diverted and used as a canal feeder. In 1804 Thomas Green surveyed 14 acres of land nearby, for an intended reservoir, but this plan was dropped in favour of diverting the Spark Brook to run into the canal above Camp Hill Locks at Golden Hillock.The canal continues down to Woodcock Lane and beyond to Lincoln Road and Olton.
The canal, 22 miles long, was opened in 1799. For his part in its construction, Fletcher presented his bill:
Yardley Cutting and Hay Mills Embankment £10,318 17s 4d
Allowance for aqueduct over Hay Mills stream £200 0s 0d (4)
For Acocks Green the canal had a dual importance. Locally produced tiles and bricks found a wider market, as did locally quarried sand and gravel. At its peak, the area had 24 tile houses, each producing 150,000 tiles annually. (5) Goods were also brought into the region at a much reduced transport cost. The import of coal was slashed by two thirds.
The Georgian period saw an increase in wealth in the Acocks Green area, thanks to better communications. The visible sign of this wealth is to be seen in the building and rebuilding that took place here. The cottages in Shirley Road were built at this time, as were Langley Hall and Gospel Farm. Pool Farm, near the Round Pool in Fox Hollies Park, Redstone Farm, Waterloo Farm, Stockfield Hall and the large houses along Yardley Road, near the present railway station, were all built during this period.
1.Hill, Joseph, The Bookmakers of old Birmingham, 1907, p. 33
2.Pigot & Co.'s Commercial Directory of Birmingham & its Environs, 1829
3. B. R. L. 733821
4. Faulkner, Alan, The Warwick Canals, 1985, pp. 8-9.
5. Nash, T. R., Collections for a history of Worcestershire, 1781-1799, vol. II, p. 478